Nebraska lawmakers showed a bipartisan tilt as they kicked off a new session, electing senators from both parties to fill leadership positions in the officially nonpartisan Legislature.
The committee leadership votes Wednesday were a marked contrast from the last in-house elections two years ago, when conservative Republicans claimed nearly all the available chairmanships. Democrats and even some moderate Republican blasted the 2017 votes as a partisan power grab, while conservatives argued that it better reflected the GOP-dominated state.
This year, Democrats won four of the 14 standing committee chairmanships. Democrats gained seats in the November general elections but are still outnumbered by Republicans 30 to 18, with one independent.
The new chairwoman of the Revenue Committee says she plans to start work right away on a property tax package to ease the burden on farmers, ranchers and homeowners. Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, of Omaha, was elected to lead the panel that oversees legislative tax policy. Linehan says she hopes to find a plan that can win support from both agricultural and business groups, which have been at odds over tax policy in recent years. She says, “We’re going to have to lock ourselves in a room until we come up with something.” Linehan says she also will work closely with Gov. Pete Ricketts, a fellow Republican who has identified property taxes as a major legislative priority.
Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer, who was re-elected for a second two year term says the atmosphere of the first day was notably better Wednesday than it was after the GOP sweep two years ago.
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