Nebraska State Senate (Unicameral)

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Nebraska State Senate

Seal of Nebraska.svg.png
General Information
Type:   unicameral
Term limits:   2 terms (8 years)
2014 session start:   January 8, 2014
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Leadership
Senate President:   Greg Adams
Structure
Members:  48
Vacancy (1)
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:   Art III, Nebraska Constitution
Salary:   $12,000/year + per diem
Elections
Last Election:  November 6, 2012
Next election:  November 4, 2014
Redistricting:  The Legislature creates a subcommittee that oversees the entire redistricting process.
The Nebraska State Senate is the State of Nebraska's legislative branch. The Legislature meets in the Nebraska State Capitol at Lincoln. It is unique in that it is the only American state legislature that is unicameral. It is often referred to by Nebraska residents as "the unicameral" or "the uni."

Members of the Nebraska State Senate serve four-year terms with term limits.[1] Each Nebraska state senator represents an average of 37,272 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[2] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 34,924.[3]

In 2012, the Senate was in session from January 4 through April 18.

See also: Nebraska Governor

Sessions

Article III of the Nebraska Constitution establishes when the Senate is to be in session. Section 10 of Article III states that the Senate is to convene annually on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January. In odd-numbered years, regular sessions are limited to ninety days. In even-numbered years, regular sessions are limited to sixty days. Sessions in any year can be extended by a four-fifths majority of the Senate.

2014

See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 8 through April 18.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included tax cuts, capital punishment, same-sex marriage and electronic cigarettes.[4]

2013

See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 9 to June 5.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included addressing a projected $194 million budget shortfall, and increased state aid to the University of Nebraska system and state colleges.[5]

2012

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Senate was in session from January 4 through April 18.

Major issues

At the top of the list for the legislature was reforming the state's child welfare system, while Governor Dave Heineman's priorities were job creation and maintaining fiscal discipline.[6]

2011

In 2011, the Senate was in session from January 5 through June 8.[7]

2010

In 2010, the Senate was in session from January 6th to April 14th.[8]

Role in state budget

See also: Nebraska state budget

The state operates on a biennial budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[9][10]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in July.
  2. Agency requests are submitted to the governor in September.
  3. Agency hearings and public hearings are held in January and February.
  4. On or before January 15, the governor submits his or her proposed budget to the Nebraska State Senate.
  5. The Senate adopts a budget in May. A simple majority is required to pass a budget.

Nebraska is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[10]

The governor is constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget. In turn, the legislature is statutorily required to adopt a balanced budget.[10]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 which indicated that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. Among the challenges states faced were a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Nebraska was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[11]

Elections

2014

See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2014

Elections for the office of Nebraska State Senate will take place in 2014. A primary election took place May 13, 2014. The general election will be held on November 4, 2014. The signature-filing deadline for challengers wishing to run in this election was March 3, 2014, two days after the statutory deadline, which fell on a Saturday. Incumbents were required to file for election by February 18, 2014, three days after the statutory deadline, which fell on the Saturday prior to Presidents Day.

2012

See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2012

Elections for the office of Nebraska State Senate were held in Nebraska on November 6, 2012. A total of 26 seats were up for election. The signature filing deadline was February 15, 2012 for incumbents and March 1, 2012 for non-incumbents.

Nebraska state senators are subject to term limits and may not serve more than two four-year terms. In 2012, 8 state senators were be termed-out.

The following table details the 10 districts with the smallest margin of victory in the November 6 general election.

During the 2012 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $4,167,514. The top 10 contributors were:[12]

2010

See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2010

Elections for the office of Nebraska State Senate were held in Nebraska on November 2, 2010.

The signature-filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in these elections was February 15, 2010, and the primary Election Day was May 11, 2010.

In 2010, the candidates for state senate raised a total of $1,597,466 in campaign contributions. The top 10 donors were:[13]

2008

See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2008

Elections for the office of Nebraska State Senate consisted of a primary election on May 13, 2008, and a general election on November 4, 2008. A total of 25 seats were up for election.

During the 2008 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $3,705,260. The top 10 contributors were:[14]

2006

See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2006

Elections for Nebraska State Senate were held on November 7, 2006. A total of 24 seats were up for election.

The signature filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in these elections was March 1, 2006. The primary Election Day was May 9, 2006.

During the 2006 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $3,446,671. The top 10 contributors were:[15]

2004

See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2004

Elections for Nebraska State Senate consisted of a primary Election Day was May 11, 2004, and a general election on November 2, 2004. A total of 24 seats were up for election.

The signature filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in these elections was March 1, 2004.

During the 2004 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $1,591,117. The top 10 contributors were:[16]

2002

See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2002

Elections for Nebraska State Senate were held on November 5, 2002. A total of 27 seats were up for election.

During the 2002 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $1,346,267. The top 10 contributors were:[17]

2000

See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2000

Elections for Nebraska State Senate consisted of a primary election on May 9, 2000, and a general election on November 7, 2000. A total of 26 seats were up for election.

During the 2000 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $2,040,637. The top 10 contributors were:[18]

Qualifications

To be eligible to serve in the Nebraska Senate, a candidate must be:[19]

  • At least 21 years of age
  • A resident of Nebraska, and specifically a resident of the legislative district he or she wishes to serve, for at least one year prior to the general election
  • Must not have ever been convicted of a felony

Vacancies

See also: How vacancies are filled in state legislatures
How Vacancies are filled in State Legislatures
NevadaMassachusettsColoradoNew MexicoWyomingArizonaMontanaCaliforniaOregonWashingtonIdahoTexasOklahomaKansasNebraskaSouth DakotaNorth DakotaMinnesotaIowaMissouriArkansasLouisianaMississippiAlabamaGeorgiaFloridaSouth CarolinaIllinoisWisconsinTennesseeNorth CarolinaIndianaOhioKentuckyPennsylvaniaNew JerseyNew YorkVermontVermontNew HampshireMaineWest VirginiaVirginiaMarylandMarylandConnecticutConnecticutDelawareDelawareRhode IslandRhode IslandMassachusettsNew HampshireMichiganMichiganAlaskaVacancy fulfillment map.png

If there is a vacancy in the Legislature, it is up to the governor to select a replacement. If a vacancy happens in the last 60 days before a general election, the replacement appointed by the governor serves the remainder of the term until a new representative is elected. If the vacancy happens more than 60 days before the general election, the replacement serves the remainder of the unfilled term until the next general election.[20]

Term limits

See also: State legislatures with term limits

The Nebraska State Senate is one of 15 state legislatures with term limits. Voters enacted the Nebraska Term Limits Act in 2000. That initiative said that Nebraska senators are subject to term limits of no more than two four-year terms.[1]

The first year that the term limits enacted in 2000 impacted the ability of incumbents to run for office was in 2008.

Redistricting

See also: Redistricting in Nebraska

In Nebraska, the state legislature's Executive Board sets up a Redistricting Committee to draw the new district maps every ten years. This committee must be comprised of three representatives from each of Nebraska's three Congressional districts and no more than five members of one political party.[21]

2010

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nebraska's population rose from 1.71 million to 1.83 million between 2000 and 2010.[22] The area around urban Omaha grew substantially, while western Nebraska's population continued to decline. Despite the need to reshuffle, Nebraska had enough population growth to keep its three Congressional seats.[23]

Early in the 2011 redistricting process, several senators proposed legislation that would change the number of senators in an effort to either keep western representation robust (by adding a senator) or decreasing costs and giving the savings as a travel stipend (by subtracting four senators). Western representatives attempted to find a means for preserving their senators, but the population growth in the East precluded any solution beyond changing the number of senators. A public hearing also attracted many complaints concerning the manner in which previous districts were split.[24][25] However, the legislative map, with some changes, was passed 39-0 on May 20, 2011 as LB 703.[26][27]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: Following the Money 2014 Report

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[28] According to the report, Nebraska received a grade of B- and a numerical score of 82, indicating that Nebraska was "advancing" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[28]

Selection, composition and operation

The Legislature comprises forty-nine members, chosen by a single-member district or constituency. Senators are chosen for four-year terms, with one-half of the seats up for election every second year. No person may be a senator unless he or she is a qualified voter, over the age of twenty-one, and a resident of his or her district for at least one year. Currently, senators are limited by law to two terms. Senators earn $12,000 a year.

Nonpartisan

Members are selected in nonpartisan elections. Rather than separate primaries held to choose Republican, Democratic, and other partisan contenders for a seat, Nebraska uses a single nonpartisan primary election, in which the top two vote-getters are entitled to run in the general election. There are no formal party alignments or groups within the Legislature. Coalitions tend to form issue by issue based on a member's philosophy of government, geographic background, and constituency. However, almost all the members of the legislature are affiliated with the state affiliate of either the Democratic or the Republican party and both parties explicitly endorse candidates for legislative seats.

Meetings and Leadership

Sessions of the Nebraska Legislature last for 90 working days in odd-numbered years and 60 working days in even-numbered years. The Speaker presides over the Legislature in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor, but the day-to-day matters of the body are dealt with by the Executive Board. The Board includes the Speaker, a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, and six other senators. The chairperson and vice-chairperson are chosen for two-year terms by the Legislature as a whole. Senators are classified into three geographically-based "caucuses;" each caucus elects two board members. Finally, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee serves, but cannot vote on any matter, and can only speak on fiscal matters.

Current leadership

Current Leadership, Nebraska State Senate
Office Representative
Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams
Executive Board Chair John Wightman
Executive Board Vice Chair Bob Krist
Executive Board Member Bill Avery
Executive Board Member Kathy Campbell
Executive Board Member Ernie Chambers
Executive Board Member Mark Christensen
Executive Board Member Russ Karpisek
Executive Board Member Steve Lathrop
Executive Board nonvoting member ex officio Heath Mello

General powers

The Legislature is responsible for law-making in the state, but the Governor has the power to veto any bill. The Legislature may override the governor's veto by a vote of three-fifths (30) of its members. The Legislature also has the power, by a three-fifths vote, to propose constitutional amendments to the voters, who then decide upon it through a referendum.

Senators

Salaries

See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Nebraska Senate are paid $12,000/year. Per diem is $123/day for members living outside a 50-mile radius of the Capitol. Per diem is $46/day for members living inside the 50-mile radius. Rates are tied to the federal rate.[29]

Pension

Nebraska does not provide pensions for legislators.[30]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Nebraska legislators assume office the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January.

List of current members

Nebraska legislative districts
Current members, Nebraska State Senate
District Representative Assumed office
1 Dan Watermeier 2013
2 Bill Kintner 2013
3 Tommy Garrett 2013
4 Pete Pirsch 2007
5 Heath Mello 2009
6 Vacant
7 Jeremy Nordquist 2009
8 Burke Harr 2011
9 Sara Howard 2013
10 Bob Krist 2009
11 Ernie Chambers 2013
12 Steve Lathrop 2007
13 Tanya Cook 2009
14 Jim Smith 2011
15 Charlie Janssen 2009
16 Lydia Brasch 2011
17 Dave Bloomfield 2010
18 Scott Lautenbaugh 2007
19 Jim Scheer 2013
20 Brad Ashford 2007
21 Ken Haar 2009
22 Paul Schumacher 2011
23 Jerry Johnson 2013
24 Greg Adams 2007
25 Kathy Campbell 2009
26 Amanda McGill 2007
27 Colby Coash 2009
28 Bill Avery 2007
29 Kate Bolz 2013
30 Norm Wallman 2007
31 Rick Kolowski 2013
32 Russ Karpisek 2007
33 Les Seiler 2012
34 Annette Dubas 2007
35 Mike Gloor 2009
36 John Wightman 2007
37 Galen Hadley 2009
38 Tom Carlson 2007
39 Beau McCoy 2009
40 Tyson Larson 2011
41 Kate Sullivan 2009
42 Thomas Hansen 2007
43 Al Davis 2013
44 Mark Christensen 2007
45 Sue Crawford 2013
46 Danielle Nantkes Conrad 2007
47 Ken Schilz 2009
48 John Harms 2007
49 John Murante 2013

Legislature Committees

The Nebraska Legislature has 14 standing committees:

History

Nebraska originally operated under a bicameral legislature. Over time, defects in the bicameral system became apparent. Bills were lost because the two houses could not agree on a single version, and conference committees that were created to reconcile different versions of bills often met in secret, and were thus unaccountable for their actions. After a trip to Australia in 1931,[31] George Norris campaigned for reform, arguing that the bicameral system was based on the inherently undemocratic British House of Lords, and that it was pointless to have two bodies of people doing the same thing and hence wasting money. He specifically pointed to the example of the Parliament for the Australian state of Queensland, which had adopted a unicameral parliament nearly ten years earlier.[32] In 1934, a constitutional amendment was passed revoking the House of Representatives and adding all its former duties to the Senate (the amendment also legalized betting on horse races). The new unicameral Legislature met for the first time in 1937. Though the name of the body is formally the "Nebraska Legislature," its members are commonly referred to as "Senators." In Nebraska, the Legislature is also often simply known as "The Unicameral."

Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Nebraska
Partisan breakdown of the Nebraska legislature from 1992-2013

With a nonpartisan legislature, Nebraska’s Senate was controlled neither by the Democrats nor the Republicans during this 22 year study period.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Nebraska, the Nebraska State Senate from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Nebraska state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Nebraska state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Because Nebraska has a nonpartisan legislature, the state did not have any government trifectas during the years studied. From 1992-1998 it had a Democratic governor and from 1999-2013 it had a Republican governor. Nebraska finished high in SQLI rankings, finishing in the top-10 during both Democratic and Republican governorships. It dipped out of the top-10 from 1999-2004, but returned in 2005. Its highest ranking, finishing 2nd, occurred from 2011-2012.

Chart displaying the partisanship of the Nebraska government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 termlimits.org, "State Legislative Term Limits," accessed December 17, 2013
  2. census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  3. census.gov, "Census 2000 PHC-T-2. Ranking Tables for States: 1990 and 2000," accessed May 15, 2014
  4. Norfolk Daily News, "Short legislative session has full agenda," January 11, 2014. Accessed January 11, 2014
  5. Sioux City Journal, "Big Decisions Ahead," January 9, 2013(Dead link)
  6. Lincoln Journal Star, "As session begins, child welfare reform a priority," January 3, 2012
  7. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
  8. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 19, 2014(Archived)
  9. National Conference of State Legislatures "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 National Association of State Budget Officers "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  11. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  12. Follow the Money, "2012 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
  13. Follow the Money, "Nebraska Senate 2010 Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
  14. Follow the Money, "2008 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
  15. Follow the Money, "2006 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
  16. Follow the Money, "2004 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
  17. Follow the Money, "2002 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
  18. Follow the Money, "2000 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
  19. Nebraska Legislature, "Qualifications to serve in the Nebraska Legislature," accessed December 17, 2013
  20. Nebraska Legislature, "Nebraska Revised Statutes," accessed July 1, 2014(Referenced Statute 32.566)
  21. Fremont Tribune, "Dealing with redistricting challenges," February 22, 2011
  22. U.S. Census Bureau, "2010 Census: Nebraska Profile," accessed July 1, 2014
  23. Omaha World-Herald, "Lawmakers face redistricting puzzle," March 3, 2011(Archived)
  24. Lincoln Journal Star, "Redrawn legislative boundaries draw interest from east to west," May 13, 2011
  25. The Independent, "Redistricting proposal meets with mixed reviews," May 13, 2011
  26. Journal Star, "Senators advance legislative redistricting committee proposal," May 19, 2011
  27. Omaha World Herald, "Plan for legislative districts advances," May 19, 2011(Archived)
  28. 28.0 28.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  29. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  30. USA Today, "State-by-state: Benefits available to state legislators," September 23, 2011
  31. Nebraska State Historical Society, "George Norris state historical information," accessed July 1, 2014
  32. Queensland Parliament, "History of the Queensland Parliament," accessed July 1, 2014