Nebraska State Senate (Unicameral)
|Nebraska State Senate|
|Term limits:||2 terms (8 years)|
|2014 session start:||January 8, 2014|
|Website:||Official Legislature Page|
|Senate President:||Greg Adams|
|Length of term:||4 years|
|Authority:||Art III, Nebraska Constitution|
|Salary:||$12,000/year + per diem|
|Last Election:||November 6, 2012|
|Next election:||November 4, 2014|
|Redistricting:||The Legislature creates a subcommittee that oversees the entire redistricting process.|
- 1 Sessions
- 2 Elections
- 3 Redistricting
- 4 Ethics and transparency
- 5 Selection, composition and operation
- 6 Senators
- 7 Legislature Committees
- 8 History
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
Members of the Nebraska State Senate serve four-year terms with term limits. Each Nebraska state senator represents an average of 37,272 residents, as of the 2010 Census. After the 2000 Census, each member represented 34,924.
In 2012, the Senate was in session from January 4 through April 18.
- See also: Nebraska Governor
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.
- See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions
In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 8 through April 18.
Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included tax cuts, capital punishment, same-sex marriage and electronic cigarettes.
- See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 9 to June 5.
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.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
In 2012, the Senate was in session from January 4 through April 18.
In 2011, the Senate was in session from January 5 through June 8.
In 2010, the Senate was in session from January 6th to April 14th.
Role in state budget
- See also: Nebraska state budget
- Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in July.
- Agency requests are submitted to the governor in September.
- Agency hearings and public hearings are held in January and February.
- On or before January 15, the governor submits his or her proposed budget to the Nebraska State Senate.
- The Senate adopts a budget in May. A simple majority is required to pass a budget.
The governor is constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget. In turn, the legislature is statutorily required to adopt a balanced budget.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
The following table details the 10 districts with the smallest margin of victory in the November 6 general election.
|2012 Margin of Victory, Nebraska State Senate|
|District||Winner||Margin of Victory||Total Votes||Top Opponent|
|District 21||Ken Haar||0.6%||13,653||Mike Hilgers|
|District 29||Kate Bolz||1.8%||17,823||Larry Zimmerman|
|District 2||Bill Kintner||2.3%||15,969||Paul Lambert|
|District 45||Sue Crawford||2.8%||13,840||Richard Carter|
|District 43||Al Davis||3.6%||16,887||John Ravenscroft|
|District 31||Rick Kolowski||4%||17,534||Acela Turco|
|District 37||Galen Hadley||4.3%||14,148||Josiah Woodward|
|District 23||Jerry Johnson||7.3%||14,966||Vern Barrett|
|District 1||Dan Watermeier||11.6%||15,663||Jerry Joy|
|District 3||Scott Price||12.1%||12,487||Suzanne McNamara|
During the 2012 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $4,167,514. The top 10 contributors were:
|2012 Donors, Nebraska State Senate|
|Nebraska State Education Association||$322,829|
|Nebraska Chamber Of Commerce & Industry||$86,414|
|Nebraska Bankers Association||$84,793|
|Nebraska Realtors Association||$80,250|
|Nebraska Telecommunications Association||$65,130|
|Nebraska Hospital Association||$54,750|
|Nebraska Farm Bureau||$51,972|
|Nebraska Optometric Association||$50,660|
|Nebraska Cooperative Council||$49,560|
|Nebraska United Transportation Union||$48,500|
- See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 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:
|2010 Donors, Nebraska State Senate|
|Nebraska Education Association||$80,347|
|Union Pacific Railroad||$67,500|
|Nebraska Bankers Association||$66,682|
|Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry||$61,584|
|Nebraska Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors||$53,643|
|Nebraska Realtors Association||$49,850|
|Nebraska Optometric Association||$49,242|
|Nebraska State AFL-CIO||$37,929|
|Associated General Contractors of Nebraska||$37,765|
|Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys||$35,500|
- 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:
|2008 Donors, Nebraska State Senate|
|Nebraska Education Association||$105,845|
|Nebraska Bankers Association||$100,960|
|Nebraska Chamber Of Commerce & Industry||$92,198|
|Jeffers, James Arthur||$89,081|
|Nebraska Realtors Association||$76,125|
|Union Pacific Railroad||$65,000|
|Nebraska Association Of Insurance & Financial Advisors||$62,076|
|Nebraska Association Of Trial Attorneys||$53,500|
- 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:
|2006 Donors, Nebraska State Senate|
|Nebraska Chamber Of Commerce & Industry||$109,285|
|Nebraska Bankers Association||$94,100|
|Greater Omaha Chamber Of Commerce||$72,300|
|Nebraska Realtors Association||$59,563|
|Nebraska Association Of Trial Attorneys||$59,238|
|Nebraska Education Association||$53,373|
|Nebraska Association Of Insurance & Financial Advisors||$49,350|
|Associated General Contractors Of Nebraska||$38,636|
|Nebraska United Transportation Union||$35,000|
- 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:
|2004 Donors, Nebraska State Senate|
|Nebraska Education Association||$60,863|
|Nebraska Chamber Of Commerce & Industry||$50,796|
|Nebraska Bankers Association||$44,050|
|Nebraska Association Of Trial Attorneys||$39,000|
|Nebraska Realtors Association||$34,267|
|Nebraska United Transportation Union||$27,530|
|Greater Omaha Chamber Of Commerce||$24,903|
|Nebraska Farm Bureau||$24,006|
|Nebraska Cooperative Council||$23,550|
|Highway Improvement PAC||$23,400|
- 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:
|2002 Donors, Nebraska State Senate|
|Nebraska State Education Association||$71,915|
|Nebraska Chamber Of Commerce & Industry||$59,033|
|Nebraska Bankers Association||$52,700|
|Nebraska United Transportation Union||$31,664|
|Nebraska Association Of Trial Attorneys||$29,250|
|Nebraska Realtors Association||$27,750|
|Nebraska Association Of Insurance & Financial Advisors||$27,500|
|Nebraska Farm Bureau||$26,200|
|Union Pacific Railroad||$20,200|
- 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:
|2000 Donors, Nebraska State Senate|
|Nebraska State Education Association||$107,973|
|Nebraska Chamber Of Commerce & Industry||$64,595|
|Nebraska Bankers Association||$44,205|
|Nebraska United Transportation Union||$41,134|
|Nebraska Association Of Trial Attorneys||$40,500|
|Nebraska Realtors Association||$38,400|
|Union Pacific Railroad||$31,900|
- 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
| How Vacancies are filled in State Legislatures |
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.
- 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.
The first year that the term limits enacted in 2000 impacted the ability of incumbents to run for office was in 2008.
- 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.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nebraska's population rose from 1.71 million to 1.83 million between 2000 and 2010. 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.
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. However, the legislative map, with some changes, was passed 39-0 on May 20, 2011 as LB 703.
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. 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.
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.
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, Nebraska State Senate|
|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|
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.
- 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.
Nebraska does not provide pensions for legislators.
When sworn in
Nebraska legislators assume office the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January.
List of current members
The Nebraska Legislature has 14 standing committees:
- Agriculture Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Appropriations Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Business and Labor Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Education Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- General Affairs Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Health and Human Services Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Judiciary Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Natural Resources Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Revenue Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, Nebraska Legislature
- Urban Affairs Committee, Nebraska Legislature
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, 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. 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
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.
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.
- The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature
- Official list of members of the Nebraska State Senate (Unicameral)
- History of the Nebraska Unicameral
- The Nebraska Legislature on Wikipedia
- termlimits.org, "State Legislative Term Limits," accessed December 17, 2013
- census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
- census.gov, "Census 2000 PHC-T-2. Ranking Tables for States: 1990 and 2000," accessed May 15, 2014
- Norfolk Daily News, "Short legislative session has full agenda," January 11, 2014. Accessed January 11, 2014
- Sioux City Journal, "Big Decisions Ahead," January 9, 2013 (dead link)(Dead link)
- Lincoln Journal Star, "As session begins, child welfare reform a priority," January 3, 2012
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 19, 2014(Archived)
- National Conference of State Legislatures "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
- National Association of State Budget Officers "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
- Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
- Follow the Money, "2012 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Nebraska Senate 2010 Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
- Follow the Money, "2008 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
- Follow the Money, "2006 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
- Follow the Money, "2004 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
- Follow the Money, "2002 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
- Follow the Money, "2000 Nebraska State Senate Campaign Contributions," accessed December 17, 2013
- Nebraska Legislature, "Qualifications to serve in the Nebraska Legislature," accessed December 17, 2013
- Nebraska Legislature, "Nebraska Revised Statutes," accessed July 1, 2014(Referenced Statute 32.566)
- Fremont Tribune, "Dealing with redistricting challenges," February 22, 2011
- U.S. Census Bureau, "2010 Census: Nebraska Profile," accessed July 1, 2014
- Omaha World-Herald, "Lawmakers face redistricting puzzle," March 3, 2011(Archived)
- Lincoln Journal Star, "Redrawn legislative boundaries draw interest from east to west," May 13, 2011
- The Independent, "Redistricting proposal meets with mixed reviews," May 13, 2011
- Journal Star, "Senators advance legislative redistricting committee proposal," May 19, 2011
- Omaha World Herald, "Plan for legislative districts advances," May 19, 2011(Archived)
- U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
- NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
- USA Today, "State-by-state: Benefits available to state legislators," September 23, 2011
- Nebraska State Historical Society, "George Norris state historical information," accessed July 1, 2014
- Queensland Parliament, "History of the Queensland Parliament," accessed July 1, 2014
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