Nebraska State Senate (Unicameral)

From Ballotpedia
Revision as of 14:42, 28 May 2012 by Kelly O'Keefe (Talk | contribs)

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 4, 2012
Website:   Official House Page
Senate President:   Mike Flood
Members:  49
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:   Art III, Nebraska Constitution
Salary:   $12,000/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 2, 2010
Next election:  November 6, 2012
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".

Each Nebraska state senator represents an average of 37,272 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[1] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 34,924.[2]


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 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Senate will be in session from January 4 through mid-April.

Major issues

At the top of the list for the legislature is reforming the state's child welfare system, while Governor Dave Heineman said his priorities will be job creation and maintaining fiscal discipline.[3]


In 2011, the Senate was in session from January 5 through June 8. [4]


In 2010, the Senate was in session from January 6th to April 14th.[5]



See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2012

Elections for the office of Nebraska State Senate will be held in Nebraska on November 6, 2012. A total of 25 seats will be up for election. The signature filing deadline is 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 will be termed-out.


See also: Nebraska State Senate elections, 2010

Elections for the office of Nebraska State Senator 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: [6]

Donor Amount
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


To be eligible to serve in the Nebraska Senate, a candidate must be:[7]

  • 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


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[8].

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.

The first year that the term limits enacted in 2000 impacted the ability of incumbents to run for office was in 2008.[9]


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,[10] 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.[11] 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".

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

Position Representative
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood
Executive Board Chair John Wightman
Executive Board Vice Chair John Nelson
Executive Board Member Mark Christensen
Executive Board Member Deb Fischer
Executive Board Member Russ Karpisek
Executive Board Member Chris Langemeier
Executive Board Member Rich Pahls
Executive Board Member Tom White
Executive Board nonvoting member ex officio Lavon Heidemann

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.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2010, members of the Nebraska Senate are paid $12,000/year. Per diem is $109/day for members living outside a 50-mile radius of the Capitol. Per diem is $39/day for members living inside the 50-mile radius. Rates are tied to the federal rate.[12]

The $12,000/year that Nebraska senators are paid as of 2010 is the same as they were paid during legislative sessions in 2007. Per diem is also the same.[13]

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
District Representative First elected
1 Lavon Heidemann 2004
2 Paul Lambert 2011
3 Scott Price 2008
4 Pete Pirsch 2006
5 Heath Mello 2008
6 John Nelson 2006
7 Jeremy Nordquist 2008
8 Burke Harr 2010
9 Gwen Howard 2004
10 Bob Krist 2009
11 Brenda Council 2008
12 Steve Lathrop 2006
13 Tanya Cook 2008
14 Jim Smith 2010
15 Charlie Janssen 2008
16 Lydia Brasch 2010
17 Dave Bloomfield 2010
18 Scott Lautenbaugh App. 2007
19 Mike Flood 2004
20 Brad Ashford 1986
21 Ken Haar 2008
22 Paul Schumacher 2010
23 Chris Langemeier 2004
24 Greg Adams 2006
25 Kathy Campbell 2008
26 Amanda McGill 2006
27 Colby Coash 2008
28 Bill Avery 2006
29 Tony Fulton App. 2007
30 Norm Wallman 2006
31 Rich Pahls 2004
32 Russ Karpisek 2006
33 Les Seiler 2012
34 Annette Dubas 2006
35 Mike Gloor 2008
36 John Wightman 2006
37 Galen Hadley 2008
38 Tom Carlson 2006
39 Beau McCoy 2008
40 Tyson Larson 2010
41 Kate Sullivan 2008
42 Thomas Hansen 2006
43 Deb Fischer 2004
44 Mark Christensen 2006
45 Abbie Cornett 2004
46 Danielle Nantkes Conrad 2006
47 Ken Schilz 2008
48 John Harms 2006
49 LeRoy Louden 2002

Legislature Committees

The Nebraska Legislature has 14 standing committees:

External links