Nebraska State Senate (Unicameral)

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Nebraska State Senate

Seal of Nebraska.svg.png
General Information
Type:   unicameral
Term limits:   2 terms (8 years)
2015 session start:   January 9, 2013
Website:   Official House Page
Senate President:   Greg Adams
Members:  49
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.
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]

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


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 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature will be in session from January 9 through May 30 (estimated).

Major issues

Nebraska legislators face a projected $194 million budget shortfall in 2013. A long debate is expected over the possible expansion of Medicaid coverage, while Gov. Dave Heineman (R) is pushing for increased state aid to the University of Nebraska system and state colleges.[3]


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.[4]


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


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



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 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 will be termed-out.

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


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: [7]


To be eligible to serve in the Nebraska Senate, a candidate must be:[8]

  • 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[9].

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.[10]


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.[11]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nebraska's population rose from 1.71 million to 1.83 million between 2000 and 2010.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14][15] However, the legislative map, with some changes, was passed 39-0 on May 20, 2011 as LB 703.[16][17]

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

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.



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.[18]


Nebraska does not provide pensions for legislators.[19]

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 Scott Price 2009
4 Pete Pirsch 2007
5 Heath Mello 2007
6 John Nelson 2007
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:


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,[20] 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.[21] 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 non-partisan 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 have 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 Montana, the Montana State Senate and the Montana House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Montana state government(1992-2013).PNG

External links