Proposed bill could change nonpartisanship of Nebraska Legislature

Nebraska State Capitol
Nebraska State Capitol(MGN)
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 8:27 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -A proposed bill could change Nebraska’s nearly 100-year-old Unicameral.

Right now, legislative ballots do not show candidates political party affiliation. Bill LR282CA, proposed by Senator Julie Slama, could change that.

Slama said the bill would provide necessary transparency to voters and help educate them before hitting the polls.

“LR282CA simply holds legislative candidates to the same standard, preventing candidates from misleading voters about whether they’re a Democrat, Republican, or something else entirely,” Slama said.

The Nebraska Legislature has been a nonpartisan Unicameral since 1934, with the first session in this format held in 1937.

At Thursday’s Executive Board hearing, only one person spoke in favor of the proposed bill.

“We now know that the nonpartisan experiment of the Unicameral has failed and those involved in it are fully aware of which side of the aisle they stand,” said supporter Charlotte Ralston. “The only ones who are left in the dark are the voters, especially the uninformed or occasional voter.”

Dan Hughes, chair of the Executive Board, said the bill had 10 proponents and 31 opponents.

Opponents said the focus of the legislature should be on Nebraskans not political parties.

“Right now, the emphasis is on you as an individual senator, not the party. It’s you as an individual senator and you’re voting as an individual senator,” said Galen Hadley, a former Nebraska state senator. “You represent, as Senator [Ernie] Chambers used to say, ‘You represent the entire state of Nebraska.’”

Opponents also mentioned U.S. Senator George Norris who was a key supporter of Nebraska’s switch to a nonpartisan legislature.

“Constituents would not be as apt to approach someone of a different party and legislators would not be as apt to listen if beholden to a party of a different point of view,” said former senator, DiAnna Schimek. “It would also give the governor more power. Senator George Norris envisioned our system as giving more power to the people.”

If the bill is passed, it would still need to be approved by Nebraska voters as it changes part of the Nebraska Constitution.

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