Tensions remain high following advancement of controversial trans health, abortion bill

Emotional debate in legislature continues
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 9:38 AM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 9:57 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Hours after the votes were cast to move forward with a bill that combines youth transgender care and an abortion ban, discussion continues and tensions remain high in the unicameral.

The bill is now one step away from the governor’s desk. It will go through one more round of debate that hasn’t yet been scheduled.

As for Wednesday, the official agenda centered around budget-related bills but state senators on both sides also took time to vent about what happened Tuesday.

“The voice of the people was squashed repeatedly,” said Senator Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha. “Democracy was undermined by the presiding officer.”

On Tuesday, 33 senators advanced a bill the Democratic minority has been fighting against every day this session.

An amended version of LB 574 is moving on, and the debate continues.

“If you want to get up and be sad about how a vote didn’t turn out yesterday, the way you wanted, that’s also fine,” said Senator Julie Slama of District 1.

Those against LB 574 and its new amendment claim the rules were bent to pass the bill that, if approved in its final reading, would limit gender-altering medical procedures on transgender kids and ban abortions at 12 weeks gestation and beyond.

“The way the rules are enforced is unpredictable, inconsistent,” said Senator Megan Hunt of Omaha.

The main rule in question is whether or not to stop the debate clock during motions to override the chair.

Wednesday, Speaker John Arch responded to accusations against him.

“So to those people that are standing up today and yesterday and saying we just changed the rules anytime we want to change them: Not true. Absolutely not true.” Sen. Arch said.

But Arch did not dispute that in a previous debate on LB 574, he did not stop the clock during a procedural motion like he did Tuesday, which allowed Tuesday’s debate to go on several hours past the allocated two.

“That was not intentional on my part,” Arch said.

Another argument Wednesday revolved around the large number of protestors in the rotunda during the debate. One senator, Mike Moser, compared them to the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in 2021.

“Last night from this floor, members were quoting and acknowledging chants of protesters in the rotunda,” Moser said. “I think that incites more bad behavior.”

Many of the 33 senators who passed LB 574 exited the chamber Tuesday night through a back door and not through that crowd.

Senator Julie Slama, defended that move Wednesday.

“Senators chose not to incite a mob of hundreds of angry protesters that not only were packing the rotunda but were blocking every single entrance out of this building,” Slama said.

But Senator Hunt, who was quoting protestors before Tuesday’s vote, did it again Wednesday.

“One more vote to save a life,” Hunt said.

Hunt also said that lawmakers should have been able to face their constituents.

“What, were you afraid to bump into a queer teen?” Hunt asked.

10/11 NOW asked the Nebraska State Patrol if there were any issues with the crowd Tuesday night.

A public information officer said nobody was hurt during the protests. The only law enforcement action that took place was after a vote when Lieutenant Governor Joe Kelly ordered the balconies cleared because of chanting.