Speaker of the Legislature, Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, brushes aside suggestions the Unicameral has asserted its independence over the governor during this legislative session.
It seemed evident from the beginning of the session the legislature and Gov. Dave Heineman viewed a number of high-profile issues differently. Legislative leaders entered the session emphasizing the need to fix a broken state child welfare system. Heineman rejected suggestions that child welfare was the number one priority of the session, insisting instead that tax relief for the Middle Class should be the top priority.
Heineman, during the State of the State address, outlined a $326 million tax cut proposal. It ran into trouble almost immediately. The legislative sponsor of the bill, Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, reduced the tax cut package in face of resistance from legislators and then, reduced it a second time, to the $97 million total that eventually passed the legislature.
The split between the legislature and the governor became pronounced in the last week of the session. Lawmakers approved a historic horse racing bill the governor vetoed. Lawmakers followed-through with strong votes in favor of a local option sales tax bill and a bill extending prenatal care to illegal immigrants despite the governor threatening to veto the bills.
Still, Speaker Flood doesn’t care for the suggestion the legislature is reasserting itself after going along with the governor the past few years.
“I mean, I don’t know if I’d say we are reasserting (ourselves), I think we’re just voting how we feel is right,” Flood tells reporters. “And I’d like to think that I’ve done that while I’ve been down here.”
The Speaker came under harsh criticism from the governor for his support of the prenatal bill. Heineman had his staff hand-deliver the letter to the Speaker’s office. Its tone surprised many lawmakers.
Despite that highly publicized clash, Heineman says he understands the role of the legislature.
“We all learned in 4th Grade, Nebraska history, there are three separate branches of government and I respect that,” Heineman states.
Wednesday, the legislature gathers to consider whether it will override gubernatorial vetoes.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]