A filibuster has been broken and bill advances in the legislature that would alter the process of appealing decisions made by the Public Service Commission.
LB 545, sponsored by Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, must still clear two more rounds of votes in the Unicameral to move to the governor’s desk.
Getting it passed the first round wasn’t easy.
A vocal minority mounted a filibuster against the bill until state lawmakers voted to cut off debate after eight hours and force a vote. The legislature gave it preliminary approval with a 33-8 vote.
Under the bill, an appeal of a PSC ruling would go directly to the Nebraska Court of Appeals, by-passing the state district courts.
Supporters claim the change would streamline appeals and save money.
Opponent Paul Schumacher, a state senator from Columbus, suspects other motivations.
“There is something more operating here than saving money.”
Schumacher and others say the changes would tilt the process toward the utilities regulated by the PSC and away from consumers. The PSC regulates utilities, phone companies and taxi services.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha led the filibuster along with Schumacher. Chambers says the change would do more than merely stream-line the process.
“And if you vote for it, you are voting for a very radical change in the way business is conducted with reference to the operation of the Public Service Commission,” Chambers tells colleagues during floor debate.