A new legislative session begins with old issues still hanging around and low expectations.
Speaker of the Legislative Greg Adams of York worries about this 60-day session.
“I don’t feel real good about our productivity this session,” Adams tells Nebraska Radio Network during an interview in his Capitol office. “I may be mistaken and I hope that I am.”
Politics hovers over the session. Three senators are running for governor. Two senators have announced their candidacy for auditor.
In addition, 17 of the 49 state senators enter their final session, exiting due to term limits.
Gov. Dave Heineman also enters his last year in office, leaving due to term limits as well.
This is the short session and Adams expects the calendar and the clock to have a big impact on the session. Filibusters, even threatened filibusters, could dictate how much or how little the Unicameral accomplishes this year.
Supporters of Medicaid expansion failed to overcome a filibuster last session. They will bring the issue back this session in a different form with an even more compressed time frame with which to work.
Tax reform will be a top priority again, but it is unclear whether a legislative body that punted on an ambitious plan promoted by the governor last year will be able to come together on any meaningful reform this year.
Those issues carry over from last year. One issue arose from bitter experience after lawmakers left the Capitol: prison reform.
A work release prisoner wrecked a state van in Lincoln last summer, killing a woman. Shortly afterward, Nikko Jenkins stood accused of killing four people in Omaha after gaining early release from prison. The concerns for public safety those incidents spark run against concerns about prison overcrowding.
It will be a difficult balancing act, according to Adams, who says legislators understand prison reform cannot be accomplished in one session. But, he says, the legislature needs to take steps toward reform this year.
Adams enters his final session as Speaker and already sees the end on the horizon.
“There will be something of a sigh of relief that it is over and yet at the same time a feeling that I’m part of that and would like to continue to be part of it, but know that I can’t and the sun will still come up tomorrow on the legislature and on me and we’ll move on.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]