Speaker of the Legislature, Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney, looks back at what he considers a successful legislative session and rejects the notion that lawmakers are out of touch.
Hadley gives a quick assessment of the just-concluded legislative session.
“I thought it was a great session,” Hadley tells reporters during a post-session interview in his office.
The legislative session began slowly, marked more by ceaseless debate as filibuster after filibuster stalled action, than by productivity. Yet, what once appeared to be a non-productive session ended with a flourish as legislators flexed their muscles and overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts on three big issues.
Lawmakers first raised the state gas tax over the governor’s objections.
Then, came the big showdown over arguably the biggest issue: the death penalty. Enough legislators stuck with their votes to override the governor once again.
Thirdly, lawmakers overrode the governor and authorized the children of illegal immigrants to apply for a state driver’s license.
Hadley says the session turned when state senators understood the time crunch they faced. The $8.6 billion two-year budget completed, lawmakers glanced at a calendar and stared at the dwindling of days in the 90-day legislative session.
With time no longer their ally, they got busy.
Gov. Pete Ricketts has insisted during news conferences and in a number of interviews that legislators overrode his veto of the death penalty repeal bill, because they became insulated at the Capitol and lost touch with average Nebraskans.
Without naming the governor specifically, Hadley disagrees with such an assessment, arguing lawmakers work hard to keep in touch with their constituents.
“They go home, they talk to their people, they read the letters to the editor, they go to forums; so, they’re picking up what people are saying at home,” according to Hadley. “So, I think it’s a little disingenuous to say that we don’t listen to the people back at home.”
Hadley gives a great deal of credit to the 18 freshmen senators for shaping the session. Hadley says the large freshmen class came in aggressive, wanting to make a difference, immediately.
“And I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why. Maybe the next class won’t come in with that. But this one certainly came in with, what I would call, a sense of urgency.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]