A new legislative session is underway with new leadership as lawmakers face the daunting task of drafting a state budget in the face of a $900 million to $1.2 billion revenue shortfall.
The 105th Legislature begins its first session with the first order of business being the election of leadership.
Legislators have elected Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk over Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg as the new Speaker of the Legislature.
Scheer promises to maintain the Unicameral’s independence and to treat all alike.
“I have and I will continue to be fair. Every one of us here is equal. I made no deals for any votes,” Scheer tells colleagues during his nomination speech. “I only promise to do my best to bring dignity and honor to this body.”
Republicans have asserted their power in the session, winning election to every committee chair position, with the exception of the chairs of the Judiciary Committee to be chaired by Libertarian Laura Ebke of Crete and the Urban Affairs Committee, which will be chaired by Democrat Justin Wayne of Omaha.
Sen. John Stinner of Gering will chair the Appropriations Committee. Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion will chair the Revenue Committee. Both will have tough tasks. Governor Pete Ricketts has promised to submit a balance budget proposal for the next two years as well as a tax cut proposal in light of the projected revenue shortfall.
Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft will chair the Agriculture Committee. Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte has been elected chair of the Education Committee. Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston will chair the Health and Human Services Committee. Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango won election as chair of the Natural Resources Committee. Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson will chair the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]