Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer believes his first year as Speaker proved successful.
Scheer points out the Unicameral went through all the priority bills on the agenda and cleared the consent calendar.
“So, from my vantage point, yeah I’m proud to have been able to serve in that capacity and I think we’ve been successful,” Scheer says in an interview with Nebraska Radio Network.
Scheer says every senator got a shot at promoting the bills most important to him or her.
The Unicameral worked through all the priority bills. It didn’t take votes on all of them.
Scheer, as Speaker, implemented a new rule this legislative session. Major and controversial bills hit the floor for three hours of debate. To return to the floor for further debate, the sponsor had to convince the Speaker there was a good chance the 33 votes could be mustered to overcome a filibuster and advance the bill.
That didn’t always happen.
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion thought he could get the 33 votes needed to move Legislative Bill 461, the governor’s tax cut package, forward. Smith failed to break the filibuster, getting only a 27-9 vote on his cloture motion.
Other measures saw only the three hours of debate, their sponsors unable to convince Scheer they had the votes needed to break filibusters.
Though the three-hour rule prevented some measures from ever surfacing for a vote, Scheer is pleased with the result. He says the rule kept lawmakers focused on the issue itself, rather than their efforts being diverted to irrelevant discussions designed merely to kill time on the way to killing the bill.
Financial concerns sparked the fiercest debate. Even after the legislature approved the $8.9 billion biennium budget, critics of the budget took to the floor to claim lawmakers shirked their duty by failing to cut deeper. Gov. Pete Ricketts veto of $56.5 million in spending sparked yet another round of budget debate; harsher still.
In the end, though, the Unicameral approved a budget for the next two years.
“And, ironically, the one thing that we were required to do was to pass a budget and that probably was the hardest thing that we did,” Scheer notes.
Scheer, a state senator from Norfolk, hopes along the way in this legislative session, he gained the legislators respect.
“So that when I tell people that I’m going to be fair that everybody is going to be treated exactly the same, they know that that’s exactly what happened.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]