A law enacted in 2012 to control prairie dog populations in western Nebraska would be repealed under a bill one vote away from passage.
Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango opposes repeal of the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act (LB 449), calling prairie dogs pests.
“They are a very destructive rodent,” Hughes told colleagues during legislative floor debate. “If they had been named prairie rats rather than prairie dogs, it would certainly have been more appropriate in my book.”
The 2012 law gives considerable power to counties which adopt its provisions, authorizing powerful procedures to control the spread of prairie dog colonies. Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha contended it gives counties too much power, power which could trample on private property rights and run roughshod over due process.
Hughes dismissed such suggestions, saying the law has forced compliance by just being on the books. He noted Sheridan County in the Panhandle is the only county to adopt a prairie dog control resolution under the law. The only time the county sought to enforce it, the action prompted a voluntary resolution to control a large prairie dog colony which spread over four properties, according to Hughes.
The issue took on a life of its own during this short, 60-day legislative session.
Chambers routinely railed against the law, at one time stating during legislative debate, “And it’s one of the most atrocious pieces of trash that I have ever seen, and it was put in place during the four years when I was not in the legislature.”
Chambers fell four votes short of what he needed to pass the repeal in January. He revived the issue by prioritizing the measure and, upon its return, he mustered the support needed to move it into position to pass.
In between, Chambers made Hughes suffer for opposing his bill.
Chambers routinely mounted challenges to any legislation Hughes offered during the session, directing his ire at Hughes and his opposition to the prairie dog bill no matter what the subject of the legislation was.
During debate Tuesday, Hughes challenged Chambers’ characterization of the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act.
“Would you remind us of how you described this bill as probably the worst piece of legislation ever drafted?” Hughes asked. “Do you remember those comments?”
“Words to that effect,” Chambers replied.
“Do you remember making virtually the same statement yesterday on another bill?” Hughes asked.
Later in the debate, Chambers returned to the question.
“There are any number of bills that I’ve described as the worst bill that has come before us,” Chambers stated. “That is common parlance on the floor. So, he did not come up with some discovery that rivals the discovery of the double helix in DNA.”
Hughes, stating he is pragmatic, dropped his last-minute attempt to derail Chambers’ bill. But he made reference one last time to the feud.
“I never make legislation personal. This is not against Sen. Chambers in any way, shape, or form. Although he has made it clear earlier in the session that it was personal to him against me,” Hughes said. “He talked for days, if you will recall, on several of my bills.”
The repeal needs to clear one more round of voting to move to the governor’s desk.