The Nebraska State Capitol pictured at sunset on Feb. 17, 2022.
The Nebraska State Capitol pictured at sunset on Feb. 17, 2022. Photo by Zach Wendling/NNS.

The Nebraska Legislature is nonpartisan, but partisan influences still have a large impact on the nation’s only Unicameral Legislature.

The two largest political parties in the state — the Nebraska GOP (NEGOP) and Nebraska Democratic Party (NDP) — responded to a request on their priorities this session. In the 2021-22 Nebraska Legislature, 32 of the 49 senators are Republicans; 17 are Democrats.

Nebraska GOP (NEGOP)

Taylor Gage, the executive director of NEGOP, said some of the top issues Gov. Pete Ricketts and conservatives are championing this session include controlling spending, protecting property tax relief, cutting income taxes, fighting against abortion and defending Second Amendment rights.

Gage pointed to the governor’s four budget bills — LB1011, LB1012, LB1013 and LB1014 — as top priorities this session. These bills designate the state’s budget at the governor’s request and provide recommendations for how federal American Rescue Act Plan funds should be spent.

LB939, introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, would lower individual income taxes.

Linehan’s bill would amend the top rate for individual income tax to be 6.84% through Jan. 1, 2023, if the individual meets the top tax bracket in their category.

The rates would continue to decrease through 2025.

State senators Feb. 24 voted 40-1 to give first-round approval. Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha voted no. All bills need to three rounds of voting to clear the Legislature.

LB938, also introduced by Linehan, would change corporate income tax rates. 

The taxable income rate for corporate taxpayers doing business in Nebraska would continue to be 5.58% between Jan. 1, 2023, and Jan. 1, 2024 for the first $100,000 dollars of taxable income. All excess income would be taxed at 7%, rather than 7.25%.

The revisions would authorize additional rate reductions through 2026.

LB825, introduced by Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, would end state taxation of Social Security income by 2025.

If enacted, Lindstrom’s bill would accelerate the rate Social Security income is included in federal adjusted gross income by 20% each year, phasing out in tax year 2025. The Legislature approved a measure from Lindstrom in 2021 that would have eliminated the tax by 2030, this speeds that up.

State senators Jan. 25 voted 42-0 to give first-round approval.

LB723, introduced by Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, would protect at least $173 million dollars in property tax relief in 2024.

State senators Jan. 26 voted 36-0 to give first-round approval.

Three state senators — Sens. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, Suzanne Geist of Lincoln and Julie Slama of Sterling — introduced three bills against abortion.

  • Albrecht introduced LB933, the Nebraska Human Life Protection Act. This would ban abortion if and when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns part or all of Roe v. Wade. Abortion would also be banned if Congress gives states sole legal authority or if the U.S. Constitution is amended to delegate this power.
  • Geist introduced LB1086, the Chemical Abortion Safety Protocol Act, which would provide safety regulations for chemical, or medication, abortions. Those seeking an abortion would be required to have an in-person screening and a follow-up procedure to track complications that may arise. Abortion-inducing drugs would be prohibited from being sent through the mail.
  • Slama introduced LB781, the Heartbeat Act, which would mandate an ultrasound be performed before an abortion. This could ban abortions at about six weeks although the embryo does not yet have a heart. The sound of a heartbeat is the opening and closing of cardiac valves, but these do not exist yet at six weeks. If a sound of that nature is heard on the ultrasound, abortion would not be possible.

Each bill would also provide criminal penalties if individuals knowingly violate their provisions.

Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon introduced LB773 to expand concealed carry of firearms in Nebraska. The legislation would allow anyone to carry concealed, not just permit holders. 

Persons that carry a concealed weapon who are prohibited from possessing dangerous weapons would still be liable under the law.

Nebraska Democratic Party (NDP)

A staffer with NDP, who wished to speak on background, said their organization does not generally prioritize bills beyond supporting those from their lawmakers. These include supporting voting rights, public schools, abortion rights and medical marijuana, the staffer said.

Instead of detailing specific bills, the staffer provided a statement from Jane Kleeb, NDP chair. Kleeb said the party respects the non-partisan tradition of the Unicameral and engages in bills that attack voting rights or impact the way partisan redistricting operates.

“The NDP platform covers the issue areas our caucuses and councils fight for not only in the legislature but in federal and local government as well,” Kleeb said in the statement. “We encourage students to run as a delegate to their county convention and our state convention, or to attend our 2022 platform hearings so we can continue to have your voices heard.”

Zach Wendling is a senior journalism and political science double major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focused on political, policy and governance reporting. He is the spring 2023 intern for the Nebraska Examiner and has been published in publications across the state as part of the Nebraska News Service. Wendling interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. and worked for The Daily Nebraskan at UNL. He is one of the founding members and inaugural president of UNL's new campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.