Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature Brandon Metzler flips through the chamber's current rules.
Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature Brandon Metzler flips through the chamber's temporary rules from the 2021-22 legislative session on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Lincoln. On the first day of this year's session, senators adopted those temporary rules and are now debating what changes should be made before they adopt permanent rules. (Nebraska News Service Photo/Zach Wendling)

State Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard will lead Thursday’s Rules Committee hearing for the Nebraska Legislature regarding dozens of proposed rules changes for the body.

Erdman, chair of the Rules Committee, said the proposals — 55 total from 14 different senators — are greater in number than what has been considered his last six years in office.

“The rules are important because that’s how we function here,” Erdman said. “Those are the things that guide us in what discussion we can have and when we can have it. And without rules, this body would be nonfunctional.”

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha, who introduced seven changes and joined State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha in one proposal, said her proposed changes would make the Legislature better and fairer.

“I introduced rules that I felt from my experience over the last four years would be an improvement in our process and would also eliminate some of the more contentious floor debates that we’ve had by minimizing some of those sorts of workarounds,” Cavanaugh said.

Erdman said each senator will be able to introduce their respective rules change, and he hopes to advance noncontroversial rules as a package while others can be addressed later.

The committee will meet at 1:30 p.m. in the Nebraska State Capitol, Room 1525. The hearing will also be livestreamed and accessible through the Legislature’s website or local TV.

Proposed rules

Senators have submitted proposals that would change legislative rules to, among others:

  • Allow military personnel to lead the chamber’s daily Pledge of Allegiance (State Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha),
  • Raise the number of senators required to pull bills from committee (Cavanaugh, Hunt and Danielle Conrad of Lincoln),
  • Require senators to take a position on votes and not vote present (State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha),
  • Prohibit firearms in the Nebraska State Capitol  except for military and law enforcement personnel, or those authorized for reenactments or other purposes (Cavanaugh),
  • Restructure the Legislature’s redistricting process to rely upon an independent commission (Hunt),
  • Bar news media from attending committee executive sessions (Erdman),
  • Post video recordings of hearings and floor debate online within two weeks (Erdman),
  • Require at least 25 senators on the legislative floor at all times (Hunt),
  • Eliminate the chamber’s daily opening prayer (Hunt),
  • Provide for senators to vote remotely in specific instances (Hunt),
  • Allow pets in the Capitol and senators’ offices (Hunt), and
  • Limit senators to 12 bills per session (State Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair).

The full list of proposed changes and adjusted language is available here.

Committee chair explains

Hear Erdman explain Thursday’s process and the importance of the Legislature’s rules:

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.