Nebraska is the only state that has a one-house legislature. We didn’t start out that way. A guy by the name of George Norris convinced the voters of Nebraska to change from two houses to one house, to save money.
Nebraska: The Cheap State.
It’s actually a pretty smart idea, because here is how things work in all of the other 49 states’ legislatures: One chamber will pass a bill, then they have a do-over on the same bill in the second chamber, then they have a fight over which chamber has the best bill, then they get together in secret and hammer out a compromise bill, then both chambers have to pass the compromise bill which generally looks nothing like the original bill. Sounds like a pretty giant waste of time and money. That’s what George Norris thought, too. George was pretty smart. He was so smart they put him on cable TV so he could sell cheap gym equipment. Oh, wait. That’s Chuck Norris. But George was still pretty smart.
The good thing about having only one house in the Lege is it is way easier to pass a good bill. The bad thing about having only one house in the Lege is it is way easier to pass a bad bill. Here’s how you can tell when a senator knows he (eighty percent of the senators in the Lege are men, which is another whole issue) is proposing a bad bill: he tacks on a phrase similar to this: “If any part of this bill is declared unconstitutional the rest of the bill is still law.” The guy knows darn well the law he is proposing is unconstitutional when he wrote it. That’s why he puts in the disclaimer. And believe me, that phrase finds itself in a lot of Nebraska bills. Look for it. Disclaimer = bad bill.
One great thing about the Nebraska Legislature is every bill the senators introduce gets a public hearing. That is so great. Of course, most of the people who testify in the public hearings are well-paid lobbyists who are saying what they are paid to say. But you also get plain old run-of-the-mill citizens who either have a gripe or they need something real bad. They don’t usually get what they need and their gripes pretty much go unheeded, but it makes them feel better to plead their case in front of state senators and there’s something to be said for that.
The Lege has a great website. You can learn all you never wanted to know about state government in Nebraska on that website. You can even listen and watch live streaming video broadcasts of most of those public hearings plus the floor debates. If you are looking for pure, unadulterated, mostly unscripted entertainment, the live Lege is for you. If you find revenue and taxes boring, tune into the judiciary committee where they take on juicy issues like police chases and the death penalty. Or go to education if you want to hear about bullies, or maybe hop over to general affairs to hear all of the liquor bills. And it is always fun to visit the government committee where Nebraska’s Chief Election Officer opposes each and every election reform bill that comes up. Don’t ask me why. It’s politics.
Enjoy Today on the Lege!