The first session of the 105th Legislature convened Jan. 4 in Lincoln. The 90-day session runs through June 2.
Here are a few details about how the Legislature operates.
Nebraska has the only one-house state legislature in the country. Instead of a House and a Senate, there’s only one chamber, sometimes called the Unicameral. Nebraska also has the nation’s only nonpartisan legislature.
Unlike the U.S. Congress or other state legislatures, lawmakers run for office in the Nebraska Legislature without party labels, and political parties have no recognized role in choosing legislative leaders or committee members.
Former U.S. Sen. George Norris persuaded Nebraskans to make the change in 1934. He argued that it would be less costly and more efficient than a two-house legislature because there would be fewer members. He also argued that it would be more open to public scrutiny and less prone to corruption. The first unicameral Legislature met in 1937.
The 49 state senators make $12,000 annually, plus per-diem payments to cover transportation costs and other expenses. Nebraska has the smallest legislature in the country.
The Legislature makes the laws of the state and appropriates money for state purposes. It proposes amendments to the state constitution, which voters then approve or reject. It also approves state officials appointed by the governor and provides oversight of government operations.
Senators can introduce bills during the first 10 days of a legislative session. Each bill is referred to a legislative committee for consideration. The committee must hold a public hearing on the bill, after which committee members can vote on whether to advance the bill to the full Legislature. To pass, a bill must make it through three rounds of debate and voting by the full Legislature. After a bill passes, it goes to the governor to be signed or vetoed. If a bill is vetoed, the Legislature can pass it with 30 votes to override the veto.
Most bills take effect, or become law, three months after the legislative session ends.
You can keep up with legislative developments in The World-Herald or at Omaha.com/legislature. You can watch legislative debate and public hearings live online. Debates by the full Legislature also are broadcast on NET2. The legislature website has lots of information, including daily debate agendas, weekly public hearing schedules and the language and status of bills and amendments.
Contact your senator or other senators by calling their offices, sending an email or writing a letter. You can testify at a public hearing or submit written testimony about a bill. Anyone can testify at a hearing but the length of testimony might be limited to accommodate more speakers.