Respect for ‘Nebraska way’ could/should help end logjam

George Norris must be turning in his grave.
The visionary U.S. senator from Nebraska has been praised for more than 80 years after creating the framework for what would become the nation’s only one-house legislature. Nebraska is a small, unified state, he reasoned, and therefore should be able to conduct the state’s business without the partisan politics that even at that time often bogged down Washington D.C.
The hybrid Norris plan, which features a one-house unicameral, has worked relatively well for 83 years ... until now.
Nebraska lawmakers are already a third of the way through this year’s 90-day session, though very little has been accomplished to date. The tone was set on Day 1 with a power play designed to sweep all or most of the committee chairmanships toward Republicans, and has carried over the past month with a nasty rules debate some say would in effect silence minority groups by making it easier for the majority to end filibusters.
The most troubling aspect of this turn of events is the ease with which some elected officials seem ready to dive head-long into the political abyss of ineffective government. It looks and sounds an awful lot like Washington politics, which is precisely what the late George Norris and 1.9 million Nebraskans hoped to avoid.
There have clearly been proposals each and every year which stirred fiery debate on issues of the day. Regardless of their respective points of view, however, lawmakers have been able to come to the table with the same understanding and respect for “the Nebraska way.” We figure out how to work together around here, doing our homework, stating our positions and then hammering out the details on a solution that works best for all.
It begs the question, what has changed? Is this a delayed result of term limits or a spillover of a national Trump campaign that is seemingly changing all the rules? Is every discussion in the State Capitol going to carry the hangover of a previous vote or position?
No! Nebraskans won’t buy that.
At the risk of oversimplifying today’s goings-on in Lincoln, a “Nebraska way” approach is what it is going to take to help break this ugly rules debate. Strong leadership from the speaker is a must, but so too is willingness from all 49 senators to end this logjam and get on with the state’s business.
Kurt Johnson

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