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The resolution came after the last urp, burp and slurp, and so was somewhat anticlimactic, said Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers. 

It was meant to ensure that no meals or beverages would be provided anywhere in the Capitol to members of the Legislature by any lobbyists while the Legislature was in session. 

Chambers frequently chastises senators for eating lunches and dinners provided by lobbyists when they take a short break, usually toward the end of the session when the Legislature is working longer hours to complete its business. He does not participate.

In the resolution (LR414), Chambers said senators are elected to serve with undivided loyalty in the best interests of the people and are held to a higher standard.

Lobbyists, he said, are paid to influence senators to advance the interests of their clients. And accepting free meals can foster the appearance of impropriety and undue influence.

In politics, Chambers said, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The hand that feeds controls.  

Chambers wanted a vote on the resolution and assumed he would get one, even if it was too late for this session. 

Debate was lighthearted but also serious at times. 

Chambers said he believed the lunches and dinners were not provided in a completely voluntary manner by lobbyists. It was done by tradition. And they would probably vote to not provide the meals, if the ballot was secret, he said. 

"Ask your constituents do they approve of you sponging off the lobbyists," he said. 

Sen. Dave Bloomfield stood up for them. 

"Colleagues, in Nebraska the word lobbyist is not a dirty word," he said. "Let's not leave that impression when we leave here that because you're a lobbyist that's something to be scorned. Well, it's not. They are a vital source of information." 

The agenda pointed out each resolution listed would get 30 minutes. People were still debating Chambers' resolution when the time limit was reached. The senator presiding moved to the next resolution without a vote.

Chambers and some others were surprised.

He admitted he dropped the ball because he thought the debate would end in 30 minutes and a vote would be taken, much like the consent calendar bills were handled. 

"I think the desire is to make sure we don't go on the record by voting on that resolution," he said. 

It was introduced early in the session, he said, but didn't make it to the agenda until the last day. 

"I've just had the shoe of the speaker applied to my posterior, without warning," Chambers said. 

Speaker Galen Hadley said he was not attempting to trick Chambers. It is a standard practice to list times on the agenda when debate will move on. 

Next year, Chambers said, he will bring the lobbyist lunch issue as a bill. 

"Then I'll get my vote," he said.

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On Twitter @LJSLegislature.


State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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