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Don Walton: New legislative dynamics and Gaylor Baird's bold call
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Don Walton: New legislative dynamics and Gaylor Baird's bold call

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The Legislature returns to Lincoln and a strange new world on Monday, not the one that senators left in March when they packed up their bags and got the heck out of Dodge.

And as they reconvene, the legislative dynamics have changed.

Nebraska's legislative body is uniquely built around personal communication, unlike other state legislatures where marching orders or directives come flowing down from on high, from party leaders and whips and committee chairpersons.

Members of Nebraska's nonpartisan Legislature are uniquely independent and they often reach decisions through individual communication with one another.

That path to legislative governing in the unicameral is going to be hampered by the distancing and relative isolation of senators imposed by the coronavirus, that uninvited stranger in their midst.

And senators also will be isolated from a valuable information source in the Rotunda.

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Lobbyists play an important role in the legislative process, and it's a lot more positive than the image generally attached to them. At least, that's true in Lincoln.

They can provide information and expertise and experience that can assist senators in understanding issues, their impact, history and background, and they can share some amazingly accurate preliminary vote counts — all delivered, of course, along with a point of view — as senators reach their own decisions.

Lobbyists will be separated from senators now, although there has been an extensive exchange of cell phone numbers to clear an alternate path for communication.

But it's the continuing exchange of ideas and sharing of information that occurs with personal communication among individual senators on the floor of the Legislature that may be missed most of all.

Gone will be the typical scene of individual senators freely reaching out to colleagues on the floor during debate by walking to their desks and engaging in close-up, private communication or huddling together in the aisle or under the balcony.

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If you watched carefully, you could see votes gathered, decisions made and sometimes majorities formed and deadlocks broken without hearing a word. That's why back-row seats in the chamber are sought by some senators.

And that's an important legislative dynamic that will be hampered by this unique three-week slog to the end of the 2020 legislative session.

* * *

Game on.

The Cook Political Report has moved Nebraska's 2nd District House contest into "toss-up" territory.

It previously had been listed as "lean Republican," with the odds favoring Rep. Don Bacon in his rematch with Democratic nominee Kara Eastman.

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There's also a presidential battle already stirring in the metropolitan Omaha district as President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden scramble for an up-for-grabs presidential electoral vote with both campaigns organized and already on the ground.

* * *

Finishing up:

* A tweet from Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center: "Kudos to @MayorLeirion@LNKhealth for science-based policy. Hopefully temper their cases. Now to extend to the state."

* Now that public reporting of coronavirus cases is being transferred away from the Centers for Disease Control, shall we expect to see a decline in reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States as we move toward November?

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* Members of Congress are well-prepared for this pandemic: Democrats and Republicans have been social-distancing for years. And at least a few members of Congress have been wearing masks for a long time.

* Masquerade: Paper faces on parade.

* Responding to reports that the Trump administration is considering reducing the U.S. military presence in South Korea, Ben Sasse said: "This kind of strategic incompetence is Jimmy Carter-level weak."

* OpenSky Policy Institute is urging state senators to reconsider the cost and value of business development tax incentives as they return to Lincoln with a proposed new tax incentives program awaiting action. The current Nebraska Advantage program expires at the end of the year.

* It's hardball now, with property tax reduction and reform advocates holding the tax incentives program hostage. A little drama ahead.

* The sudden, uninvited presence of some sort of unidentified federal police force that looks more like armed military personnel on the streets of Portland, Oregon, grabbing demonstrators and hustling them into unmarked vans, should set off alarm bells; this is how democracies die.

* Baseball returns this week, uh, sorta, I think.

* Bold call, Mayor Leirion.

Redistricting reform sidetracked by COVID-19, but effort continues
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Linehan says property tax relief depends on package deal

Milestones in Lincoln and Nebraska's coronavirus fight

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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