Ernie Chambers

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers

Recounting his colonoscopy and reciting lyrics from The Coasters song "Along Came Jones," Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers hijacked the Nebraska legislative session during one of its critical final days Tuesday.

The bottleneck even compelled lawmakers to briefly consider canceling what remains of the session.

Chambers was making good on a promise to gobble up time with discussion of other measures if lawmakers advanced a bill to return Nebraska to a winner-take-all system of awarding presidential electoral votes. 

"I'm having so much fun, it has to be a sin," he said at one point.

Five days remain before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year, and Speaker Galen Hadley said his main priority during that time is to address a trio of property tax and education bills. 

Those measures are up for second-round consideration Wednesday.

A final vote on the winner-take-all bill (LB10) will take place on a later day after supporters overcame a filibuster during second-round consideration on Monday.

"What I am proposing today is to take time, time, time," Chambers said Tuesday.

With hours ticking off the clock, Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete made a motion for the Legislature to immediately adjourn for the year, which failed on a 1-44 vote.

"I want people to think about whether they're actually accomplishing anything at this point," Ebke said.

Lawmakers have adjourned as many as three days early in recent decades if major legislation was addressed and the governor didn't plan to veto any bills. But canceling the remainder of the session due to a legislative standstill would be unprecedented.

"I feel your pain," Hadley told fellow lawmakers, addressing the move to end the session.

Yet important discussions lie ahead, he said, noting the property tax and education bills — two of which are priorities of Gov. Pete Ricketts.

"The rest of the bills I don't care about," Hadley said. "I have no emotional interest in any of this."

The state Constitution allows the Legislature to extend its sessions beyond the standard 90- and 60-day limits if four-fifths of the members agree.

Lawmakers have done that once in the past four decades, in 1976, to address a measure passed the previous year that would have accidentally eliminated speed limits for vehicles.

On Tuesday, Chambers' stalling tactics held up confirmation votes on appointees to a handful of boards.

His speeches touched on medically assisted death, Medicaid expansion, the possibility that renowned Nebraska author Willa Cather might have been a lesbian and Chambers' own "rapidly failing and deteriorating memory."

Senators then spent most of four hours listening to Chambers discuss mountain lions, the death penalty and other topics during consideration of a bill to set higher fee caps on Game and Parks Commission licenses, permits and stamps.

Chambers returned to his office as other lawmakers began extended debate on legalizing medical marijuana.

He wouldn't say whether he plans to similarly stall Wednesday's debates: "People will have to see."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @zachamiLJS.


Assistant city editor

Zach Pluhacek is an assistant city editor.

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