A divided Legislature on Thursday confirmed the nomination of Gregg Neuhaus of Grand Island to a seat on the Nebraska Commission on Industrial Relations after a debate that raised concerns about his qualifications for the post and questioned his attitude toward workers' rights.
The commission is assigned the responsibility of resolving public sector labor controversies and disputes, including wage and worker representation cases.
His nomination by Gov. Pete Ricketts was approved by a split 27-19 vote after a debate that divided the nonpartisan Legislature in terms of party affiliation and political values.
At least 25 votes were required for confirmation.
Neuhaus, a Grand Island attorney, was defeated in a 2016 bid for a seat in the Legislature by Dan Quick of Grand Island, a labor union member, in a race that was decided by a scant 75 votes.
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The Legislature's Business and Labor Committee, chaired by Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln, had forwarded the nomination to the floor of the Legislature without offering a recommendation.
Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, a member of the committee, told senators that Neuhaus does not meet the statutory qualifications and requirements for experience and knowledge of labor law to serve as a member of the commission.
Sens. Adam Morfeld and Kate Bolz, both of Lincoln, and Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha pointed to statements made by Neuhaus during his legislative campaign that they said demonstrated a bias against worker rights and benefits and labor unions.
Several senators suggested that other statements showed a disregard for "people in protected classes."
Supporters of the nomination said Neuhaus would be an unbiased member of the commission and that the governor's judgment and recommendation should be accepted.
"He comes unbiased," Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings said.
"He's a good man," Sen. John Lowe of Kearney said.