They're off and running on Wednesday.
Well, that's not exactly accurate.
The 2019 Legislature convenes on Wednesday but legislative sessions do not begin at a running pace. They start slow, get the machinery in place, pick up the pace, sputter in the middle and finish with a rush.
This year's finish is tentatively planned for June 6.
This will be one of the long sessions, beginning in the winter cold and ending in late spring.
And this Legislature has some big decisions to make, some of which may define, open up or limit the future.
One will be the size and nature of the state's revenue stream, and whether it will be dynamic or restrained. That's what nourishes state programs and services.
Property taxes are the ongoing legislative challenge; implementation of expanded Medicaid health care coverage is likely to spark a battle; the structure and funding of state school aid is on the table.
Workforce development remains a largely unaddressed priority; billions of dollars of sales tax exemptions, tax incentives and tax credits remain untouched; prison crowding and programming remain a ticking time bomb.
There's plenty to keep this Legislature busy.
First-day watch list includes: who gains chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee and the Education Committee; who gains slots on Revenue, which will include at least five new members; who grabs the two open seats on the Appropriations Committee.
Lots of drama and surprise popped up when a new Legislature was organized two years ago, so there's a little suspense in the air now.
If I was managing the odds board at a Las Vegas casino, I'd move the likelihood of Sen. Ben Sasse seeking re-election in 2020 from slightly or somewhat favorable to approaching a slam dunk now.
Sasse's assignment to a seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell probably changes everything.
Sasse has made no secret about his strong desire to serve on that committee; unlike some of his colleagues, he's been a senator who already takes advantage of all the intelligence access that's available to him now.
And he's been immersed in the intellectually challenging domain of cyberworld, authoring the legislation that created a new cyberspace commission designed to develop a strategic approach to protecting and defending the United States in cyberspace.
And now Sasse will be one of 15 senators who has access to raw intelligence on a daily basis. That, by definition, includes the results of espionage and signal interception.
Probably a little spooky and scary, too.
Both Bob Kerrey and Chuck Hagel were members of the Intelligence Committee when they were in the Senate.
Kerrey, of course, was also a member of the 9/11 Commission — and he has been an advocate of beefed-up congressional oversight of intelligence and homeland security.
And could there be a more important time for congressional oversight than now when all the pieces on the chessboard seem to be in motion and the Russian bear is stirring and China is rising and the nuclear genie is loose and autocrats and would-be tyrants are popping up all over the world in places very near and far away?
* And we have our first candidate for the Legislature in 2020: Tim Royers, a social studies teacher at Millard West who was Nebraska's Teacher of the Year in 2016. He would succeed Sen. Rick Kolowski, who will be term-limited out of office at the end of his second term.
* Early chatter about Ben Sasse facing the possibility of a high-profile opponent in the Republican Senate primary in 2020 has blown away. There could be, and probably would be, a low-profile challenger, but as of now that's it.
* Thirty-eight days until spring training.
[Meet the 13 new members set to join Nebraska's Legislature]
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John Arch of LaVista, 63, vice president of strategic initiatives at Boys Town National Research Hospital, describes himself as a fiscal conservative who will focus on economic development, tax reduction and quality education.
A Republican who will succeed Jim Smith in District 14, Arch says "we've got to broaden our tax base through economic growth."
Tom Brandt, 59, a farmer and livestock feeder from Plymouth, said property tax relief and more fairness in school funding are the top priorities for his District 32 representing Saline, Jefferson, Thayer, Fillmore and southwest Lancaster County.
"If you go out and actually talk to people, it used to be the farmers who were just upset," said Brandt, a Republican. "Now, even the urban people, homeowners are upset over their property taxes."
Machaela Cavanaugh, 39, of Omaha, represents District 6. She's had nearly 20 years experience in public affairs and community engagement and has worked for the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska, other nonprofits, and as a staff assistant in Washington, D.C., for former U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson.
The Democrat has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is married and has two daughters and one son.
Wendy DeBoer, 44, of Bennington and elected to Douglas County's District 10, is a former attorney and a higher education instructor, having taught since 2001 in universities in several states. teaching English classes and working now on her doctorate in Christian theology. DeBoer, a Democrat, grew up in District 10 and her parents and four siblings live in Nebraska.
"I'd like to be part of the progress that's being made on Corrections, and I'd also like to work on education finance reform," she said.
Myron Dorn, 64, an Adams farmer who has been chairman of the Gage County board of supervisors and a Republican who will succeed Roy Baker, identifies property tax relief as the No. 1 priority in District 30.
With his county facing a $28.1 million court judgment in the so-called Beatrice Six case, Dorn said he will center on "a bill to allow counties with federal judgments the authority to levy a countywide sales tax so that all the costs will not be paid by property taxes."
Tim Gragert, 59, a retired medevac helicopter pilot in the Army National Guard from Creighton, said he'll work with other lawmakers on property tax reform. A former school board member, the Republican said he is also aiming to rework the state aid formula to provide more funding to rural schools.
“Hopefully, we can come up with something that helps out my constituents,” he said.
Ben Hansen, 39, a chiropractor and Republican who has served on the Blair City Council and will succeed Lydia Brasch, says he's a constitutional conservative who is focused on less government, a lower tax burden and elimination of unnecessary government regulation.
"Property tax relief is my main goal," he said. "That's what people in District 16 elected me for."
Megan Hunt, 32, of Omaha, was elected in District 8. She's the owner of a boutique and e-commerce company supporting independent fashion designers, and the founder and vice president of Safe Space Nebraska, a nonprofit working to end harassment and assault in nightlife establishments. The Democrat has an 8-year-old daughter.
"I have an ambitious agenda for the people who I represent in District 8 and I know to make positive change that's good for them I'm going to have to be able to work with a variety of different people. So I will feel successful if I'm able to build those relationships and be productive with my colleagues."
Andrew La Grone, 28, was appointed by Ricketts to the District 49 seat representing western Sarpy County and Gretna to finish the term of Sen. John Murante, who was elected state treasurer. La Grone, an attorney from Gretna, was the legal counsel for the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, which was chaired by Murante.
“The people can count on me to put District 49’s conservative principles to work to help deliver new property tax relief, hold the line on state spending, and stand up for Nebraska’s unborn children,” La Grone, a Republican, said in a statement.
Steve Lathrop, 61, an Omaha attorney from District 12, is returning to the Legislature after serving two terms and sitting out for four years because of term limits. In two previous terms of the Legislature, Lathrop chaired oversight committees for the Department of Correctional Services and the Beatrice State Developmental Center, and oversaw reforms of Nebraska’s Commission on Industrial Relations.
"I want to work on issues relative to helping to resolve some of the problems that persist at the Department of Corrections. I also want to contribute to a spirit of cooperation and building consensus on solving the state's bigger problems," the Democratic senator said.
Mike Moser, 67, who was mayor of Columbus for 12 years and will succeed Paul Schumacher, is centered on property tax reduction, spending cuts and school aid reform that provides state funding assistance for all school districts.
"The No. 1 thing on people's minds is property tax relief," says Moser, a Republican who operates Columbus Music, a musical instrument store, and will represent District 22.
Dave Murman of Glenvil, 65, was elected to represent District 38 in south central Nebraska. A retired dairy farmer, Murman, a Republican, said he will address a recurring theme that came up time and time again from voters.
“All through the campaign I heard about the need for substantial property tax relief. That’s what I’m going to dedicate most of my time and energy toward."
Julie Slama, 22, of Peru, was appointed by Gov. Pete Ricketts to finish Sen. Dan Watermeier’s term in District 1 after Watermeier was elected to the Public Service Commission. A Republican law student, Slama worked for Ricketts' re-election campaign.
“My priority for this session is getting property tax relief for the people in my district and the way we are funding schools through TEEOSA,” she said.
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