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Several legislative committees shifted membership Thursday to accommodate a departure and a new appointee, but it took some wrangling to get there. 

The early resignation of Omaha Sen. Joni Craighead in September left openings on three committees: Banking, Commerce and Insurance; Government, Military and Veterans Affairs; and Planning. 

The Legislature's Executive Board voted to put Omaha Sen. Burke Harr onto the Banking Committee, Omaha Sen. Theresa Thibodeau on the Government Committee, and Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn on the Planning Committee. 

Government Chairman John Murante of Gretna had informally expressed interest in the Banking Committee opening. 

Thibodeau is the newly appointed senator taking Craighead's seat. She was assigned to the General Affairs and Agriculture committees because Harr left those committees to take the Banking Committee position. 

The wrangling the Legislature had last year with committee assignments continued Thursday. The vote on Harr's assignment was 7-2, with Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill and Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango voting no.

Larson said he wanted to open up the General Affairs and Agriculture spots for other senators to apply, and he continued to argue other points on why the board should wait on the appointments, potentially allowing the Committee on Committees to make the appointments. That's where a number of heated discussions on assignments took place at the beginning of the last session.

Executive Board Chairman Dan Watermeier said the committee openings could only be filled by senators from the 2nd District caucus. 

And he reminded the board the rules allow the Executive Board to fill the committee positions when the Legislature is not in session in whatever way it chooses. 

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said the discussion had familiar political undercurrents.

"Our rules either mean something or they don't. We as the Executive Board, based on the rule that our chairperson read, are to fill this slot," he said.

"I don't like getting in these side arguments that go on and on. And I know what's behind all this, but I'm not going to bring it up."

The board approved the Thibodeau appointments on an 8-1 vote, with Larson voting no. The Planning Committee assignment was done with a secret ballot because multiple people had applied for it. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or

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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