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17 Republican senators support ending secret leadership votes in Nebraska Legislature

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Legislature First Day, 1.6

Senators cast a second secret ballot for the Education Committee chair during the first day of the 2021 legislative session in 2021. Sen. Lynne Walz won, replacing Sen. Mike Groene as the chair.

Seventeen Republican members of the nonpartisan Legislature have signed onto a pledge to vote to end secret ballot selection of the Legislature's leadership positions by state senators in 2023.

One of them, Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, is positioned to be elected attorney general in November, and would be replaced by an appointee selected by Gov. Pete Ricketts before the governor leaves office in January.

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A majority of the Legislature's 49 senators is required to enact the rule change, which would be expected to benefit Republicans who are candidates to chair legislative committees and fill other leadership positions in the nonpartisan Legislature.

Democrats now chair a number of committees, including Education, Judiciary and Urban Affairs.

The effort to seek public pledges now from senators and other legislative candidates is being led by the Nebraska First political action committee, a new PAC formed by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster of Falls City.

"Either our legislators support being transparent with their votes or they want to keep the back room deals that come with electing leadership by secret ballot," Nebraska First PAC Director Rod Edwards said Monday.

"We believe voters support transparency and will support candidates who do too," he said.

Members of Nebraska's nonpartisan Legislature will elect leadership, including the Speaker of the Legislature and committee chairpersons, by secret ballot on the opening day of the session under current rules.

In addition to incumbent senators who signed the pledge, 18 candidates for seats in the Legislature also pledged their support for the proposal.

Included were Lincoln legislative candidates Russ Barger (District 26) and Roy Christensen (District 28).

Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln was among the incumbent senators who signed the pledge.

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

On Twitter @LJSdon

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