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Don Walton: New bills, filibuster decision as Legislature sets sail
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Don Walton: New bills, filibuster decision as Legislature sets sail

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Settling in for the long haul.

The Legislature returns on Tuesday for its ninth day in session with 478 bills already on its to-do list and committee hearings ready to begin. 

There are lots more bills coming during the final two days allowed for introduction.

Big decision on Tuesday as state senators consider how to handle filibusters during their 2019 legislative session.

On the docket is a Rules Committee proposal that establishes parameters for extended debate before a motion can be accepted to bring an end to a filibuster and clear the way for a vote on the issue.

If you add the proposed time limits at each of the three stages of floor debate, you will see 10.5 hours of debate allowed on a bill before cloture motions can be triggered. 

The bigger question is whether the Legislature would consider lowering the 33-vote standard to end debate.

Not likely, but that would be a game-changer if majority power were to be enhanced and minority power diminished. That could make the difference on a key issue or two or three.

Let's look at some arithmetic in the non-partisan Legislature: 30 Republicans, 18 Democrats, one registered non-partisan. 

But also weigh in the fact that the veteran members who are Republicans have not voted together on a number of contentious issues and that there also may be some very independent new senators. That is not a 30-vote bloc.  

Minority members of the Legislature naturally have turned to the filibuster most often, but the majority has also used that tactic on occasion, including annual efforts to block Medicaid expansion legislation. That, in turn, finally resulted in a successful initiative that led to voter approval of Medicaid expansion last November.

* * *

Gov. Pete Ricketts' swift praise for Ben Sasse following the senator's success in winning Senate approval of a resolution that reaffirmed the constitutional prohibition against a religious test for holding federal office was viewed as an indication that all appears well between the two Republican officeholders.

Ricketts previously shot down speculation that he might consider challenging Sasse in 2020, particularly if President Trump encouraged him to do so.

Sasse's Senate resolution, adopted without opposition, essentially rejected objections raised by two Democratic senators about U.S. District Court nominee Brian Buescher's affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization. 

"Thank you to Senator Sasse for his leadership in the U.S. Senate to reaffirm the key role religious freedom plays in the public life of the American Republic," the governor said in a statement issued shortly after the Senate acted.

* * * 

Finishing up:

* Ricketts has scheduled a town hall at Vintage Venue in downtown Beatrice on Wednesday, beginning at 2 p.m. 

* Sen. Deb Fischer, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on strategic forces, will be at the center of Senate consideration of enhanced U.S. missile defense capacity at a time when potential adversaries are developing or improving their missile technology.

* Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln has introduced a bill in the Legislature directing the University of Nebraska to develop a strategic plan for Nebraska to deal with climate change.

* Kenny Zoeller has moved from the post of executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party to become chief government performance officer for the state. 

* Jeff Fortenberry has been chosen as Republican leader of the agricultural subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. 

* Pointing to the need for enhancing Republican voter turnout and the challenge of convincing voters that they need to complete their ballot by voting for candidates for offices farther down the ballot, former Sen. Theresa Thibodeau has announced her candidacy for Douglas County Republican Party chair.

* The Cass County Republican Party approved a resolution that calls on Nebraska's congressional delegation to sponsor legislation that would require all elected and appointed members of the executive and legislative branches to forfeit their pay and allowances during any year in which all appropriations bills are not approved by the first day of the fiscal year.

* Are the young DACA immigrants to be viewed only as bargaining chips?

* Day by day, the evidence mounts: There is a serious shortage of adults in Washington. 

* OK, Huskers, gotta win this one on the road deep in Big Ten territory — New Jersey.

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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