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Don Walton: The Legislature reflects a conservative Republican state

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Pig statue

Gov. Jim Pillen has asked for help in naming a pig statue in the reception area to the Governor's Office at the Capitol. The pig is a nod toward Pillen's career as a hog producer.

Nebraska Gov.-elect Pillen plans to host inaugural ball in Omaha

Although the proof is in the pudding, whatever that means, the 2023 Legislature appears organized to deliver a largely conservative outcome following its early organizational gnashing of teeth.

Not surprising in a conservative Republican state.

And just what might be expected in a system of representative government that reflects the views of Nebraskans as expressed at the ballot box. That's how it's supposed to work.

No surprise when Gov. Jim Pillen said none of the nine persons that were interviewed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Ben Sasse was a Democrat.

"I don't believe in where this administration is going," Pillen said. "It's big government socialism."

Pillen has won praise for being open, engaging and accessible, and he appears to have a talented and mostly experienced team at his side. There's a learning curve ahead — along with a comfort curve — but he appears to be well on his way. 

Pillen is authentic.

He wore a customary pair of boots to his inauguration ceremony and appointed Pete Ricketts to the Senate at a big event in the Governor's Hearing Room without wearing a tie.

A couple of days earlier, he walked across the room following his first news conference, introducing himself to new faces.

Authentic: "true to your own personality, values and spirit."

                                                      *   *   *

Finishing up: 

* Although the Legislature is in conservative Republican hands, Democrats in the nonpartisan legislative body have power, too. A couple of important committee chairmanships and filibusters on parade.

* It's Sen. Pete Ricketts now, just a week after he completed his eight-year gubernatorial run. That's upward mobility on steroids, but he probably will discover — and probably already knows — that the governorship was better. Former Nebraska governors who went to the Senate agreed on that. 

* A Washington outcome: Adrian Smith finished third among the Republican congressmen who sought the coveted chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee after finishing third in the race among them to raise money for the party.  

* Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha has introduced extensive police reform legislation along with a proposed constitutional amendment to end the death penalty in Nebraska. That District 11 seat in North Omaha is still to be reckoned with.

* Rep. Mike Flood was among a handful of Republican congressmen who joined House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the set when Fox News commentator Sean Hannity interviewed McCarthy last week. Flood spokesman Taylor Gage said, "Fox reached out to members to include them."

* Gov. Jim Pillen, Columbus pork producer, wants you to help name the bronze pig that has moved into the governor's reception room with the advent of his administration. 

* Ben Sasse left behind some choice Senate committee assignments, including Judiciary, where he helped gain Senate confirmation of Donald Trump's judicial nominees, and Intelligence, his favorite committee. Wonder what Sen. Pete Ricketts will get as the newest kid on the block.

* The news conference at which Pillen named Ricketts to a seat in the Senate attracted a large news media contingent, including seven TV cameras. That's getting closer to your typical Husker football news conference. 

* The entire news conference, complete with questions and answers from the media, was later aired on CSPAN.

* News conferences that are held in the Capitol Rotunda — in contrast to those held in the Governor's Hearing Room — sure could use a small sound system when the Legislature isn't in session. 

* New bills provide growing evidence that public education is under surveillance in this legislative session. And often under attack.

* Are changes in college football transfer decisions related to the new NIL era that has turned the game into a semi-pro marketplace?

Former Gov. Ricketts will fill Nebraska's Senate seat
Nebraska senators will meet next week to discuss proposals for floor debate
Senators hear changes to secret ballot, voting procedure rules during marathon hearing

* One of the more interesting aspects of Gov. Pillen's appointment of Pete Ricketts to the Senate was a pledge that he wouldn't leave that seat to accept any offer to be vice president or a cabinet officer. His pledge to seek election to the final two years of the current Senate term in 2024 and to a full six-year term in 2026 effectively locks him in for at least 10 years, assuming voters agree. 

* Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning has been reelected to the National League of Cities board of directors. That organization advocates for city priorities in Washington.

* As Republican heavyweights appear to begin to drift away from Donald Trump, Democrats may be approaching the question of if not Joe Biden, who?

* Forty days until spring training. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or

On Twitter @LJSdon


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