The Unicam convened last week, setting off a week full of bill introductions and a new slate of chairpersons. We had 114 bills introduced on the first day, and we are looking forward to another week of bill introductions. History tells us the first day and 10th (and final) day of introductions are the busiest on our way to somewhere between 600 and 800 new proposals.

York Sen. Greg Adams was uncontested in his bid to replace outgoing Speaker of the Legislature, Norfolk Sen. Mike Flood, who left the Legislature due to term limits. Term limits also opened up leadership positions in six of the Legislature’s 14 standing committees. Eight of the fourteen committee chair positions went to Dems, demonstrating that our Senators were not swayed by the Nebraska Republican Party’s call to put partisan politics into our unicameral. The composition of these committees is important because they determine what bills go to the floor for full debate, and they also hold public hearings on all bills introduced in a session. Committees decide what issues our Unicam will take action on this year.

We worked a lot with the Natural Resources committee last year, pressuring it to put in place strong regulations governing oil pipelines in our state and protections for landowners. Committee members Ken Haar and Annette Dubas were champions of environmental issues and worked tirelessly to protect Nebraskans. But some members were key in pushing through the constitutionally challenged LB 1161 that threw landowners under the bus. This year, we are pleased to see that Sen. McCoy is not returning to the committee, nor is Sen. Christensen. Last year, these two senators demonstrated they were in a foreign oil company’s pocket and harassed Nebraska landowners who testified during the special session—not what we wanted to see from our representatives whose charge is our state’s land and water. In 2013, this committee will see the return of Sen. Tom Carlson (who will chair the committee) and Ken Schilz, both of whom were members of “the Pipeline 6” last year. While Ken Schilz did perform dismally when it came to the KXL, he has shown interest and support for wind development—we hope that he will bring a more balanced approach to his second term.The Natural Resources Committee will welcome Sen. Lydia Brasch and newly elected Senators Rick Kolowski and Jerry Johnson. Rick Kolowski has demonstrated his interest in environmental issues as part of the Papio NRD board, so we are excited to see what he does on this committee. We were worried when Jerry Johnson was elected in November, but we have heard he is much more moderate than initially thought–we’ll be curious to see what he will support and oppose in his first session. 

We are excited to see Senators Norquist and McGill back in their chairs–both have proven to be strong supporters of issues that we also support–Norquist has been a prominent voice in favor of Nebraska expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare, and pushed our state to start getting exchanges ready so that Nebraskans can better find access to affordable care. Norquist has also been a strong supporter of renewable energy throughout his first term in office, as was Amanda McGill–we look forward to seeing what they do in 2013. We are super stoked to see Senator Mello chair of the Appropriations committee, a position he won with strong bipartisan support. 

Other Senators that have shown support for environmental issues and expanding renewable energy include Steve Lathrop (Chair of Business and Labor, Member of Agriculture), Burke Harr (Member of Agriculture, Revenue), Norm Wallman (Member of Agriculture and Business and Labor), and Bill Avery (Chair of Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs). 

The full list of committee assignments and chairmanships, and when and where the committee meets is as follows:

Meets in Rm. 2102 – Tuesday
Schilz (Chair, R), Bloomfield (R), Chambers (I), Hansen (R), Harr, B. (R), Johnson (R), Lathrop (D), Wallman (D)

Appropriations (9)
Meets in Rm. 1524 – Monday & Tuesday
Meets in Rm. 1003 – Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday
Mello (Chair, D), Bolz (D), Conrad (D), Harms (R), Kintner (R, Conservative), Larson (R), Nelson (R), Nordquist (D, Pro Renewable Energy, Stands for Health Reform), Wightman (R)

Banking , Commerce and Insurance
Meets in Rm. 1507 – Monday & Tuesday
Gloor (Chair, R), Campbell (D), Carlson (R), Christensen (R, In TransCanada’s Pocket, Conservative), Crawford (D), Howard (D), Pirsch (R, Conservative), Schumacher (R)

Business and Labor
Meets in Rm. 2102 – Monday
Lathrop (Chair, D), Ashford (D), Chambers (D), Hansen (R), Harr, B. (R), McGill (D), Wallman (D)

Meets in Rm. 1525 – Monday & Tuesday
Sullivan (Chair, R, Moderate), Avery (D), Cook (D), Davis (R, Moderate, Pro Renewable Energy), Haar, K. (D), Kolowski (D), Scheer (R), Seiler (R)

General Affairs
Meets in Rm. 1510 – Monday
Karpisek (Chair, D), Bloomfield (R), Coash (R), Johnson (R), Krist (R), Lautenbaugh (R), Murante (R), Schilz (R)

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
Meets in Rm. 1507 – Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday
Avery (Chair, D), Bloomfield (R), Karpisek (D), Lautenbaugh (R), Murante (R), Price (R, In TransCanada’s Pocket), Scheer (R), Wallman (D)

Health and Human Services
Meets in Rm. 1510 – Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday
Campbell (Chair, D), Cook (D), Crawford (D), Gloor (R), Howard (D), Krist (R), Watermeier (R)

Meets in Rm. 1113 – Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday
Ashford (Chair, I), Chambers (I), Christensen (R), Coash (R), Davis (R), Lathrop (D), McGill (D), Seiler (R)

Natural Resources
Meets in Rm. 1525 – Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday
Carlson (Chair, R, Member of the Pipeline 6), Brasch (R), Dubas (D, Pipeline Fighter, Environment Lover), Haar, K. (D, Pipeline Fighter, Environment Lover), Johnson (R), Kolowski (D, Pro Renewable Energy), Schilz (R, Member of the Pipeline 6, Pro Renewable Energy), Smith (R, In TransCanada’s Pocket)

Nebraska Retirement Systems
Meets in Rm. 1525 – At call of Chair
Nordquist (Chair, D), Conrad (D), Davis (R), Karpisek (D), Kolowski (D), Mello (D)

Meets in Rm. 1524 – Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday
Hadley (Chair, R, Moderate), Hansen (R), Harr, B. (R), Janssen (R), McCoy (R), Pirsch (R), Schumacher (R), Sullivan (R)

Transportation and Telecommunications
Meets in Rm. 1113 – Monday & Tuesday
Dubas (Chair, D), Brasch (R), Hadley (R), Janssen (R), McCoy (R, In TransCanada’s Pocket), Price (R), Smith (R), Watermeier (R)

Urban Affairs
Meets in Rm. 1510 – Tuesday
McGill (Chair, D), Ashford (I), Coash (R), Karpisek (D), Krist (R), Lautenbaugh (R), Murante (R, Conservative)