108th Nebraska Legislature convenes

The first session of the 108th Nebraska Legislature convened January 4 in Lincoln with 15 newly elected state senators, 10 re-elected and one appointed senator. Sworn in for their first term were: Brad von Gillern (District 4); Merv Riepe (District 12); Christy Armendariz (District 18); John Fredrickson (District 20); Jana Hughes (District 24); George Dungan (District 26); Jane Raybould (District 28); Kathleen Kauth (District 31); Loren Lippincott (District 34); Rick Holdcroft (District 36); Barry DeKay (District 40); Mike Jacobson (District 42); Teresa Ibach (District 44); Danielle Conrad (District 46); and Brian Hardin (District 48). Beau Ballard (District 21), who was appointed to fill former Senator Mike Hilgers’ seat, was also sworn in.

Senators taking the oath of office for their second term were: Robert Clements (District 2); Machaela Cavanaugh (District 6); Megan Hunt (District 8); Wendy DeBoer (District 10); John Arch (District 14); Ben Hansen (District 16); Mike Moser (District 22); Myron Dorn (District 30); Tom Brandt (District 32); and Dave Murman (District 38).

Speaker, committee chairs elected
One of the first items on the day’s agenda was selecting a new Speaker and committee chairs. We congratulate these senators:

Speaker: John Arch
Executive Board: Tom Briese (District 41)
Executive Board Vice Chair: Ray Aguilar (District 35)
Appropriations Committee: Robert Clements
Business and Labor Committee: Merv Riepe
Education Committee: Dave Murman
Health and Human Services Committee: Ben Hansen
Revenue Committee: Lou Ann Linehan (District 39)

Budget-setting year
Senators will have through January 18, the tenth day of the session, to introduce bills, with about 600 pieces of legislation expected to be introduced. Because it’s the first year of the two-year 108th Legislature, Senators must pass a biennium budget bill.

State senators are expected to debate a number of important, and sometimes contentious, issues this year. Topics will include tax credits and tax cuts, reproductive rights, conceal carry requirements, parental choice regarding their child’s education, and more. This year, it’s predicted that the Legislature will have nearly $2 billion in the Cash Reserve to enact new policy initiatives. It will be important that senators take a cautious approach when determining how to use this projected surplus, especially since there is no guarantee that future state revenues will be as fruitful.

Public hearings begin January 23
Every bill introduced in the Legislature is assigned to a committee and receives a public hearing, after which committee members vote whether to advance the bill to the full Legislature for debate. In a slightly different schedule than previous years, senators will hold afternoon hearings January 23 – 28 and morning and afternoon hearings January 30 – February 10. Floor debate on bills will begin February 13 with hearings in the afternoon through March 24. Full-day floor debate begins March 28.

FFN priority legislation
First Five Nebraska is working with senators on bills supporting the child care workforce and families, increasing child care capacity and maternal and infant health. In the coming days, we’ll outline FFN priority bills, along with other bills we’re tracking that could impact young children and families. Check our website’s Policy Priorities page for more information.

See timely bill updates
For the complete list of all early childhood bills we’re following, see our website’s Track Legislation page to search and sort on bill numbers, summaries, sponsoring senator, hearing dates, status and more. This downloadable list will be finalized after January 18 when all bills have been introduced. First Five Nebraska’s bill tracker updates in real time from the Legislature’s website, so you’ll see the most up-to-date information daily.

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