TITLE: 2023 Session Post-Mortem

If you are looking for a rosy review of this year’s 2023 Legislative Session, this week’s column
isn’t it. Our Legislature’s 2023 Session ended on June 1. We were able to achieve some
monumental bills- billions in tax relief, better support for our rural public schools, protecting
innocent life, passing Constitutional Carry, and even a long-awaited repeal of Nebraska’s helmet
mandate for motorcycles. These victories happened despite certain members’ legislative
leadership, not because of it.
The thing that I hold most sacred in representing District 1 is being the only voice in our
Legislature for 40,000 people in Southeast Nebraska. There will always be battles over key
issues- abortion, Second Amendment, taxes, etc.- but District 1-specific issues are left to me.
Those battles include funding the Peru levee repair, securing more reliable electricity for Falls
City, and fighting for a better future for Southeast Nebraska with affordable housing, improved
water quality, and access to childcare for our working families. A senator who loses sight of local
battles leaves an entire chunk of Nebraska unrepresented in the Legislature.
We lost the ability to have those local battles this year. A weeks-long filibuster cut floor debate
time to nearly zero. The chance to debate local issues was doled out to those who shut up to go
with the flow and others who stood directly in the way of the magical 33-vote threshold to break
a filibuster. As for those who simply showed up to work each day and stood up for what they
believed was right? Most of their priority bills did not even come up for first-round debate.
Normally, I think complaints about the “sanctity of the institution” in our Unicameral are based
on nothing but a wistful desire to return to the good ol’ boys club, where everyone could go
along to get along. However, there is an important foundation of our institution: we have 49
senators, each doing their best to serve their district and our state. That foundation was
demolished in 2023.
Leadership stopped seeing senators as representatives, but as expendable lines on a vote card to
break a filibuster. Several senators (including yours truly) were dragged from the hospital at
different times to hit the appropriate button for a vote. Senators were taken for granted and
treated as if they would be better replaced by robots who could hit a red or green button on
command.
We have 18 freshmen senators in the 2023-24 class. These freshmen are the next leaders of our
Legislature. After the 2024 election cycle, at least 30 of 49 senators will have two years or less of
experience. Our Legislature failed these freshmen in 2023. Freshmen were sidelined- kept away
from leadership roles, told to fall in line even on issues they were not comfortable pursuing, and
left in the dark on day-to-day negotiations. Most of their priority bills never saw the light of day,
and they almost never got the chance to talk about issues specific to their own districts. These
first sessions for new senators are the only way they can get their feet wet in the system. We lost
those opportunities this year.
Make no mistake- the 2023 Legislative Session was historic. I’ll spend the next few months
covering each of those wins in honest detail. However, any senator throwing their shoulder out of
place, patting themselves on the back for the 2023 Legislative Session successes, might want to

take a good, long look in the mirror. These victories ring hollow if we are selling out the future
of our Legislature. Leadership must commit to serving the entire state of Nebraska next year, not
just those who fall in line at the snap of their fingers. I’ll do everything I can to fight this toxic
culture, and you have my word that I will never, ever waiver in my duty to serve you and your
family in our Legislature.

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