by Steve Erdman, District 47

Last week we passed the rules for the 108th Legislature.

44 Senators voted in favor of the rules. As chair of the rules committee, I am proud that our Rules Committee was able to process 58 proposed rule changes, hold hearings on every proposed rule change, and create a rules package which passed in such a short amount of time. They passed in less than one and a half hours of debate.

One of the rule changes that I proposed made its way into the final package of rule changes that passed. This was a proposed rule change to include a link to Appendix A on the Legislature’s website. Appendix A presents a model for how committees should be run. While Appendix A does not constitute a rule, it gives helpful advice to committee chairs on how to run their committees. In the past, this helpful appendix could only be obtained from the Clerk’s office, but soon it will be available on the Legislature’s website.

The most controversial rule change that was accepted by the Senators concerns the motion to indefinitely postpone a bill, also known as the IPP Motion. The old rules allowed for any Senator to place an IPP Motion on a bill seconds after it gets introduced on the floor of the Legislature. This is a very hostile move taken to kill a bill right out of the gate.

Whenever an IPP Motion is placed on a bill before the bill gets read the first time on the floor, it turns the tables on the Senator who introduced the bill. Normally, the Senator who introduces a bill gets ten minutes to speak or open on the bill once it gets voted out of committee and comes up to the floor for debate.

However, when an IPP Motion gets placed on a bill immediately after it gets introduced that situation changes. Instead, the Senator placing the IPP Motion on the bill gets ten minutes to talk against the bill while the Senator who introduced the bill gets only five minutes to speak on the merits of the bill.

The proposed rule change that the Senators accepted this year reverses the old rule. During the 108th Legislative Session the Senator who introduces a bill will get ten minutes to open on the bill before an IPP Motion may be placed on the bill. This is an important rule change, because Senator Daniel Conrad of Lincoln had already placed several IPP Motions on bills she doesn’t like, including LB 79, my bill for the EPIC Option Consumption Tax.

During the floor debate on the rules, Sen. Machalea Cavanaugh of Omaha attempted to amend the rules package with her own proposed rule change to outlaw open carry of firearms in the State Capitol. Sen. Cavanaugh has always been a strong opponent of the Pull Motion. The Pull Motion allows a Senator to advance a bill out of committee with a majority vote even though the committee has refused to advance the bill. Because the Rules Committee never advanced her proposed rule change, she attempted to use the Pull Motion to bring it up to the floor.

So, I explained to her that she was using the very Pull Motion that she opposes. Nevertheless, her Pull Motion failed.

There were several very important proposed rule changes that are controversial and which still need to be addressed. Among these are the proposed rule changes to remove secret ballots when voting for committee chairs, the number of votes needed to override a filibuster, and barring the media from executive sessions. The Rules Committee will deal with these controversial rule changes at a later time.

Passing a permanent set of rules last week was a very important step in the legislative process. Because the Legislature now has a permanent set of rules, we can move forward with the business of the State. In 2017 the Legislature wasted 40 days debating the rules.

Whenever that happens, it means that fewer bills ever get debated on the floor of the Legislature, and only those bills with a priority status would ever see the light of day. Because we passed a permanent set of rules early on, those bills without a priority status now stand a chance of getting debated on the floor of the Legislature. In short, this means that we are now positioned to have a very productive first year of the 108th Legislature.