State Legislature adjourns sine die, six senators' terms end

Syracuse Journal-Democrat

The second session of the 106th Legislature adjourned sine die (without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing) on Aug. 13, the 60th legislative day of a session interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In his remarks, Gov. Pete Ricketts congratulated lawmakers on passing tax legislation that he called “generational in its scope” and thanked them for remaining focused on legislative priorities during the “most trying and difficult of circumstances.”

Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk suspended the session in mid-March in response to growing safety concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic. After calling senators back into session for three days in late March for the limited purpose of approving emergency funding to combat the pandemic, he again suspended the session.

Senators reconvened July 20 and finished the final 17 days of session in a changed physical environment in which plastic barriers and physical distancing guidelines limited contact between senators, staff members, the media and the lobby.

Scheer said the completion of the session illustrates Nebraskans’—and the Unicameral’s—ability to weather adversity.

He congratulated lawmakers on passing 285 bills this session, including measures to expand access to broadband Internet in rural areas, improve oversight of the state’s Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers and provide a tax exclusion for military retirement benefit pay.

“We have accomplished a lot in this session whether we realize it or not,” Scheer said.

Scheer also thanked senators for electing him speaker four years ago, saying that he had done his best to uphold his pledge to be fair and consistent.

“It has been my honor to serve you and my constituents in this body and to serve as your speaker,” he said.

Scheer is among six senators who are leaving the Legislature due to term limits. The others are Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, Omaha Sen. Sara Howard and Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski.

Chambers, whose legislative career will stand as the longest in state history, was first elected to the Legislature in 1970. He left office in 2008 due to term limits but returned in 2012.

Among his many legislative achievments were twice gaining passage of legislation to repeal the state’s death penalty and bills that provided for district elections to encourage representation by people of color on the Omaha City Council, Douglas County Board and Omaha school board.

In a farewell tribute Aug. 12, Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks called him “a giant among us.”

“His entire 46-year mission has been for the least, the last and the lost,” she said. “He was always concerned about—and is always concerned about—those who cannot speak for themselves.”

The first session of the 107th Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 6, 2021.