Another filibuster at Nebraska Capitol as unicameral debates redistricting

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 5:05 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska lawmakers are entering their seventh hour of debate on Monday with no solutions in sight. Discussions got into the nitty-gritty of legislative maps weaving in and out of neighborhoods without a clear reason why.

Speaker Mike Hilgers went on the mic a short time ago to ask his colleagues to listen and give each other grace. He told senators that every one of us should feel urgency.

After eight hours of filibustering on Friday and repeated on Monday, frustrations became apparent.

“I’ve heard people say today that negotiations are ongoing. People are still drawing maps. I don’t know who these people are,” said State Senator Steve Lathrop of Omaha.

Redistricting is about maps and math. Some districts shrink while others expand.

“When we talk about knowing all these people in our district and have a relationship, that’s hogwash. They don’t know who are you are and most of them don’t care who you are, because only 30-40% vote,” said State Senator Steve Erdman.

It’s about getting 40,000 or so Nebraskans in each of the 49 districts. In the last decade, rural Nebraska is losing people and the cities are gaining.

“It’s like getting an assignment in college. You don’t get credit for 1/3 of the job. If you want a map to pass, you have to do the whole map,” said State Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn.

State Senator Lou Ann Linehan seemed exasperated that her bill to split Douglas County into two congressional districts is getting blocked by minority.

“We have senators working all weekend to see if there’s a way. Maybe there’s a miracle that someone hasn’t found yet,” said State Senator Linehan.

Democratic lawmakers seem frustrated too. Many don’t believe there’s any effort at compromise or negotiation by Republicans.

“We’re, at some point, going to have to make maps that are realistic. We’re going eight hours today. On Friday, everyone knew we were going eight hours and nothing would be accomplished,” said State Senator Lathrop.

Four hours into the debate and several lawmakers complained about how big in square miles their new proposed districts would be. Questioning how are you supposed to represent and see the voters that way.

“We are citizen legislators making $12k a year. That ought to be considered when making maps and how far away are you from the citizens,” said State Senator Mike Groene of North Platte.

Other lawmakers argued that Douglas County should stay in one congressional district. At least one senator believes the answer is to take redistricting away from state lawmakers.

“After two days of a nothing burger, an independent commission is becoming more apparent. The blue dot is an insurance policy, a safety valve, a check and balance against the misdeeds of an overbearing majority party,” said State Senator John McCollister of Omaha.

The deadline to agree on new maps is the end of the month and after Monday, it doesn’t look good. The eight hours of debate ends at 8:12 p.m.

Lawmakers are back in session Tuesday at 9 a.m. and the speaker told them to expect a very long night. The same goes for Wednesday as they work behind the scenes to craft some sort of compromise.

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