Nebraska Legislature rule change proposed as senators brace for more filibusters

LB574 has passed the first round of voting in Lincoln.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 5:18 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - A day after Nebraska lawmakers voted to advance a ban on gender-affirming care for youth, senators were expressing their frustration with filibusters as they looked ahead to next week’s first full day of floor debate.

While Friday’s floor debate was largely about LB276, which would implement a certified community behavioral health clinic model in Nebraska, LB574 was still top of mind with senators commenting that colleagues voting to advance the proposal to ban gender-affirming care for young people weren’t concerned about mental health during Thursday’s voting.

The Unicameral will reconvene Tuesday for its first full day of floor debate; committee hearings were due to conclude Friday. Speaker John Arch of La Vista once more reminded senators on Friday to be prepared for some “late nights” moving forward. Lawmakers are expected to adjourn around 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, at 5 p.m. on Thursday, and sometime between 1 and 3 p.m. next Friday.

Filibusters by State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha have slowed down the business of the Legislature, and Speaker Arch said Friday that he wanted senators to “consider some changes” before proceeding with debate on other bills.

“We’re running out of time,” Arch said.

Cavanaugh has promised to continue her filibusters even on bills she was in favor of, and Thursday others like State Sens. Megan Hunt and Jen Day indicated they would be joining her in those efforts, which have made headlines across the country.

The tactic has left several lawmakers frustrated. Omaha State Sens. Terrel McKinney and Justin Wayne both spoke Friday about the effect it’s having on other bills, noting that “breaking the session” over Kauth’s bills puts the interests of some kids over others.

Arch said he had scheduled a motion put forward by State Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard on Friday to suspend the rules and adopt a rule change for the remainder of this session.

“I believe we need to consider some changes that will make the remainder of this session more efficient in the flow of the bills without stopping serious debate on the bills. That’s the challenge before us: how to balance those two priorities — flow of bills, good solid debate on the bills,” he told senators on Friday. “So I would ask that over the weekend you please consider this motion; be prepared to discuss this matter first thing Tuesday morning.”

Erdman’s proposal would allow for only one motion to postpone to be put forward at a time, rather than allowing several, as Democrats did ahead of Thursday’s cloture vote on LB574.

“Sen. Cavanaugh said it correctly: We many senators, including she and myself, have tried to resolve our conflicts through negotiations discussions so forth over weeks, but have all been unsuccessful,” Arch said Friday.

Also on Friday, the author of LB574 followed up with amendments to the bill as promised.

The changes submitted by State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha specify that the ban would apply to gender-reassignment surgery for anyone younger than age 19. Additionally, puberty blockers and hormone treatments are no longer included in the language used in the final amendment, AM976.

“We had agreed to put on the amendment to remove the puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and that was enough to get us there,” Kauth said Thursday.

The bill, known as the “Let Them Grow Act,” survived a 33-16 cloture vote before it passed General File 30-17 with two state senators voting “present, not voting.”