Scheer reprises role of speaker as lawmakers get back to work

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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) -- Nebraska lawmakers are back in the office. State Sen. Jim Scheer won re-election Wednesday as speaker while 13 new senators stepped onto the Unicameral floor.

Scheer, a Republican from Norfolk, was uncontested in his bid to serve another two-year term presiding over the Legislature. He was sworn into the position by Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican.

Scheer says he has always tried to act with integrity, fairness and consistency in the position, which he first won two years ago. He says he won't give special treatment to any one senator and will treat the one-house, nonpartisan Legislature with respect.

The speaker sets the Legislature's daily agenda, controls the length of debate on individual bills and serves as a public representative for the institution. Speakers also try to broker agreements among lawmakers when the Legislature has reached an impasse.

The new session will bring challenges including: Gov. Pete Ricketts' new property tax package; proposals to legalize medical marijuana; changing prison-sentencing laws to reduce overcrowding and expanding a tax break to military retirees. Budget obstacles also loom during the 90-day session.

The new, ostensibly nonpartisan Legislature is now composed of 30 Republicans, 18 Democrats and one left-leaning independent. Despite their majority, GOP senators won't have enough votes by themselves to overcome legislative filibusters.

Governor Ricketts will be sworn into office on January 10.