Nebraska Legislature

"The Unicameral" redirects here. For the general concept, see Unicameralism. For other uses, see Unicameral (disambiguation).
Nebraska State Legislature
Coat of arms or logo
Term limits
2 consecutive terms
New session started
January 7, 2015
Speaker of the Legislature
Galen Hadley
Since January 7, 2015
Seats 49
Political groups
Nonpartisan (49)
Length of term
4 years
Authority Article III, Nebraska Constitution
Salary $12,000/year + per diem
Last election
November 4, 2014
(24 seats)
Next election
November 8, 2016
(25 seats)
Redistricting Legislative control
Nebraska State Legislature
The legislature convenes at the Nebraska State Capitol.

The Nebraska Legislature (also called "the Unicameral")[1] is the supreme legislative body of the state of Nebraska. Its members are "senators." The legislature is officially unicameral and nonpartisan, making Nebraska unique among U.S. states; no other state has either a unicameral or a nonpartisan legislative body. With 49 members, it is also the smallest legislature of any U.S. state.


The First Nebraska Territorial Legislature met in Omaha in 1855, staying there until statehood was granted in 1867.[2] Nebraska originally operated under a bicameral legislature, but over time dissatisfaction with the bicameral system grew. Bills were lost because the two houses could not agree on a single version. Conference committees that formed to merge the two bills coming out of each chamber often met in secret, and thus were unaccountable for their actions. Campaigns to consolidate the Nebraska Legislature into a single chamber date back as early as 1913, meeting with mixed success.[3]

After a trip to Australia in 1931, George Norris, then U.S. Senator for Nebraska, campaigned for reform, arguing that the bicameral system was based on the non-democratic British House of Lords, and that it was pointless to have two bodies of people doing the same thing and hence wasting money. He specifically pointed to the example of the Australian state of Queensland, which had adopted a unicameral parliament nearly ten years before. In 1934, voters approved a constitutional amendment to take effect with the 1936 elections, abolishing the House of Representatives and granting its powers to the Senate. The amendment was based on a bill to establish a unicameral legislature that had been introduced years earlier by Nebraska legislator and later U.S. Congressman John Nathaniel Norton.

Many possible reasons for the 1934 amendment's victory have been advanced: the popularity of George Norris; the Depression-era desire to cut costs; public dissatisfaction with the previous year's legislature; or even the fact that, by chance, it was on the ballot in the same year as an amendment to legalize parimutuel betting on horse races.[4] This latter coincidence may have aided the measure's passage in Omaha, where the unicameral issue was not a pressing one but horse racing was. (Gambling interests campaigned for "yes" votes on all amendments in hopes of assuring the horse-racing amendment's passage.)

The new unicameral Legislature met for the first time in 1937. Though the name of the body is formally the "Nebraska Legislature", its members are commonly referred to as "senators". In Nebraska, the Legislature is also often known as "the Unicameral".

Selection, composition and operation

The Legislature is composed of forty-nine members, chosen by a single-member district or constituency. Senators are chosen for four-year terms, with one-half of the seats up for election every second year. In effect, this results in half the chamber being elected at the same time as the President of the United States, and the other half elected at the same time as other statewide elections. Senators must be qualified voters who are at least 21 years old and have lived in the district they wish to represent for at least one year. A constitutional amendment passed in 2000 limits senators to two consecutive terms. However, a former senator is re-eligible for election after four years. Senators receive $12,000 a year.

Members are selected in nonpartisan elections. Rather than separate primaries held to choose Republican, Democratic, and other partisan contenders for a seat, Nebraska uses a single nonpartisan primary election, in which the top two vote-getters are entitled to run in the general election. There are no formal party alignments or groups within the Legislature. Coalitions tend to form issue by issue based on a member's philosophy of government, geographic background, and constituency. However, almost all the members of the legislature are known to be either Democrats or Republicans, and the state branches of both parties explicitly endorse candidates for legislative seats.[5] As an illustration of how partisanship can intrude upon the officially nonpartisan chamber, in January 2010 it was reported that the Legislature debated whether or not there was partisanship in Legislature, and "then finished the talk with a vote that followed party lines."[6]

Sessions of the Nebraska Legislature last for 90 working days in odd-numbered years and 60 working days in even-numbered years.


The Lieutenant Governor is the official presiding officer. However, the highest position among the actual members is the Speaker, who presides over the Legislature in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor.

Executive Board

The day-to-day matters of the body are dealt with by the Executive Board. The Board includes the Speaker, a chairman, a vice chairman, and six other senators. The chairman and vice chairman are chosen for two year terms by the entire legislature. The chairman of the Appropriations Committee serves, but cannot vote on any matter, and can only speak on fiscal matters.


Senators are classified into three geographically based "caucuses"; each caucus elects two board members.

General powers

The Legislature is responsible for law-making in the state, but the Governor has the power to veto any bill. The Legislature may override the governor's veto by a vote of three-fifths (30) of its members. The Legislature also has the power, by a three-fifths vote, to propose a constitutional amendment to the voters, who then pass or reject it through a referendum.


Note: The Nebraska Legislature is legally nonpartisan; members' party affiliations are for informational purposes only.
Republican-affiliated: 35 members
Democratic-affiliated: 12 members
Libertarian-affiliated: 1 member
No political affiliation: 1 member

District Representative Party affiliation Residence Took office
1 Watermeier, DanDan Watermeier Republican Syracuse 2012
2 Kintner, BillBill Kintner Republican Papillion 2012
3 Garrett, TommyTommy Garrett Republican Bellevue 2013
4 Hilkemann, RobertRobert Hilkemann Republican Omaha 2014
5 Mello, HeathHeath Mello Democratic Omaha 2014
6 Craighead, JoniJoni Craighead Republican Omaha 2015
7 Fox, NicoleNicole Fox Republican Omaha 2015
8 Harr, BurkeBurke Harr Democratic Omaha 2010
9 Howard, SaraSara Howard Democratic Omaha 2012
10 Krist, BobBob Krist Republican Omaha 2009
11 Chambers, ErnieErnie Chambers Independent Omaha 2013
12 Riepe, MervMerv Riepe Republican Ralston 2014
13 Cook, TanyaTanya Cook Democratic Omaha 2008
14 Smith, JimJim Smith Republican Papillion 2010
15 Schnoor, DavidDavid Schnoor Republican Scribner 2014
16 Brasch, LydiaLydia Brasch Republican Bancroft 2014
17 Bloomfield, DaveDave Bloomfield Republican Hoskins 2010
18 Lindstrom, BrettBrett Lindstrom Republican Omaha 2014
19 Scheer, JimJim Scheer Republican Norfolk 2012
20 McCollister, John S.John S. McCollister Republican Omaha 2014
21 Haar, KenKen Haar Democratic Malcolm 2008
22 Schumacher, PaulPaul Schumacher Republican Columbus 2010
23 Johnson, JerryJerry Johnson Republican Wahoo 2012
24 Kolterman, MarkMark Kolterman Republican Seward 2014
25 Campbell, KathyKathy Campbell Republican Lincoln 2008
26 Hansen, MattMatt Hansen Democratic Lincoln 2014
27 Coash, ColbyColby Coash Republican Lincoln 2008
28 Brooks, Patty PansingPatty Pansing Brooks Democratic Lincoln 2014
29 Bolz, KateKate Bolz Democratic Lincoln 2012
30 Baker, RoyRoy Baker Republican Lincoln 2014
31 Kolowski, RickRick Kolowski Democratic Omaha 2012
32 Ebke, LauraLaura Ebke Libertarian Crete 2014
33 Seiler, LesLes Seiler Republican Hastings 2012
34 Friesen, CurtCurt Friesen Republican Henderson 2014
35 Gloor, MikeMike Gloor Republican Grand Island 2008
36 Williams, MattMatt Williams Republican Lexington 2014
37 Hadley, GalenGalen Hadley Republican Kearney 2008
38 Kuehn, JohnJohn Kuehn Republican Heartwell 2014
39 McCoy, BeauBeau McCoy Republican Omaha 2009
40 Larson, TysonTyson Larson Republican O'Neill 2010
41 Sullivan, KateKate Sullivan Democratic Cedar Rapids 2008
42 Groene, MikeMike Groene Republican North Platte 2014
43 Davis, AlAl Davis Republican Hyannis 2012
44 Hughes, DanDan Hughes Republican Venango 2014
45 Crawford, SueSue Crawford Democratic Bellevue 2012
46 Morfeld, AdamAdam Morfeld Democratic Lincoln 2014
47 Schilz, KenKen Schilz Republican Ogallala 2008
48 Stinner, JohnJohn Stinner Republican Gering 2014
49 Murante, JohnJohn Murante Republican Gretna 2012

See also


  2. "More about Nebraska statehood, the location of the capital, and the story of the commissioner's homes", Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 12/14/08.
  3. Michael S. Dulaney, J.D., Ph.D., Executive Director, Nebraska Council of School Administrators. "The Nebraska Legislature: A Brief History". Retrieved 2008-09-07.
  4. Berens, Charlene (2004). Power to the People: Social Choice and the Populist/Progressive Ideal. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-7618-2763-4.
  5. See, e.g., lists of endorsed candidates for the Legislature on the webpages of both the Nebraska Democratic Party and the Nebraska Republican Party.
  6. "Is There A Partisan or Non-Partisan Legislature in NE?",, 2010-01-28.
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