LINCOLN — A Columbus state senator is hoping to resurrect a rarely used “committee of the whole” at the Nebraska Legislature to better inform lawmakers on major issues and ward off a weakening of the legislative branch due to term limits.
On Monday, about 32 state senators joined Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus in discussing a greater role for the “Legislative Council,” a committee of all 49 state senators.
George Norris, the architect of the state's one-house Legislature, created the Legislative Council to investigate and research the important issues of the day, as well as study ways to better structure and finance state and local government.
Over the years, the duties of the Legislative Council were changed and diluted. Now, the so-called committee of the whole meets only once a year.
But Schumacher, during a meeting at the offices of the Nebraska State Education Association, told his colleagues that the council ought to meet more often and hold longer meetings focused on the biggest, “global” issues of the day.
Term limits, he said, has eliminated the institutional knowledge of long-serving senators and committee chairs. Holding forums to hear experts and discuss issues, Schumacher said, would improve governance and keep power from shifting to other branches of government.
“It's an old, old idea, but maybe it's a new idea,” he said.
Several senators voiced support for resurrecting the Legislative Council during the meeting Monday. Others questioned whether it would sap power from the existing standing committees of the Legislature.
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