Nebraska keeps unique method of selecting legislative leaders

Nebraska lawmakers voted in early 2016 to maintain the Unicameral Legislature’s secret-ballot method of selecting committee chairs and other leaders. Every two years, each of the state’s 49 senators casts votes for these leadership positions (including the top position of speaker). Under this system, the jockeying among members to become speaker or chair of one of the 14 standing committees can go on for months.

Some legislators, though, have called for the process to be more transparent, by making the leadership selections a roll-call vote. The latest attempt to make this rules change failed by a vote of 30-17, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Proponents of the secret-ballot method say it limits the influence of party politics — an essential part of maintaining the state’s nonpartisan, unicameral legislative branch.

In most of the Midwest’s legislatures, committee chairs are chosen by the top leader of the majority party caucus. But there are some exceptions, a 2012 CSG Midwest survey found. In the Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin senates, selections are made through committees made up of legislative leaders.
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Stateline Midwest: February 20162.03 MB