UNICAMERAL UPDATE From Matt Williams
Greetings District 36. The first session of the 105th Legislature began on Wednesday, January 4th. Seventeen new senators were sworn in and new leadership was elected, but the first few days of session are mostly used for organizational purposes. Senators are assigned office space and the halls of the Capitol are filled with furniture and files as everyone settles into a space for the next two years. There is a lot of energy in the building after the quiet interim.
Senators also learn their committee assignments in the first few days of session. I have been assigned to the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee which is a good fit given my 40 year career in banking. I have also been assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee. There are a number of challenges facing the Department of Health and Human Services and I look forward to learning more about these issues.
The first ten days of session are when all the bills are introduced. Each bill that is introduced will have a public hearing in a committee. I am working on a number of bills on a range of topics. I will provide more information in a future column about the bills I introduce. We will also hear from the Governor in his state of the state address as well as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in his state of the judiciary address.
I am optimistic about this session even recognizing that we have significant challenges. We have the budget shortfall, issues with the Department of Corrections, and tax issues that need solutions. If we roll-up our sleeves and collaborate on the important issues, I believe we can achieve great results for our state.
On a somber note, District 36 recently lost a great leader with the passing for former Senator John Wightman. John's work in Lexington, Dawson County, and the Nebraska Legislature touched many lives. His dedication and hard work set an example for many of us to follow. For me John was a trusted adviser and supporter. Most of all he was a dear friend. Our prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.
I am humbled and honored to serve as your representative in the Legislature. I would ask for your thoughts and prayers for the senators as we begin this journey on behalf of all Nebraskans.