As we have discussed, and other media outlets have written, there is a push for “open”, non-secret votes for members of the various legislative committees in the Nebraska Unicameral. Publicly this has been pushed by the Nebraska GOP Chairman and the Douglas County GOP Chair.
But the one who has really been hammering this in the background, is Republican Governor-elect Pete Ricketts.
Ricketts knows, or at least better know, that for a committee like Appropriations, the Chairman and committee makeup can make or break how the state Government spends in the coming years. In a session where there could be items with huge price tags — HHS reform, prison reform, Medicaid expansion — there would be “no money left” for Ricketts’ pet item, property tax relief.
As we noted, while the “open votes” have been discussed — essentially as a way to shame Republicans into voting for Republicans (which we agree with) — others think that the plan is going nowhere in a hurry. It would have to be the FIRST thing brought up when the legislature convenes, and most say the place would collapse if that happened.
So, assuming that plan is dead, what about the makeup of the most powerful committee in the legislature – Appropriations.
Here is what the presumed make-up will be:
2nd District Caucus:
1st District Caucus:
3rd District Caucus:
The Chairman will likely remain Democrat Heath Mello (of South Omaha).
Tyson Larson, who was previously on Appropriations will be (was convinced to be?) Chair of the General Affairs Committee. This allows Al Davis of Valentine to move from Judiciary to Appropriations — and does not allow one of the more conservative freshmen to be on Approps.
So you have four Democrats: Mello, Nordquist, Bolz and Morefield.
And then you have the aforementioned Al Davis, who many consider to be “moderate” at best, and a RINO at worst. Most figure he will get along very well with Chairman Mello.
And another is the new state Senator John Stinner from Scotts Bluff County. Some consider him to be a moderate as well. He is thought to be someone who would not only get along with Mello, but was actually seen eating with Mello a few weeks ago at the Lincoln Country Club (small town, eh?). Sure people are allowed to eat with whomever they want, but the timing of those particular victuals is certainly interesting.
So while on paper the committee breakup is 5-4 Republicans, in reality it is 5-4 Dems, or on a good day for them, even 6-3. And this is in a legislature that has the most Republicans in it in generations. Somehow, the minority party is now (likely) in charge of the most powerful committee.
Is this super-duper “inside baseball” stuff?
Yes, yes it is.
But this is the sort of back room haggling that will absolutely make the difference in how the state spends money and on what. There is a reason Ricketts and the GOP are pushing for open votes.
The problem is that the fox that Ricketts was hoping to keep out, is already in the coop, lining up which chickens will come and go. We will see whether farmer Ricketts can control the farm he just took over.