The Weary Former Staffer is a new contributing writer to Leavenworth St.
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we were treated to one of the more pointless and irritating filibusters in the Nebraska Legislature this year, waged in a particularly grating fashion by Senators Ernie Chambers and Patty Pansing-Brooks.
If you enjoy unwarranted arrogance and ill-informed statements delivered with maximum condescension, this was the filibuster for you. If not, then not so much.
The bill in question is LB 821 —- a fairly simple measure that keeps employers from requiring employees to reveal their social media passwords for monitoring. Fair enough. The bill defines “employee” as one employed by an employer—as broadly as possible. However, Senator Pansing-Brooks is still smarting from the failure of a LGBT discrimination bill recently, and Senator Chambers is still (some say…) nuts. So, the two of them sought to add “including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity” to this otherwise unrelated bill, and promised to talk it to death to get it done. And off they went.
Senator Pansing-Brooks is apparently an attorney of sorts in real life. How do we know? Because Tuesday night she informed the bill’s sponsor, “Well you have two lawyers standing up . . . “ telling you you’re wrong (Pansing-Brooks, and Chambers). The Legislature always has attorneys in the body — though fewer than the public assumes. I don’t recall in my time working here anyone (not named Chambers) standing up and saying, “I’m a lawyer so I’m right!”
But let’s look at the record. The word in Lincoln is that Senator Pansing-Brooks has in her career simply worked at her husband’s securities law firm. This is not a securities question. And it was Senator Pansing-Brooks last year on a Medicaid bill who assured her colleagues that people don’t transfer their assets away to qualify for Medicaid (despite the fact that EVERY lawyer knows there are some who specialize in advising people on how to do just that — and many people do just that). We probably shouldn’t defer to her as an attorney on that one!
And even in the area of general knowledge, we have reason to be wary, as it was Senator Pansing-Brooks who gained some notoriety earlier this year when she “bravely” stood up for all of us women by chastising her colleagues at the mic as sexists for using the term “gangbangers” in debate — apparently unaware that the most common meaning of the term is the non-sexual “member of a gang”. So let’s just say the jury is still out on how much deference Senator Pansing-Brooks’ positions are due. (Senator Pansing-Brooks, a “jury” is something attorneys who go to court sometimes encounter.)
Never willing to be outdone, of course, Senator Chambers was worse. It seemed that by Wednesday morning, it had occurred even to Senator Pansing-Brooks that filibustering a bill that protects all workers to make a point about LGBT rights was particularly asinine. But, as this is a bill that regardless of the outcome will do little to help Senator Chambers’ most neediest of districts, of course he’s all in and has nothing but time.
And, while it’s reasonable to be suspect of Senator Pansing-Brooks’ blanket claim of legal expertise — it is doubly so of Senator Chambers, who could never be bothered to sit for the bar exam, does not try cases, and simply does not know what he’s talking about. The bill in question provides that a successful Plaintiff can get attorney’s fees. Chambers questioned whether this would entice attorneys (even though it always seems to in real life otherwise), and questioned whether an attorney would take on these civil suits at all, as they’d usually be of the “he said, he said” variety. Which makes them exactly like sexual harassment suits, age discrimination suits, or the gay discrimination suits Chambers wanted to create last week. You don’t always or even often get it in writing or on video. An actual attorney would know this. A rambling old man at the mic—apparently not.
All of this was delivered with the usual insults, slurs, digressions, feigned outrage, etc. by Senator Chambers (but oddly without casually demeaning women, as he often obliviously does), with Senator Pansing Brooks as a willing enabler/co-conspirator. All in the pursuit of, well, who really knows what?
Welcome to your Nebraska Legislature.
There will be a new post this Thursday afternoon.