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Facing "legislative Armageddon", Nebraska Legislature hopes for fresh start

On the brink of what they call “legislative Armageddon”, Nebraska lawmakers have put aside their differences, for now.

One-third of the way through their 90-day session, they’ve been bogged down, arguing about their own ground rules.

Sen. Curt Friesen of Hamilton County said, “We've had a really rough start. I agree. But I still think down the road we have to come together and work, and we will.”

The argument is over the filibuster, with a proposal that would make it harder to extend debate in an effort to kill a bill.

They adopted temporary rules, but those were set to expire after the 30th day.

Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg said, “We would have come to work so to speak with no rules, so to speak, and that would lead to utter chaos.”

They agreed to put that aside for now, with hundreds of bills up for consideration.

“We have only passed two bills completely through the process, so that's a little bit embarrassing,” Williams said.

In the legislature's defense, Sen. Williams says they've held dozens of public hearings, and are getting work done in committee meetings.

He said, “It is important from us to hear from the people that are affected by the legislation that we are contemplating passing, and that is the second house and it's the real test of the quality of the legislation we look at.”

But with 150 bills on the list to be debated, Senator Matt Williams paraphrases a Jedi master.

“An ancient philosopher said ‘there is do or not do, there is no try.’ Of course that is Yoda. I don't know of anything that's been said that's more important than that, and that's what I challenge people to do each day in the legislature. We're not just going to try, we're going to do this,” he said.

Sen. Williams says the debate of the filibuster is important, but he says not as important as getting work done, like passing the budget.

Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk admonished senators to start trusting each other.

“I would like to see a different body tomorrow, a body that can work together,” he said on Wednesday. “We’re here to legislate, not argue about rules.”

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