LINCOLN–The first session of the 105th Legislature adjourned Tuesday with speeches from the speaker, the governor, and the usual impromptu speech from Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha.
With a budget shortfall of $900 million at the beginning of the session, the Legislature managed to save some last-minute money by ending the session four days early.
Most of the senators looked happy to be finished, but Chambers shared his disappointment with the session– and Gov. Pete Ricketts–with a poem.
“More than four decades ago was my first / Far and away this session was worst / Governor Ricketts, this session’s master / Orchestrated a moral disaster,” Chambers said.
After the final business of the session, a committee of senators escorted Ricketts to the Norris Legislative Chamber to give his speech to the Legislature.
Ricketts complimented the senators on a successful session and said the executive and legislative branches of Nebraska’s government worked well together. However, Ricketts said the most impressive part of the session was the work on the budget.
“We did something that was unprecedented,” Ricketts said. “No one can ever remember when we have passed two budget bills in one legislative session.”
Ricketts also said the Legislature showed “Nebraska grit” by prioritizing K-12 funding, property tax relief, corrections reform and a timely budget–all without raising taxes.
Chambers did not attend the speech.
Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk also addressed the Legislature after Ricketts’ departure. Scheer commended the senators on productive discussion of bills this year. Even though fewer bills were passed this session, he said there was longer, more constructive debate on controversial bills.
The Legislature passed 173 bills this session, whereas 247 were passed in the first session of the last biennium, and 214 in the second session.
Scheer also addressed the budget problem and said the Legislature did a good job with a tough situation.
“I think it’s fair to say that not a single member of this body was completely happy with the final budget,” Scheer said. “Many wanted more cuts, some wanted fewer cuts.”
He said that in the end they did what needed to be done for a balanced budget.
The second session of the 105th Legislature will convene Jan. 3, 2018.