NATIONAL NEWS

Nebraska lawmakers reconvene for new session that could shape up to be as contentious as the last

Jan 3, 2024, 2:36 PM

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Legislature returned to the Capitol in Lincoln on Wednesday for the start of the short 2024 session that could end up as contentious as last year’s historically combative session, with a key lawmaker reviving her efforts to target LGBTQ+ youth.

As one of her first acts in the new 60-day session that ends in April, conservative Omaha state Sen. Kathleen Kauth followed through on her promise to prioritize a bill that would restrict transgender student participation in high school sports and limit trans students’ access to bathrooms and locker rooms.

On the other end of the political spectrum, progressive Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, of Omaha, introduced a bill to repeal a hybrid measure passed last year that included Kauth’s restriction on gender-confirming care for transgender minors as well as a 12-week abortion ban.

It was conservatives’ push for those measures that led Cavanaugh and a handful of other progressive lawmakers to filibuster nearly every bill of the 2023 session — even ones they supported. Despite that effort, Republican lawmakers who dominate the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature aggressively pushed conservative legislation, passing measures allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit, a new voter ID requirement, and a measure that funnels millions in taxpayer money to scholarships for private school tuition.

Most senators are hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s session that was peppered with yelling, name-calling, crying and the refusal of some lawmakers to even speak to each other. None of that acrimony was evident Wednesday as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hugged and greeted one another with smiles following the more than six-month break from last session.

Many lawmakers from across the political spectrum made efforts during that time to meet with one another and get to know one another better, said Sen. John Arch, speaker of the Legislature.

“We want to hit the reset button this session,” Arch said.

Getting there will require a return to the congeniality of legislatures past, he said, when lawmakers often met political adversaries outside the chamber for lunch or dinner or even drinks to talk compromise.

“We have to learn how to debate controversial bills and have our have our debates, have our issues, have our fights, whatever they might be, and then move on,” he said. “Because this also this isn’t a one-year event where we have one controversial bill. We are going to have other controversial bills in the future. And so I say we kind of have to build and build muscle memory of what that feels like to take it to filibuster, to debate strongly, to take the vote up or down and then move to other work that we have to do.”

Lincoln Sen. Carol Blood, a Democrat entering the last of her eight years as a term-limited lawmaker, said she appreciated Arch’s words, but is not as optimistic that lawmakers will take on those issues she says concern Nebraskans most: access to affordable child care, health care, housing and “real help with soaring taxes.”

“As a freshman senator, I was such a Pollyanna,” she said. “But last year showed me that, while previous legislative bodies may have worked together for the good of the state, times have changed. Politics has become hyper-partisan, and this body reflects that.”

National News

Associated Press

Vermont man sentenced to 25 years in prison for kidnapping woman and son outside of a mall

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after he was convicted of kidnapping a woman and her 4-year-old son by forcing them into her car outside a New Hampshire mall and bringing them to Vermont while he was searching for his estranged wife. Everett Simpson, 46, was […]

9 minutes ago

Associated Press

Singer Justin Timberlake arrested, accused of driving while intoxicated on Long Island, source says

NEW YORK (AP) — Singer Justin Timberlake has been arrested and is accused of driving while intoxicated on New York’s Long Island, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official said Timberlake was expected to be arraigned later Tuesday in Sag Harbor, on the eastern end of Long Island. The official could not […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Southern New Mexico wildfire leads to evacuation of village of 7,000

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) — Residents of a village in southern New Mexico were ordered to flee their homes Monday without taking time to grab any belongings due to a fast-moving wildfire. “GO NOW: Do not attempt to gather belongings or protect your home. Evacuate immediately,” officials with Ruidoso, a village home to 7,000 people, said […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Tens of millions in the US are under dangerous heat warnings

PHOENIX (AP) — Extreme heat alerts continued for tens of millions of people in the United States on Tuesday as cities including Chicago broke records at the start of a week of sweltering weather. States in the Midwest started to bake Monday in what the National Weather Service called a dangerous and long duration heat […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Convicted killer of California college student Kristin Smart ordered to pay $350k in restitution

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A California judge ruled Monday that a man convicted of killing 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart in 1996 must pay just over $350,000 to her family for costs they incurred after her death. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe ordered Paul Flores to make the payments after a […]

15 hours ago

Associated Press

Central African Republic faces increased rebel activity and spillover from Sudan war, UN experts say

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Activities of armed groups in the volatile Central African Republic have increased, complicating a security landscape that has seen a spillover of the conflict in neighboring Sudan, U.N. experts warn in a new report. The panel of experts cite confirmed reports of air raids by the Sudanese military around border areas […]

15 hours ago

Nebraska lawmakers reconvene for new session that could shape up to be as contentious as the last