GOP flexing—some—new statehouse muscle


Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

For years it’s been driving the GOP crazy.

While Republicans have held a clear majority of the seats in the Nebraska Legislature, Democrats have been running much of the show.

How? By holding the top spot in several committees, bottling up bills they don’t like and freeing ones they do.

Following an Election Day landslide Republican lawmakers look to grab the top slot on several committees.

When state senators went home earlier this year, of the legislature’s 14 so-called “Standing Committees” nine were run by Democratic chairman.

But with half a dozen Democratic chairs term limited and not returning, that 9-5 Democratic lead is expected to do an about-face leaving the GOP with a 9-5 edge.

Here’s four committees where the GOP is flexing its new statehouse muscle.

  • Judiciary: Democrat Brad Ashford—elected to Congress—is out, apparently to be replaced by Republican John Seiler.
  • Government: Republican John Murante set to take over for Democrat Bill Avery—as Nebraska Watchdog has reported the state’s “winner take all” Electoral College vote is likely to take center stage here.
  • Transportation: Republican Jim Smith is in line to follow Democrat Annette Dubas.
  • General Affairs: Republican Tyson Larson is expected to replace Democrat Russ Karpisek.

Two other Democratic chairs, Steve Lathrop (Business and Labor) and Amanda McGill (Urban Affairs) are also term limited. It appears however that Democrats will continue to run those two panels.

All this follows an Election Day landslide where the GOP upped its already comfortable edge in the Unicameral and now holds nearly three times more seats than Democrats. The official scorecard: Republicans 35, Democrats 13, and one independent—numbers almost unheard of in Lincoln.

One key committee, Appropriations, is chaired by Omaha Democrat Heath Mello. Although some Republicans outside the legislature grumble about a Democrat holding such a high-profile post, so far there’s no indication Mello is in jeopardy of losing the top spot.

One final note: The Speaker of the Legislature appears to be a GOP lock. Republicans Galen Hadley, of Kearney, and Colby Coash, of Lincoln, are the only lawmakers currently interested.

Who wins? Several insiders tell Nebraska Watchdog the Speaker’s race is too close to call.

Contact Joe Jordan at

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday morning at 7:40, KLIN in Lincoln every Tuesday morning at 7:35 and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

To subscribe to news updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no charge, click here