The Unicameral’s Day Of Infamy

The infamous vote to deny services to the developmentally disabled.

May 18, 2021 will go down as a day of infamy in the history of the Nebraska legislature. This day of infamy was brought to you by Governor Pete Ricketts, Senator Julie Slama and other members of Ricketts’ crickets. Ricketts’ loyal lieutenants killed funding for developmentally disabled children to finance tax cuts for the wealthy. You can’t make this stuff up.

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh’s bill (LB376) would have would have helped 850 families with developmentally disabled children and cost $10 million over the next two years. This legislation initially passed unanimously in earlier readings. However, Ricketts’ followers — acting at his behest- killed the bill with a filibuster. Interestingly enough, these senators regard themselves as “pro-life.”

It was pretty obvious to everybody that Ricketts’ most ardent supporters in the legislature did his dirty work for him. This spared the billionaire governor the distasteful task of vetoing a bill aimed at helping disabled children. Senator Cavanaugh in response spoke truth to power and responded with (justifiable) righteous fury.

Cavanaugh contended that the “very visible hand” of Ricketts played an instrumental role in the right wing senators’ decision to kill her bill with a filibuster. “Everyone knows the open secret that the governor called a whole bunch of senators yesterday and told you all to kill my bill,” Cavanaugh said. The Omaha Senator also described Ricketts and some of her radical right wing colleagues as “disgraceful” and “heartless.”

The Ricketts Administration didn’t deny Cavanaugh’s allegations that the former T.D. Ameritrade executive killed LB376. Taylor Gage, one of Ricketts’ senior advisers, correctly stated that the administration testified against the bill at its hearing and remained opposed to it.

After her bill was killed, Cavanaugh posted on Facebook as follows:

“May 18, 2021 was one of the most terrible days in the history of the Nebraska Legislature.

Politics over Policy

Partisanship over People

Elections matter. Apathy should never, ever be an option.

I’m sorry to so many in Nebraska. I want this state to be a welcoming, wonderful home to all. We repeatedly fell short today.”

One of the reasons for the filibuster of Cavanaugh’s bill is that Senator Julie Slama — Ricketts’ close friend and staunch ally — simply dislikes the Omaha senator — it’s personal. Senator Matt Hansen said on the floor: “Being dismissive of this as just feelings, when Senator Slama flat-out filibustered Sen. Cavanaugh’s bill because she doesn’t like her — and I feel comfortable saying that ’cause the policy reasons just simply weren’t there…if you’re going to engage in petty politics on the floor, there occasionally are responses to that.”

After the rejection of LB376, Cavanaugh launched a series of filibusters of tax cuts for the rich and the special interests. Despite her filibuster, a bill to dole out $15 million per year in sales tax exemptions to ethanol plants, livestock producers and some agricultural equipment passed. Similarly, a bill to cut the top corporate income tax rate from 7.81% to 7.25% over two years passed. This give away to the rich will cost $26 million in annual revenue.

“Your tax cuts went right through — your property tax cuts and all the stuff you’ve been working for for those with money — went through. And the fact that Machaela Cavanaugh is here reminding us of what work we have to do for children and those in need? More power to her,” Senator Patty Pansing Brooks said in response to this day of infamy.

Ricketts and his crickets believe that rich people don’t have enough money and that the poor and middle class have it too easy. This misguided belief is driving young people out of the state. The Nebraska GOP is operating under the badly mistaken belief that if we give young peoples’ employers and landlords another tax cut, we can stop the out migration from Nebraska. Instead, every year approximately 2,000 young people leave Nebraska. Our state rates a dismal 40th in youth out migration.

If we want to convince young people to stay, we need to win more elections. The 2022 election cycle will be here before you know it. This election will determine whether the right wing of the GOP will wreck the state with ruinous tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. Ricketts will be termed out and we will be electing a new governor. In addition, several Democratic and moderate Republican state senators won’t be running for re-election due to term limits. We have our work cut for us in 2022. Let’s get it done! Let’s leave it all out on the field! We can do this!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.