Nebraska Legislature Suspended Indefinitely Over Coronavirus Concerns

March 16, 2020, 11:47 a.m. ·

The Nebraska Legislature meeting last Thursday, the last businesss day before suspending (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

The Nebraska legislative session has been suspended indefinitely because of concerns over coronavirus.

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Speaker of the Legislature Sen. Jim Scheer made the announcement late Monday morning after consulting with local health officials and other state lawmakers.

"Looking at the latest CDC request, they're talking about no groups of 50 or more," Scheer said. "Well certainly we would be a group of 50 or more. I plan on reconvening the legislature whenever this somewhat passes and we see an ebb that we are, what I believe to be safe to reconvene."

There are 49 senators in the Legislature, and with staff, their meetings exceed that number.

Sen. Scheer said lawmakers could be called back next Monday to approve an emergency appropriation to fight the virus.

Scheer said the decision was made in consultation with public health authorities, Gov. Pete Ricketts, Sen. Mike Hilgers, chair of the Legislature’s internal governing Executive Board, and others.

“We have made this decision primarily for the health and safety of the state and to protect the health of members in the body,” Scheer said, referring to the Legislature.

The speaker previously said he would suspend the session if there was one confirmed community-spread case in Lincoln. Although there are no confirmed cases in Lincoln, health officials confirmed over the weekend the first community-spread case in the state in Douglas County.

Scheer said he doesn’t think it’s legally possible for lawmakers to meet by Skype or some other means from remote locations. He said Monday he would be providing daily updates on the situation.

The 60-day session was scheduled until April 23.

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