Republican hopes for 'filibuster-proof' Legislature appear dashed

Nov. 18, 2022, midnight ·

Wide shot of the legislative chamber with desks in rows and high ceilings.
(Archive photo)

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Final — but still unofficial — results in two legislative races appear to confirm that there will be 32 Republicans and 17 Democrats in the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature next year. That means Republicans will not have a “filibuster-proof” majority:

There were two very close races in the Nebraska Legislature this year, and when counties announced their final counts Friday, the Democratic candidates held on to narrow leads in both of them. In Lincoln’s District 26, George Dungan was 224 votes ahead of Republican Russ Barger out of more than 11,000 votes cast. In Omaha’s District 20, John Fredrickson led Stu Dornan by 82 out of more than 16,000 votes cast. That gives Fredrickson one vote more of a lead than would require an automatic recount. Dornan could not be reached to ask if he would pay for a recount on his own.

If those results hold up, there will be 32 registered Republicans and 17 registered Democrats in the officially nonpartisan Legislature next year.

That’s significant because legislative rules require 33 votes to end a filibuster and vote on a bill. Last session, a proposed ban on abortion got 31 votes, as did a proposal to allow carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Party registration is no guarantee of how someone will vote. Last session, Sen. Mike McDonnell, a registered Democrat, voted with Republicans to end the filibuster against a proposed abortion ban. If that holds true next year, abortion opponents could have enough votes to overcome a filibuster against further restrictions.

Nevertheless, the apparent party breakdown for next year suggests it could be a contentious session, with plenty of filibusters. The Nebraska Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet and certify the election results December 5.