NET Capitol Coverage 2/27/2015

Also in the Legislature Friday, there was a public hearing on changing the way the state draws districts for Congress, the Legislature, and other statewide boards and commissions.

Currently, the Legislature handles redistricting. The last time it was done, in 2010, Democrats in the officially nonpartisan Legislature accused Republicans of redrawing the Omaha area second congressional district to give the GOP an edge there.

Now, there’s a proposal to turn redistricting over to an independent commission. At the public hearing, Gavin Geis of Common Cause supported the idea. “Nebraskans will just have greater trust and greater belief in the accountability of the system – that the lines that are drawn, the districts that are created – are not drawn so that legislators can pick their voters, but so voters can pick their legislators,” he said.

Similar proposals have failed in the past – last session, a proposal by then-Sen. Russ Karpicek, a Democrat, was stopped by opposition from Republicans. What may make a difference this time is that the bill is sponsored by Gretna Sen. John Murante, a Republican, and cosponsored by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, a Democrat. Both said they still need to hammer out final agreement on details.

And on another subject, Gov. Ricketts signed a bill re-legalizing smoking cigars in cigar bars. The bill is in response to a Supreme Court decision last year that said cigar bars’ previous exemption from the state’s indoor smoking ban was unconstitutional.

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