Senators Linehan & Kauth take victory lap on School Choice, Let Them Grow Act
Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (right) speaks as Sen. Kathleen Kauth (left) listens at the Pachyderm luncheon in Omaha, Neb.

Senators Linehan & Kauth take victory lap on School Choice, Let Them Grow Act

State Senators Kathleen Kauth and Lou Ann Linehan were guest speakers at the Pachyderm luncheon on Monday, both taking a “victory lap” after successfully passing bills on school choice, abortion, and other issues in a historically contentious session in the Nebraska Unicameral.

Lou Ann Linehan

The session began with a promise from Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh to filibuster every bill introduced and “burn this session to the ground,” due to Sen. Kauth’s Let Them Grow Act (LB574), which put restrictions on sex change therapy for children. Sen. Linehan credited speaker John Arch for keeping a cool head during intense moments like these with Cavanaugh and other Democrats. “People wanted him to kick out Machaela [Cavanaugh], kick Megan Hunt out,” Linehan said. “But the states that did that turned those people into national martyrs, and he did not want to give them more attention than they were already getting.”

Kauth asserted that the senators’ protests were made primarily to gain attention for themselves. “There was national media in the room, and they were pimping for the cameras,” Kauth said. “Every time you saw tears, they would step off to the side be like ‘Yeah, how’d I do?’ and prepping for their next act.”

Despite the theatrics, the Unicameral was able to pass some landmark legislation. “[While] the progressives were wasting time and making us a reality show, the rest of us were working,” Linehan said. In the end, the protests might have done more to unite Republicans than divide them. “It was easier to get to 33 [votes] than it’s ever been before when I was down there,” said Linehan, who has been a state senator for seven years.

Linehan sponsored the Opportunity Scholarships Act (LB753), which creates “opportunity scholarships,”  funded with tax-deductible donations and given out by a Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO). The NSEA teachers’ union is now circulating a petition to have the new legislation overturned, claiming that the new law will hurt public schools. “Public education in state Nebraska at K-12 is $4.4 billion dollars.” Linehan said. “So to say that this little bill that we passed of $25 million is going to somehow hurt public schools is ridiculous. They don’t want the competition.”

Kathleen Kauth

Stephen Bader of the NEGOP asked whether Linehan would be able to build further on school choice in the next session of the Unicameral. “I’m ready to go the way Iowa does — money follows the student,” Linehan said.

One bill that did not make it though the filibuster was Sen. Albrecht’s “Heartbeat” Bill (LB626), which would have banned abortion at six weeks. It was killed in the second round by Sen. Merv Riepe, who voted  “present not voting,” causing an upset within the party and eliciting multiple calls for censure. The abortion issue, however, was given a second chance with an amendment added by Sen. Ben Hansen to LB574, which placed a ban on abortions after 12 weeks, which Sen. Riepe voted for.

This move immediately brought litigation from Planned Parenthood, hoping to have the new law struck down. Sen. Kauth was confident that the law would remain intact. “I’ve spoken to the attorney general and a lot of other attorneys about our single subject rule,” Kauth said. “The title of my original bill is ‘Let Them Grow.’ I don’t see how you can look at protecting a baby in utero from being cut up as any different than protecting a child from being cut up while they’re grown.”

The hard lesson for some during this session was the benefit of compromise. “I’ve taken a lot of flak from right saying, ‘well you should not have settled, you should not have caved,’” Kauth said. “But if we keep losing in these big things, it destroys the morale of anyone who is a conservative. It absolutely kills it. We needed victories, and we needed to move the ball slowly. Our ego is what makes us say, it’s all or nothing. But guess what? We keep winding up with nothing.”

Former Mayor Hal Daub asked whether there will be further rule changes in the next session to prevent similar obstruction from Democrats. “I expect there will be some rule changes; I don’t think they’ll be huge,” said Linehan. “It is really important in a one-house [legislature] that the minorities have rights, and so hopefully we can figure out a way to stop all the craziness without hurting the minority rights.”

Kauth seemed optimistic that some of the angry protests that came toward the end of the session would make the next one seem far less tumultuous by comparison. “Someone tried to throw a severed deer head from the balcony down onto the senators,” Kauth said. “Unless it reaches that level, you know everything from there on is cake.”

One thought on “Senators Linehan & Kauth take victory lap on School Choice, Let Them Grow Act

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *