The Speaker of the Legislature says a majority of senators lean toward gathering in special session to consider oil pipeline regulations, but more work needs to be done before they re-gather at the Capitol.
Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk says sentiment among senators is trending toward calling a special session, but Flood says other factors need to come into play before a special session is called.
“Well, first and foremost, a sense from the legislature, more of a majority, that everyone is ready to come to work and start the process of putting a bill together,” Flood tells reporters at a Capitol news conference. “You don’t call a session, because you have an issue. You usually call a session, because the governor and the legislature are working together and you’ve identified a potential solution.”
Flood says he wants Nebraskans to know legislative leaders have taken the call for a special session to address the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL oil pipeline seriously.
“As Speaker of the Nebraska Unicameral, I’m here to assure the citizens of this state that your legislature will be responsive and will act responsibly as it relates to the issues presented by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and the effort currently underway to call a special session,” Flood says.
TransCanada proposes building a $7 billion, 1,700 mile pipeline from western Canada to the Gulf Coast. It would run through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer as now proposed.
Flood says he and three state senators, Sen. Chris Langemeier of Schuyler, Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton and Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids will meet with a top executive from TransCanada next week. Sen. Langemeier chairs the Natural Resources Committee which would review any proposed legislation. Sen. Dubas has submitted proposed legislation to be considered in a possible legislation that would give authority to the Public Service Commission to regulate oil pipelines.
Flood has been hearing from other members of the legislature.
“I’ll be honest, if you ask all of our members today, I do believe the sentiment among members of the legislature is trending toward the calling of a special session,” according to Flood. “In my opinion, we’ve got more work to do before that happens.”
Flood says too many senators know too little about the issue. He says senators need to quickly study the issue and decide if a special session would be worthwhile. He says he expects events to unfold in the next couple of weeks.
Flood also seems to refer to a criticism leveled by Gov. Dave Heineman at the legislature, when he told the Jack and John Show on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN that 32 of the state senators were, “…basically running and hiding.”
“No one in our branch is hiding. No one in our branch wants to avoid taking action on this issue,” “It is irresponsible to suggest that within 36 hours of seeing Sen. Dubas’ bill everyone should have a reasoned opinion. This is too tough of an issue.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40 mp3]
AUDIO: Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood news conference [21 min mp3]