State senator wants to close executive sessions to the media

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 9:46 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - On day five of the Nebraska Legislature, the rules committee heard proposals for rule changes. One had to do with the media.

Nebraska’s Unicameral has always allowed members of the media access to executive sessions, but that could change.

Executive sessions are something congress does in secret. Nebraska’s Unicameral does not. But that could soon change.

What exactly happens in executive sessions? Well, that’s when committee members meet to decide if a bill is advanced, amended or killed.

Senator Dan Hughes said they’re not trying to be sneaky but feels like lawmakers hold back because of the media.

“Whenever there is press in the room, I have held back. I have not put forth my best arguments to craft the best possible legislation that we can in our process,” said Senator Hughes.

Senator Hughes said one reason behind this, is because he’s been “burned” by the media in the past, after he said something he didn’t expect to be published.

But, an editor for the Lincoln Journal Star said conspiracy theories grow in the absence of facts and that is the last thing the state needs right now.

“Don’t tell your constituents that you want to conduct more of their business behind doors. You are people of integrity and we know that,” said Lincoln Journal Star editor, Dave Bundy.

A member of Nebraska ACLU said if they adopt this rule change, people would assume they’re being secretive.

“Transparency is critical. The public needs to know what the legislature does,” said Nebraska ACLU, Spike Eickholt.

Another senator proposed a rule change that said if the media is allowed in executive sessions, the public should also be able to be there.

“I think that people hold back because the media is there, it won’t make any difference if the general public is there, people will still hold back, but it will be an opportunity for the general public to see what we say and do,” said Senator Steve Erdman.

As for what’s next, the legislature will decide on which rules they will adopt later this month.

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