Lawmakers clash over reported comments on freshman senator’s sexual orientation

Lawmakers clash over reported comments on freshman senator’s sexual orientation
World-Herald News Service

Transgender mix-up. Debate got personal Tuesday in the Nebraska Legislature when one lawmaker questioned another about his reported comments that she was transgender “and reminds us of it most every day.”

State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha brought up the comments after other senators complained that her social media posts contribute to a lack of civility in the Legislature and invite ridicule of fellow lawmakers.

She said the comments by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, made during a meeting with constituents, show the same type of incivility. The North Platte Bulletin reported that he made the remarks in Stanton, while talking about the freshman senators and the level of professionalism in the Legislature.

“Do you think I’m trans?” Hunt asked Brewer during Tuesday’s debate. “I don’t know what you are,” he shot back.

Asked about the comments later, Brewer said he had not been quoted correctly. He said he had been trying to explain some of the new senators to his constituents and had not brought up anything about Hunt’s sexual orientation or gender identity. He added that he has no problem with whatever she may be.

Hunt is open about being bisexual and has talked during debate about being a member of the LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) community. She is not transgender.

Breastfeeding station. A prefabricated breastfeeding module was recently set up at the State Capitol, but a state senator says it doesn’t meet the needs of nursing mothers.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha called the module “an option” for visitors to the building. But she said it has no running water and is not in a good location. The module is in the rear of a room that also houses copiers.

Cavanaugh, who made history by breastfeeding her infant son on the legislative floor early in the session, said she still plans to pursue Legislative Bill 409, which would require the Capitol to create a space appropriate for nursing mothers.

Until now, the only space designated for expressing milk has been in the corner of a public restroom with a privacy wall, a chair and an outlet. Capitol officials said the space also is intended to serve women with small children for diaper-changing or timeout.

Property tax relief. Gov. Pete Ricketts will join officials with the grocery and soft drink industry at a press conference Wednesday to oppose proposed new taxes on their products.

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee, as part of a package of bills designed to reduce property taxes, has proposed imposing sales taxes on bottled water, pop and junk food — products that are now tax-exempt.

Lawmakers argue that budget cuts alone won’t deliver substantial property tax relief, and that a tax shift is necessary.

Meanwhile, the governor says that shifting taxes is no way to reduce the tax load, and it must be done via reductions in government spending.