State Sen. Kermit Brashear of Omaha, the Nebraska Legislature's new speaker, has missed nine of 55 days so far this session, according to the Legislature's daily record of events. That is more than any other lawmaker this year and more than any other speaker in the past six years.
Brashear said his attendance record is no measure of his performance as speaker. He said he changed legislative procedures to allow negotiation of controversial issues while quickly dispatching more routine bills. He said nearly all of his absences were required to handle pressing business at his Omaha law practice. He also said legislative records exaggerate the extent of his absences.
Well, Brashear isn't one of NNNs favorite Senators, mainly because he seems to consistently put the interests of big business ahead of those of common citizens. If he's going to be slave to any business, though, it's hardest to fault him for looking after his own.
If the voters who elected Brashear (Dist. 4) feel well-served by him, these sorts of absences are excusable for a state senator. It's only the fact that he's the titular head of the Legislature that makes this situation problematic. It seems to break his written promise of November 2004 to his fellow senators that he would place priority on his work as Speaker:
"I hope you also believe that I have done whatever was required, whenever it was required, in order to fulfill the responsibilities which you have entrusted to me," he wrote.
"I make that same pledge with regard to the speakership, understanding and knowing that I will have to make adjustments in the who, what, when and where of my personal and professional life," he added.
Doesn't seem like he's followed through on that end of the bargain, does it? Still, the OWH makes it sound as if other senators have no problem with Brashear's performance - probably because each believes it can be made to serve his or her own interests.
I definitely take some measure of reassurance from Sen. Ernie Chambers' (Dist. 11) okay of Brashears' absences:
"Everything is moving along the way it needs to."
Obviously, Ernie thinks the slower pace of this year's controversial legislation, much of it put on the backburner with Brashear in absentia, will allow for those world famous delay tactics to work their full magic. Sad as it may sound, perhaps the poor, the needy, and us working-stiffs have been better served by Brashear's failure to show-up.