“Without the cultivation of the earth, man is, in all countries, a savage. Until he gives up the chase, and fixes himself in some place and seeks a living from the earth, he is a roaming barbarian. When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.” Daniel Webster

I was thinking about what makes the good and decent people of our district such good and decent people. I found this quote from Mr. Webster and it really struck a chord with me. It’s no wonder western Nebraska is full of so many “civilized” people. This lead me to think about a derivative of that word: civility. Taken from Mr. Webster’s dictionary that means civilized conduct; especially courtesy and politeness. The Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “the master should be affable yet firm, commanding but not harsh, polite but easy.”

I’ve been your Senator for almost two complete sessions of the legislature now. As fond of it as I am, I’ve learned the approach I once used to deal with difficult people as an Army Colonel may not always be the best way to go about things when you are a State Senator. I’ve learned that being “civil” is usually the best policy. Add to this the fact rural senators are greatly out-numbered by urban senators. To get anything done for a rural part of the State, you have to cultivate and maintain good relationships with urban people who are very different from yourself, who have never even seen Sandhills, who you strongly disagree with on all kinds of things. The way you are able to put aside all those differences is a mutual respect born from a sense of civility.

This is way easier said than done, but it must be done if you want to accomplish anything.

The constitution says the Legislature can make its own rules. Our Legislature therefore has a rule book that governs how the body works. Unfortunately part of our rules are weak and ineffective. One Senator can bring the entire Nebraska Legislature to a grinding halt. Ordinarily, the safest time for the people is when the legislature is doing nothing, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That said, there are a lot of good things we are not getting done and they are being held-up by one senator’s seemingly endless supply of anger. There is a rule that says a Senator can call another out-of-order, but there is no teeth in this rule; there is no consequence for being out of order. Making such a motion would do nothing but illicit more anger and further compound the problem. You can find the rulebook at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. See Rule 2, Sections 8 & 9.

A growing number of Senators have had just about enough of our weak rules. There is all kinds of very important business we need to get accomplished in what’s left of this short session and lack of a strong rule to govern the conduct of Senators is making that impossible. Today I witnessed an outburst on the floor that even the old-timers with decades of capitol experience had never seen. Personally, I would have been ashamed of myself for having done what I saw. There is no point in taking this issue on without having the numbers you need to pass a change to the rules, but we are coming closer to having the number. Senators from both ends of the political spectrum are growing impatient.

I’d like to think we shouldn’t need a rule to compel and enforce civility in the body; that this trait and quality in a person elected to the legislature would come naturally. Civility is the oil in the gearbox that makes the wheels of the legislature turn. It’s how very different people are able to get along and work together for Nebraska.

The gearbox is about out of oil folks.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.