And I hope he gets it back.
Three days ago, former Nebraska State Sen. Ernie Chambers announced that he wanted to get his seat back from his District 11 (Omaha's north side of town) predecessor, Brenda Council (a one-time Omaha City Council member who twice- unsuccessfully- ran for mayor here in town during the 1990s).
Chambers (he's a barber by trade) first was elected to this state's legislature in 1970; after taking the oath of office in January 1971, the Creighton Law School graduate went on to serve another 38 years...the longest tenure of any state senator in Nebraska history.
Here's the reason:
Chambers has spent his whole professional life speaking up for this state's rank-and-file citizens...especially Nebraska's downtrodden people.
He'd still be in Nebraska's Unicameral right now...except in 2000, most of those Cornhusker Staters who went to the polls that November decided it was time to put term limits on the state's senators.
As a result, if you're a Nebraskan and you want to be a state senator (yep, it's a $12,000-a-year gig), you're restricted to a pair of four-year terms. Want to get back in once the eight years are up (if you didn't get voted out of office first)? Wait another four years.
That's what gives Ernest W. Chambers the legal right to run next year for his old seat in America's sole one-chamber legislature.
If you've ever seen a 1966 documentary called "A Time for Burning," you might remember watching Chambers (cutting a customer's hair) talking to an official from Augustana Lutheran Church...at a time when (let's face it!) Omaha was running neck-and-neck with Birmingham, AL in housing discrimination.
When your state's got a one-chamber legislature, the chances are more likely that a lot of bills that really don't help citizens in your state will get to become law than in a state with a two-chamber government. In America's other 49 states, their senates often act as checks-and-balances to those states' houses of representatives (and vice versa).
Here in the state that gave us Carl Curtis and Jim Exon, the state's voters are supposedly the legislature's buffer.
For 38 years, Ernie Chambers was a much more effective buffer than any group of voters.
He helped make sure a lot of bad bills didn't get out of committee, let alone become law.
Dig this: In the two years since Chambers last served as a state senator, lots of those questionable bills got proposed; some even became law. (For example, Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont introduced a bill allegedly designed to curtail illegal immigration here in the state where Taylor Martinez is finishing up his formal education...but the bill was really set up to allow Nebraska's law enforcement officials to use ethnic profiling, a la Arizona's bill. And earlier this year, another bill was announced designed to restrict the presidential and vice presidential field to those candidates whose parents were born here in the United States. And then there was the bill designed to abandon Nebraska's "winner take all" system of allocating electoral votes...because John McCain didn't get to pocket all five of the state's electoral votes in 2008. On top of all this, you've got a bill calling for teachers and school administrators to carry guns to class!)
Chambers will tell you that many of the things that should've gotten done in the Unicameral these last two years (such as a few remaining state senators not fighting hard enough to keep bills out there that DO help most Nebraskans) haven't been getting done...and that's why he wants back in.
Nope...I don't live in EWC's district (I live in District 23). I still admire him because he speaks his mind and makes a lot of sense.
Common sense is what Chambers brings to the table. He wants people to start using their minds more and start thinking for themselves more; in addition, he wants us to start fighting for the things we really want instead of waiting on Someone Else to hand them to us.
CTI (Cox Cable Channel 22 here in the Big O) just got through rerunning his Tuesday night call-in program. Ernie talked about how we've become reluctant to vote whenever there's an election...yet we want to start petition drives (especially a drive to wipe out the law that makes affirmative action illegal here in the state that gave us Bob Gibson and Gale Sayers).
Can't sign a petition of this kind if you're not a registered voter.
Yes, there's a big hole in the Nebraska Legislature now that Ernie Chambers isn't a part of that legislature anymore...and, as he likes to put it, nobody's really stepped up in Lincoln to speak up for those America's Establishment likes to step on. (Sadly...that also means Council.)
And I hope he gets back in next year.
This state's legislature could use a real wake-up call.