Former state Senator and University of Nebraska Regent Lavon Heidemann became the state’s new lieutenant governor Wednesday.
Gov. Dave Heineman announced his selection of Heidemann just 11 days after former Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy resigned amid controversy over his relationships with several women. Introducing Heidemann at a news conference where he was sworn in, the governor suggested those circumstances had contributed to his offering the job to Heidemann. "In November, he was elected to the board of regents. Under normal circumstances, I would not have asked him to leave that position. However, this is an extraordinary situation, and I wanted the best Nebraskan possible standing by my side, and LaVon Heidemann is the right person," Heineman said.
Heidemann, a former Appropriations Committee chairman whose two terms in the Legislature ended in January, referred to that experience. "I have worked with the governor for the last eight years, as he said, balancing the state’s budget through some of the most difficult times. And I appreciate that and I look forward to continue with him in this role."
"The governor and I might not always travel down the same route, down the same path, but our destination is always the same. And that is to make this a good place to live for its people, a good place to do business, and we’re hoping to make it a better place for future generations," Heidemann added.
As chairman of Appropriations last year, Heidemann supported university construction proposals that the governor initially called premature.
Both men are Republicans. Heidemann’s successor as Appropriations Chairman, Omaha Sen. Health Mello, a Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Unicameral, called Heidemann a friend and said he is looking forward to working with him.
Heidemann is a 54-year old farmer and livestock producer from Elk Creek in southeast Nebraska. He and his wife Robin have three children.
Heidemann said he will not run for governor next year. That’s a pledge Heineman had said he wanted from an appointee, so that future actions would not be seen through a political prism.
The job of lieutenant governor involves sometimes presiding over the Legislature, and serving as the state’s Homeland Security director. The position pays $75,000 a year. Members of the board of regents receive no salary. Heineman will appoint a replacement to that board.
In legislative action Wednesday, senators debated a proposal by Imperial Sen. Mark Christensen to allow inmates of the McCook work ethic camp to work for nonprofit and charitable agencies.
Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop said such work would improve their prospects after being released. "As an inmate gets toward the end, or for those who will have shorter terms, allowing them to develop a skill so that they can transition into their life on the outside is very important. This is serving that purpose," Lathrop said.
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers objected to the proposal, despite wording that said such work would be voluntary. "You can put the word ‘voluntary’ if you please. But if there is a strong, so-called ‘charitable,’ supposedly ‘nonprofit’ operation which needs cheap labor, pressure will be brought to bear -- I assure you -- on inmates to agree to do that free labor.
Lawmakers adjourned for the day without reach a first-round vote on the bill.