Get to Know Your Unicameral: Sen. Brett Lindstrom

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June 14th, 2019

In our continuing profiles of Omaha state senators now serving in the Nebraska Unicameral, KVNO student reporter Emily White recently sat down with Senator Brett Lindstrom. They spoke about providing opportunities and incentives to encourage younger people to live in Nebraska as well as his views on the best way to work with colleagues in the “officially” nonpartisan Unicameral.

Sen. Brett Lindstrom speaks in the Nebraska Legislature. (Photo: Nebraska Unicameral Information Office)

Brett Lindstrom was born and raised in Nebraska. He graduated from Millard West High School in Omaha and played football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. And now he’s a member of the state Unicameral, serving as the state senator for District 18, comprising part of northwest Omaha.

“I love Nebraska, it’s a good place,” he says. “And oftentimes, I had friends that moved out of the state of Nebraska, went to school, but they came back and a lot of it was because of the community.  I think that’s the one thing that we can’t replicate, is the community that we have.”

Many younger people decide to leave Nebraska after finishing school, but Lindstrom decided to stay. How can the state can address this ‘brain drain’ and incentivize future generations to stick around?

Sen. Lindstrom points to opportunity, through education and employment. For example, his priority bill in the Legislature this year focused on 529 college savings plans—a way to pay for higher education beyond the traditional loans, grants, and scholarships.

Through various proposals supported by Lindstrom and other senators this session, every child born in Nebraska from 2020 on will have a 529 account opened for them, rebates will be given to employers who match their employees’ contributions to these plans, and low-income children can have contributions to their accounts matched two to one.

Lindstrom adds, “And I know that’s long term, obviously; when having a kid, that’s 17, 18 years down the road. But we’re always having to create this pipeline, if you will.”

Outside of the Unicameral, he works in financial services, and much of his legislative and committee work deals with bills involving that sector. However, there have been some surprises in each session.

“It was interesting—in the legislature, you find yourself involved in issues that you never thought you’d be involved in,” Lindstrom says. “Every session is different. I think I passed around eight or nine bills this year; in five years, it’s been around 36-37. Most of them I never thought I’d be involved in.”

In 2015, Lindstrom, a Republican, split from much of his party in voting to repeal the death penalty, then voting to override the governor’s veto of that proposal. He made the decision after doing the research and asking himself: ‘Is this good for society? How does this help society?’

“I thought it’d be much more black and white, as far as the decision-making. It is a lot of gray. Because the more moving parts, the more information that you get, you can see both sides.”

As far as concerns about the legislature becoming more polarized in recent years, he responds that hyper-partisanship is nothing new. To work with his colleagues in the legislature, particularly when their views clash, Lindstrom focuses on issues and puts emotion to the side.

“There’s always politics. It’s been that way since 1776,” Lindstrom says. “It’s never been super cordial. So I try not to get stuck inside of that. And the best thing you can do is stay off social media. The tweeting, the Facebook—I just tend to stay just issue-based.”

This is Sen. Lindstrom’s first elected role—in his only other try for office, he finished second to incumbent Lee Terry in the Republican primary for Nebraska’s second district congressional seat in 2012.

I asked him what his political plans are after his second term wraps up in 2023. He’s not thinking about that just yet. What’s most important to him when he leaves the Unicameral, Lindstrom says, is family.

“I understand in three years, my phone probably stops ringing with people wanting things, right? So going to an extra cocktail party really doesn’t interest me.

“I think my kids would remember me not being around much more than a lobbyist could remember me not being around,” he says. “So I make sure to prioritize certain things. That’s the focus.”

Listen to the full interview with Sen. Lindstrom below:

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