Patty Pansing Brooks Nebraska Legislator 8/23/16 08/25/16 8:41:53 AM
Printer Friendly Version
Patty Pansing Brooks is ready and eager to enter her third year in the Nebraska Legislature.
Patty Pansing Brooks
Born to Practice Law
By Andy Roberts
The Daily Record
Many people point to a particular event in their life that shaped their career choice.
For State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, that ‘event’ came extremely early.
“We actually call it a genetic defect in our family,” Pansing Brooks said with a laugh. “Growing up, my father always encouraged us to do something else.”
Apparently, she didn’t listen to her attorney father. Neither did her three brothers, or her sons.
You get the picture.
Pansing Brooks entered the field of law because she thought it would allow her to do good things in her community. In addition to the family law firm – Brooks, Pansing Brooks, PC, LLO – a career in law allowed her to work part-time while raising her three children.
After attending Lincoln Public Schools, she graduated from Colorado College with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and then earned her law degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law.
She has been an active member of the Lincoln Barristers, and is a fellow of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation.
During the past 10 years, her volunteer activities have included co-chairing the fundraising effort that raised $6 million for the new Union Plaza on Antelope Parkway in Lincoln. She co-chaired (with Sen. Kathy Campbell) a $250 million school-bond issue. Most recently, Pansing Brooks co-chaired the $9.6 million capital campaign to renovate Nebraska’s Centennial Mall.
Pansing Brooks has small-business experience from her stake in the family law firm, which has given her perspective on taxes and the challenges of meeting a payroll. She has served on the community boards of the Lincoln Parks Foundation, Family Service, as well as the Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln.
Her public service also includes work as senior policy counsel and mayoral aide to Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler.
She works to make things happen, and that is one of the rewards of her chosen profession.
“Being able to work together,” Pansing Brooks said. “Being able to give back to the community,” are things she and her husband, Loel, value.
These days, her plate is full as she looks to finalize her plans for the upcoming legislative session.
“We are definitely looking at human trafficking,” she said. Also, “I’m really focused right now on my interim studies.”
For the record, she has six, including one on Whiteclay – where the beer-only stores in the unincorporated Sheridan County town continue to create problems for residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Another interim study focuses on secondary education, which inquires about students and graduation rates, and what’s happening with students who are going to Nebraska colleges, including student debt.
The election year means that she’s working on a new agenda, and that she will take the floor with a large number of newly elected colleagues after November. Two-thirds of the legislators will have less than two years of experience, she pointed out.
“We’re losing a lot of institutional memory and knowledge,” Pansing Brooks noted, but “we’re gaining energy and new ideas.”
Nebraska’s unique one-house legislature is something Pansing Brooks has come to appreciate the more time she spends with it.
“I think we have a little gem in the middle of the country,” she said. The Unicameral is “an example of democracy at its best.”
“Every bill gets a hearing . . . The people really are our second House.”
After her first year, she was nominated by the speaker to go to an emerging leaders’ course at the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia. There, she said, they read things like Plato’s Republic and other materials.
At one point the participants engaged in a discussion of their experiences during their first years in their respective legislatures. Many talked about being “allowed” to work on a bill or to sign on to other actions, generally thanks to their speaker.
Pansing Brooks then spoke up and talked about having ten bills – five of which passed – and her co-sponsorship of another 20. That brought an audible silence as jaws dropped.
The other representatives suggested that it only could have happened because Nebraska’s speaker let her.
“No,” she said firmly. “That’s how we do things in Nebraska.”
“It is just not happening in other states,” Pansing Brooks said. “The other states are as partisan and as ineffective at times as Congress.”
As she prepares for her third year in the Legislature, of her first four-year term, the seasoned civil servant is keeping all of her future political options open.
“I have no firm plans as to my political future. I will need to see what my constituents want and how that balances with my family’s needs.”
Patty Pansing Brooks can be reached by her constituents via email at: email@example.com.