Dave Murman of Glenvil, Neb., is not a career politician. He's only been serving in the Nebraska Unicameral, representing six counties and part of a seventh in District 38, since his successful state Senate run in 2018.
However, serving as a state senator has been on Murman's mind since he was a college student. He majored in animal science and dairy production, but he minored in political science.
"The late 1960s and early 1970s were turbulent times, both socially and politically, very similar to the times we live in now," Murman says. "I had a strong interest in politics, but I was very practical."
At college, Murman dated a young lady also from Glenvil. Eventually, Kathy would become his wife. The young couple returned home to start their family and operate the family dairy farm in partnership with Murman's father and brother, Jim. However, the family always remained active in politics.
Murman enjoyed 50 years of successful dairying. "Time flew by, and I decided to slow down by selling the dairy cows, but continuing to farm in partnership with my brother, Jim," Murman says. "Less than two years after selling the cows, state Sen. John Kuehn surprised everyone by announcing he wouldn't be seeking a second term. Kathy and I and my brother, Jim, had less than two weeks to decide if it would work at all with the family and the farm, and if I would have any chance in running for the Legislature with five others in the race."
In the end, Murman made the decision to run, and he won the District 38 seat, taking the oath of office in January 2019. After two years of service out of his four-year term, Nebraska Farmer caught up with Murman, not in the halls of the Capitol in Lincoln, but operating the grain cart on the farm near Glenvil during harvest.
"It is extremely important to have farmers and ranchers such as myself in the Legislature," Murman says. "We have practical experience to be the best representative for our constituents. We know what it's like to go to work often before the sun rises and work until after sunset, just to support our families and keep our businesses viable. We also know what it's like to deal with rules and regulations that can often be questionable at best."
Murman said that a desire for a return to Christian and family values, as well as dealing with high property taxes in Nebraska, were motivating factors in his run for the Unicameral.
"The state has some of the highest property taxes in the nation," he notes. "Property taxes are unfair to homeowners, retirees and especially farmers. The whole tax system in Nebraska is antiquated and in need of reform, so we must lower all taxes, especially property taxes, and broaden our tax base."
Murman gleaned his political views from years of service on local and state boards and farm organizations such as the Nebraska State Dairy Association, where he served as president.
"I found the Nebraska LEAD program and especially Nebraska Farm Bureau most useful in making connections with like-minded individuals who were very interested and helpful in supporting me, both in my campaign and in my service to the 38th District and to the state," Murman says. "Just being exposed to problems and issues through the years is beneficial in developing policy and making decisions today."
That's why Murman was heartened by a few breakthrough legislative victories in 2020. "Property tax relief bills have been referenced to the revenue committee, and no freshman senators were seated on that committee last session," he explains. "I was involved as much as possible with the attempts at property tax relief both years that I have been in the Legislature. In 2020, we managed to pass LB1107, providing more property tax relief for agriculture than has been done in several years."
Murman admits it was not nearly enough. "What is needed in Nebraska is real structural change in our tax system," he says. "Most likely LB1107 will only result in a decrease in the increase in property taxes for agriculture."
Murman notes that the 106th Legislature also passed bills strengthening the 1982 Right to Farm Act, and legalizing and providing a framework for farmers to grow industrial hemp in the state. Bills addressing broadband infrastructure and soil health also were passed last session.
Going back to his dairying roots, Murman introduced a resolution that was passed in 2020 that urged the Food and Drug Administration to enforce its own standards for milk and dairy products, reserving the use of the terms milk, yogurt, butter, ice cream and cheese for products derived from real dairy origin.
Nebraska's officially nonpartisan Unicameral is the smallest state legislative body in the country. Because of the split urban and rural representation within the Legislature, senators find themselves opposing each other on varied issues, and working together on others.
"We hear a lot of bad things about political leaders," Murman says. "But I have been extremely impressed by my fellow state senators. I have found them to be extremely intelligent and very well-spoken, and I'm proud to be a part of this group."
In addition to working with fellow senators, Murman enjoys getting to know his constituents across District 38. "It is very interesting to meet farmers and people from all walks of life in the district and get to know them and possibly even be honored to have their support," he says.
As for the farm, Murman and his brother share a full-time employee to help with the operation when Murman is away conducting legislative business. The arrangement has worked out well for everyone, and he is grateful for the continued support from his wife, Kathy; their three adult children, Kelsi, Chase and Whitney; and extended family and friends.
"Kathy has the extra responsibility to share a large burden of care for our daughter Whitney, who is totally disabled with Rett syndrome," Murman says.
"The partnership with a diversified farm created a great foundation for me to identify with any small business in today's economy," he adds. "I can identify with the challenges and successes of businesses that make up the backbone of the U.S. economy, especially Nebraska."
Learn more about the issues facing this year's session of the Unicameral online at nebraskalegislature.gov.