More About Deb

More About Deb

Debra Strobel Fischer was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1951. She is the daughter of Gerold “Jerry” and Florence Strobel. Her father served as the State Engineer and Director of the Nebraska Department of Roads under Nebraska governors Kay Orr and Ben Nelson. Her mother taught elementary school at Lincoln Public Schools.

After graduating from Lincoln Southeast High School, Fischer enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). While attending UNL, Deb met Bruce Fischer, a cattle rancher from Valentine, Nebraska. The two were married in 1972 and moved to the family ranch outside of Valentine where they raised their three sons. Fischer returned to UNL for the fall semester of 1987 and completed her B.S. degree in education.

Serving Her Community

An active member of her community, Fischer was particularly involved in the area of education. She served as a commissioner on the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Post-Secondary Education, a member of the Valentine Rural High School Board of Education, and President of the Valentine Rural High School Foundation. Additionally, she served as President of the Board of Directors for the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

Fischer has also been a member of the following: Nebraska School Finance Review Committee; Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, Board of Directors; University of Nebraska President’s Advisory Council, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor’s Committee of Visitors; Governor’s Ag Advisory Council; Sandhills Area Foundation; and the Cherry County Visitor Promotion Committee.

Agriculture Advocate

As a cattle rancher, Fischer has deep roots in agriculture. Over the years, she has been involved with several organizations focused on promoting leadership development and strengthening Nebraska agriculture. From 1988-1990, she participated in the Nebraska LEAD program and is a proud alumnae of LEAD Class 8. In 2012, Fischer received the Outstanding LEAD Alumnus award from the LEAD Alumni Association. Additionally, in 1991, Fischer was a Kellogg Fellow for the National Center for Food and Policy Research, Resources for the Future, in Washington, D.C. 

Fischer currently serves as a member of the following agriculture organizations: AgBuilders of Nebraska, Sandhills Cattle Association, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Cattlewomen, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Good conservation and range management practices are an important priority for the Fischer family. The Fischers have received many honors and awards in recognition for their love of the land. These recognitions include: the Nebraska Association of Natural Resource Districts’ State Grasslands Conservation Award, the Society for Range Management’s Rangeman’s Award, and the Nebraska Cattlemen Environmental Stewardship Award.

Nebraska Legislature 

In 2004, Fischer was elected to serve in the Nebraska Legislature. Also commonly referred to as ‘the Unicameral,’ the state legislature is known for being the only unicameral body in the country. It is officially non-partisan.

From 2005-2013, Fischer represented the 43rd district, which comprised 12 counties and part of a thirteenth. At the time, it was the largest district in the state by area.

Fischer served on several different committees during her time in the Unicameral, including Agriculture, General Affairs, Government, Military, and Veteran Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunications, Natural Resources, and Revenue. She was a member of several Special and Select Committees, including the Executive Board, Committee on Committees, Midwestern Higher Education Commission, Education Commission of the States, Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact, Reference, and the Redistricting Committee. 

Additionally, Fischer was involved in regional and national legislative organizations, including the Executive Committees for the National Conference of State Legislators and the Midwest Legislative Conference. She served as co-chairperson of the Energy Committee for the Midwestern Legislative Conference.

For six years, from 2007-2012, Fischer served as the chairman of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. Her chairmanship was marked by a series of significant legislative accomplishments. She introduced the Build Nebraska Act (LB 84), which passed in 2011.The law directed a quarter of one cent of existing sales tax to a newly created roads fund for a period of 20 years, totaling an estimated $1.2 billion for roads. At the time of its passage, the Lincoln Journal Star noted: “If the roads earmark stands the test of time, it will rank as one of the session's signature pieces of legislation.”

Fischer also sponsored legislation to start a federal buy-back program to expedite infrastructure projects in Nebraska, the Federal Funds Purchase Program. The program began in 2013 and permits local governments to access state funding with fewer federal regulatory hurdles, allowing these localities to more efficiently build roads and bridges (LB 98, 2011).

The relationship between executive branch regulators and members of the legislature was another important focus for Fischer. Partnering with State Sen. Patrick Bourne of Omaha, Fischer secured passage of a law requiring regulators to notify the legislature's Executive Board whether new rules are consistent with legislative intent (LB 373, 2005). 

The law also requires regulators to provide "estimated quantification of the fiscal impact on state agencies, political subdivisions and regulated persons." The legislature can then respond to the agency in writing if there is a disagreement. The Omaha World-Herald editorialized at the time of the bill’s passage that, with “this new law, Nebraska has joined 41 other states that provide a measure of legislative review. Sound long-term thinking provided the foundation for this measure. It should encourage a sensible balance of power within state government and, just as important, provide a needed constraint on the state's bureaucratic reach.”

Some of the other notable legislation that Fischer introduced and the legislature ultimately passed included:

  • Restricting the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes with regard to private property (2006 LB 924);
  • Directing that sales tax from leased motor vehicles be deposited into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). According to the fiscal note, the projected revenue of this legislation was $9.9 million for the HTF (2007 LB 305);
  • Providing an apprentice hunter education exemption to encourage youth hunting (2008 LB 690);
  • Implementing a specialty license plate program for nonprofit organizations (2009 LB110);
  • Simplifying and consolidating the motor vehicle titling and registration process within the state and county systems (2009 LB 49);
  • Providing a process for natural resources districts to develop an integrated management plan to address streamflow depletions (2009 LB 54);
  • Implementing a motor vehicle electronic title and lien system (2009 LB 202);
  • Authorizing natural resource districts to voluntarily develop integrated water management plans before a declared water-use crisis (2010 LB 764);
  • Eliminating a per diem reimbursement for members of the Omaha Learning Community (2010 LB 937);
  • Restricting the use of municipal occupation taxes on telecommunication services (2011 LB 165);
  • Implementing requirements on the imposition of municipal occupation taxes including a vote of the people (2012 LB 745);

As a state senator, Fischer made weekly radio appearances and wrote a weekly column, a tradition she carries on today in the U.S. Senate.

Fischer won an uncontested reelection in 2008.

By the end of her tenure in the Unicameral, Fischer was seen as an effective and determined force in the legislative body. One of her Democratic colleagues even went so far as to call her “one of the most talented and effective senators in the body, maybe in the history of the body.”

United States Senate

On November 6, 2012, Fischer was elected to serve Nebraska in the U.S. Senate. She filled the seat vacated by former-Senator Ben Nelson.

Upon her election, she became the third woman to serve as U.S. Senator in Nebraska's history and the first since 1954. 

Fischer is the first woman to be elected to a full term as U.S. senator for Nebraska. Nebraska’s earlier women senators were Eva Bowring and Hazel Abel. Bowring was appointed in April 1954 to occupy the seat vacated when Dwight Griswold died in office. She served until a special election could be held to replace him on November 7, 1954. Abel won that special election to finish Griswold's term, but did not seek a full term, resigning on December 31, 1954.

Fischer is also the first U.S. senator since Carl Curtis (who retired in 1979) who did not live in Omaha or Lincoln at the time of their election. She is the first state senator elected directly to the U.S. Senate following a term in the Nebraska Unicameral.

Senator Fischer’s official biography is available here. More information regarding Senator Fischer’s accomplishments in the U.S. Senate is available here