Legislative Bill 367 sailed through Nebraska’s unicameral legislature today on a 42-0 vote. Without a single dissent, the legislation reverses the state’s seven-year ban on paying petition circulators according to the number of signatures they gather on a petition.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, the bill’s author, declared that the Legislature and the people whad become locked in a “civil war” after voters passed term limits for State Senators more than a dozen years ago.
Groene, serving his first term, told fellow lawmakers, “It’s time for this body to call a truce.”
A century-old Nebraska rule for initiative qualification has been struck down as unconstitutional by US District Court Judge Joseph F. Bataillon. The provision required signatures from “5% of registered voters of each of the 2/5ths of the counties in the state.” This meant that petitions for ballot measures were required to be circulated in at least 38 of the 93 counties in the Cornhusker State.
The plaintiff in the case, Kent Bernbeck, brought the suit claiming that under the now defunct rule, rural voters counted for more than voters in more urban areas.
“The court finds that the facts presented in this case show clearly that urban votes are diluted under the Nebraska Constitution,” the judge stated in his opinion.
Nebraska’s threshold for placing initiatives and referendums on the ballot violates the Firsts Amendment in giving preference to voters in rural counties, a federal judge ruled.
At issue is a stipulation in the Nebraska Constitution that requires petitioners to acquire signatures from “5 percent of the registered voters of each of two-fifths of the counties of the state.”
According to this math, an initiative or referendum petition must be circulated in at least 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.
Plaintiff Kent Bernbeck, took issue with the requirement on the grounds of free speech and equal protection.
Read more: Here
A petition initiative to increase the minimum wage in Nebraska has met the qualifications to be voted on during the general election. Secretary of State John Gale says enough verified signatures have been submitted to add the issue to the ballot in November.
At least 80,386 signatures were required to add the petition initiative to the ballot. At least five percent of those who signed had to come from 38 of the state’s 93 counties. “In this case, 89,817 signatures were verified which was more than enough to meet the threshold,” explained Gale.
Read More: here
Nebraska voters may get a chance in November to vote on whether the state’s minimum wage should be increased. Organizers of a petition initiative say they turned in 134,899 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, in hopes of putting the measure on the ballot. If enough signatures are verified, this would be the first petition initiative to be put to voters since 2008.
“To qualify a statutory measure for the ballot, circulators must collect signatures from at least 7 percent of registered voters,” explained Secretary of State John Gale. “Those signatures must include at least 5 percent of registered voters from 38 of the state’s 93 counties.”
Paid and volunteer initiative petition circulators gathered in midtown Lincoln on Friday morning, getting ready for a day of work.
Mosquito repellant and sun screen spray filled the room on the third-floor office at 3130 O St. for a few moments, before workers were to break into groups to memorize and practice their statements to potential petition signers.
Read More: here
Nebraska petition laws are again being challenged in federal court by Citizen Kent Bernbeck, who claims the current system is unconstitutional.Â The two legal provisions being contested are: (1) the state’s county-based distribution requirement, which is in the state constitution, and (2) a state statute that forbids compensating paid circulators on a per-signature basis.
“He is bringing this challenge to guarantee all Nebraskans can participate in this core democratic process,” David Domina, Bernbeck’s attorney, told reporters. “A process so important that the founders of our nation called out the right as fundamental and to be preserved without intrusion.”
A veteran of multiple petition drives and lawsuits is taking on the state’s petition law once again.
Kent Bernbeck of Omaha filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging two petition requirements as violations of his constitutional rights.
The first is a provision in the Nebraska Constitution requiring a geographic distribution of petition signers.
To make the ballot, an initiative petition must have signatures from at least 5 percent of voters in at least two-fifths, or 38, of Nebraska’s 93 counties.
Read More: here
The writer, an Omaha resident, is a veteran of petition drives and lawsuits challenging Nebraska petition laws. He has filed an initiative petition to lower signature thresholds.
When an anniversary passes without notice, it’s unfortunate. When a 100-year anniversary goes unnoticed, it should make us pause.
In 1912, Nebraska voters approved a measure that would allow citizens to place issues on the ballot and repeal laws they didn’t want. Our forefathers felt it was important to “reserve for themselves” these powers of initiative and referendum petitions.
The Second House Amendment Committee, a new group formed by initiative rights activists in Nebraska, filed an initiative constitutional amendment this week to lower the signature requirements for qualifying citizen initiatives. The group also filed a campaign finance registration, which is required once at least $5,000 has been raised by a ballot committee.
“I am confident that with the dedication of our volunteers and the commitment I have secured from people who are friends to petition rights, this issue will be on the November ballot,” committee member Kent Bernbeck told reporters.
A Nebraska lawmaker has proposed a constitutional amendment that would raise lawmaker salaries to $32,000 a year.
The measure (LR373CA) introduced Tuesday by Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh
(Lake Ridge, VA) – Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, applauded yesterday’s federal court ruling striking down Nebraska’s restriction on non-resident petition circulators in the case Citizens in Charge v. Gale.
In a decision released late yesterday, Federal Judge Joseph Bataillon struck down Nebraska’s initiative law requiring petition circulators to be residents of the state, declaring the statutory provision “unconstitutional” as a violation of the First Amendment rights of Nebraskans.
The decision was a surprise to many observers. Although in recent years residency laws have been struck down unanimously by three separate federal circuit courts (Sixth, Ninth and Tenth), there is an Eight Circuit case from a decade ago (Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Jaeger), which upheld a North Dakota residency law. When plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction in this case, Judge Bataillon denied it and signaled that the Jaeger case would be controlling.
Check it out.