Increase in at-large city council members advanced

Senators gave first-round approval April 2 to a bill that would allow certain cities to elect up to four city council members on an at-large basis.

LB299, sponsored by Hastings Sen. Les Seiler, would increase from three to four the number of council members who could be elected at large in a first class city, when at least four council members are elected by ward. The change would not apply to a city with a commissioner or city manager form of government.

State law classifies a city of the first class as one with a population between 5,001 and 100,000.

Seiler said he introduced the bill on behalf of the city of Hastings after the mayor and city council members expressed concern over the difficulty of finding candidates for ward seats on the city council.

“We feel that allowing four members to be elected at large and four by ward would encourage people to run for the council,” he said.

LB299 also would clarify procedures for how certain cities, villages, counties or school districts may place the question of nominating and electing members to their governing boards on a general election ballot.

Under the bill, the question of nominating and electing members by ward or at large could be placed on a general election ballot either by majority vote of the governing body or by petition of registered voters.

The bill advanced to select file on a 33-0 vote.

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