Bill would end recall petitions

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony Feb. 13 on a
bill to end the petition process to recall elected public officials in Nebraska.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist34' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Curt Friesen'>Sen. Curt Friesen</a>
Sen. Curt Friesen

State senators and other statewide constitutional officers cannot be recalled, but members of city councils, county boards, Natural Resources Districts and other local political subdivisions can be.

LB415, introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, would end that practice. Friesen said he introduced the bill because recall attempts are being made when constituents disagree with votes cast by a particular government official. He said recalls should be attempted only when an office holder is incompetent, has broken the law or otherwise failed to carry out his or her duties.

Not all recalls are successful, Friesen said, but he noted that the mayor of York and a Hamilton County commissioner recently were removed from office via recall petition. In both cases, he said, the elected official was ousted for decisions they had made that were difficult or unpopular.

Friesen said he worries that the increasing number of recalls could scare away candidates or cause board members not to compromise.

“Why would I work with you when I can just get rid of you with a recall?” Friesen said.

No one testified in favor of LB415.

Kent Bernbeck of Elkhorn testified against the bill. Bernbeck said he has been involved in recall efforts and that they keep elected officials accountable.

“Nobody likes a recall. Especially in a small town; it makes neighbors uncomfortable around other neighbors at the coffee shop,” Bernbeck said. “But I think they are important because, from time to time, someone steps out of line or [an office holder’s] polices are just so far off of what the voters thought they’d be.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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