Government, Military and Veterans Affairs

Senators created a statewide commission, added to an established state holiday and took up several election proposals this session.

LB918, introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, establishes a state commission on African American Affairs. The commission will promote state and federal legislation beneficial to African Americans in Nebraska, work with similar commissions from other states and coordinate housing, education, welfare, medical and dental care, employment and other programs affecting African Americans in Nebraska.

The 14 commissioners, who must be of African ancestry, will be appointed by the governor and serve four-year terms.

LB918 passed on a 39-2 vote.

The second Monday in October will be celebrated as Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day in Nebraska under a bill passed this session.

LB848, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, adds Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the established Columbus Day holiday.

The bill, approved 35-10, also extends eligibility for the Bridge to Independence Program to Native American youth who have reached the age of majority under tribal law.

LB848 also requires the display of flags of Nebraska’s four federally recognized Native American tribes—the Omaha, Ponca, Santee Sioux and Winnebago—in the ceremonial Warner Chamber of the State Capitol. Flags of any tribe with historic and regional connections to Nebraska will be displayed in the Memorial Chamber on the Capitol’s 14th floor.

Elections

LB1055, introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, requires counties that conduct elections by mail to have an in-person polling site at the office of the county clerk, at least one secure ballot drop box available for voters and in-person early voting opportunities.

Currently, counties of less than 10,000 residents can apply to the Nebraska secretary of state for permission to hold an election entirely by mail for one or more precincts.

LB1055 includes provisions of five additional election bills:
• LB820, also introduced by Brewer, which removes “home” and “work” phone numbers from voter application forms and changes timelines for recall elections;
• LB1086, introduced by Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln, which requires poll watchers who wish to observe Election Day procedures to be either a registered voter in Nebraska or a member of a state, national or international election monitoring organization, and provides additional procedures;
• LB1136, introduced by Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, which requires members of a public power board to be governed by the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act when dealing with conflicts of interest on board business and repeals a law prohibiting a public power board member from having an interest in a contract to which the board is a party;
• LB1119, introduced by Gretna Sen. Andrew La Grone, which prohibits special elections from being held in March of even-numbered years, except school bond special elections, unless the election is in conjunction with a statewide primary election; and
• LB1120, also introduced by La Grone, which prohibits special elections from being held in September of even-numbered years unless the election is in conjunction with a statewide general election, or is an election to approve a property tax levy or to exceed the subdivision’s property tax levy limitation.

The bill passed on a 47-0 vote.

Two proposed constitutional amendments were considered by the committee but not advanced for debate.

LR286CA, introduced by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha, would have allowed Nebraskans convicted of a felony, other than treason, to retain their voting rights. Under current state law, those convicted of a felony have their voting rights restored two years after completing their sentence or probation.

LR292CA, introduced by La Grone, would have required voters to show a photo or digital image of themselves at the polls on Election Day. Acceptable types of identification would be determined by the Legislature under the proposal.

Both proposals would have required voter approval.

Other measures

The state of Nebraska will acquire a veterans’ cemetery in Grand Island under a bill passed this session.

LB911, introduced by Grand Island Sen. Dan Quick, enables the city to gift the former Nebraska Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery and adjacent land to the state in order to establish a new state cemetery for veterans.

The bill, passed 49-0, also requires the state Department of Veterans Affairs to apply for funding assistance from the federal government.

Lawmakers passed a bill to honor the First Regiment Nebraska Volunteer Infantry.

LB850, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, authorizes a privately funded committee to create a monument to the first regiment at the Fort Donelson National Battlefield in Tennessee where it fought alongside Union soldiers during the Civil War. The bill passed 43-0.

Two bills advanced from the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee but stalled during debate.

LB790, sponsored by Sen. Julie Slama of Peru, would have allowed the state Department of Administrative Services to join competitively bid group contracts entered into with political subdivisions of other states rather than seeking new bids for an independent contract.

The bill, which stalled during select file debate, also would have authorized the state purchasing bureau to negotiate the terms of such contracts and allowed political subdivisions to use a design-build contract method.

After 90 minutes of debate, lawmakers moved to the next item on the agenda. LB790 was not scheduled for further debate this session.

LB267, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, would have expanded the allowable use of funds under a county’s existing tax levy bonding authority to include county-owned bridges that are deemed structurally deficient or “scour critical” according to state Department of Transportation standards.

After three hours of debate on general file, the Legislature moved on to another bill and LB267 did not return to the agenda.

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