Election law updates, an evaluation of state procurement practices and Nebraska’s participation in a convention of the states were addressed this session by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
An election cleanup proposal was expanded into an omnibus election law bill this session.
LB843, introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, makes several minor changes to current law. Among other provisions, the bill:
• prohibits electioneering within 200 feet of a ballot drop box;
• establishes a deadline of 8 p.m. Central time or 7 p.m. Mountain time on Election Day for receipt of mail-in ballots;
• allows voters who cannot sign their name to use either a symbol or a signature stamp;
• allows county election commissioners to appoint certain election officials who live outside of the county if that county conducts elections exclusively by mail;
• requires non-governmental organizations distributing voter registration forms or early ballot application forms to use those prescribed by the Nebraska secretary of state;
• expands the definition of voting system to include software or service used in the process of creating, casting and counting ballots;
• allows an election commissioner or county clerk to remove a voter from the voter registry if they receive information from the state Department of Motor Vehicles that the voter has moved out of state; and
• establishes procedures for removing a voter from a county’s early ballot request list.
LB843 also includes provisions of the following bills:
• LB733, introduced by Omaha Sen. John Cavanaugh, which prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to ballot question campaigns. Contributions from domestic subsidiaries of foreign nationals are allowed under certain circumstances;
• LB841, introduced by Brewer, which allows emergency response providers and others participating in a mutual aid agreement who are responding to an emergency declaration by the president or governor to simultaneously register to vote and request ballots for all elections in a calendar year;
• LB849, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Eliot Bostar, which subjects election officials who neglect their duties or willfully engage in conduct prohibited under the state Election Act to a Class I misdemeanor charge;
• LB858, introduced by Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood, which prohibits the funding of elections by any source other than appropriations from the federal government, the state of Nebraska and Nebraska political subdivisions. In-kind contributions of food and beverages for poll workers or the use of buildings as polling or election training sites are not prohibited. Private entities may donate funds intended to pay for election costs to the Nebraska secretary of state if those funds are appropriated by the Legislature. County clerks are prohibited from soliciting or accepting such grants or donations;
• LB861, introduced by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, which provides an optional field on candidate filing forms for the candidate’s email address;
• LB928, introduced by Sen. Rita Sanders of Bellevue, which requires televised political ads for certain statewide offices to be closed captioned and for a transcript of radio ads to be posted on a candidate’s campaign website; and
• LB1263, introduced by Clements, which establishes statewide standards for ballot drop boxes. Drop boxes must be securely anchored, locked, Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and opened only by a county election commissioner, county clerk or election official designated by the commissioner or clerk. Boxes must be opened for accepting ballots no later than the sixth Friday before a statewide election or the fourth Friday before a special election and emptied each business day.
Senators passed LB843 on a 45-0 vote.
LR268CA, introduced by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, would have asked Nebraska voters to allow for the recall of state senators and statewide officeholders. Current law allows the recall of local elected officials.
The proposed constitutional amendment would have put the question to voters at the 2022 general election. The resolution advanced from committee but was not scheduled for general file debate.
Several other election law measures were considered but did not advance from committee, including:
• LB930, introduced by Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt, which would have expanded the allowable uses of campaign funds to include child care expenses when an individual is involved in official duties;
• LB965, introduced by Bostar, which would have moved the observance of Arbor Day to coincide with the statewide general election day in even-numbered years;
• LB1121, introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, which would have required the Nebraska secretary of state’s office to inspect all vote counting machines; and
• LB1123, sponsored by Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, which would have prohibited county election officials in Nebraska from counting ballots before polls closed on Election Day.
Senators passed a resolution to authorize Nebraska’s participation in a convention of the states this session.
LR14, introduced last year by Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran, is Nebraska’s application for a convention of the states authorized under the U.S. Constitution. If 34 states commit to a convention, states could propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution to impose fiscal restraints, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and impose term limits on members of Congress.
The application will be rescinded on Feb. 1, 2027.
LR14 passed on a 32-11 vote.
Senators also passed a bill requiring an evaluation of the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services’ procurement practices.
LB1037, introduced by Sen. John Arch of La Vista, requires an outside consultant to review all DAS procedures with an emphasis on due diligence, cost evaluation, decision-making accountability and protest procedures.
The evaluation will include input from the Legislature’s Executive Board and the chairpersons of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services committees.
The bill also requires DAS to submit a report to the Legislature and governor by Nov. 15, and includes the provisions of LB1064, also introduced by Arch. The provisions establish a funding mechanism that allows the DAS Materiel Division to obtain an electronic procurement system.
LB1037 passed on a 46-0 vote took effect immediately.
LB283, introduced by Briese, would have adopted daylight saving time year-round in Nebraska if the bill’s provisions were not in conflict with federal law and three states bordering Nebraska also adopt year-round daylight saving time. The bill advanced from general file this session but was not scheduled for second-round debate.
A proposed constitutional amendment to limit unfunded mandates also stalled this session.
LR263CA, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, would have placed a question on the ballot in the 2022 general election asking voters if the state should be required to provide full reimbursement to political subdivisions for any new programs or increased levels of service, either through general fund appropriations or an increase in state distribution of revenue. The measure advanced to select file but was not debated further.
LB709, introduced by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, would have amended the Occupational Board Reform Act to provide specific factors to be considered by occupational boards when reviewing a preliminary application for an occupational license, governmental certification or other state-issued occupational credential.
A pending committee amendment would have altered the bill’s language and added provisions of two additional measures. LB709 was debated on general file but no votes were taken on the proposal.
Finally, two bills considered by the committee were advanced to general file but were not scheduled for debate.
LB1205, introduced by Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha, would have created a fund for a proposed museum honoring former state senator Ernie Chambers and LB910, introduced by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, would have restructured the Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission, also known as ServeNebraska, into a stand-alone state agency.