Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Government reform bill approved

Lawmakers passed an omnibus measure March 21 aimed at furthering open government and transparency in Nebraska.

Sen. Rita Sanders
Sen. Rita Sanders

LB43, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Rita Sanders, directs hearing officers and judges not to rely on a state agency’s interpretation of state laws or regulations in contested cases under the Administrative Procedures Act.

The bill includes provisions of six additional proposals that address the state’s Administrative Procedures Act and Public Records Act:
• LB41, sponsored by Sen. Ben. Hansen of Blair, which prohibits the state from placing “intrusive or politically motivated” filing or reporting requirements on charitable organizations beyond those required by state law unless narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest or to fulfill federal funding requirements;
• LB277, introduced by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, which creates a more restrictive standard for imposing a “substantial burden” on a person’s right to the exercise of religion and authorizes indigenous tribal members who are students in approved or accredited public schools to wear tribal regalia at any school facility or function, unless doing so would prevent school purposes or interfere with the educational process;
• LB297, sponsored by Sanders, which prohibits state and local government agencies from compelling a nonprofit organization to release the personal information of its members, supporters, volunteers or donors;
• LB366, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, which changes the threshold at which Nebraska residents may be charged for time spent fulfilling a public records request from four to eight hours and allows nonresidents to be charged the full cost of fulfilling a request;
• LB637, sponsored by Thurston Sen. Joni Albrecht, which requires a public body to allow members of the public an opportunity to speak at every meeting except for closed sessions related to personnel matters, investigations regarding allegations of criminal conduct or other purposes already exempted under state law; and
• LB650, introduced by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, which amends public records law to permit the state or any political subdivision to withhold records relating to the “nature, location or function of cybersecurity.”

LB43 passed on a 39-0 vote and took effect immediately.

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