Government Military and Veterans AffairsSession Review 2024

Session Review: Government, Military and Veterans Affairs

Lawmakers removed a voting restriction for Nebraskans with felony convictions, approved a series of government reforms and placed a troubled state agency under the direct authority of the governor this session.


Currently, a person automatically regains his or her voting rights in Nebraska two years after completion of a felony sentence, including parole. LB20, introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne and passed 38-6, eliminates this waiting period.

Senators also approved an omnibus election measure.

LB287, sponsored by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, includes the provisions of several bills related to the state’s election laws heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee this session.

Previously, the state attorney general was required to file an action in the appropriate court within 10 days of any state officer’s refusal to implement an act that has been deemed unconstitutional by a prior attorney general’s written opinion.

LB1191, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, repealed that section of state law.

Provisions of LB861, sponsored by Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, change the processes for removing a signer’s name from a petition. The provisions eliminate the requirement of a signed, sworn affidavit executed in the presence of an election commissioner, county clerk or notary public. Instead, a signer can remove their name by signing and delivering a written letter to the secretary of state, election commissioner or county clerk.

Election officials will be required to verify the signature on the removal letter with the signature appearing in voter registration records. The criminal penalty for falsifying a signature withdrawal letter is the same as the penalty for signing a petition when not legally qualified to do so.

Among other provisions, LB1152, sponsored by Brewer, changes procedures for voter registration removal, presidential elector meeting locations and dates and verification of driver’s licenses and state identification cards for voting purposes.

LB287 also includes provisions of:
• LB47, introduced by Sen. Myron Dorn of Adams, which amends the Open Meetings Act to authorize rural fire districts to post notice of their meetings prominently in three conspicuous places, instead of the existing requirement to publish in a newspaper of general circulation in the public body’s jurisdiction;
• LB269, sponsored by Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman, which removes obsolete language in state law related to the 2021 redistricting process;
• LB302, introduced by Linehan, which makes a number of changes to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act regarding salary and conflict of interest disclosures;
• LB313, sponsored by Kearney Sen. John Lowe, which amends state election law regarding the process for filling vacancies in Nebraska’s delegations to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; and
• LB513, introduced by Brewer, which provides for alternative means of public notice under the Open Meetings Act when timely newspaper publication is unavailable and adds two categories of public bodies that may expand use of videoconferencing for their public meetings.

LB287 passed on a 46-0 vote and took effect immediately.

An attempt to move public power and irrigation district elections to a partisan format was advanced to select file but not scheduled for second-round debate.

As originally introduced last session by Lowe, LB541 would have required that all such elections be conducted on partisan ballots for both the primary and general elections.

As amended, the bill’s provisions would have covered only districts receiving annual revenue in excess of $500 million. The change effectively would have limited the measure to the Nebraska Public Power District and the Omaha Public Power District.

A proposal to require political ads generated with artificial intelligence to disclose that information did not advance from committee.

LB1203, introduced by Omaha Sen. John Cavanaugh, would have required certain qualified political advertisements to include a statement to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission regarding AI generation. The bill would not have applied to news broadcasts, satire or parody.

The committee also did not advance LB1262, introduced by Sen. Jen Day of Omaha, which would have created a Native American Voting Rights Commission within the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.

Government reform

A state agency with a recent history of controversy will be placed under the direct authority of the governor by a bill passed this session.

Under LB1169, introduced by Erdman and passed 39-4, the Nebraska State Historical Society — commonly known as History Nebraska — will become a code agency under Nebraska state law. Code agency directors are appointed by the governor with legislative approval and report directly to the governor.

Among other provisions, the bill outlines the director’s duties, which include ensuring that the study and presentation of exhibits and other material is conducted in a way that “stimulates, encourages and protects” freedom of expression and academic freedom.

LB1169 removes administrative duties from the board of trustees and instead gives them an advisory role to the director. It also prohibits the director from serving on the board of any charitable organization that provides monetary or other support to History Nebraska and requires prior approval of gifts to the agency of real property or with a monetary value of $10,000 or more.

Lawmakers also approved a bill aimed at alleviating certain occupational licensure regulations in Nebraska.

LB16, sponsored by Conrad and passed 42-1, provides broad reciprocal licensure for military members, apprentices and individuals who are licensed in other states, provided they meet a number of criteria.

Among other provisions, the bill requires that applicants for reciprocal licensure must hold a credential that covers a similar scope of practice, not have a disqualifying criminal record and not have had their credential surrendered or revoked for negligence or misconduct.

LB16 also allows individuals with criminal convictions to provide additional information regarding mitigating factors when submitting an application for licensure, government certification or state recognition of their qualifications and adds two members to the State Electrical Board.

Finally, the bill includes provisions of Brewer’s LB471 that establish a voluntary registry of interior design professionals in Nebraska.

Lawmakers also approved an omnibus measure aimed at furthering transparency and open government.

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 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 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 changes fee calculations;
• 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.

Finally, a bill that makes a number of changes to the process the state uses to obtain goods and services was approved this session.

Among other updates, LB461, sponsored by La Vista Sen. John Arch, redefines which contracts are subject to administration by the state Department of Administrative Services and makes the following changes:
• details the form of bid solicitations;
• revises the factors to be considered when evaluating bids;
• provides guidance for evaluating what are “realistic” and “reasonable” prices;
• prohibits certain provisions in procurement contracts;
• modifies when proof of needs analysis would be required; and
• requires that the requesting agency provide a detailed requisition for services or personal property to be contracted.

LB461 passed on a 45-0 vote.

Other measures

A bill meant to prepare supply chains and critical infrastructure for the risk of a possible Pacific conflict was given final approval this session.

LB1300, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Eliot Bostar, requires an assessment of all risks to state or national security, economic security or public health in the event of a conflict involving China or other countries in the area of the Pacific Ocean and the U.S. or its allies.

The governor will be required to publish the nonconfidential aspects of the state risk assessment annually. Unauthorized disclosure of confidential information would be a Class III misdemeanor.

In addition, LB1300 creates the Committee on Pacific Conflict and outlines membership and expectations, including production of the annual threat report. The measure also prohibits companies from designated countries from bidding on certain state or local procurement contracts.

The measure contains provisions of Sanders’ LB2 that create a state Commission on Asian American Affairs. The commission will consist of 14 individuals of Asian ancestry appointed by the governor and will be tasked with enhancing the cause of Asian American rights and developing solutions to problems common to all Asian American residents of Nebraska.

LB1300 also includes provisions of five additional proposals.

Provisions of LB869, introduced by Bostar, expand the mission of county veterans service committees to encompass aid to all veterans, regardless of whether their term of service was during wartime. The provisions also clarify that a person who served on active duty for training in the Nebraska National Guard is eligible to receive assistance from county veterans service committees.

LB887, sponsored by Brewer, creates the Nebraska Nonprofit Security Grant program to be administered by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The proposal outlines a list of authorized uses for grant funds, which NEMA will begin providing Jan. 1, 2025. Individual recipient organizations will have an annual grant cap of $100,000 and total annual grant awards are capped at $500,000.

Provisions of LB1358, introduced by McDonnell, prohibit metropolitan and primary class city council members from increasing their salaries, or the mayor’s salary, in excess of inflation as calculated by the Consumer Price Index plus 1% without a public hearing, a two-thirds vote of the council and voter approval. Salaries may be raised no more than once every two fiscal years.

The measure also sets maximum salary levels for directors of public power districts and salary limitations for metropolitan utilities districts and counties.

Finally, LB1300 includes provisions of LB1048, introduced by Bostar, which require certain chemical facilities in Nebraska to participate in a federal program relating to cybersecurity and infrastructure security and LB1243, sponsored by McDonnell, which create the Wildland Incident Response Assistance Team within the office of the state fire marshal.

The bill passed on a 46-0 vote and took effect immediately.

LB102, sponsored by Erdman, revises the Nebraska Plane Coordinate System Act, Land Surveyors Regulation Act and related state laws that govern the land surveying profession in Nebraska.

Among other provisions, the bill provides new authority for professional land surveyors and their assistants and trainees to enter public and private lands and waterways to conduct land surveys and to place survey monuments. Vehicles used for this purpose must be clearly marked with identifying information and surveyors are liable for any property or crop damage resulting from their work.

The bill defines the scope of practice and licensure processes for land surveyors who offer their services through an organization and sets out a professional disciplinary process for the examining board to follow in enforcing the Land Surveyors Regulation Act.

LB102 also protects private landowners by shielding them from liability for damages to surveyors incurred during their survey work, unless such damages are the result of an intentional tort.

Senators passed the bill on a 44-0 vote.

A bill intended to spare Nebraskans from changing their clocks twice a year failed to advance from general file.

Under LB143, sponsored by Conrad, Nebraska would have adopted permanent daylight saving time. The switch would have taken effect contingent on a change in federal law or policy allowing states to do so and would have required adoption of the same policy by three adjacent states.

Senators voted 14-25 to advance the bill to select file. Twenty-five votes were needed.

An effort to make the Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission, also known as ServeNebraska, a statutory agency also failed to advance from first-round debate on a 24-12 vote.

LB111, sponsored by McDonnell, would have restructured the organization but fell one vote short of the number needed to advance to select file.

Finally, a measure intended to prohibit government entities from contracting with businesses that discriminate against the firearms industry was advanced to general file by the committee but was not scheduled for debate.

LB925, sponsored by Sen. Raymond Aguilar of Grand Island, would have established the Firearm Industry Nondiscrimination Act. The bill would have prohibited government entities from entering into certain contracts for goods or services unless the contract included a written certification that the company does not engage in discrimination against firearm entities or firearm trade associations.

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