June 2nd was the original date for sine die, however the Legislature adjourned early on Tuesday, May 23rd. The tone for the session was set from day one with returning committee chairs being ousted for newly sworn in senators. Fuel was added to the fire when amendments were made on the floor to change the filibuster rules – resulting in the Legislature not adopting permanent rules until March. But as things calmed down, senators eventually voted bills out of committee and debated them on the floor.
For NCR, our legislative agenda is best summarized as the good, the bad, and the ugly.
For the sixth year in a row, Nebraskans for Civic Reform led the successful defeat of a voter ID law. While this year provided a new spin on a classic (a constitutional amendment to require an ID instead of a straight voter ID bill), LR1CA failed to secure the 33 votes necessary to overcome a certain filibuster, leading the bill to die a quick death after minimal debate. A constitutional amendment requires a vote of 30 votes instead of the regular 25 – with 18 No votes for cloture and several abstaining, it is possible the bill could’ve been defeated outright without the use of a filibuster… but we’ll take the victory as is.
For the first time since 2005, the Nebraska Legislature took on the issue of felon re-enfranchisement. LB 75 sought to eliminate the two-year waiting period – a compromise from the original push to automatically re-enfranchise returning citizens passed in 2005. The proposal made it through all 3 rounds of debate and headed to the Governor’s desk where it was vetoed. (read the Governor’s veto letter here). We were unable to garner the 30 votes needed to overcome the veto and lost some supporters to political pressure from the mansion across the street. We intend to continue to fight the two-year waiting period and are evaluating next steps.
A lot of good bills never made it to the primetime, including several of NCR initiatives. Online vote-by-mail applications (LB 197) and independent redistricting (LB 216, LB 653) remain in their respective committees. Senator Tony Vargas’ bill to expand early voting was killed outright by the Government Committee and the issue of funding new election technology was punted by the same committee to next session. Elections in Nebraska are working and they’ll keep working until they don’t, that’s why it is vital our lawmakers and election officials are constantly questioning current practices, identifying new ways to run elections and how election systems can evolve to meet the needs of the voter. And finally, how we are going to pay for them so that every resource is available and every voter has a voice.
NCR plays an important role in this endeavor, by focusing on the voter and refusing to be confined by budgets and “this is how we’ve always done it”, we can bring forward new and innovative ideas to ensure Nebraska elections and systems are relevant and accessible to all voters. But we’ll need your help, Sign up to be a Voting Rights Advocate and help us build towards 2018.