Sunday, January 20, 2008

Protect Our Petition Rights in Nebraska

Everyone who values his or her petition rights in our state immediately should contact their state senator to vote NO on LB 39. In recent years, it has become difficult, almost impossible, to wage a successful initiative petition campaign because of additional requirements placed on petition groups by the Legislature. We must contend with a nebulous single subject petition requirement and a doubling of the number of petition signatures. A proposed constitutional amendment cannot go to voters by initiative petition more often than once in 3 years.
Paying petitioners by the signature offers incentive for them to collect a maximum number of signatures, as a commission would offer incentives for employees in a private business. Those who complain about the supposed aggressiveness of petition circulators ignore use of physical obstructive tactics by petition opponents towards circulators exercising their constitutional privilege. Under LB 39, some but not all circulators would have their names, addresses, and phone numbers included in campaign reports. This information becoming public knowledge would subject these circulators to harassment. In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Nebraska cannot force petition campaigns to file monthly reports identifying paid circulators and expenses paid to circulators, acknowledging the vulnerability of circulators to harassment. Passage of LB 39 certainly would subject the legislation to a court challenge. LB 39 would require circulators to be only NE residents of voting age. We believe that learning about the petition process is a valuable educational experience for our youth. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1996 ruled invalid the NE requirement for all petition circulators to be registered voters.
Nebraska has no 2nd House. The original sponsors meant the initiative petition process to give Nebraska citizens a powerful tool to balance the Unicameral, and we are losing this right. Much of the necessity for requesting assistance from out of state entities stems from the current eroding of our petition rights that makes it much more difficult to launch petitions within the State. Our group has attempted in recent years to place several petitions on the ballot, and we have found it increasingly more difficult to do so because of impediments placed in our way. We regard this latest effort by State Sen. Schimek as sheer revenge against those who promoted the Stop Overspending campaign in 2006.

If you need help locating your state senator, email, and we can help you.

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