The civil war is over!
I mean Nebraska’s civil war, a 23-year schism between its unicameral legislature and what’s known as the state’s “second house” — that is, the people, acting through the initiative and referendum process, often checking the power of the first house.
Hero of the day? State Senator Mike Groene of North Platte, who championed Legislative Bill 367. Kudos also to the 42-0 vote of the Nebraska Legislature that enacted the measure, as well as to Governor Pete Ricketts for signing it into law.
Groene, who has been politically active for years with the Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association, got into office as a result of term limits. His LB 367 reverses the state’s seven-year ban on paying petition circulators according to the number of signatures they gather. He convincingly argued that the ban had “really broken the back of people trying to take part in their government through the petition process.”
“It’s time for this body to call a truce,” Groene told fellow lawmakers, declaring that since term limits were first passed, citizens and their representatives had been locked in a “civil war.”
During that war, State Sen. Diane Schimek, a 20-year legislator about to be term-limited, successfully pushed legislation to restrict citizen petitions. Part of her measure was struck down as unconstitutional in Citizens in Charge v. Gale. Now the rest has been unanimously repealed by the state legislature.
Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus favored Groene’s bill, saying that legislators could use a more viable initiative check on their power. The unicameral’s attacks on citizen petitions were, he said, “reflective of a government that was afraid of its people.”
Now it’s peacetime in Nebraska.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.