Three issue groups gathered the signatures of registered voters to have their ballot language placed on the November 3rd General Election ballot to be decided by Nebraska voters. In Nebraska, the ability of individuals or groups to seek a change in statute or the State Constitution is paramount because Nebraska is the only state in the country with a unicameral legislature or one legislative body. The people are considered the “second body” in the unicameral system. The initiative process allows the people of the state to take action on an specific issue that they deem as unresolved by the Legislature. The requirements for a state constitutional ballot initiative to be placed on the ballot, 10% of registered voters must sign the petition and there must be signatures from 5% of registered voters in 38 separate counties of Nebraska’s 93 counties. A ballot initiative aimed to amend state statutes requires 7% of registered voters.
Nebraskan’s for Medical Marijuana seek to allow medical marijuana in Nebraska as has been permitted by 33 other states. The group needs 121,000 valid signatures for it to be placed on the November ballot. The group turned in 183,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office who will verify the validity of each signature. State Senators’ Adam Morfeld and Anna Wishart were leads on the ballot initiative. Supporters cite the benefits that medical marijuana can have on various medical conditions suffered especially by children and veterans while opponents argue the benefits are unproven by the FDA and are a gateway to recreational use.
Nebraskans for Responsible Lending are behind a petition drive to limit payday lenders in Nebraska from charging no more than 36% interest on payday loans. Nebraska state statutes allow for “delayed deposit services licenses” also known as payday lenders. In Nebraska, payday lenders can lend up to $500 with a term no longer than 34 days and charge upwards of 400% interest. Payday lenders are licensed and regulated by the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance. There are sixteen (16) states that have a 36% interest cap on payday lenders. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defense instituted a cap of 36% on all active military members. The petition would amend Nebraska state statutes and therefore requires valid signatures from 7% of registered voters. The group turned in over 121,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. Supporters of the measure argue that payday lenders are predatory and trap their customers in a cycle of debt while opponents argue that payday lenders serve a niche of people that have difficulty obtaining short term lending needs from traditional financial service providers.
Keep the Money in Nebraska is leading the charge for three ballot initiatives to allow for gambling in Nebraska. The group turned in over 400,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. The first petition would allow for casino gambling at horse tracks. The second would regulate expanded gambling and sets up a Nebraska Gaming Commission. The third would allow for taxation of gambling with 70% of the proceeds going towards the State’s Property Tax Relief Fund. Proponents of the measures argue that allowing casino gambling at racetracks will raise needed funds for the state that are currently lost to neighboring Iowa who has had expanded gambling on the eastern border it shares with Nebraska for decades. Opponents argue that any gambling proceeds will not offset the negative financial and human impact that gambling will have on the state.