How Bills Become Laws in Nebraska

Ever wonder the steps required for an introduced bill to become a Nebraska law? We’ve got a quick explanation below. We hope to empower Nebraskans to be active observers and even participants in the process!

Unicameral 101: How Bills Move through the Lawmaking Process

An Idea Becomes Introduced Text

Each Senator has 10 days from the start of the session to introduce as many bills as they would like. The deadline this year was Jan. 23, so all the bills that will be considered in this session have been introduced. You can find them all on the Nebraska Legislature website.

Bill Gets Assigned to a Committee

The Reference Committee assigns each bill to one of the Standing Committees.

Bill Gets a Hearing

Every bill gets a public hearing at the committee level. You can see the schedule for hearings on the Nebraska Legislature website. (The weekly schedule even has a handy “Add to Calendar” button.) You can watch hearings live or on-demand via NET.

Committee Considers the Bill

You can attend committee hearings in person (the calendar has location information) and optionally participate to support or oppose the bill.

You can also express support or opposition to a bill (while it’s in committee) by submitting written testimony to the committee chair.

If you are not testifying in person on a bill and would like to submit a written position letter to be included in the official hearing record as an exhibit, the letter must be delivered to the office of the committee chair (or emailed to the committee chair) of the committee conducting the hearing on the bill by 5:00 p.m. on the last work day prior to the public hearing.

Additionally, the letter must include your name and address, state a position of for, against, or neutral on the bill in question and include a request for the letter to be included as part of the public hearing record.

from the Nebraska Legislature website

The committee hears testimony about the bill and then can vote to:

  • indefinitely postpone the bill (“IPP” in the graphic below), effectively “killing the bill” as it won’t advance to general file this session; or
  • take no action; or
  • amend the bill; or
  • advance the bill to general file, meaning that all senators will vote on it.

(To be clear, they can vote to advance without amending, or can amend and then advance, or even amend but not advance.)

Bill Gets to General File (and Possibly Floor Debate)

If the introduced and/or amended bill gets sent to general file by the committee, then it may or may not be debated and voted on by all the senators from across the state.

The speaker can decide to block the bill from floor debate, meaning no action is taken, or can advance the bill to floor debate.

Senators can offer floor amendments during discussion of a bill. Amendments to bills are voted upon separately. A bill will move to select file if at least 25 senators vote to advance it.

Bill Gets to Select File (and Possibly More Floor Debate)

Once at the select file stage, senators can continue floor debate before voting again to advance, or not advance, the bill.

Bill Gets to Final Reading

Final reading is usually non-controversial. The clerk reads the entire bill, or, if a bill is unusually lengthy, the senators may vote to dispense with reading the entire bill.

If, following the final reading, a majority of senators vote for the bill, the bill passes and then goes to the governor.

Bill Goes to the Governor

The governor has 5 working days to sign the bill, veto the bill, or let the bill pass without his signature. If the governor vetoes the bill, the legislature can override the governor’s veto with 30 votes.

Bill Becomes a Law

If a bill has an “emergency” clause, it becomes law immediately upon the governor’s signature. If not, a bill becomes law 90 days after the last day of the session.

Legislative Process: The Flowchart

Download this graphic as a PDF: Bill-to-Law Process

For even more info, see all of our Unicameral 101 posts, including a video explanation of how a bill becomes a law.

Join Us to Celebrate a Resolution Declaring August 2019 ‘Nebraska Woman’s Suffrage Month’

Join the League of Women Voters of Nebraska (LWVNE) and the League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha (LWVGO) at the Nebraska Legislature to be present when Senator Lynne Walz presents a resolution declaring August 2019 as Nebraska Woman’s Suffrage Month!

The resolution will be read at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14 in the chamber. Members of the League of Women Voters of Nebraska will be recognized as part of the reading.

This is the kickoff to the Centennial Celebration of the 19th Amendment and the 100th Anniversary of the League of Women Voters.

Please meet us at 10:30 a.m. at the doors to the legislative chamber. We will walk up to the gallery to be recognized when Sen. Walz recognizes LWV members and marks the passing of the resolution presented.

RSVP using the form below, or, for more information, contact MaryLee Moulton at mmoulton@lwvgo.org.

Great News: No Voter ID in 2019

The following was adapted from an email newsletter by Brad Christian-Sallis, Voting Rights Policy Organizer with Civic Nebraska, and reprinted with permission. Become a Voting Rights Advocate through Civic Nebraska to get the latest training, information and calls to action.

Jan. 23  was the final day of the 10-day bill introduction period for the 106th Nebraska Legislature. We are pleased to note that for the first time in nearly 10 years, senators will not spend time debating the merits of an introduced voter ID bill.

This is obviously great news, mainly because it means no unnecessary barriers to the ballot in 2019. It also means we will be able to focus our energy on positive, pro-voter policies at the statehouse.

One of these pro-voter policies is LB83, introduced by Sen. Justin WayneThis bill would immediately restore voting rights for Nebraskans upon completion of a felony sentence or probation for a felony. When thinking about this issue it is important to remember:

  • Our current waiting period of two years was a compromise, and the length of “wait time” is arbitrary.
  • Returning citizens are no less qualified than anyone else to vote. Remember, they were found competent to stand trial. We must consider them competent to vote.
  • Studies show that voting leads to a feeling of engagement in one’s community. Returning citizens, then, are less likely to re-offend.
  • Nebraska has one of the most restrictive felon re-enfranchisement laws in the country. We are one of just five states to disenfranchise all citizens with a felony conviction beyond their sentence. To bring the state in line with the vast majority of the rest of the country, we should let people vote when they have served their time, including probation and parole.

Advocate for LB83

Please take five minutes today to contact your state senator and explain to them the importance of LB83! Once you speak with your senator, we please ask that you record your response here

Here is an example script you can use when contacting your elected officials for any issue:

Hi,

My name is_________. I’m a constituent of Senator ________ and I wanted to call/write/email and urge the Senator to stand up for Nebraskans and our voices by supporting LB83. I believe returning citizen re-enfranchisement is a good policy because

(Pick one or two messages from above or another reason you are for LB83.)

Please let the senator know LB83 would be good for their constituents and the entire state of Nebraska. Thank you.

Voting Rights Advocate recruitment and training

Let us know if you have an opportunity for Team Voting Rights to present to a group our advocacy training — or, if you know of anyone who is interested in voting rights, forward this email to them and encourage them to become a Voting Rights Advocate.

If you are not already a Voting Rights Advocate or have yet to update your information with Civic Nebraska, please go to this link.

Should Nebraskans Have Access to Legal Medical Marijuana? A Discussion with Sen. Anna Wishart

In this episode of Go Vote, Omaha!, Geri Simon talks with Nebraska State Senator Anna Wishart of Lincoln (LD 27) about proposed legislation (LB 110) to legalize medical cannabis. LB 110 is Sen. Wishart’s priority bill for 2019.

You can also listen to this episode via our podcast.

Go Vote Omaha! is our locally produced informational television program. Watch Go Vote Omaha at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday nights on Cox channel 22 or CenturyLink channel 89 or anytime on YouTube
You can also listen to these episodes as podcasts on Podbean.

2018 General Election Candidate Forum: Unicameral, Legislative District 8

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha held a moderated candidate forum for the candidates for Nebraska state senate/Unicameral in legislative district 8. The candidates are Mina Davis and Megan Hunt.

Find out more about the election in our Get Ready to Vote FAQ. You can watch all our candidate forums and see all of our 2018 elections info under “2018 ELECTIONS” on our home page. You can find out which Nebraska LD you live in by entering your address on the Nebraska Unicameral site.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any candidate for office or political party. LWVGO’s mission is to inform and empower voters.

2018 Candidate Forum: Unicameral, Legislative District 8

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha held a moderated candidate forum for the candidates for Nebraska state senate/Unicameral in district 8. The candidates are Mina Davis, Josh Henningsen and Megan Hunt. Following the May 15 primary election, the top two vote-getters of these three candidates will continue to the general-election ballot in November.

Find out more about the primary in our Get Ready to Vote FAQ and nonpartisan voters’ guide. You can watch all our candidate forums and see all of our 2018 elections info under “2018 ELECTIONS” on our home page.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any candidate for office or political party. LWVGO’s mission is to inform and empower voters.

Action Alert: Oppose the Unfair Election Laws LB 1115 and LB 1065

The following is a message from LWVNE President Sherry Miller and LWVNE Social Policy Director John Else to all members. We encourage non-members to participate in this call to action as well.

ACTION ALERT #1: LB 1115, REDUCING POPULATION COUNTS FOR REDISTRICTING

Dear Activists,

It appears that LB 1115 may be debated in the Unicameral this week, since it is on General File. It is Senator Murante’s priority bill. Please call your senator opposing this bill, since it can severely impact the fairness of redistricting in Nebraska. This is the intent of LB 1115, followed by the language of Article III, Section 5 to which it refers.

The following constitutes the reasons for this bill and the purposes which are sought to be accomplished thereby:

Article III, section 5 of the Nebraska Constitution states: “The basis of apportionment shall be the population excluding aliens, as shown by the next preceding federal census.”

LB 1115 would effectuate that policy by requiring the population basis for redistricting for legislative districts, Supreme Court districts, and all political subdivision districts the total population minus non-citizens.

III-5. Legislative districts; apportionment; redistricting, when required.
The Legislature shall by law determine the number of members to be elected and divide the state into legislative districts. In the creation of such districts, any county that contains population sufficient to entitle it to two or more members of the Legislature shall be divided into separate and distinct legislative districts, as nearly equal in population as may be and composed of contiguous and compact territory. One member of the Legislature shall be elected from each such district. The basis of apportionment shall be the population excluding aliens, as shown by the next preceding federal census. The Legislature shall redistrict the state after each federal decennial census. In any such redistricting, county lines shall be followed whenever practicable, but other established lines may be followed at the discretion of the Legislature.

Feel free to use any of the talking points listed below. Be sure to call as YOUR senator’s constituent. They will listen to constituents.

Thank you,

Sherry Miller, President, LWVNE; and John Else, Director of Social Policy

LB 1115 TALKING POINTS

*LB 1115 perpetuates an injustice begun in 1875 when Article III, Section 5 was adopted into the Constitution. The word “aliens” most likely referred to Native Americans or newly arrived immigrants from Europe. It was amended in 1920, probably also in reference to immigrants fleeing the aftermath of WWI.

*Nebraska Legislature obtains the count of “aliens” or “non-citizens” from the U.S. Census.

*It seems that redistricting in Nebraska is based only on citizens (or possibly voters}. Omitting non-citizens overlooks the fact that many of them pay taxes and are therefore taxed without representation.

*This is harmful to those immigrants who are awaiting legal status and are in every sense citizens in actuality except for the completion of application and the naturalization ceremony.

*LB 1115 would expand this limitation on population for redistricting purposes beyond legislative districts to all political subdivisions, not just legislative districts.

Urge your senator to vote NO on advancing LB 1115 to Select File. Let’s kill this thing and then look to getting the constitution amended in the future.

ACTION ALERT #2: LB 1065, REQUIRING POLL WORKERS TO MATCH VOTER IMAGES ON FILE, REDUCING NUMBER OF PEOPLE ABLE TO VOTE

Dear Activists,

Here we go again. LB 1065, introduced by Senator Murante, has advanced from the Government Committee to General File. I encourage you to contact your senator in opposition to this bill.

Its purported intent is to update poll site equipment, making it easier for poll workers to identify voters coming to vote. But part of it is simply an attempt to impose voter ID rules. Other attempts have failed ever since 2012. Besides mandating the use of electronic poll books (computers), the bill requires a digital image of each voter be part of the listing of the voter. This image would probably be provided by the DMV.

I am including talking points from my testimony (see below) against LB 1065 for your use when you contact your senator. REMEMBER, Contact your Senators as constituents and not as members of the league. Senators give a great deal of weight to hearing from their CONSTITUENTS.

Thank you for taking prompt action on this important attempt to suppress voter rights.

Sherry Miller, President
League of Women Voters of Nebraska

LB 1065 TALKING POINTS

TESTIMONY TO THE GOVERNMENT/MILITARY/VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, FEBRUARY 14, 2018

First, County election offices across Nebraska need updated election equipment now. Implementing an electronic poll book system will take time and money, lots of money. While the electronic system may be an idea to contemplate for upgrading our election systems in the future, 2018 is a crucial midterm election year, which, it is hoped, will bring much renewed voter attention to the process, and 2020 even more so.

Secondly, voters deserve a measure of privacy. Furthermore, facial features can change from one election cycle to another through surgery, accidents, and plain old aging. How often would voters have to re-register to assure compatibility with a digital image? I agree it may be an unlikely scenario, but it could happen, and more than once.

Thirdly, in a time of income shortfall for our state government, why mandate a very expensive measure, costing $2.6 million for the first year and $451,000 for succeeding years.

Fourth, current election systems must be updated in a timely way to meet more immediate needs and not risk their failure while waiting for an electronic system to be put in place.

Please vote no to LB 1065.

Legislative Day A Success

About 20 League of Women Voters of Nebraska members gathered at the capital on Feb. 20 to discuss our priority bills with senators and to learn more about the legislative process.

The morning opened with remarks from State Sen. Sue Crawford and then members spoke with senators’ staffs as debate continued on the floor.

State Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks later introduced the members to the body as they observed from the Unicameral viewing gallery. 

Following meetings with senators and debate observation, members ate lunch at the governor’s mansion and heard from State Sen. Burke Harr about redistricting.

Support LB 869, A Benefit to Juvenile Justice

The Leagues of Women Voters of Nebraska and Greater Omaha support LB 869, introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks. The bill would change provisions relating to sealing of juvenile records.

Read testimony in support of LB 869 from LWVNE president Sherry Miller and policy director John Else: Else_Miller Letter LB 869 020918.