Laws governing local ballot measures in Nebraska
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This article sets out the laws governing local ballot measures in Nebraska. It explains:
- Which local units of government make the initiative process available to residents.
- How and whether local units of government, including school districts, can refer local ballot measures (such as school bond propositions) to the ballot.
- An overview of laws governing local recall elections.
Note that Nebraska is one of twenty-four states that allow the initiative process at the statewide level.
Types of local government
Local government in Nebraska consists of:
- 530 city governments.
- 419 town governments.
- 93 county governments.
- In addition, there are 1,267 special districts and 272 independent school districts.
Cities in Nebraska may be classified as:
- Charter city: of which there are 2 (Omaha and Lincoln)
- General law city: of which there are 528
School bond and tax elections in Nebraska happen under three cirumstances:
- To issue new bonding
- To exceed a growth rate
- To exceed its maximum property tax levy
Local recall rules
Nebraska is one of 17 states that only allow the recall of local elected officials. The state's recall provisions do not apply to state legislators or statewide elected officials.
However, in contradistinction to a number of states where local recall is possible in some local jurisdictions, in Nebraska, the right to recall local elected officials is universal, applying to "any elected official of a political subdivision and any elected member of the governing bodies of cities, villages, counties, irrigation districts, natural resources districts, public power districts, school districts, community college areas, educational service units, hospital districts, and metropolitan utilities districts" and to any "trustee of a sanitary and improvement district".
Municipalities in Nebraska are allowed by Section 2 of Article XI of the Nebraska Constitution under some circumstances to adopt a city charter. If they do adopt a city charter, the state's recall statutes apply to the recall of the city's mayor and city council even if the city charter has specifically adopted contrary provisions.
- For additional detail, see: Laws governing recall in Nebraska
Initiative process availability
The local units of government in Nebraska that make the initiative process available are:
- General law cities, all 528 of which have a state mandated initiative and referendum process for ordinances.
- Charter cities, all 2 of which have a state mandated initiative and referendum process for charter amendments and must authorize initiative for ordinances in the charter.
| Ballot Law Portal|
|Laws Governing Ballot Measures|
Article XI, Section 4 of the Nebraska constitution mandates for charter cities the power to amend their charters via initiative and referendum.
|“||Such charter so ratified and adopted may be amended, or a charter convention called, by a proposal therefore made by the law-making body of such city or by the qualified electors in number not less than five per cent of the next preceding gubernatorial vote in such city, by petition filed with the council or governing authorities. The council or governing authorities shall submit the same to a vote of the qualified electors at the next general or special election not held within thirty days after such petition is filed. In submitting any such charter or charter amendments, any alternative article or section may be presented for the choice of the voters and may be voted on separately without prejudice to others. Whenever the question of a charter convention is carried by a majority of those voting thereon, a charter convention shall be called through a special election ordinance, and the same shall be constituted and held and the proposed charter submitted to a vote of the qualified electors, approved or rejected, as provided in Section two hereof. The City Clerk of said city shall publish with his official certification, for three times, a week apart in the official paper in said city, if there be one, and if there be no official paper, then in at least one newspaper, published and in general circulation in said city, the full text of any charter or charter amendment to be voted on at any general or special election.||”|
Chapter 18, Article 25, Section 1 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes mandates the powers of initiative and referendum both to general law and charter cities.
Nebraska Revised Statutes 18-2501:
|“||(1) The powers of initiative and referendum are hereby reserved to the qualified electors of each municipal subdivision in the state. Sections 18-2501 to 18-2537 shall govern the use of initiative to enact, and the use of referendum to amend or repeal measures affecting the governance of all municipal subdivisions in the state, except those operating under home rule charter and as specified in section 18-2537.(2) Cities operating under home rule charter shall provide, by charter provision or ordinance, for the exercise of the powers of initiative and referendum within the cities. Nothing in sections 18-2501 to 18-2537 shall be construed to prevent such cities from adopting any or all of the provisions of sections 18-2501 to 18-2537.||”|
|A guide to local ballot initiatives|
Initiative process features in general law cities
The initiative process for general law cities is detailed in Nebraska Revised Statute 18-2501.
Initiative process features in charter cities
Initiative process in the top 10 most populated cities
|Local I&R Laws in the 50 States|
|Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with |
clipboards, conversations, and campaigns
|List of Most Populated Cities in Nebraska|
|City||Population||City Type||Next election|
|Grand Island||49,239||General law|
|North Platte||24,634||General law|
Omaha and Lincoln operate under a home rule charter, and thus may set their own requirements for initiative. The other 8 cities are general law cities, and are subject to the requirements detailed above.
- ↑ The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments
- ↑ Ballotpedia: Types and #'s of local government by state
- ↑ Nebraska Revised Statute 18-2501
- ↑ Nebraska Revised Statutes 18-2528
- ↑ NRS 18-2513
- ↑ NRS 32-628
- ↑ NRS 32-628
- ↑ US Census Bureau "City and Town Totals: Vintage 2011 (Population figures as of 2011 Census estimates)
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 US Census, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Nebraska: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011