Article III, Nebraska Constitution

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Nebraska Constitution
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Article III of the Nebraska Constitution consists of 30 sections.

Section 1

Text of Section 1:

Legislative Authority; How Vested; Power of Initiative; Power of Referendum

The legislative authority of the state shall be vested in a Legislature consisting of one chamber. The people reserve for themselves the power to propose laws and amendments to the Constitution and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the Legislature, which power shall be called the power of initiative. The people also reserve power at their own option to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any act passed by the Legislature, which power shall be called the power of referendum.

Section 2

Text of Section 2:

First Power Reserved; Initiative

The first power reserved by the people is the initiative whereby laws may be enacted and constitutional amendments adopted by the people independently of the Legislature. This power may be invoked by petition wherein the proposed measure shall be set forth at length. If the petition be for the enactment of a law, it shall be signed by seven percent of the registered voters of the state, and if the petition be for the amendment of the Constitution, the petition therefore shall be signed by ten percent of such registered voters. In all cases the registered voters signing such petition shall be so distributed as to include five percent of the registered voters of each of two-fifths of the counties of the state, and when thus signed, the petition shall be filed with the Secretary of State who shall submit the measure thus proposed to the electors of the state at the first general election held not less than four months after such petition shall have been filed. The same measure, either in form or in essential substance, shall not be submitted to the people by initiative petition, either affirmatively or negatively, more often than once in three years. If conflicting measures submitted to the people at the same election be approved, the one receiving the highest number of affirmative votes shall thereby become law as to all conflicting provisions. The constitutional limitations as to the scope and subject matter of statutes enacted by the Legislature shall apply to those enacted by the initiative. Initiative measures shall contain only one subject. The Legislature shall not amend, repeal, modify, or impair a law enacted by the people by initiative, contemporaneously with the adoption of this initiative measure or at any time thereafter, except upon a vote of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Legislature.

The part of Section 2 which refers to registered voters repeals the reference in Section 4 below which refers to those voting in the preceding gubernatorial election. As per Section 2 above, the number of signatures required for placement of an initiative petition on the ballot by the Nebraska Constitution is equal to 10 percent of the number of registered voters on the date the signatures are to be turned in. This was litigated in Duggan v. Beermann, 245 Neb. 907, 515 N.W.2d 788 (1994).

Section 3

Text of Section 3:

Second Power Reserved; Referendum

The second power reserved is the referendum which may be invoked, by petition, against any act or part of an act of the Legislature, except those making appropriations for the expense of the state government or a state institution existing at the time of the passage of such act. Petitions invoking the referendum shall be signed by not less than five percent of the registered voters of the state, distributed as required for initiative petitions, and filed in the office of the Secretary of State within ninety days after the Legislature at which the act sought to be referred was passed shall have adjourned sine die or for more than ninety days. Each such petition shall set out the title of the act against which the referendum is invoked and, in addition thereto, when only a portion of the act is sought to be referred, the number of the section or sections or portion of sections of the act designating such portion. No more than one act or portion of an act of the Legislature shall be the subject of each referendum petition. When the referendum is thus invoked, the Secretary of State shall refer the same to the electors for approval or rejection at the first general election to be held not less than thirty days after the filing of such petition.

When the referendum is invoked as to any act or part of act, other than emergency acts or those for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, by petition signed by not less than ten percent of the registered voters of the state distributed as aforesaid, it shall suspend the taking effect of such act or part of act until the same has been approved by the electors of the state.

Section 4

Text of Section 4:

Initiative or Referendum; Signatures Required; Veto; Election Returns; Constitutional Amendments; Non-Partisan Ballot

The whole number of votes cast for Governor at the general election next preceding the filing of an initiative or referendum petition shall be the basis on which the number of signatures to such petition shall be computed. The veto power of the Governor shall not extend to measures initiated by or referred to the people. A measure initiated shall become a law or part of the Constitution, as the case may be, when a majority of the votes cast thereon, and not less than thirty-five per cent of the total vote cast at the election at which the same was submitted, are cast in favor thereof, and shall take effect upon proclamation by the Governor which shall be made within ten days after the official canvass of such votes. The vote upon initiative and referendum measures shall be returned and canvassed in the manner prescribed for the canvass of votes for president. The method of submitting and adopting amendments to the Constitution provided by this section shall be supplementary to the method prescribed in the article of this Constitution, entitled, "Amendments" and the latter shall in no case be construed to conflict herewith. The provisions with respect to the initiative and referendum shall be self-executing, but legislation may be enacted to facilitate their operation. All propositions submitted in pursuance hereof shall be submitted in a nonpartisan manner and without any indication or suggestion on the ballot that they have been approved or endorsed by any political party or organization. Only the title or proper descriptive words of measures shall be printed on the ballot and when two or more measures have the same title they shall be numbered consecutively in the order of filing with the Secretary of State and the number shall be followed by the name of the first petitioner on the corresponding petition.

Section 5

Text of Section 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.

Section 6

Text of Section 6:

Legislature; Number of Members; Annual Sessions

The Legislature shall consist of not more than fifty members and not less than thirty members. The sessions of the Legislature shall be annual except as otherwise provided by this constitution or as may be otherwise provided by law.

Section 7

Text of Section 7:

Legislators; Terms; Effect of Redistricting; Election; Salary; Expenses; Mileage

At the general election to be held in November 1964, one-half the members of the Legislature, or as nearly thereto as may be practicable, shall be elected for a term of four years and the remainder for a term of two years, and thereafter all members shall be elected for a term of four years, with the manner of such election to be determined by the Legislature. When the Legislature is redistricted, the members elected prior to the redistricting shall continue in office, and the law providing for such redistricting shall where necessary specify the newly established district which they shall represent for the balance of their term. Each member shall be nominated and elected in a nonpartisan manner and without any indication on the ballot that he or she is affiliated with or endorsed by any political party or organization. Each member of the Legislature shall receive a salary of not to exceed one thousand dollars per month during the term of his or her office. In addition to his or her salary, each member shall receive an amount equal to his or her actual expenses in traveling by the most usual route once to and returning from each regular or special session of the Legislature. Members of the Legislature shall receive no pay nor perquisites other than his or her salary and expenses, and employees of the Legislature shall receive no compensation other than their salary or per diem.

Section 8

Text of Section 8:

Legislators; Qualifications; One-Year Residence in District; Removal from District, Effect

No person shall be eligible to the office of member of the Legislature unless on the date of the general election at which he is elected, or on the date of his appointment he is a registered voter, has attained the age of twenty-one years and has resided within the district from which he is elected for the term of one year next before his election, unless he shall have been absent on the public business of the United States or of this State. And no person elected as aforesaid shall hold his office after he shall have removed from such district.

Section 9

Text of Section 9:

Legislators; Disqualifications; Election to Other Office; Resignation Required

No person holding office under the authority of the United States, or any lucrative office under the authority of this state, shall be eligible to or have a seat in the Legislature. No person elected or appointed to the Legislature shall receive any civil appointment to a state office while holding membership in the Legislature or while the Legislature is in session, and all such appointments shall be void. Except as otherwise provided by law, a member of the Legislature who is elected to any other state or local office prior to the end of his or her term in the Legislature shall resign from the Legislature prior to the commencement of the legislative session during which the term of the state or local office will begin.

Section 10

Text of Section 10:

Legislative Sessions; Time; Quorum; Rules of Procedure; Expulsion of Members; Disrespectful Behavior, Penalty

Beginning with the year 1975, regular sessions of the Legislature shall be held annually, commencing at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January of each year. The duration of regular sessions held shall not exceed ninety legislative days in odd-numbered years unless extended by a vote of four-fifths of all members elected to the Legislature, and shall not exceed sixty legislative days in even-numbered years unless extended by a vote of four-fifths of all members elected to the Legislature. Bills and resolutions under consideration by the Legislature upon adjournment of a regular session held in an odd-numbered year may be considered at the next regular session, as if there had been no such adjournment. The Lieutenant Governor shall preside, but shall vote only when the Legislature is equally divided. A majority of the members elected to the Legislature shall constitute a quorum; the Legislature shall determine the rules of its proceedings and be the judge of the election, returns, and qualifications of its members, shall choose its own officers, including a Speaker to preside when the Lieutenant Governor shall be absent, incapacitated, or shall act as Governor. No member shall be expelled except by a vote of two-thirds of all members elected to the Legislature, and no member shall be twice expelled for the same offense. The Legislature may punish by imprisonment any person not a member thereof who shall be guilty of disrespect to the Legislature by disorderly or contemptuous behavior in its presence, but no such imprisonment shall extend beyond twenty-four hours at one time, unless the person shall persist in such disorderly or contemptuous behavior.

Section 11

Text of Section 11:

Legislative Journal; Vote Viva Voce; Open Doors; Committee Votes

The Legislature shall keep a journal of its proceedings and publish them, except such parts as may require secrecy, and the yeas and nays of the members on any question shall at the desire of any one of them be entered on the journal. All votes shall be viva voce. The doors of the Legislature and of the committees of the Legislature shall be open, except when the business shall be such as ought to be kept secret. The yeas and nays of each member of any committee of the Legislature shall be recorded and published on any question in committee to advance or to indefinitely postpone any bill.

Section 12

Text of Section 12:

Legislators; Terms; Limitation

(1) No person shall be eligible to serve as a member of the Legislature for four years next after the expiration of two consecutive terms regardless of the district represented.

(2) Service prior to January 1, 2001, as a member of the Legislature shall not be counted for the purpose of calculating consecutive terms in subsection (1) of this section.

(3) For the purpose of this section, service in office for more than one-half of a term shall be deemed service for a term.

Section 13

Text of Section 13:

Style of Bills; Majority Necessary to Passage; Yeas and Nays Entered on Journal

The style of all bills shall be, Be it enacted by the people of the State of Nebraska, and no law shall be enacted except by bill. No bill shall be passed by the Legislature unless by the assent of a majority of all members elected and the yeas and nays on the question of final passage of any bill shall be entered upon the journal.

Section 14

Text of Section 14:

Bills and Resolutions Read by Title; Printing; Vote for Final Passage; Bills to Contain One Subject; Amended Section to Be Set Forth; Signing of Bills

Every bill and resolution shall be read by title when introduced, and a printed copy thereof provided for the use of each member. The bill and all amendments thereto shall be printed and presented before the vote is taken upon its final passage and shall be read at large unless three-fifths of all the members elected to the Legislature vote not to read the bill and all amendments at large. No vote upon the final passage of any bill shall be taken until five legislative days after its introduction nor until it has been on file for final reading and passage for at least one legislative day. No bill shall contain more than one subject, and the subject shall be clearly expressed in the title. No law shall be amended unless the new act contains the section or sections as amended and the section or sections so amended shall be repealed. The Lieutenant Governor, or the Speaker if acting as presiding officer, shall sign, in the presence of the Legislature while it is in session and capable of transacting business, all bills and resolutions passed by the Legislature.

Section 15

Text of Section 15:

Members Privileged from Arrest

Members of the Legislature in all cases except treason, felony or breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest during the session of the Legislature, and for fifteen days next before the commencement and after the termination thereof.

Section 16

Text of Section 16:

Members of the Legislature and State Officers; Conflicts of Interest; Standards for

No member of the Legislature or any state officer shall have a conflict of interest, as defined by the Legislature, directly in any contract, with the state or any county or municipality thereof, authorized by any law enacted during the term for which he shall have been elected or appointed, or within one year after the expiration of such term. The Legislature shall prescribe standards and definitions for determining the existence of such conflicts of interest in contracts, and it shall prescribe sanctions for enforcing this section.

Section 17

Text of Section 17:

Impeachment; Procedure

The Legislature shall have the sole power of impeachment, but a majority of the members elected must concur therein. Proceedings may be initiated in either a regular session or a special session of the Legislature. Upon the adoption of a resolution of impeachment, which resolution shall give reasonable notice of the acts or omissions alleged to constitute impeachable offenses but need not conform to any particular style, a notice of an impeachment of any officer, other than a Judge of the Supreme Court, shall be forthwith served upon the Chief Justice, by the Clerk of the Legislature, who shall thereupon call a session of the Supreme Court to meet at the Capitol in an expeditious fashion after such notice to try the impeachment. A notice of an impeachment of the Chief Justice or any Judge of the Supreme Court shall be served by the Clerk of the Legislature, upon the clerk of the judicial district within which the Capitol is located, and he or she thereupon shall choose, at random, seven Judges of the District Court in the State to meet within thirty days at the Capitol, to sit as a Court to try such impeachment, which Court shall organize by electing one of its number to preside. The case against the impeached civil officer shall be brought in the name of the Legislature and shall be managed by two senators, appointed by the Legislature, who may make technical or procedural amendments to the articles of impeachment as they deem necessary. The trial shall be conducted in the manner of a civil proceeding and the impeached civil officer shall not be allowed to invoke a privilege against self-incrimination, except as otherwise applicable in a general civil case. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members of the Court of impeachment that clear and convincing evidence exists indicating that such person is guilty of one or more impeachable offenses, but judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, profit, or trust, in this State, but the party impeached, whether convicted or acquitted, shall nevertheless be liable to prosecution and punishment according to law. No officer shall exercise his or her official duties after he or she shall have been impeached and notified thereof, until he or she shall have been acquitted.

Section 18

Text of Section 18:

Local or Special Laws Prohibited

The Legislature shall not pass local or special laws in any of the following cases, that is to say:

For granting divorces.
Changing the names of persons or places.
Laying out, opening altering and working roads or highways.
Vacating roads, Town plats, streets, alleys, and public grounds.
Locating or changing County seats.
Regulating County and Township offices.
Regulating the practice of Courts of Justice.
Regulating the jurisdiction and duties of Justices of the Peace, Police Magistrates and Constables.
Providing for changes of venue in civil and criminal cases.
Incorporating Cities, Towns and Villages, or changing or amending the charter of any Town, City, or Village.
Providing for the election of Officers in Townships, incorporated Towns or Cities.
Summoning or empaneling Grand or Petit Juries.
Providing for the bonding of cities, towns, precincts, school districts or other municipalities.
Providing for the management of Public Schools.
The opening and conducting of any election, or designating the place of voting.
The sale or mortgage of real estate belonging to minors, or others under disability.
The protection of game or fish.
Chartering or licensing ferries, or toll bridges, remitting fines, penalties or forfeitures, creating, increasing and decreasing fees, percentage or allowances of public officers, during the term for which said officers are elected or appointed.
Changing the law of descent.
Granting to any corporation, association, or individual, the right to lay down railroad tracks, or amending existing charters for such purpose.
Granting to any corporation, association, or individual any special or exclusive privileges, immunity, or franchise whatever; PROVIDED, that notwithstanding any other provisions of this Constitution, the Legislature shall have authority to separately define and classify loans and installment sales, to establish maximum rates within classifications of loans or installment sales which it establishes, and to regulate with respect thereto. In all other cases where a general law can be made applicable, no special law shall be enacted.

Section 19

Text of Section 19:

Compensation; Increase When; Extra Compensation to Public Officers and Contractors Prohibited; Retirement Benefits; Adjustment

The Legislature shall never grant any extra compensation to any public officer, agent, or servant after the services have been rendered nor to any contractor after the contract has been entered into, except that retirement benefits of retired public officers and employees may be adjusted to reflect changes in the cost of living and wage levels that have occurred subsequent to the date of retirement.

The compensation of any public officer, including any officer whose compensation is fixed by the Legislature, shall not be increased or diminished during his or her term of office, except that when there are members elected or appointed to the Legislature or the judiciary, or officers elected or appointed to a board or commission having more than one member, and the terms of such members commence and end at different times, the compensation of all members of the Legislature, of the judiciary, or of such board or commission may be increased or diminished at the beginning of the full term of any member thereof.

Nothing in this section shall prevent local governing bodies from reviewing and adjusting vested pension benefits periodically as prescribed by ordinance.

The surviving spouse of any retired public officer, agent, or servant, who has retired under a pension plan or system, shall be considered as having pensionable status and shall be entitled to the same benefits which may, at any time, be provided for or available to spouses of other public officers, agents, or servants who have retired under such pension plan or system at a later date, and such benefits shall not be prohibited by the restrictions of this section or of Article XIII, section 3 of the Constitution of Nebraska.

Section 20

Text of Section 20:

Salt Springs, Coal, Oil, Minerals; Alienation Prohibited

The salt springs, coal, oil, minerals, or other natural resources on or contained in the land belonging to the state shall never be alienated; but provision may be made by law for the leasing or development of the same.

Section 21

Text of Section 21:

Donation of State Lands Prohibited; When

Lands under control of the State shall never be donated to railroad companies, private corporations or individuals.

Section 22

Text of Section 22:

Appropriations for State; Deficiencies; Bills for Pay of Members and Officials

Each Legislature shall make appropriations for the expenses of the Government. And whenever it is deemed necessary to make further appropriations for deficiencies, the same shall require a two-thirds vote of all the members elected to the Legislature. Bills making appropriations for the pay of members and officers of the Legislature, and for the salaries of the officers of the Government, shall contain no provision on any other subject.

Section 23

Text of Section 23:

Repealed 1972. Laws 1972, LB 302, sec. 1.

Section 24

Text of Section 24:

Games of Chance, Lotteries, and Gift Enterprises; Restrictions; Parimutuel Wagering on Horseraces; Bingo Games; Use of State Lottery Proceeds

(1) Except as provided in this section, the Legislature shall not authorize any game of chance or any lottery or gift enterprise when the consideration for a chance to participate involves the payment of money for the purchase of property, services, or a chance or admission ticket or requires an expenditure of substantial effort or time.

(2) The Legislature may authorize and regulate a state lottery pursuant to subsection (3) of this section and other lotteries, raffles, and gift enterprises which are intended solely as business promotions or the proceeds of which are to be used solely for charitable or community betterment purposes without profit to the promoter of such lotteries, raffles, or gift enterprises.


(a) The Legislature may establish a lottery to be operated and regulated by the State of Nebraska. The proceeds of the lottery shall be appropriated by the Legislature for the costs of establishing and maintaining the lottery and for the following purposes, as directed by the Legislature:
(i) The first five hundred thousand dollars after the payment of prizes and operating expenses shall be transferred to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund;
(ii) Forty-four and one-half percent of the money remaining after the payment of prizes and operating expenses and the initial transfer to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund shall be transferred to the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund to be used as provided in the Nebraska Environmental Trust Act;
(iii) Forty-four and one-half percent of the money remaining after the payment of prizes and operating expenses and the initial transfer to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund shall be used for education as the Legislature may direct;
(iv) Ten percent of the money remaining after the payment of prizes and operating expenses and the initial transfer to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund shall be transferred to the Nebraska State Fair Board if the most populous city within the county in which the fair is located provides matching funds equivalent to ten percent of the funds available for transfer. Such matching funds may be obtained from the city and any other private or public entity, except that no portion of such matching funds shall be provided by the state. If the Nebraska State Fair ceases operations, ten percent of the money remaining after the payment of prizes and operating expenses and the initial transfer to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund shall be transferred to the General Fund; and
(v) One percent of the money remaining after the payment of prizes and operating expenses and the initial transfer to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund shall be transferred to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.
(b) No lottery game shall be conducted as part of the lottery unless the type of game has been approved by a majority of the members of the Legislature.

(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit (a) the enactment of laws providing for the licensing and regulation of wagering on the results of horseraces, wherever run, either within or outside of the state, by the parimutuel method, when such wagering is conducted by licensees within a licensed racetrack enclosure or (b) the enactment of laws providing for the licensing and regulation of bingo games conducted by nonprofit associations which have been in existence for a period of five years immediately preceding the application for license, except that bingo games cannot be conducted by agents or lessees of such associations on a percentage basis.

Section 25

Text of Section 25:

Incidental Expenses of State Officers; Specific Appropriations Always Necessary; Warrants for Money

No allowance shall be made for the incidental expenses of any state officer except the same be made by general appropriation and upon an account specifying each item. No money shall be drawn from the treasury except in pursuance of a specific appropriation made by law, and on the presentation of a warrant issued as the Legislature may direct, and no money shall be diverted from any appropriation made for any purpose or taken from any fund whatever by resolution.

Section 26

Text of Section 26:

Privilege of Members

No member of the Legislature shall be liable in any civil or criminal action whatever for words spoken in debate.

Section 27

Text of Section 27:

Acts Take Effect After Three Months; Emergency Bills; Session Laws

No act shall take effect until three calendar months after the adjournment of the session at which it passed, unless in case of emergency, which is expressed in the preamble or body of the act, the Legislature shall by a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected otherwise direct. All laws shall be published within sixty days after the adjournment of each session and distributed among the several counties in such manner as the Legislature may provide.

Section 28

Text of Section 28:

Repealed 1934. Initiative Measure No. 330.

Section 29

Text of Section 29:

Legislative Authority in Emergencies Due to Enemy Attack upon United States

(1). In order to insure continuity of state and local governmental operations in periods of emergency resulting from enemy attack upon the United States, or the imminent threat thereof, the Legislature shall have the power and the immediate duty, notwithstanding any other provision to the contrary in this Constitution, to provide by law for:

(a) The prompt and temporary succession to the powers and duties of all public offices, of whatever nature and whether filled by election or appointment, the incumbents of which, after an attack, may be or become unavailable or unable to carry on the powers and duties of such offices;
(b) The convening of the Legislature into general or extraordinary session, upon or without call by the Governor, during or after a war or enemy caused disaster occurring in the United States; and, with respect to any such emergency session, the suspension or temporary change of the provisions of this Constitution or of general law relating to the length and purposes of any legislative session or prescribing the specific proportion or number of legislators whose presence or vote is necessary to constitute a quorum or to accomplish any legislative act or function;
(c) The selection and changing from time to time of a temporary state seat of government, of temporary county seats, and of temporary seats of government for other political subdivisions; to be used if made necessary by enemy attack or imminent threat thereof;
(d) The determination, selection, reproduction, preservation, and dispersal of public records necessary to the continuity of governmental operations in the event of enemy attack or imminent threat thereof; and
(e) Such other measures and procedures as may be necessary and proper for insuring the continuity of governmental operations in the event of enemy attack or imminent threat thereof.

(2). In the exercise of the powers hereinbefore conferred, the Legislature shall in all respects conform to the requirements of this Constitution except to the extent that, in the judgment of the Legislature, so to do would be impracticable or would admit of undue delay.

Section 30

Text of Section 30:

Legislature to Pass Necessary Laws

The Legislature shall pass all laws necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this constitution.

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