Nebraska Legislative Bill 39 (2008)

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Nebraska Legislative Bill 39 (LB 39), sponsored by state legislator DiAnna Schimek, was approved by the state's unicameral legislature Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008 by a vote of 31-14 with four senators not voting. Gov. Dave Heineman then vetoed the bill on February 13, saying that in his view it encroached on the rights of citizens to launch petition drives.[1],[2] After threatening to do so,[3],[4] on Tuesday, February 19, Sen. Schimek led a successful effort to overturn Gov. Heineman's veto.[5] It was overturned by just one vote.

LB 39 institutes a residency requirement for petition gatherers and bans compensation for petition circulators based on the number of signatures they collect. It also requires that petition circulators be at least 18. Violating the new law is a Class III misdemeanor punishable with a $500 fine and three months in jail.

Paul Schumacher of Columbus, Nebraska, a sponsor of the 2008 Use Public Power Initiative whose volunteer petition drive failed, said he expects the new law to be challenged in court.[6]


Opponents of the measure call the bill a violation of free speech and a threat to the initiative process. Opponents argue that since most ordinary voters are busy with their own lives and responsibilities, professional petition-gathering efforts are often the only way to collect enough signatures to get a measure on the ballot. They say such efforts offer ordinary citizens the opportunity to sign petitions for measures that they want to be able to vote on but don't have the time or resources to pursue otherwise.

Lawsuits against

Two lawsuits were filed in federal court that sought to overturn several of the provisions of LB 39:

Bernbeck v. Gale was decided by the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska on August 30, 2011. The court overturned the LB 39's circulator and sponsor residency requirements and upheld the state's circulator age requirement and pay-per-signature ban.

See also

External links