LINCOLN (AP) — Lobbyists for Nebraska cities and school boards are fighting two bills that would require elected officials to disclose how they voted in picking their own leaders.
State senators sharply questioned both groups Wednesday as the lobbyists argued against making public the votes for school board president, committee chairmen and other internal leadership roles.
Gary Krumland of the League of Nebraska Municipalities said some city councils take turns in leadership roles but said for others an open ballot could create conflicts among members. Krumland said his group's opposition was based on a vote by its executive board, which includes 15 elected officials and three city appointees.
"There are government bodies that use the secret ballot, and they would like to continue doing that," he said.
Virtually all school board votes already are public except the balloting for internal leadership positions, and some boards pick their leaders in an open vote too, said John Bonaiuto, a lobbyist for the Nebraska Association of School Boards. He said some boards still want the option to keep leadership votes secret.
"We're not looking for any change in the current law," he said.
The state lawmakers asked tough questions about those arguments.
"It sounds to me as if you're all for transparency except when it gets a little sticky," said Sen. Beau McCoy, an Omaha Republican.
Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion said he introduced the bills to ensure that the public knows how elected officials vote when choosing committee chairmen, school board presidents and other leaders. One bill would require elected officials to cast such votes in public; the other would require that the vote results be disclosed under Nebraska's open-meetings law.
"People deserve to know what we're doing down here when we're on their time and on their dime," Kintner said.
Some lawmakers say Kintner, a Republican, is trying to impose party discipline on recalcitrant GOP lawmakers in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, an allegation he denies.
Senators already defeated a similar attempt this year, via a rule change, to open their own votes for committee chairmanships to public scrutiny. Now they're likely to debate the issue again as a bill. Republicans outnumber Democrats 7-1 on the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, and half of the members have signed on as co-sponsors.
Nebraska's one-house Legislature has no formal party structure or party leadership.
Keeping balloting secret has enabled Democrats to win many legislative chairmanships, including the top seat on the committee that oversees the state budget. Most Republicans in leadership positions are moderates. Last year, despite a large GOP majority, Democrats held most of the committee chairmanships.