For over 100 years the League of Women Voters has relentlessly advocated for voting rights and policies that protect democracy. It is from this experience that we are deeply disturbed by the April 23 introduction of Legislative Resolution 107 by State Sen. Mike Groene for both its content and how it was brought to the floor of the Legislature.
LR 107 begins by accusing the federal government of a coordinated plot to usurp all states’ rights. It haphazardly pulls incomplete phrases from the U.S. Constitution to “support” a handful of highly politicized issues including guns, abortion, religion, sexuality, voting access, land use, and vaccinations. We find Section 5 regarding the election process particularly concerning. Leaning into the false narrative that the recent election was fraudulent despite countless fact-based reports otherwise, LR 107’s authors assert the state’s power to suppress voter access through ID requirements, record purging and restrictions in voter supports.
We live in challenging times facing a pandemic, an uneasy transition of power, an individual versus collective rights debate, and a reawaking to systemic racial discrimination and violence. We encounter divisive language everywhere: the media, workplaces, even friends and neighbors. Whether by intention or negligence, it is inappropriate and unacceptable for our state leaders to fan the flames by not speaking against LR 107.
In addition to its disquieting content, how LR 107 arrived on the floor of our Unicameral legislature is atypical. Proposed legislation goes through a well-established process which relies heavily on committees, allowing a subset of senators with “subject-matter jurisdiction” to act as policy gate keepers. Nebraska citizens, as members of the second house, may provide commentary on proposals. With LR 107, the manipulation of this process causes our concern to turn to alarm. Instead of being referred to the Government Committee, the appropriate committee considering its content, the drafters referred LR 107 to the Executive Committee, which manages the work of the Legislature. Why?
To pose that question and resolve the misassignment, State Sen. Megan Hunt introduced a motion on April 29 to re-refer LR 107 to the appropriate committee. She reported that one of LR 107’s lead writers, State Sen. Steve Halloran, explicitly stated a political decision was made to send the resolution to the Executive Committee because he feared the Government Committee would not move it forward due to previous “split votes on bills,” which we interpret as bills related to voter suppression and campaign financing. In response, State Sen. John McCollister, who serves on both the Executive Board and Government Committee, stated publicly that LR 107 was incorrectly assigned.
Sadly, the motion to re-refer failed and LR 107 waits to be moved forward in the lawmaking process. It appears Unicameral leadership has circumvented the checks and balances of legislative procedure.
Of the many legislative resolutions this session, some call for interim studies; some congratulate individuals, organizations and teams; one even lightheartedly recognizes the “one true Josh.” LR 107 is the only resolution that includes the phrase “requests cooperation.” Those are words of action, not a position statement, but a request for action followed by false, incendiary and partisan statements. While “only a resolution,” it is a government document which formally, legally, speaks on behalf of the people of Nebraska. We, at the League of Women Voters Nebraska, know this is a mischaracterization of the majority of our friends and neighbors.
There has been much talk from the legislative floor of the need to trust and have good faith in one another. Frankly, that is an impossible ask when resolutions like LR 107 advance through manipulation with the support of 30 senators who either are not paying attention or, more concerning, are failing to represent and serve Nebraskans as they promised in their solemn oath of office.
As advocates of empowering voters and defending democracy, we call on every senator to read the resolution entirely, speak publicly against its dangerous and radical language, and most importantly, vote against LR 107.
Rachel M. Gibson is director of education policy and Sheri St. Clair is director of government policy for the League of Women Voters Nebraska.