Timing is everything, as the saying goes. There is a right time to speak out and a time to keep silent. There is the right time for any number of things and so it goes here in the Legislature. I had two bills pass this past week that, for whatever reason, had not passed in other years and other sessions.
LB136, the “flying lantern bill, passed this last week and awaits the governor's signature. I have spoken about this measure here before and you know by now those products will no longer be allowed to be possessed, sold or used in Nebraska. Several communities, large and small, banned the use of these fireworks in the past year and the timing was right to get this measure passed.
LB728 again was a new/old bill. It was new this year when I introduced it, but this concept, too, has been around for a while. This bill allows natural resources districts to have electronic voting at meetings. A vote board will be place in the meeting rooms and as members cast a vote on anything requiring votes during meetings, not only will the results be recorded, but the public will be allowed to visually see who voted which way.
This is a method we have used for years here in the Legislature and other public bodies have used it as well. In fact, this bill was merged into another bill, LB876, that allowed for "public bodies" and all units of government to use this form of voting. As I said, this bill has been around before and I am not sure why it hasn't passed until now.
School boards, all city councils, NRDs, etc. now will be allowed to use this tool. In no way does this violate open meeting laws but rather transparency is enhanced. LB876 does not require the use of electronic voting but rather allows this procedure. Cost to wire and install a meeting room could be substantial and for some organizations prohibitive, but the opportunity now exists and, I am sure, will be encouraged as we move forward.
We also spent a considerable amount of time debating LR26CA. This proposed constitutional amendment would allow Nebraska citizens as young as 18 to serve in public offices in the state. The bill, as introduced, deems a person eligible for any public office, whether elected or appointed, if such person has attained the federal voting age, which currently stands at 18 years of age. Originally, the bill would have allowed 18-year-olds to serve in the Legislature, Nebraska Supreme Court or any other public office including that of the governor or lieutenant governor.
The main argument was if a person is old enough to vote to put a person in an office, they too should be eligible. The bill survived a general file debate, which set up a lengthy filibuster on select file. As you can imagine debate centered on issues such as experience, temperament and the time required to gain any needed qualifications to serve in the various positions. Aside from the usual jokes about look who serves in the various jobs now, most of the body felt a little more life experience can't hurt. The bill failed a cloture motion, even though it was amended to apply only to members of the Legislature. As I stated, timing is everything and I am certain we will revisit this issue in the future, perhaps with a different result.