The nonpartisan Nebraska State Capitol
The Nebraska State Capitol building. Photo by Zach Wendling/Nebraska News Service

Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen confirmed on Sept. 6 that two ballot items related to voter ID and increasing the minimum wage will be on the November ballot.

The voter ID effort petitions for a state constitutional provision requiring government-issued photo identification to vote. Lawmakers would be mandated to determine the language and details for valid identification if the measure is approved.

The second effort would gradually increase the current $9 minimum wage by $1.50 each year, beginning in January 2023, through 2026, when it would be $15 an hour.

Both efforts, secured by referendum petitions across the state, surpassed the necessary requirement for signatures: at least 7% of registered voters, or about 87,000 Nebraskans, and 5% of registered voters in at least 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Read more here from the Associated Press.

Additional candidates vying for governor’s race

In addition to the Republican, Democrat and Libertarian candidates for Nebraska governor, a fourth former Republican may secure a spot on the ballot in November.

David Wright of Ewing, a former rancher who helped found the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, has re-registered as nonpartisan and submitted signatures to get on the ballot. He should hear soon whether he qualified. 

His running mate, Republican Tom Dierks of Lincoln, a social worker and a former legislative candidate, is maintaining his party affiliation. According to the Secretary of State’s office, no law forbids this. 

Robert Borer, who has denied the results of the 2020 presidential election and challenged Secretary of State Bob Evnen in May, is also mounting a write-in campaign. He has until Oct. 28 to file an affidavit to have his write-in votes counted.

Wright and Borer would join the field of candidates that includes Republican Jim Pillen, Democrat Carol Blood and Libertarian Scott Zimmerman. Read more here from the Nebraska Examiner’s Aaron Sanderford.

Ricketts, other state officials visit possible routes for Perkins County Canal

Gov. Pete Ricketts visited possible routes of the proposed Perkins County Canal last week alongside Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Tom Riley, the director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.

The visit for the controversial project is designed to protect what Ricketts says is Nebraska’s “rightful share” of the river’s flows before Colorado. Meanwhile, Colorado officials have called the proposal a “canal to nowhere” and a waste of taxpayer money. Read more on the trip here from the Nebraska Examiner’s Paul Hammel.

Ricketts waives FBI background checks for health care positions

Gov. Pete Ricketts on Sept. 8 signed an executive order to expedite getting more health care workers into the field. 

This process has been slowed by the requirement that the state submits fingerprints of applicants to critical health care positions to the FBI for a national criminal background check. Ricketts’ order waives that requirement through July 31, 2023.

The Nebraska Legislature passed new legislation amending these screening requirements earlier this year, but the FBI has yet to approve it, delaying some health care positions. Read more here from the Omaha World-Herald’s Erin Bamer.

Protect Nebraska Children Coalition emerging political player in education

A controversial new group — the Protect Nebraska Children Coalition — is growing as a power player in Nebraska while some worry about the coalition’s growth.

The Omaha World-Herald’s Joe Dejka on Sept. 7 spotlighted the movement, which emerges amid tense conflict because of the COVID-19 pandemic and other cultural and social concerns. This includes state health education standards, parental rights, critical race theory and LGBTQ identities.

Opponents, like state board member Deborah Neary, argue the group is a “hate group” with “hate language, anti-LGBTQ and racist language and ideas.” The PNC Coalition founders say it is a false accusation. Read more from Dejka here.

UNL College of Journalism, Mass Communications to join Democracy Day efforts

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications will be one of many organizations participating in a nationwide commemoration of Democracy Day on Sept. 15.

The college’s Nebraska News Service will highly multiple stories with features on the state of democracy as well as profiles on current and former democratic leaders in Nebraska. Other groups or classes in the college will join the day through guest speakers or social media campaigns.

The college and its up-and-coming campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, UNL SPJ, will also host a booth on Sept. 15 at the Nebraska Union Plaza from 12:30-2:30 p.m., inviting UNL community members to answer, “What does democracy mean to you?” 

For more information on the college’s efforts for Democracy Day, read hereMore information on the joint CoJMC and UNL SPJ event is available here.

Bacon, California Democrat pen column on service for 9/11

In remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001, Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon and California Rep. Salud Carbajal penned a letter in The Hill emphasizing the importance of serving and giving back.

The pair — a Republican Air Force veteran and a Democrat Marine Corps veteran — wrote in support of AmeriCorps’ 9/11 Day of Service initiative and said it “is an opportunity to help your neighbors while honoring first responders and all those who were lost that day.”

“So, on the 21st anniversary of 9/11, let us remember the lives lost, commemorate the first responders, and recommit ourselves to each other as we did in the aftermath of that fateful day. We should not need a crisis for Americans to find common ground,” Bacon and Carbajal wrote. “Through programs like AmeriCorps’ 9/11 Day of Service, every American can give thanks, give back, and build a better community in service to each other.”

Read the full column here.

Zach Wendling is a senior journalism and political science double major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focused on political, policy and governance reporting. He is the spring 2023 intern for the Nebraska Examiner and has been published in publications across the state as part of the Nebraska News Service. Wendling interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. and worked for The Daily Nebraskan at UNL. He is one of the founding members and inaugural president of UNL's new campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.