Protecting Constitutional Liberties

Protecting Constitutional Liberties

LB43 introduced by Sen. Rita Sanders–an important bill supported by the Platte Institute, and made the vehicle for several Government Committee priority bills– passed Final Reading in the Legislature today.

As introduced, LB43 directs hearing officers and judges, when interpreting state statutes or regulations contested under the Administrative Procedures Act, not to defer to a state agency’s interpretation but rather to interpret de novo. While this doesn’t preclude the hearing officer from considering the agency’s findings, those findings will only be a piece in the decision-making process. The bill encourages judges to resolve any doubt favoring an interpretation that “is consistent with an individual’s fundamental constitutional rights.”

By itself, LB43 marks a small but significant change in tipping the balance in favor of individual citizens when they conflict with state agencies.

But wait! There’s more!

The amendments attached to LB43 include significant portions of LB41, LB277, LB297, LB366, and LB650.

LB41 was a bill introduced by Sen. Ben Hansen. It helps to create a “predictable regulatory environment for charitable organizations by ensuring state agencies and other state governmental offices do not exceed their legislative authority as it pertains to filing or reporting requirements placed on charitable organizations.”  While this bill doesn’t change any existing authority of the elected Attorney General or the Secretary of State, it does require that any new filing or reporting requirements placed on charitable organizations first be approved through the legislative process rather than through regulatory fiat.

Senator Tom Brewer’s LB277 would adopt the “First Freedom Act.” The Statement of Intent says, “The First Freedom Act defines the scope of governmental authority when creating and enforcing laws that burden the fundamental human right to practice one’s religion. It would help ensure that every Nebraskan, regardless of belief system or political power, receives a fair hearing when government action seeks to compel them to violate their religious beliefs.”

A key to LB277 is the authorization of indigenous tribe members to wear tribal regalia at school facilities or functions, but the First Amendment protection ramifications for all citizens shouldn’t be ignored.

LB297, also a bill introduced by Sen. Sanders, is titled the Personal Privacy Protection Act, and would prohibit state and local governments from requiring nonprofit organizations to provide personal information regarding their donors. This bill was supported in the committee hearing and letters by organizations as diverse as the Nebraska Family Alliance, the Nebraska Cattlemen, the University of Nebraska system, the ACLU of Nebraska and the Platte Institute.

Finally, LB366, introduced by Senator Danielle Conrad, was wrapped into LB43. It makes changes to Nebraska’s Public Records law, which would reduce the cost of accessing information from public entities for residents of Nebraska.

All in all, LB43 seems to have become a bill that tips the scales away from the power of government, and toward the rights of individuals.

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