LINCOLN — Veterans of several recent petition drives are teaming up on a bid to roll back the number of signatures needed to get issues on the ballot.
Calling themselves the Second House Amendment Committee, they filed proposed petition language Wednesday with the Secretary of State's Office.
Their hope is to cut the number of signatures needed on petition drives by about half. Signature requirements would be restored to levels in place before a 1994 Nebraska Supreme Court decision.
Mike Groene of North Platte, the group's chairman, said the decision put citizen petitions out of reach.
"It's time the people restore this time-honored process," he said.
The court ruled that a previous constitutional amendment had changed the threshold from a percentage of votes cast for governor in the last election to a percentage of registered voters.
Under current requirements, the Second House group would need more than 115,000 valid signatures to make the ballot. Under the previous requirements, the group would have needed less than 49,000 signatures.
Leaders of the Second House group all have had success with getting petition measures on the ballot under the new threshold.
Groene led a 2006 effort for a state spending lid, which voters rejected. Marc Schniederjans of Lincoln headed up a 2008 drive, a repeal of affirmative action that won voter approval.
Sharon Craichy of Burwell was a leader in the successful repeal of a state law eliminating elementary-only school districts.
Kent Bernbeck of Stanton has been involved with numerous petition drives.
Among them was a 1996 push to reverse the court decision and return signature requirements to lower levels. Voters rejected the proposed constitutional amendment.
Bernbeck said Wednesday that he believes voters were confused by the 1996 ballot language.
He said more and more people are realizing now how difficult the current signature levels make the petition process.
Since the signature numbers increased, only one measure made the ballot without using paid circulators. A constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage succeeded because of networks of church volunteers.
Bernbeck said the Second House drive will use paid circulators. He said the group has financial backing from a number of sources, but he declined to name any of them.
Petition drives must collect signatures from 10 percent of registered voters for proposed constitutional amendments and 7 percent for proposed state laws or the repeal of an existing law.
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