Court decides ballot issue for November election
The state Supreme Court has twice reversed Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen and decided what issues will be on the November ballot.
Expanded gambling and a cap on the interest rates that so-called “payday lenders” can charge will be on the ballot. Medical marijuana will not.
In a 4-3 decision, the high court ordered Evnen to place a three-pronged casino gambling initiative on the November general election ballot. It would authorize casino gambling at Nebraska horse race tracks and allocate the bulk of the funding derived from that new state revenue source to local property tax relief. Evnen had argued that it did not adhere to requirements for a single topic because it was split into three separate votes.
The court said it was defending the right of the initiative, which is precious to the people and one which the courts are zealous to preserve to the fullest tenable measure of spirit as well as letter. The ruling said the court concluded that none of the three initiatives is legally insufficient and that all three should be placed on the ballot. Dissenting judges agreed with the Secretary of State that the initiative violated the single-subject requirement.
Called the Keep the Money in Nebraska proposal, it was sponsored by Ho-Chunk Inc., the Winnebago Tribe’s economic development corporation, in partnership with the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Omaha Exposition and Racing.
Racetracks operate in or near Omaha, Lincoln, South Sioux City, Grand Island, Hastings and Columbus. Expanded gambling at racetracks has been touted for years by various lawmakers as a way to save horse racing in Nebraska.
Pay attention: The property tax angle is a new, but apparently popular twist. What has been overlooked is the fact that new tracks could spring up—how many do we really need?—and the measure could allow Indian casinos a foot in the door. The proposal is expected to trigger a major advertising effort by both supporters and opponents with opposition led by Gambling with the Good Life, an organization that has successfully resisted previous expansion of gambling options in the state.
The high court also upheld the Lancaster County District Court that said the language used in the payday lenders ballot title was both “sufficient” and “fair.”
A Lincoln woman who operates a Paycheck Advance business sued Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and Evnen to stop the measure. She said by referring to “payday lenders” instead of “delayed deposit services
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