Filibuster stops "clean slate" for tenants in Legislature

March 7, 2024, 5 p.m. ·

Senator Julie Slama debates Thursday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Sen. Julie Slama debates Thursday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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A filibuster in the Nebraska Legislature has blocked a proposal aimed at giving tenants a “clean slate” if eviction proceedings were started against them, but they were never evicted.

The eviction proposal by Sen. George Dungan, would have made it so that if a landlord started eviction proceedings against a tenant, but later dropped those proceedings, for example, if the tenant moved out, those proceedings would not remain part of the public record.

Dungan had originally proposed that should apply in every case. But in the face of opposition, he narrowed the bill to include only a one-time exemption. Dungan said the result was a bill that did not make sweeping changes.

“All it does is say that in the event that an eviction was brought against you, and ultimately the landlord made that decision to not pursue that action, it will not follow you on your record -- just one time,” Dungan said.

Leading the filibuster against the bill, Sen. Julie Slama called it an assault on landlords’ rights. Slama cast the choice in stark terms:

“It’s either you support private property rights or you don’t. It’s simple as that when it comes to LB175,” Slama said.

Sen. Rob Dover said even the proposed one-time exemption from records disclosure was too much, because it would hinder possible future landlords from knowing if a tenant had caused problems.

“All that we're doing is really hiding a problem, so that it can happen a second time. And then the second person is going to pay for it along with the first person that paid for it, because we hid it. It needs to be open for everyone to know and a public record,” Dover said.

Sen. John Cavanaugh said that landlords control the decisions on whether to move forward an eviction case.

“In the cases where it does get dismissed, or does not get filed, it's because the landlord has found it in their best interest to do that,” Cavanaugh said.

Sen. Mike Jacobson had some advice for tenants who he said were emailing with complaints that senators were defending landlords.

“Well then, go out and buy a house and rent it to somebody, and then you see how it works when you're on the other side of the fence,” Jacobson said.

When eight hours of debate spread over two days had expired, Dungan moved for cloture – that is, to cut off debate and vote on the bill itself. Cloture requires support from at least two-thirds of all senators, or 33 in the 49-member Legislature. Dungan received only 30, meaning the bill is dead for this year.

In other action Thursday, senators gave second-round approval to a bill requiring seed companies to report detasseling operations and opportunities to the state Department of Labor. Traditionally, detasseling operations were conducted by teenagers. But in recent years, more of the work has been done by immigrants on h2a visas.

Sen. Teresa Ibach said several developments have contributed to the trend.

“As we know, our seed companies are facing declining numbers of youth for detasseling for a number of reasons. We have fewer youth of appropriate age in greater Nebraska. Other more desirable jobs are available. And competition for school and sports activities in the fall make it challenging,” Ibach said.

And senators gave first round approval to a bill that would let the governor, not the board of trustees of the Nebraska State Historical Society, appoint its director.

Sponsoring Sen. Steve Erdman said change is needed because of financial scandals involving the society in recent decades. Sen. Danielle Conrad expressed concern that the change could lead to censorship, such as the society not participating in gay Pride Month celebrations.

Senators voted 27-1 first-round approval for the bill.

Senators are now off for a four-day weekend, and will resume work on Tuesday.