Gender Options on Driver's Licenses, More Disclosure of Incentives Proposed

Feb. 26, 2021, 5:30 p.m. ·

Sen. Megan Hunt tesifies Friday (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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Nebraskans would not have to specify their gender on driver’s licenses or other forms of ID, under a bill heard in the Legislature Friday. And a proposal to disclose more information on tax incentives got a public hearing.

Sen. Megan Hunt is the sponsor of legislation to change the requirement that people be identified by gender on their drivers licenses or other forms of identification. Under her proposal, people would have the option of being listed as “m” for male, “f” for female, or “x” for unspecified. Hunt said the issue has real world implications.

“It is essential and it is important to me that transgender and nonbinary Nebraskans have ID documents that are official that accurately reflect their name and gender. The ability to change a person’s documentation to match their identity can have a significant impact on all other aspects of a person’s life, including employment, marriage, insurance rights, their ability to get health care, social services, education. All is this stuff is dependent on your ID,” Hunt said.

Hunt said 19 other states currently have similar policies. The Council of State Governments says those states include Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota and Indiana.

Hunt’s proposal drew several supporters, including ACLU Nebraska. It was opposed by Marion Miner of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. He objected to a section of the proposal that would also let people change their gender on their birth certificate by having a health professional certify that the person wanted to change their sex designation. Current law requires certification that they’ve had sex reassignment surgery.

Miner said the proposal could hurt women, because, for example, the Nebraska School Activities Association allows students to participate in sports based on what’s listed on their birth certificate. Sen. Julie Slama talked to Miner about that.

“The way that it’s currently written I could – envisioning myself as a 16 year old man – go to my mental health professional or to a physician and say ‘I would like to change my gender.’ That would suffice to have my birth certificate be changed,” Slama said.

“Correct,” Miner said.

“And that would lead to consequences like participation in girls’ sports, that type of thing,” Slama added.

“Right,” Miner said.

Miner said that has already happened in Connecticut, leading Sen. Wendy DeBoer to question how widespread such problems would be.

“Two boys have broken 16 different state records in girls’ track and field. And that’s kept girls obviously off the podium and has cost some of them presumably the chance of getting college scholarships,” Miner said.

“Do we think this is going to be a big problem?” DeBoer asked.

“Potentially—if you allow for this to happen,” Miner replied.

Hunt discounted that possibility.

“Not a lot of people actually want to do this. I mean, there was a concern about, you know, 16-year old male soccer players trying to get on the girl’s soccer team so they could take state or whatever. Like, show me a 16-year old boy who wants to change his gender to win a trophy for school,” she said.

Hunt concluded arguing her bill would not change how people think, but would help those affected.

“This will matter a great deal to the people it affects. Everyone else, it won’t affect your life at all. This is a compassionate bill and it’s a way we can signal to the rest of the country that Nebraska is not a discriminatory place,” she said.

The Judiciary Committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Also Friday, the Revenue Committee heard a proposal by Sen. Tom Brandt that would require companies that get tax incentives from the state to disclose more information. Brandt said currently, under the state’s biggest incentive program, benefits received by each company are reported as one number every two years. His bill would require a yearly breakdown of credits earned and used, a breakdown of whether those were for jobs or investments, and a listing of sales tax refunds.

Brandt said the state will forego over $2 billion in taxes due to incentives over the next 10 years, and taxpayers have a right to know how that money is being spent.

Chad Denton opposed the bill on behalf of the Omaha, Lincoln and state chambers of commerce. Denton said the detailed disclosures required by the bill raise serious concerns about outsiders being able to figure out company finances. Sen. Mike Flood asked about those concerns.

“Do you worry about other businesses being able to tell if their competitor -- what percentage of the market (it) has?” Flood asked.

“Yeah. I think there’s lots of lookers. I mean it could be as easy as the salesman wanting to know what the budget was. But if I think of an industry with a lot of locations, if I can track their investment credits, I can track their cap ex per year so I’ll know what that facility was spending for however many years this is reported. So I think it’s competitor, I think it’s vendor, I think there’s a lot of information out there,” Denton said.

Brandt, who’s a farmer, had a simple response.

“Don’t take the money if you don’t want to be on a public report. I look around this committee and I see one, two, three farmers and probably somebody that owns farm ground. And any of us that go to the FSA office, within one dollar by this evening I could find out how much government money you’ve all gotten,” Brandt said.

The Revenue Committee took no immediate action.

Also Friday, the state’s Economic Forecasting Advisory Board raised its estimates for how much tax revenue the state will collect for this and the next two fiscal years. Previously, that three-year total had been estimated at just under $15.5 billion; Friday, the board raised that by just shy of $500 million, or about three percent.

The Legislature uses those estimates in setting the state budget, meaning lawmakers will have a little more wiggle room in evaluating competing proposals this year.