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A state senator wants to delineate what a state employee can and can't do politically.

The Hatch Act does that for federal employees, and for state and local government employees that are paid at least in part with federal funds. But it's not clear what is required of state employees, said Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell.

Thursday, he introduced a bill (LB1129) that would prohibit state employees from holding office in a political club or party, and a list of other political activities.

Kuehn said federal employees are clear on how they can engage in political activities, and his bill would clarify for Nebraska state employees how they can engage in the political process during the workday.

It's the third year he's introduced bills dealing with "ethical, transparent behavior," he said. Last year's bill focused on lobbying and legislative behavior during public hearings. Those bills are still sitting in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

This year he turned his focus to state employees. He says LB1129 was not motivated by any recent controversies involving University of Nebraska employees, including a confrontation between a graduate student lecturer and an undergraduate student recruiting for a conservative organization.

"It's a broader discussion about what does the public expects of state employees when they're on state employee time. Should they be engaged in electioneering? Should they be engaged in political activities?" Kuehn said.

It's worth addressing to preserve the integrity and the public's trust in state government, he said.

The bill would restrict state employees, while on state time, or in their official capacity or using government resources, from:

  • Campaigning for or against a candidate, or making a campaign speech;
  • Collecting campaign contributions;
  • Selling tickets to a political fundraiser;
  • Developing or distributing campaign materials or communications;
  • Organizing or managing a political rally or meeting;
  • Circulating petitions for a candidate or a ballot initiative;
  • Working to register voters for one party only;
  • Using any digital medium to communicate about party politics, a candidate for office, or a ballot initiative unless required in the performance of his or her official duties;
  • Wearing political buttons.

The state Attorney General would investigate and prosecute any violations, which could result in a Class I misdemeanor or firing of the employee.


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