Measure to hike Nebraska minimum wage appears ready to qualify for November ballot

Meanwhile, effort to allow vote to legalize medical marijuana faces ‘potential failure’

By: - July 1, 2022 3:12 pm
Person signs petition

Nebraskan signs petition for a ballot initiative. (Courtesy of Rebecca S. Gratz)

LINCOLN — With a deadline looming, one Nebraska initiative petition drive appears poised to qualify for the November ballot, while another, to legalize medical cannabis, is facing “potential failure.”

Thursday is the deadline for turning in signatures for ballot initiatives to qualify for the general election.

On Friday, Raise the Wage Nebraska announced that it plans to turn in more than 130,000 signatures next week toward a requirement of submitting 87,500 signatures of valid Nebraska voters. The effort, according to a spokeswoman, is on track to submit enough signatures from 38 of the state’s 93 counties.

The initiative, if it qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters, would raise Nebraska’s minimum wage to $15-an-hour by 2026.

What we’re hearing from people is that this is very needed,” said Kate Wolfe, a spokeswoman for the Raise the Wage group.

She added that the proposal takes a “very common sense” approach,” by raising the minimum wage gradually to $15-an-hour.

Wolfe said that her organization used paid circulators, as well as some volunteers, to collect signatures. 

Medical marijuana
Parents of these children, who suffer from epileptic seizures, have pleaded for Nebraskans to seek out and sign petitions legalizing medical marijuana. Pictured, from left, Colton Eggers, Jayen Hochstein and Will Gillen. (Courtesy of Crista Eggers)

That is unlike the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana which, due to the loss of major donors, relied mainly on volunteers to reach voters.

On Friday, the legalize medical cannabis group put out a plea for “tens of thousands” of Nebraskans to sign their petition this weekend, or the effort will face “potential failure.”

“I can not be more clear. We have not reached the threshold we need,” said Crista Eggers, campaign manager for Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana and the mother of a boy who suffers from “drug resistant” epileptic seizures.

Sen. wishart
State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln
(Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, a lead organizer of the medical marijuana effort, said that circulators will be present at every 4th of July event this weekend, in search of more signatures.

“But we need everyone who cares to rally together, find a circulator or store carrying petitions and allow the people to vote on what the politicians have failed to accomplish,” Wishart said.

Eggers added that dozens of stores across Nebraska also have petitions to sign. Access the website for information.

In general, such signature drives seek to submit many thousands more signatures than required, as some might be disqualified because the signer might not be a registered voter or doesn’t live in the state.

Under the minimum wage proposal, the state’s minimum wage would increase from the current $9 per hour to $10.50 in 2023, then to $12 in 2024, $13.50 in 2025, and to $15 an hour in 2026.

Nebraska voters approved a ballot initiative that raised the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour, effective in 2016.

Two years ago, an initiative to legalize medical marijuana gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot. But the Nebraska Supreme Court tossed it off the ballot, after ruling that it violated the state’s law that such initiative contain only one subject. This year’s initiative is divided across two petitions.


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.