Nebraska State Constitution Article III-3

Article III-3


Second power reserved; referendum.

The second power reserved is the referendum which may be invoked, by petition, against any act or part of an act of the Legislature, except those making appropriations for the expense of the state government or a state institution existing at the time of the passage of such act. Petitions invoking the referendum shall be signed by not less than five percent of the registered voters of the state, distributed as required for initiative petitions, and filed in the office of the Secretary of State within ninety days after the Legislature at which the act sought to be referred was passed shall have adjourned sine die or for more than ninety days. Each such petition shall set out the title of the act against which the referendum is invoked and, in addition thereto, when only a portion of the act is sought to be referred, the number of the section or sections or portion of sections of the act designating such portion. No more than one act or portion of an act of the Legislature shall be the subject of each referendum petition. When the referendum is thus invoked, the Secretary of State shall refer the same to the electors for approval or rejection at the first general election to be held not less than thirty days after the filing of such petition.

When the referendum is invoked as to any act or part of act, other than emergency acts or those for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, by petition signed by not less than ten percent of the registered voters of the state distributed as aforesaid, it shall suspend the taking effect of such act or part of act until the same has been approved by the electors of the state.


  • Neb. Const. art. III, sec. 1B (1912);
  • Adopted 1912, Laws 1911, c. 223, sec. 2, p. 671;
  • Amended 1920, Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, No. 4;
  • Amended 1988, Laws 1988, LR 248, sec. 1;
  • Amended 1998, Laws 1997, LR 32CA, sec. 2.


Sponsors who obtain the signatures of more than 5 percent but less than 10 percent of Nebraska's registered voters on a referendum petition are not entitled to have the contested enactment suspended pending a referendum election. Pony Lake Sch. Dist. v. State Committee for Reorg., 271 Neb. 173, 710 N.W.2d 609 (2006).

This provision specifically reserves to the people the power of referendum and clearly defines the scope of that right and its limitations. Pony Lake Sch. Dist. v. State Committee for Reorg., 271 Neb. 173, 710 N.W.2d 609 (2006).

A funding provision in a bill providing for future contributions to a public school support trust fund is not an appropriation bill and referendum may be invoked. Lawrence v. Beermann, 192 Neb. 507, 222 N.W.2d 809 (1974).

An act of the Legislature means a particular legislative bill which has been passed by the Legislature and approved by the Governor. Klosterman v. Marsh, 180 Neb. 506, 143 N.W.2d 744 (1966).

Taking effect of an emergency act is not suspended until the act has been voted upon by the electors. Read v. City of Scottsbluff, 179 Neb. 410, 138 N.W.2d 471 (1965).

Section has reference only to state legislation, and is not applicable to municipal legislation. Carlberg v. Metcalfe, 120 Neb. 481, 234 N.W. 87 (1930).

Provisions of this section, relating to referendum, have reference to acts of the Legislature only, and not to municipal legislation. Schroeder v. Zehrung, 108 Neb. 573, 188 N.W. 237 (1922).

Where the 10-percent signature requirement contained in this provision is not fulfilled, a referendum vote does not repeal a legislative bill retroactively so as to ameliorate the effects of the legislation while it was in effect. Haskell v. Madison Cty. Sch. Dist. No. 0001, 17 Neb. App. 669, 771 N.W.2d 156 (2009).

Federal district court would not abstain from deciding whether state banking statute was properly adopted by Nebraska Legislature where analysis of the applicable Nebraska case law left no doubt that such statute was invalid. Nebraskans for Independent Banking, Inc. v. Omaha Nat. Bank, 423 F.Supp. 519 (D. Neb. 1976).