2021 Direct Democracy Symposium

2021 Lane Lecture & Direct Democracy Symposium

Sponsored by the Winthrop and Frances Lane Foundation and the Nebraska College of Law


Nebraska State Capitol Building

November 12, 2021

Lane Lecture - Judge Jeffrey Sutton 

Judge Sutton is the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and a renowned author on state constitutional law.  He discussed his newest book: Who Decides? States as Laboratories of Constitutional Experimentation.  To view the recording, please visit this link or view it below.


November 13, 2021

Symposium - Direct Democracy: From Theory to Practice

Below, you will find the agenda with hyperlinks to speaker biographies.  Symposium materials are available at a link on the right side of this page.

The entire symposium was recorded and is available for viewing at this link or below.


The reason for this is symposium is Nebraska’s experience with our direct-democracy provisions, found in our state constitution.  While the main culprit of our recent angst is the single-subject rule, this is but a piece of a larger puzzle related to the role of direct-democracy provisions in state government.

Opening Remarks
Panel 1 – Theory (1 hour)

This panel discussed the broad interests at stake with direct-democracy provisions.  Often they act as a means of keeping the three branches in check.  Their use, theoretically, reflects a disconnect between public sentiment and representative outcomes.  Sometimes this involves the creation of majoritarian rights, expansions of prior limits on government power, and guarding against capture in the legislative branch.

Panel 2 – Substance (1 hour)

This panel discussed the standards associated with direct-democracy provisions.  The single-subject rule is one example, as well as petition requirements, presentation parameters, and other provisions in state constitutions that set the parameters of direct-democracy efforts.  These, of course, are evidence of these provisions' theoretical underpinnings.  But these aspects of the provisions tend toward the goal of implementing those underpinnings.  Judicial doctrine is also highly relevant here as well, much of which constitutes interpretation.

Panel 3 – Process (1 hour)

This is the “who decides” part of the discussion.  Attorneys General, Secretaries of State, the Judiciary, and the Legislature all may have decision-making authority with regard to compliance with the substantive parameters of direct-democracy provisions.  They each also present different institutional attributes that may or may not be appropriate to the tasks assigned to them.

Panel 4 – Nebraska Roundtable (1 hour)

Here, the discussion originates from a group of interested stakeholders who listened to the day’s discussions and read the papers with an eye toward what we have done and what we could do in Nebraska.  In this discussion, the prior panel participants become an audience, learning about Nebraska's experience.

Symposium Issue of the Nebraska Law Review

Issue 1, Volume 101, included the articles from this symposium.  It can be acceed here:  Symposium Issue