LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Public records show some Nebraska legislators have not been filing annual reports on their financial interests as required by the state.
NET News reports that in the 2015 filings, more than a dozen of the one-house Legislature’s 49 senators listed investment accounts with E-Trade or other financial firms, but not individual stocks, bonds or funds in the accounts.
Frank Daley, executive director of the state Accountability and Disclosure Commission, said the system depends on senators’ self-reporting.
“If there is a general misunderstanding out there as to what is required, I’ve got a concern. And if the information that is required to be disclosed by law is not being disclosed, then I have a concern,” Daley told NET News.
He told The Associated Press on Thursday that when something seems to be missing from reports, his office asks for more information and this usually solves the problem. State law barred him from saying whether any state official is under investigation, Daley said.
Jack Gould, of the government watchdog group Common Cause Nebraska, told NET News that the state requirements are toothless because, “technically, all (a senator) would have to do is identify the conflict of interest and then go ahead and vote or propose or whatever he wanted. We don’t have laws to prevent that kind of thing.”
But barring senators from voting if they have potential conflicts could be going too far, said Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, of Omaha.
“I think it really needs to be left up for that individual to respond, and then the public to judge whether or not that individual legislator made the right decision,” Nordquist said.
State Sen. Al Davis, of Hyannis, listed a handful of brokerage accounts last year. But this year, after conferring with the commission, he filed 61 pages detailing his holdings.
Among his interests he disclosed stock in NioCorp, a Canadian company that wants to mine a rare mineral, niobium, in southeast Nebraska. Niobium is used to harden steel and make it more heat-resistant.
Davis said he bought shares in November 2011 before being elected to the Legislature, and in January he introduced a bill for a severance tax on niobium. The National Congress of State Legislatures says severance taxes ensure that resource extraction costs - such as road construction and environmental protection - are paid by the producers.
NioCorp officials protested that the timing of the legislation could stall or even kill the project. NioCorp has been seeking $900 million in investor financing to construct the mining operation.
Davis pulled the bill, he said, only after NioCorp said it wouldn’t object to such a tax in the future.
“If I had a conflict, I put a bill in place which was going to tax my investment,” Davis said. “So I was working against myself.”