OPINION NUMBER - 022
ADOPTED - 1978/09/13
SUBJECT - Statement of Financial Interests; Preceding calendar year; Effective date of the Act.
REQUESTED BY: Roy Hahn, Attorney At Law
QUESTION: Does the Statement of Financial Interests required for the preceding calendar year pursuant to the provisions of section 49-1493, R.S.Supp., 1976, apply to the whole of the calendar year 1977 or just from the effective date of the Act, to wit: July 1,1977, to December 31, 1977?
The requirement of filing a Statement of Financial Interests for the preceding calendar year applies to the whole of the calendar year 1977 even though the Act did not become effective until July 1, 1977.
Pursuant to letter dated June 26, 1978, Mr. Hahn as attorney for Russell Hodge requests an advisory opinion as indicated above. Mr. Hodge is one of the members of the Planning Commission of Scotts Bluff County. He filed a Statement of Financial Interests on or before April 1, 1978, reporting for the period of July 1, 1977 to December 31, 1977.
It is conceded that the general law is that a legislative act will operate only prospectively and not retrospectively, unless the legislative intent and purpose that it should operate retrospectively is clearly disclosed. School District of Omaha v. Adams, 151 NEB. 741. It is the position of the Commission that the legislative intent and purpose that it should operate retrospectively is clearly disclosed.
A retrospective or retroactive law is one which takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws or creates a new obligation, imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability with respect to transactions and considerations already past. 82 C.J.S. Section 412 p. 980. However, a statute does not operate retroactively merely because it relates to antecedent events, or because part of the requisites of its action is drawn from time antecedent to its passing, but is retroactive only when it is applied to rights acquired prior to its enacement. 82 C.J.S. p.980. The situation confronting us in this request for advisory opinion is that the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act did not become effective until July 1, 1977 and therefore did not apply to persons required to file annual Statements of Financial Interests unless they were in office on April 1, 1978 (See Advisory Opinion #3). It is our contention that the effective date of the Act determines to whom the Act applies and when it applies, all of which establishes the obligation to file under the Act regardless of the fact that such obligation then requires referring or dealing with past events, namely making 1977 (the preceding calendar year) transactions subject to disclosure.
The situation is analogous to enactment or amendment of tax laws which become effective as far as the obligation to report or file is concerned during or after the end of a fiscal or calendar year but nevertheless apply to the income and expense transactions of the whole of the past reporting period.
As far as vested rights or affecting rights acquired prior to the effective date of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act are concerned, the Act does not provide for disqualifing a person who fails to file an annual Statement of Financial Interests for the prior calendar year from continuing to hold his office nor does it impose additional qualifications for the holding of such office. Compare Labor's Education and Political Club - Independent v. Danforth, Supreme Court of Missouri, No. 59806, decided December 19, 1977.