- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Those who protested the issuing of a liquor license to a Lincoln movie theater this year are now protesting the bill they’ve received for the protest hearing.

Deb Hicks and Cathy Heimer of Lincoln were among six people who testified in opposition to the theater’s liquor license request at a special hearing in April that was triggered by the group’s protest letters, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/1z9Vwqe ) Saturday. The commissioners approved the theater’s liquor license following the hearing, saying they could find no legal reason not to.

About a month later, the commission sent the protesters notice that they needed to pay a $25 fee to cover the cost of the hearing. The commission is now threatening to turn the issue over to its legal division if the fee is not paid in the coming days.

Hicks and Heimer say they can afford it, but argue they shouldn’t have to pay to voice their opinion on a community issue.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Hicks said. “Here’s my concern: That people who don’t have money can’t voice their opinion.”

But Commission Executive Director Hobert Rupe said state law allows for billing protesters for the cost of the hearing if they are unsuccessful in getting a license denied. The fee covers the cost for the hearing reporter, he said.

Rupe believes the commission is required to collect the fee under state law governing administrative procedures, saying, “I don’t have any discretion” in the matter.

His suggestion to the protesters is to take the matter up with the Nebraska Legislature, which created the state law.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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