Lincoln's City Council unanimously banned profiteering from and price gouging of items like food, cleaning products and other essential items during times of emergency Monday.
Councilman James Michael Bowers didn't offer specific examples of profiteering happening in Lincoln, but he and other council members heard from several people concerned about the scarcity of items and shortages of protective equipment and cleaning supplies.
Under Bowers' proposal, Lincoln police have the power to issue tickets to sellers suspected to have unreasonably marked up food, water, building materials or cleaning supplies during an emergency.
And the city attorney can seek a court order blocking further sales and compelling compliance with the ordinance, under Bowers' proposal.
If Omaha can have a city ordinance outlawing ticket scalping, Lincoln should have a law banning this kind of profiteering of vital items during an emergency, he said.
The Nebraska Attorney General's Office investigates complaints of price gouging by businesses, and to date, it has not taken legal action against any businesses for suspected profiteering.
Violating Bowers' ordinance would be akin to a speeding ticket in Lincoln, and each day a price-gouged item remained for sale would be considered a new offense.
No one testified in opposition to the ordinance at a public hearing last week.
The council voted 5-0 to pass the ordinance with Councilmen Roy Christensen and Bennie Shobe not participating in the virtual meeting.
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