In the last weeks of each legislative session, senators introduce Legislative Resolutions (LRs), suggesting interim studies on topics of interest to them.

The suggestions are sorted by the Executive Committee and assigned to the appropriate committee for consideration. They are meant to lead to legislative bills the following year.

The committee chair can choose which, if any, of those studies the committee will take up. If an LR is not selected by the committee, the sponsoring senator of the LR is free to have their staff do a study, in-house.

LRs involve senators’ time, taxpayer costs for travel and meals, and committee staff time for research and planning to make sure those knowledgeable in the subject are invited to testify.

You may recall the Urban Affairs Committee held one of their hearings in North Platte last year on Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Those hearings led to Committee Chairman Justin Wayne’s LB 874. I co-signed that bill. The legislation passed and new statutes were created giving clearer instructions to city councils on guidelines for TIF projects.

This year, 13 LRs have been assigned to the Education Committee.

Topics include the student option enrollment program, Student Discipline Act, school violence, anti-bullying policies and early childhood education.

As chairman of the committee, with the help of the committee staff, I must decide which topics meet the requirement of addressing a pressing issue that necessitates more research, over and above that which is covered during committee hearings after legislation is normally introduced during the session.

 

Teachers

So far, we have selected Sen. Tony Vargas’ LR 452, examining alternative teacher certification programs.

In Nebraska, we have a shortage of teachers in certain academic areas, and in rural Nebraska, we have a hard time getting young teachers to move to the country.

The goal is to draw to the teaching profession individuals who hold college degrees that have pursued other careers but may be looking at a career change and have a passion to teach.

Last session, Vargas introduced related legislation (LB 1135), based on his experience in a program he was enrolled in as a teacher in the state of New York.

During the Education Committee hearing on the bill, there was confusion as to what the current Department of Education requirements are, and what additional college coursework is required.

The ultimate goal is to make it easier for individuals with real-world experience to transition into the classroom.

 

State aid to schools

We are also pursuing an interim study on the funding side of the Tax Equity Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA). Along with committee members, I plan to invite to the conversation senators outside of the committee who have in the past shown interest in the subject, or have introduced unsuccessful TEEOSA bills.

No matter where you seek the answer for Nebraska’s high property taxes, you have to first look at how we fund our schools. No less than 50% and as high as 70% of each Nebraskan’s property taxes go toward public education. Over time, the present formula is by design set up to shift school funding from income and sales taxes to property taxes. That flaw needs to be fixed if we are to address long-term property tax relief.

 

NCORPE

Outside of the Education Committee, I introduced LR 463, an interim study to examine statutes related to augmentation projects in relationship to NCORPE. During the Natural Resources Committee hearing on our LB 1123 (to clarify that the NCORPE land could be sold while the NRDs involved could continue their river augmentation projects), it became obvious that there was much misinformation circulating about the issue that distracted from the legislation.

Sen. Dan Hughes, the Natural Resources Committee Chairman, has agreed to take up the issue.

The goal is to stop the fear mongering, define the truth of existing statutes, allow for the voluntary sale of the land, lower the occupation tax burden on irrigated farm and, at the end of the process, get everybody who is interested in protecting irrigated farming through better management of our limited groundwater resources to be on the same page for future actions.

After everything, my end goal is that Sen. Hughes and I agree on a legislative solution.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: [email protected] or 402-471-2729.