In week six of the 2024 Nebraska legislative session, Nebraska lawmakers continued discussion on LB 1339, a bill that would allow school districts to authorize employed security personnel, law enforcement and members of the U.S. Armed Forces to lawfully carry concealed handguns on school grounds.

Initially introduced on Jan. 17 by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, LB 1339 has garnered attention from both sides of the aisle in the Legislature as well as many Nebraskans and organizations. 

Speaking on behalf of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, Kyle McGowan testified against the bill Feb. 6.

“Safety is always part of our goal in schools and introducing deadly weapons into the building requires a whole other level of oversight and caution,” McGowan said.

Patricia Harrold, president of the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, a 501(c) 4 organization dedicated to protecting the right to bear arms,  testified in support of the bill. She said response times would be shorter if security had access to firearms instead of waiting for police. 

“Whether it’s recognizing the threat, calling 911, having the police arrive — that is a luxury of time that we cannot afford,” Harrold said.

Year-round school meals

The Nebraska Unicameral also saw the first-round approval of LB 285 and LB 358, both proposed by Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz. LB 285 would maximize participation in a federal program that allows public school districts with high poverty rates to offer all students free meals.

LB 358 would increase access to dental services for Nebraska Medicaid recipients. 

On Thursday, the Legislature passed LB 308, a bill sponsored by Sen. Eliot Bostar of Lincoln that would allow Nebraskans to have more control over the use of their genetic information. The bill would require consent from residents for direct-to-consumer genetic testing services to share, store and use any consumer genetic data. 

Senators passed the bill on a 43-0 vote. 

Opportunity scholarships

Earlier last week, the Appropriations Committee heard testimony on LB 1402, sponsored by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, which would provide millions of state dollars to fund private school scholarships. Those who testified in favor of the bill said that, if passed, it would allow parents to choose a school that matches their values and relieve the financial burden of paying for private school.

Those who opposed the bill said that passing LB 1402 now would be unfair to Nebraska voters who planned to use the referendum process in the November general elections later this year.

Other legislative committees heard testimony last week for many bills, such as LB 1178, which would incentivize the establishment of on-site intergenerational childcare in the state’s nursing homes. LB 143, a bill that would adopt a permanent daylight savings time, failed to advance.

By Ruth Bailey, Nebraska News Service, which is produced at the University of Nebraska school of journalism.

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