With the legislative process in full swing, mornings are spent on the floor debating bills that have come out of early committee work.

Most are just technical changes to existing laws. For example, the Education Committee has sent out three bills. One, LB 115 by Sen. Carol Blood, whose district includes Offutt Air Force Base, eased the early school enrollment requirements for children of military personal who are being transferred to Nebraska for duty.

It only affects a few military families, but to them, it is a frustrating hurdle to clear as they prepare to move to Nebraska.

LB 66 was the first bill debated on the floor this year that met resistance and was eventually killed.

LB 66 would have required any city with a population of more than 800 citizens to include in its city’s comprehensive plan an early childhood element, to assess the availability of quality early childhood education, health and child care to residents.

I spoke against the legislation because it was another mandate to local governments. A town does not have the personnel to do such an evaluation and would be forced to use your tax dollars to hire a consultant to do the study for them.

We already have plenty of existing programs that are tied to receiving certain federal and state tax dollars for early childhood programs, available in areas of education and health and human services.

City councils have enough on their hands to worry about, filling pot holes and meeting zoning regulations. They don’t need to worry if Mom and Dad are capable of managing the early years of their child’s development.

 

Ernie Chambers

Sen. Ernie Chambers took offense at the defeat of LB 66 and we found ourselves in an unlucky position. Our bill, LB 63, just happened to be the following bill. Therefore, he proceeded to filibuster a bill that he basically found no fault with.

After every election, Sen. Chambers puts on a clinic for the new freshman members on his mastery of legislative rules. In some ways, his antics serve the body well. He does educate the freshmen and refresh the memory of incumbent senators on the proper way to run a filibuster, and more importantly, he slows down the process and actually unites the body on an issue.

By the time he is done, everyone on both sides of the political aisle is mad at him. Sen. Chambers has made it clear that he literally stands alone (in 45 years he has never sat in his assigned chair, he always stands) and he does not seek or need friends or political allies. He is a rare individual who can do it and do it well, even at the age of 82.

I will say that I used to think the longest five minutes I ever spent was the five minutes before I asked my wife to marry me, but 34 years later, I have come to understand I was wrong. The longest five minutes in the world is the proceeding five minutes after Sen. Chambers hits his light for the third time to address the body.

 

Fire districts

Nevertheless, after three hours of political pontificating, LB 63 was passed to Select File, 41-0. As I mentioned last week in the column, LB 63 is a simple local control and property tax relief effort concerning rural fire districts.

 

Teacher/student protection

Next Monday, Feb. 11, what we refer to as our teacher/student protection act, LB 147, will have its hearing in the Education Committee. The bill gives teachers a tool to better control the overall behavioral climate in their classrooms and gives administrators and teachers guidance to address student behavior directly with parents and students.

 

Foundation aid

Next Tuesday, LB 695, our attempt at long term property tax relief through a fix of the state’s school funding formula (TEEOSA), will have its hearing in the Education Committee. The bill would create a reliable state aid source through the creation of public school foundation aid for each student.

The source of the foundation aid would be based on 25% of the state’s total income and sales tax receipts.

The road to success on any major legislation is long and tedious. We see a path forward for property tax relief, but there will be bumps and branches to clear before we get there.

 

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.