Sen. Mike Groene retained his position on Wednesday as chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee.
Groene fended off a challenge from Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski to be re-elected by the senators.
He said he will introduce legislation this session that is the work of an informal group of senators who met last interim with the goal of reducing the state school aid formula’s reliance on property taxes.
“It is time for this body to fulfill the promise of our state constitution that the Legislature shall provide for the free instruction in the common schools of this state,” he said. “We can no longer pass the majority of that duty off to the overburdened property taxpayers of Nebraska.”
Wednesday was the opening day of the session, when committee chairs are elected by the body, and committee members are assigned by the 13-member Committee on Committees. Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha is the chairman of the Committee on Committees. He withstood a challenge from Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman.
The committee appointments are submitted to the full Legislature for approval.
Other senators appointed, but not yet confirmed, on the education committee are Brewer, Kolowski, Linehan, Morfeld, Murman, Pansing Brooks and Walz.
Groene has been appointed to the revenue committee, a seat that he said he wanted during the campaign.
Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn will chair the revenue committee. She defeated a challenge by Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom.
Linehan and Groene appear to work well together. They teamed up a year ago on a bill to require third-grade students to be proficient in reading.
As the revenue committee chairwoman, Linehan said she intends to focus on reducing property taxes on farmers, businesses and homeowners and ensure that the state’s tax system works for all sectors.
“We want to encourage young people, retirees, veterans and businesses to stay and grow in Nebraska,” she said. “We also must fund the essential services that our citizens need and deserve and expect.”
Jim Scheer was re-elected the speaker. He told lawmakers that he would continue to act with fairness and consistency during his second two-year term as speaker.
“I will always remember — and have remembered — that you are electing me to serve you,” he said. “I do so with humility and integrity.”
Here are the other committee chairs for this year’s Legislature:
Agriculture – Steve Halloran
Appropriations – John Stinner
Banking, Commerce and Insurance – Matt Williams
Business and Labor – Matt Hansen
General Affairs – Tom Briese
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs – Tom Brewer
Health and Human Services – Sara Howard
Judiciary – Steve Lathrop
Natural Resources – Dan Hughes
Nebraska Retirement Systems – Mark Kolterman
Transportation and Telecommunications – Curt Friesen
Urban Affairs – Justin Wayne
Executive Board of the Legislature – Hilgers (Chair), Vargas (Vice-Chair)
Executive Board Members: First District: Kate Bolz & Mark Kolterman. Second District: Ernie Chambers & John McCollister. Third District: Dan Hughes & John Lowe.
Senators reconvene Jan. 10 at 10 a.m. They may introduce bills for the first 10 legislative days, or through Jan. 23.
(The Legislative Update, the official news publication of the Legislature, contributed to this report.)