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This week’s column was penned by Senator Groene’s Legislative Aide, Tim Erickson.
LB478, advanced to Select File, which is our bill that allows productive citizens who have been convicted of a felony in their past to possess archery equipment. The Game and Parks Department has had a policy of issuing archery hunting permits to individuals who have a past felony conviction. A recent Nebraska Supreme Court case cast doubts on the legality of felons owning bows and arrows and using a knife with a blade over 3 ½” long to process game. LB478 also allows felons to own hunting knives if they possess a hunting license. The bill was advanced unanimously on a 25-0 vote. It is a Speaker Priority Bill and will have a great chance at passage this session.
Our horse massage bill, LB596, was voted out of committee and onto General File last Thursday. We discovered that in the world of horse enthusiasts, horse massage is a common practice to keep competitive livestock at the top of their game, no different than a professional athlete. We found that because of the onerous requirements Nebraska has set, there is not one single licensed equine massage therapist in Nebraska. We introduced LB596 to exempt equine massage therapy from the list of animal therapies that must be licensed under the Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Practice Act. The bill advanced with a 4-0 vote with 3 not voting.
Next week will be tremendously busy for our office. Tentatively, the speaker has let us know that we will start off Tuesday morning with LB640. This is our property tax relief proposal which Senator Friesen selected as his priority bill. The goal of LB640 is to put tax equity back into the “Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act” (TEEOSA). The final amended version of the bill will cap local property tax support of school districts at 55% and lowers the maximum school general fund levy from 1.05 to .987. It shifts back to the state its constitutional responsibility to financially support public schools. Because LB640 caps the local property tax effort at 55% of revenues, it will take away the negative effect property valuation increases have had on your property taxes due to the injustice in the present TEEOSA formula.
On Wednesday, we may start the day with LB409; this is legislation that has to pass for schools to receive the State Aid to Education formula (TEEOSA) to match the Appropriations Committee’s proposed $1 billion State Aid to public schools. Although it is an increase of $20 million over last year, it is below the formula’s expected $67 million increases. It is not a simple task to fairly adjust a flawed TEEOSA formula. Although some want to hold the bill hostage in order to fund schools with an even larger increase when others are taking a cut, this bill as it has been amended is the prudent thing to do.
LB595, will also be on General File debate within the next few weeks. LB595 has been amended after prolonged conversations with all the parties involved. The bill was amended from its original form to clarify that the teacher or administrator is only protected from legal action or administrative discipline if their conduct was reasonable and that penalties still exist for those that abuse their authority. It provides for a common sense approach to address student behavior that is violent to him or herself or to others. It also provides a process for the return to the classroom for the student. It makes sure that the student is allowed to be returned to the teacher’s classroom without the teacher’s consent if required pursuant to the Special Education Act or the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Students can also be returned after a conference between the parents or legal guardians, principal, and teacher to address the student’s behavior. LB595 enforces learning in a classroom; not only does it allow learning to happen, it allows teachers to instruct students that there are behavior boundaries that all citizens should follow. It’s a common-sense approach. We’re working with all parties to make this work for everyone involved.