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Last Wednesday, the first day of the session, I was honored to be re-elected as the Education Committee Chairman by my colleagues. Below is the main body of the nomination speech I gave before the vote.
“Over the last two years, the Education Committee successfully worked with the Appropriations Committee and the Governor to fit the needed changes to school funding into our budget. We worked to assure that our schools were treated equally and fairly: from Loup County, with 60 students; to our largest Omaha Public Schools, with 51,000 students. We plan on repeating that effort as we address the budget cycle that lies before us.
We worked with the Department of Education to assure their annual priority cleanup legislation was passed into law. We have established a good relationship, built on trust, with the Department and Commissioner Blomstedt.
We enacted into law the hard work of Senator Linehan, with the help of Senator Pansing Brooks, defining by statute the importance Nebraska citizens put in our children’s ability to read and read well. We hold the expectation that literacy must be the top priority of public education. For if one can read well and have the vocabulary to understand the written word, all knowledge is available to them.
We passed into law legislation that defined the necessity of early detection of students showing signs of dyslexia, a learning impairment which can be one of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of a student’s ability to reach their full potential, and we eliminated a growing abuse of early retirement payments by a few school boards.
Much more remains to be done. It is time for this body to fix the state school aid formula ‘Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act’ (TEEOSA). 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.’ We can no longer pass the majority of that duty off to the property taxpayers of Nebraska. Yes, local effort should be part of the funding, but local taxpayers should not be required to shoulder an undue burdensome share in any of our common schools.
To mend the urban-rural divide on this issue, we must make state funding truly equitable to all. As Chairman of the Education Committee, I will bring legislation that reflects the efforts during this past interim of an informal TEEOSA study group made up of 11 senators who had in the past showed a legislative interest in fixing TEEOSA. We can, and we must, work together to fix TEEOSA.
This year we need to update our American civics and social studies statutes to aid and guide the Department of Education as they update the social studies standards. We must emphasize to our schools that our children understand that freedom is not free; to maintain it, they must understand the sacrifices of the Americans who came before them. They must be informed of their civic duties.
I will continue to pursue legislation to empower our teachers with the ability to protect themselves and our children from violence in the classroom and to enable our teachers to be in charge of the learning atmosphere in their classrooms. We expect much from our teachers, some may say too much, but they are on the frontlines of the cultural changes in our society. We must reemphasize to teachers they have the support of the citizens of Nebraska and give them the tools to help instill within our children behavioral boundaries.
The citizens of Nebraska expect this body to be successful as we address these issues. I am willing to help lead the efforts as your Chairman of the Education Committee. Your vote of support will be humbly appreciated.”
I was re-elected on a 26 to 20 vote. Now the work begins.
Contact Sen. Mike Groene: email@example.com or 402-471-2729
Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 42nd legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Mike Groene
Since the election, I have purposely avoided writing columns. I feel we all needed a little time away from the political stench of the elections and there was no need to write, just to be writing. My hope is that most of us have more important things to consider besides the grind of politics during the holiday season. This Christmas season, Barb and I watched the new Christopher Robin movie with our granddaughter. In it the fictional children’s philosopher Winnie the Pooh made profound statements that struck true to me. The words of the writer were to the effect that, sometimes doing something is doing nothing and sometimes doing nothing is doing something. I chose to do nothing in the line of redundant writing until something of import happened that needed to be discussed.
We’re now just a few days short of commencing the 106th Legislature, First Session on January 9th with the swearing in of 26 recently elected senators of which 13 are incumbent, 11 are newly elected and 2 are Governor Appointees. During the first days of the session we will also elect the Speaker of the Legislature and Committee Chairs; I again am running for Education. I have had no complaints from colleagues as to the way we managed the committee last year or about the accomplishments that came from committee actions. I am proceeding under the belief that I will be elected again to the position, but with term limits and the resulting 13 new senators plus the political reality that personal feelings, pressure from the lobby and partisanship play a part in the outcomes of democratic government, we understand there is no guarantee that the person with the necessary ability and experience always wins.
That said: On the Education front, we are moving forward with legislation to fix our over-reliance on property taxes to fund our schools. The bill’s content is based on what we learned through our TEEOSA study group. We are also introducing a revised version of last session’s Classroom Discipline bill, to empower teachers to legally protect themselves and students from violence and to enable them to create a better classroom climate. We are also bringing a revised version of last session’s American civics bill. An update of the present 1940’s Americanism statutes is needed more now than ever as we continue to watch the deterioration of America’s civility. We owe it to our children to inform them that freedom and rights have a cost, to teach them of the sacrifices of those who came before them and that they have a civic duty to be informed and involved in government.
My office is continuing to pursue clearly defining in statute that NCORPE can sell the land and continue to operate the augmentation project. It’s hard for me to convince my urban colleagues that we need property tax relief in rural Nebraska when they see the total waste and disrespect of tax dollars being expended on unnecessary land purchases where $50 million or more could be saved if only all parties involved would work together to make the land sale happen.
Other areas of legislation we are pursuing:
— Legislation to increase transparency in our open meetings statutes.
— Legislation to eliminate a burdensome and costly electrician code on underground boring.
— Easing rural fire department tax levy requirements when involved in mutual funding agreements.
— Legislation brought to us by Sheriff Kramer to alleviate burdensome occupational regulations on operating lie-detector devices that add unnecessary cost to police departments.
One of the truths I have learned at the Capitol is that the folks who pay their taxes and act as good public servants are often too busy with their work and family to be in Lincoln to present their views, but those who spend or profit from your tax-dollars are in full force, lobbying to keep your taxes flowing to them and, of course, wanting more. As we go into the New Year and the new legislative session, you can expect me to be vigilant for the threats that could grossly expand the State government or abuse your dollars in the system, but that’s not a new resolution for me.
Contact Sen. Mike Groene: firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2729.
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