Nebraska Legislature Halfway Complete, Senator Albrecht District 17 Weekly Update

WAYNE – As the second session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature moves past the halfway point for the year, District 17 Senator Joni Albrecht has noticed a unique set of challenges that come with a shorter session.

According to the weekly release from Senator Albrecht, any unfinished business from last year as well as the new proposed legislation working through the system presents its challenges for senators to get everything heard and out of committee and onto the floor for debate. Day 32 of the session is scheduled for Friday, February 25.

Senator Albrecht stated she is proud of her colleagues for their hard work on extremely important legislation that is being heard at the Capitol.

Topics being addressed among the weekly release included income and corporate tax relief, state board of education bill, academic transparency bill and the Nebraska AG Youth Institute.

Every year the Revenue Committee works on tax reform to address the three legged stool of income tax, property tax and sales tax. Earlier this month, Senators have heard a great deal about reducing income tax and corporate tax to be more in line with other states in the country.

Senator Albrecht said, “I wholeheartedly believe that if we want youth to stay and companies to be attracted to Nebraska, we have to get the taxes that affect them the most to be lowered. Senator Linehan has introduced LB939 which would gradually lower our top income tax rate from 6.84% to 5.84%. Some have tried to brand this as a tax cut for the wealthy. The truth is that this relief would be available to all Nebraskans with a taxable income of $32,210 a year, or families with a taxable income of $64,430 a year. We must also recognize that our income tax rates are not competitive within the region. The only state around us with a higher income tax rate is Iowa, and they’re considering major income tax cuts this year that will usher in rates well below Nebraska’s. To grow Nebraska, we must follow the trend of lowering income tax rates. We want our kids and grandkids to stay here in the Good Life.”

Senator Albrecht stated that a competitive tax climate will help keep children and families in Nebraska. Without action, the state risks being an outlier in the region for their high tax rates.

Earlier in the month, Senator Albrecht presented LB768 to the Education Committee. The State Board of Education bill would remove the word “comprehensive” in section 79-712 from the health education program and prohibit the State Board of Education from developing, approving, distributing, adopting or promulgating any academic content standards in a new content area that is not explicitly authorized in Nebraska statute

Senator Albrecht then provided a little background as in 2000 the Unicameral gave the State Board of Education and the Nebraska Board of Education a legislative mandate to develop measurable standards for core subjects.

“Over the past decade, the State Board of Education and the Nebraska Department of Education have expanded their reach into non-core subjects, which was fine until last year when they created a Health Education Standard that introduced a tremendous amount of controversial content.”

“The Health Education Standards have created a crisis of confidence in the State Board of Education and our Department of Education. An overwhelming number of Nebraska parents, grandparents, teachers and others from all corners of the state are standing in opposition to this content. They are now mobilized, and showing up by the hundreds at every State Board of Education and local school board meetings since March of 2021.”

“The State Board of Education and the Department of Education stepped outside of their jurisdiction when they published a Health Education Standards draft that introduced such controversial content unrepresentative of the majority of Nebraskans.”

“All taxpayer funded agencies require transparency and oversight. Local control is set forth by our Founding Fathers and Nebraska has embraced this idea since it became a state. Local control is HOW we prevent another disaster like the proposed Health Educational Standards. Parents are the primary educators of their children. There is no purer form of local control than a parent/guardian directing their child’s education.”

“I think it is important for all Nebraskans to know that the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, in Article 7 says that the State Department of Education shall have general supervision and administration of the school system of the state and of such other activities as the Legislature may direct. It also says that the duties and powers of the State Board of Education shall be prescribed by the Legislature and that the Commissioner of Education shall have power and duties as the Legislature may direct. Clearly, in Nebraska, the State Board of Education, the Department of Education and the Commissioner of Education are all to be directed by the Legislature.”

“The Legislature’s job is clear, we should keep it short and simple- the State Board of Education, the Department of Education, along with the Commissioner should focus on improving the standards they have been authorized to formulate by the legislature and everything else should be returned to and be decided by the local schools. It is my belief that the corner has been turned, trust needs to be built. It is time to listen to our teachers, administrators and parents in our local districts their ideas about what is going on in our schools. The shortage of teachers is alarming. Teachers retiring early, substitutes are hard to come by and the number of college graduates selecting a career in teaching is dwindling. Teaching is not the favored profession it used to be. I think we have to ask ourselves, why is that? When we make mandates in our schools that require teaching outside of the core subjects, we are putting many people in a position they won’t stay in. Not only are the parents and children suffering, but teachers are the very core, who we need the most to help us get through this tenuous time, and we are driving them away. We need to give each school district, principles, superintendents, and teachers the tools they need to create the best environment they see fit to set our children up for the best environment to flourish. Let’s let them get back to the basics.”

In hopes of fostering a stronger relationship between the school and the parents, Bellevue Senator Rita Sanders, introduced LB1158 (Academic Transparency Bill), a needed update to a nearly 30-year-old state law requiring public schools to develop and adopt policies on parental involvement.

Under LB1158, the policy would include how the district will provide parents and guardians access to digital and learning materials and training materials for teachers, administrators and staff as well as procedures for the review and approval of such materials and activities, among other information. The policy would have to describe under what circumstances a parent or guardian could ask that their child be excused from learning materials, activities and guest speakers that the parent finds objectionable. Parents already may request that their children be excused from testing, classroom instruction and other school experiences. LB1158 would require a “reasonable opportunity for public comments” at a required public hearing on the policy.

The bill also would require each school district to make all district and school policies accessible by a prominent link on the school’s website and make a reasonable effort to make any learning materials available for public inspection upon request.

Senator Albrecht mentioned, “if the commissioner of education determines that a school district has failed to comply with the bill’s requirements, the commissioner would be required to direct that the district’s state aid be withheld and that any county with territory in the district withhold all money belonging to the district.”

Make sure to apply to attend one of the biggest youth agriculture outreach events in the state—the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (NAYI). NAYI brings together high school juniors and seniors to learn more about Nebraska agriculture, network with agriculture leaders and discover the many careers available in agriculture. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) helps sponsor and coordinate NAYI every year.

NAYI will be held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus July 11–15, 2022. Applications for NAYI are available at nda.nebraska.gov/nayi and must be submitted online. Current high school juniors and seniors interested in attending have until April 15, 2022, to apply. This year’s theme is “Cultivating Connections.”

For more information contact Christin Kamm at 402-471-6856.

If you have any comments or concerns, contact Senator Albrecht at 402-471-2716 or email jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Senator Albrecht would like for her constituents to understand that with over 1,200 bills being heard over a 60-days period she is not able to personally respond to all of the emails and calls.

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