Senators introduced 470 new bills and eight Constitutional amendments during the opening days of the current legislative session. If passed, the Constitutional amendments would be placed on the ballot for a vote of the people. They range from reducing property taxes, legalizing medical cannabis and eliminating the State Board of Education to lowering the age when children are eligible to receive a free public education. All new bills must receive a public hearing, and those are going on now through February 27.
$173 Million Shortfall
Due to a decrease of incoming revenue, the state is facing a budget shortfall of approximately $173 million that legislators will need to address. The Appropriations Committee is currently working with state agencies to determine where potential cuts can be made that will have the least negative impact. It's unlikely that any bills with a significant fiscal impact will advance this year. In addition, several proposals have been introduced to reduce property taxes which will affect the overall state budget as well.
Recognizing the budget situation, First Five Nebraska did not introduce legislation this year, but we have identified several bills as Legislation to Watch. To see this list, visit our Nebraska Legislation website page. On that page, you also may search for a bill in the following categories: Budget/Taxes; Child Care; Child Safety; Child Welfare; Early Childhood Workforce; Economic Assistance/Public Benefits; Education; Physical & Mental Health; School Funding; and Systems/Governance. Bill status is updated daily and a printable report can be generated for your use. A few of the bills we’re watching are:
LB768, introduced by Senator Dan Quick of Grand Island, would amend the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act and would redefine economic development program to include early childhood infrastructure development for cities of the first- and second-class and villages.
LB803, introduced by Senator John Stinner of Scottsbluff, would eliminate the teacher certification requirements for early childhood education programs, increase the hours of daily instruction for kindergarten programs and allow a 5-year-old child to stay in an early childhood education program if their parent delays entrance into kindergarten.
LB880, introduced by Senator Matt Hansen of Lincoln, would require counties and municipalities to include an assessment of early childhood care and education for any new comprehensive plan or updates to existing plans.
LR270CA, introduced by Senator Rick Kolowski of Omaha, is a Constitutional amendment that would lower the age requirement to provide free instruction for all children to age 3.
LR285CA, introduced by Senator John Murante of Gretna, is a Constitutional amendment that would eliminate the State Board of Education and make the Department of Education report directly to the Governor.
See our website's Nebraska Legislation page for a complete list of early childhood bills to watch; bookmark the page for quick daily bill updates.