Earlier this month, members of the Nebraska Legislature once again began their important work at the state Capitol. Over the first 10 days of the session, Senators introduced 667 pieces of legislation to be heard by the Legislature’s standing committees; among them are several bills that address teacher certification, encourage a fresh approach to agricultural land valuation and address various facets of child safety.
One issue is set to lead the discussion this session: The state’s biennial budget shortfall of nearly $1 billion. The current budget climate makes any new funding very unlikely this year. We will closely monitor Nebraska’s current investments in its youngest citizens and any new bills that have the potential to affect early childhood. We have identified the following bills as priorities:
LB22, introduced by Speaker Jim Scheer (Norfolk) at the request of the Governor, this legislation imposes a 4% across-the-board cut to bring the budget for the current fiscal year to balance. LB22 includes a $200,000 cut to the Early Childhood Endowment Grant Program (Sixpence), reducing the total appropriation from $5M to $4.8M.
LB327, introduced by Speaker Jim Scheer (Norfolk) at the request of the Governor, is the budget for the upcoming biennium, ending in June 2019. This bill will address the nearly $1B estimated shortfall for the state of Nebraska.
LB335 by Speaker Jim Scheer eliminates the market rate survey adjustment for child care providers in Nebraska for 2017. This survey takes place in odd-numbered years so, if passed, there will be no increase to the rate child care providers are paid between 2015 and 2019.
LB484 by Senator Rick Kolowski (Omaha) creates the School Financing Review Commission. This 20-member commission will be tasked with examining various financing options for Nebraska public elementary and secondary schools. The commission will look at issues related to school performance, expansion of pre-kindergarten services, college and career readiness and the education of poverty level and limited English proficiency students.
LB521 by Senator Lynne Walz (Fremont) will increase state aid for qualified early childhood education programs from 60% to 80% of the average daily membership of students who will be eligible to attend kindergarten in one of the two following school years. The bill also addresses calculation of early childhood education transportation costs for school districts in situations in which the vehicles used are on a route exclusively for early childhood education students.
More information about these bills and others dealing with early childhood issues in Nebraska can be found on our website’s Nebraska Legislation page. The list includes bill numbers and descriptions, hearing dates, status of the legislation, links to bill information on the Nebraska Legislature’s web page and our testimony on the bill, if submitted. Bill status is updated and a report is generated daily during the legislative session.