Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Nebraska Legislative Update

- from the desk of Jon M. Bailey, Director, Rural Research and Analysis Program, Center for Rural Affairs, jonb@cfra.org

Nebraska Legislative Update

Class I School Petitions

As you may have read or heard, supporters of Class I schools have begun an effort to gather signatures to place two initiatives on the 2006 General Election ballot – to repeal LB 126 (the bill adopted over the Governor’s veto in the 2005 session mandating assimilation of Class I schools into K-12 districts) and a constitutional amendment requiring a vote of the people in affected school districts to finalize any school consolidationproposal.

The Center for Rural Affairs has publicly endorsed both petition drives. Below is a press release issued yesterday. If you would like more information on the petitions or find out how to support the cause or sign a petition please go to the following website: www.nebraskansforlocalschools.org

Center for Rural Affairs Endorses Rural Schools Petitions

Lyons – The Center for Rural Affairs announced their support for two citizen initiative petition drives organizing in response to the passage of LB 126, legislation from the 2005 session that would mandate the merger of elementary-only Class I schools into K-12 school districts.

“LB 126 is the first step toward massive, forced consolidation of rural schools in Nebraska. LB 126 was intended to be punitive and it was intended to pressure smaller school districts into consolidation and closure,” said Jon Bailey, Rural Research and Analysis Program Director at the Center for Rural Affairs. “Local citizens and their elected school board members are best able to decide when and if their school district should consolidate,” Bailey added.

The Center for Rural Affairs points to recent budget legislation, portions of LB 126 and pending reforms to the school finance formula as examples of the Legislature attempting to establish a minimum school size and force consolidation of rural schools.

The first citizen initiative seeks to place the repeal of LB 126 on the 2006 general election ballot. The second petition seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would require school consolidations be approved by a majority of voters in each affected school district.

“The Center for Rural Affairs has a long history with the use of ballot initiatives to protect rural communities, and the importance of schools to rural communities makes a vote of the people on the issue of school consolidation essential. The Center will assist the effort in whatever ways we can,” said Bailey.

Term Limits
The 2006 election will be the first where term limits impact the Legislature. In the 2006 election, half of the Legislature – the even-numbered districts – is up for election. Of those 24 seats, 20 are occupied by Senators that cannot seek re-election due to term limits. Only four current Senators up for re-election in 2006 may seek re-election – Senators Friend, Mines, Stuthman and Combs. The ushering in of term limits will also cause a seismic shift in leadership in the Unicameral – the Speaker and nine committee chairs (of 14 Standing Committees) will be serving their last year in the Legislature in 2006.

Many new faces and names will grace the political stage as we approach the 2006 elections. We will keep you informed of any developments.

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

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