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Informing the Lincoln High community since 1895

The Advocate

Informing the Lincoln High community since 1895

The Advocate

Legislative session wraps up, summary for students

The Nebraska legislature is unique as the only unicameral, or one house, legislature in the country. Let’s take a look at what’s going on this session in relation to students here at LHS!

The Nebraska legislature is unique as the only unicameral, or one house, legislature in the country. Let’s take a look at what’s going on this session in relation to students here at LHS!

LB1399, put forward by Senator Murman, would set a specific guideline for parents who want access to school materials. It would allow them to get access to curriculum, professional learning materials, and survey results within ten business days. This bill is similar to a bill that failed last session, the Parent’s Bill of Rights, put forward by the same senator.

LB15 would allow for the minimum wage for minors to be lowered to 75% of the general minimum wage, and for a training wage for 18-20 year olds, also at 75% of the minimum wage, to be enacted. This bill was put forward by Senator Lippincott, and supported by Senator Raybold, whose district is close to Lincoln High. Supporters of the bill see it as making businesses more viable, so that inexperienced youth don’t have to be paid the same wage as trained adults. Those opposing the bill claim it goes against the spirit of the recent ballot initiative Nebraska citizens passed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. This bill in particular will affect many LHS students, whether it passes or not; so if you have an opinion about it, we encourage you to speak out! 

LB1402, put forward by Senator Linehan, has passed the legislature and is waiting on signing from the Governor. This bill intends to offer more school choice by using funds to create scholarships for students to go to private schools. Low-income students would be prioritized, and qualifying schools would have to be non-profit and accredited, and align with anti-discrimination requirements. Opponents of the bill say that they do not want their tax dollars used to fund often religious private schools. 

LB228, put forward by Senator Erdman, would have had a variety of effects on election days if it had passed. Elections would have become state holidays, and it would be required for citizens to bring a photo ID with them when voting, as a ballot initiative citizens voted on ensured. The bill would also have removed the option of mail-in voting for most citizens, allowing it only for military personnel and those in assisted living facilities. Those in support of the bill believe that these changes would ensure more accurate voting results, but those in opposition say that it would limit eligible voters from participating and could skew election results further. 

LB575, also known as the Sports and Spaces act, was a controversial bill in the legislature this session. The bill would have banned group gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, and prevent females and males from entering facilities designated for the opposite sex. In the same fashion, it would require transgender athletes to compete in sports of their sex assigned at birth. Senator Kauth, author of this bill, intends to protect people from abuse in private spaces and cheating in sports. Opponents of the bill see it as an attack on transgender rights.

LB1339 would have allowed staff members of schools to carry firearms on school grounds, for the purpose of preventing school shootings. Schools would put forward their own plan on training requirements. For more information on LB1339, including an interview with Senator Brewer’s press secretary, visit this story from KLHS staff journalists. 

This session, one bill has passed the legislature, but was vetoed by the Governor. LB307, put forward by Senator Hunt, would have authorized syringe programs, instead of having them ruled illegal as drug paraphernalia. These programs aim to reduce the spread of deadly diseases by providing free, clean syringes to drug users. Opponents of the bill say this concept permits drug use and should be disallowed on principle.

During this legislative session, a bipartisan bill passed and was signed by the governor! LB905 would allow respite care providers to receive reimbursement for respite care of homeless people and some people without medicaid, allowing for people who cannot afford this service to receive it at a greatly reduced cost. This bill was put forward by Senator Riepe, a Republican, but was the priority bill of Senator Wishart, a Democrat.

LB298 will, among other things, create a model dress code that is intended to prevent discrimination and loss of class time due to dress code strikes. It intends to prevent discrimination, targeting, or disproportional impact on the basis of religion, race, national origin, disability, and sex. The model policy must not require students to alter their hair, temporarily or permanently. Any requirements the dress code does make must be shown, with reasonable certainty, to impair the health or safety of one or more students. Any violations require a good faith effort to inform parents and resolve the situation without significantly impacting class time. The model policy will be created as soon as possible and these changes will most likely go into effect next school year.

LB1027 passed will greatly reduce requirements for teachers in private schools that aren’t accredited. Previously they would have required proof of teaching competency with courses and educational transcripts, however, these requirements have been cut.  It also updates the language to say “parents, guardians, and educational decisionmakers” throughout the bill. 

LB1029 passed and made one small but important change to attendance in schools; where previously the law regulated ‘illness’ days, this bill now specifies ‘mental or physical illness’ as applying under this rule.

On March 18th, the legislature held a hearing on LB441. This bill related to obscenity, removing public grade schools’ and libraries’ defense to prosecution. Although it did not pass, public schools and libraries would have been more vulnerable to being charged with obscenity. The senators who put this bill forward say that they intended to protect children from obscene materials which can be found in school and public libraries. Opponents argue books that can be considered obscene still have value, and that public libraries do not force obscene materials on children and should not face censorship. During the hearing for this bill, Senator Halloran read an excerpt from “Lucky”, a memoir by Alice Sebold about her experiences of a violent rape. According to KETV, he claimed this was in 16 school libraries in Nebraska, in some of which it was required reading. ABC’s NTV found it present in some libraries, but not required reading in any. He did not specify which schools he believed this book was in. 

Senator Steve Halloran
Photo from the Nebraska Legislature website
Senator Machaela Cavanaugh
Photo from the Nebraska Legislature website

While reading this very explicit passage, he inserted Senator Cavanaugh’s name multiple times. There are two Senator Cavanaughs in the Nebraska Legislature-  Senator John Cavanaugh and Senator Machaela Cavanaugh. Senator Halloran claimed he was simply trying to get Senator John Cavanaugh’s attention. Senator Halloran apologized on March 19th. In a separate response he stated, “If I am guilty of anything, it is of working zealously to protect Nebraska’s children, exercising my First Amendment right of free speech in debate on the legislative floor.” Senator Cavanaugh’s response  was, “My ten year old should not be subjected to hearing her mother be asked to perform a sex act.” 

After this incident, there have been calls from Senators and citizens for a censure (an official recognition of unacceptable behavior by the legislature) of Halloran’s statements, or even his resignation. Senator Cavanaugh put forward  LR335, the title of which is “Censure and condemn Senator Steve Halloran for his conduct toward other members of the Legislature.” The Executive Board decided not to censure Halloran and the bill was killed with the end of the legislative session. LB441 also did not pass.

LB1284, which passed this session, will create a pilot program for menstrual product distribution in all schools, and create a grant for dyslexia research, among other small changes to education-related things. This bill will be beneficial to students all over LPS, even though many of them, including Lincoln High, already make it a priority to provide these products to students via clubs like Feminist for Change, the nurse’s office, and individual teachers. 

LB627 did not make it out of committee, but if it had passed, it would have been particularly impactful to students. This bill would incentivise schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students by creating a grant program that would partially reimburse qualifying schools for the money spent on the free meals. During the pandemic, several schools in Lincoln temporarily offered free lunches, but for most schools, this is no longer the case. Had this bill been made into law, it may have resulted in more schools offering free lunches to students. 

If you have thoughts you would like to share about any of  these bills, you can go to nebraskalegislature.gov, type the bill number in the search box, and submit an online comment for the bill. Senators can read these comments and take them into account when making their decision. In addition, you can navigate to the calendar and testify at the Capitol when a bill you feel strongly about is being debated. Further information for public input is available at this link.

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About the Contributors
Verity Wegener, Staff Journalist
Eleanor Erickson
Eleanor Erickson, Staff Journalist
Eleanor Erickson is a 9th grader at LHS. In addition to working with The Advocate and KLHS, she is on the tennis team, participates in Feminists 4 Change, and plays the viola.

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