Education at the Capitol

Brian L. Halstead
Chief Of Staff

We are currently in the middle of the 105th Legislature, Second Session.  This “short session” is just 60 days and is set to end on Wednesday, April 18th.  There is a lot of work to be done in the time that remains. Unless passed or postponed, all of the bills from the first session in 2017 remain as possible changes to Nebraska statute. On top of that, there were more than 470 bills or resolutions introduced in the first 10 days of this session, and almost 50 of those bills have an education component.

The State Board of Education has a Legislative Committee that advises the Board and the Commissioner of Education on pending legislation and any position they recommend be taken on legislative bills.  While the Legislature is in session, the State Board Legislative Committee and the State Board discuss bills at the State Board meetings each month.  At the most recent State Board meeting on February 2nd, the State Board Legislative Committee made recommendations to the State Board on bills during a Legislative Retreat. The State Board adopted positions on nine new bills introduced at the Legislature in January, and supported an amendment with some qualifications to a bill from last session.

One of my duties as Chief of Staff and Deputy Commissioner is to review all bills introduced and then request that NDE staff who may have expertise in the subject of an introduced bill complete a bill analysis for the benefit of the members of the State Board of Education and the Commissioner.  Although each session may bring entirely new concepts for bills, some bills introduced are concepts previously proposed in bills in past years that never got debated nor enacted and are reintroduced once again.  The expertise of NDE staff are utilized to analyze and inform the Commissioner and members of the State Board.  While NDE staff are a performing their regular duties, January always brings the opportunity for some NDE staff to keep the Commissioner and Board up-to-date on possible legislation.  Each of the bills analyzed are compiled into a document that is shared with the Board, upon which members of the Board can review and use to take positions on bills.  Thanks to all of the NDE staff who take the time to do the analysis of bills assigned, and provide their expertise on matters that may impact NDE or the general supervision and administration of the school system of this state, that is the responsibility of NDE.

Throughout the next several months, the Legislature will continue to meet, and each day presents another opportunity to help inform Senators on bills and policy implications of these bills.  This sometimes requires NDE staff to think through the current methods being utilized and then advise how some of the proposed changes will improve the learning, earning, and living of all Nebraskans.  Keeping in touch with the expertise of numerous NDE staff helps me learn new information and then use that information to improve the work of NDE. 

The Nebraska Unicameral convenes most week days at 9:00 a.m. During session, the Education Committee meets on Mondays and Tuesdays in Room 1525 on the first floor of the Capitol Building. Legislative sessions can be viewed at NETNebraska Live & On Demand.

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