Debate Transcripts

LB 742 (1995)

Select File

May 16, 1995


SENATOR HALL:  Thank you, Senator Maurstad.  You've heard the motion.  All those in favor say aye.  Opposed.  The bill is advanced.  The next item on the agenda, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  LB 742, Mr. President.  E & R amendments, Senator.


SENATOR HALL:  Senator Maurstad, on the E & R amendments.


SENATOR MAURSTAD:  Mr. President, I would move to adopt the E & R amendments to LB 742.


SENATOR HALL:  You've heard the motion.  All in favor say aye.  Opposed.  The amendments are adopted.  The next item, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Senator Bohlke would move to amend.  AM1742, Senator.


SENATOR HALL:  Senator Bohlke, to open on your amendment.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Mr. Speaker, I ask to withdraw that.


SENATOR HALL:  It is withdrawn.  The next item, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Pedersen would move to amend.


SENATOR HALL:  Senator Pedersen, to open on your amendment.


CLERK:  Mr. President, he is excused.


SENATOR HALL:  He is excused.  We'll pass over that.  Is there anyone who has been authorized to handle Senator Pedersen's amendment?  Seeing none, we'll pass over it.  The next item on the bill, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Senator McKenzie and Bernard-Stevens, AM1971.  I have a




note, Senator, you wanted to pull this one.


SENATOR HALL:  It is withdrawn.  The next item, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Senator McKenzie, 2032, again a note to withdraw.


SENATOR HALL:  It is withdrawn.


CLERK:  Senator McKenzie, 2114.  (AM2114 appears on page 2326 --if the Legislative Journal.)


SENATOR HALL:  Senator McKenzie, is that one you care to take up?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Yes, Mr. President.


SENATOR HALL:  You are recognized to open on your amendment.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Thank you, Mr. President, and members of the body, the amendment number is 2114 and I believe you will find it in the Journal on page 2126.  This is an amendment that incorporates many of the concerns that people addressed during General File debate about the special education reform effort as well as concerns about the lid, the flat year.  Let me briefly explain to you what's incorporated in this amendment and then I will allow Senator Bernard-Stevens to share some of the opening if he has some comments also, and then would answer any other questions you might have.  Basically, what we were trying to address, first of all, you will find in a different section than was in the original bill after advancement from General and in the E & R amendments.  We were dealing with the concern about what, in fact, is a special need and we struggled with trying to define special needs or unique needs so that we could limit this to the pool of children we have currently considered special education without expanding it to create new entitlements, for example, gifted education, English as a second language, or at risk.  In this effort to hold costs down and in order to do a reform effort, we want to make clear that at this point we're talking about those children who have traditionally been considered special needs or children with handicaps.  That change is in the amendment.  It basically uses a reference to the section of statute that defines those 13 categories of disabilities and we believe it is the best effort we can make to find support services so that we don't have to identify a child who may have a mild learning disability in order to serve but




that, in fact, we aren't expanding the definition to include a group of other kids.  The most significant change in this amendment, other than a number of other technical changes in terms of language and rearranging some of the bill, we have extended the time period for the study.  Looking at the time period in the original legislation, we would have allowed the State School Board and Department of Education, the Special Education Accountability Commission, the School Finance Review Committee and the Education Committee only four months of study to come back to the Legislature in November of this year with significant recommendations for reform of the system.  That is really quite unrealistic, in my thinking, and I think in many of the rest of your thinking, so we've extended that time line to ask for those recommendations to come back to the committee of the Legisla ...  Education Committee of the Legislature in June 1st of 1996.  That will allow us then a month or six weeks of time to put together the drafting committee who then can put together some first draft of legislation for reform that we can take out next legislative interim for input from the public and from general education and from parents and special education interest groups as well.  The other significant change in the amendment is that we have eliminated the flat year, what was the zero percent cap.  If you recall, in the first round of debate on 742, we had included a flat year.  This year's projected cost for special education, which will be paid out, is about 122 million.  We had a flat year in there saying the state would contribute no more than 122 million, and instead of saying let's hold it there, we're saying, looking at all the factors, that's probably not realistic, that we believe schools can hold spending in that year at the same rate and level that they are holding...  that they are spending this year.  So the growth rate that we had originally included the year after is allowed to take place one year sooner.  That's why when you've read the paper you've heard the discussion about is it a 12 million dollar savings or a six million dollar savings in the special education bill.  This amendment includes only $6 million in savings, not the full 12.  Senator Bernard- Stevens, would you like to use some of the opening?


SENATOR HALL:  Senator Bernard-Stevens, you are recognized.  You have approximately five minutes.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Thank you, Senator Hall.  I won't need all of that time.  I appreciate all of the work, certainly, that Senator McKenzie and others have put in on this particular




,amendment between this moment and General File when we first discussed it.  And I think Senator McKenzie has done a great job as far explaining what the changes were.  The only comment I would like to add is one of the concerns I had when the original bill was in committee was that it was simply a straight cap and that was all that there was, and we still have as we still do now all of the state and federal mandates and if you just do a straight cap, the way that it was introduced, all that does is say that we, as a state, are not going to spend any money but we transfer all of that to the property tax side, and that did not make any sense to me and I think a large number of people on the Education Committee.  And so this particular amendment, I think, has a bit of compassion to it and that is that we know that we have to get special ed costs under control.  I don't think there's anyone in education that doesn't feel otherwise.  But the one thing that it does do is chat it does allow that first year that growth rate which would be the same growth rate as what would be in general education so that we're not having that...  that tremendous cap all of a sudden without all of the study and follow-up that we need to do to find out whether or not a block grant system or another spending formula would actually be better.  So this amendment that Senator McKenzie has is much more compassionate, I think, much more realistic than a straight cap at ...  the only best argument for the straight cap is you get to save more money but you get to dump it off on the school districts.  And I don't think that's good policy.  This one we don't save as much money as a state but it's much more reasonable on how we handle the school districts.  In talking with the school districts that I have over the weekend and many of the people that are pushing in the education lobby, they are much more comfortable with the growth factor involved rather than a straight cap because they have been trying to find ways to reduce the property tax burden, not increase it.  So, with those comments, Senator McKenzie, if you need more time, otherwise we'll just get to the general discussion of whatever amendments may be there, and I thank Senator McKenzie for a few minutes of her opening.


SENATOR HALL:  Thank you, Senator Bernard-Stevens.  Senator McKenzie, do you waive the balance of is waived.  Senator McKenzie, your light is next.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Thank you, Mr. President, and members of the body, I wanted to add also my concerns and reasons for increasing beyond the flat zero percent lid.  Lit me make sure




you understand a couple things.  Special education has never, ever in this state had a cap.  We have a system that works like this, and let me make an analogy.  If I was allowed some extra money every month to pay for incidentals beyond my control, while I'm down here in the Legislature, and I was given one of two approaches, one allowed me to have a block grant approach which said at the beginning of the month, Jan, you're going to get $1,000, that's what you get.  That should cover whatever you're spending outside what we consider what you should spend.  The other approach says at the end of the month, Jan, you reimburse or you submit your expenses and we'll reimburse you for 90 percent of your expense.  Now in which system am I going to be more likely to control my spending?  Nebraska's special education system right now is one that says you spend what needs to be spent and let me argue that I believe school districts tend to spend what they need to spend and at the end of that year you submit your expenses and we will reimburse you somewhere between 60 and 90 percent of what you have spent.  We're moving ...  the intent language in this amendment moves us to a system where we tell you at the beginning of the year you're going to get this much money and if you have emergencies, we're going to hope to build a system that addresses those emergencies.  So we have never, in this state, had any kind of cap.  LB 742, in its original form, started a flat zero percent cap that never existed before.  In my mind, when we have-had the discussion about lowering spending limits for schools and counties and cities we talked about whether or not that's reasonable, whether or not we believe we can ask political subdivisions to hold spending at a level lower than the rate of inflation or the CPI.  I think I have that right now.  It's CPI, not CPR.  This amendment, I think, makes more sense in terms of what school districts can actually do, and it's not superintendents who make these decisions about spending in special ed, it's parents, it's the needs of those children and, in many cases, it's the advocacy groups who are there to help those families protect the civil rights of these children.  So going from a system where you've been able to spend what you wanted and received reimbursement to one that is now going to cap it, at no more than 5 percent of what special education is allowed to grow, is a pretty significant change.  It's not as though we can wave a magic wand out there and all 37,000 special education children, whether they should be verified or not, are going to suddenly change or their families change (coughs) their ideas about services.  Mr. President, I will have to waive off at this point.  Excuse me.




SENATOR HALL:  Thank you, Senator McKenzie.  Mr. Clerk, there is an amendment to the amendment.


ASSISTANT CLERK:  Mr. President, Senator Bohlke would move to amend the amendment with AM2156 that's found in the Journal on page 2130.


SENATOR HALL:  Senator Bohlke, to open on your amendment to the McKenzie amendment.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Yes, Mr. President, and members, this amendment is one that addresses a concern that I had had since we first started on the bill and that was ...  and I think it was shared by Senator McKenzie, she's been supportive of this idea as I have communicated with her, that we are moving towards block grants but we certainly do not want to limit the solution to the problems only to block grants.  And so what my amendment does is allows other individuals, agencies and groups to submit proposals to the Education Committee and the Special Education Accountability Commission by January 15th that explains how they would cut costs in special education.  So to those people who have said all along that if they maybe do not like the idea of block grants, here's an opportunity for them to come forward with their ideas by January 15th to Bay what they would do in order to cut those costs.  In making that suggestion, we also have to replace the phrase "block grants" with a new funding system and we also replace the term "student and family needs" with "educational needs", as the driving force for educational services for students with handicaps.  The other thing the amendment does is it makes the Special Education Accountability Commission the lead agency.  We had heard from a number of people, we name about four agencies in the bill, and we don't give anyone the leadership role, so it does that, it names them as the lead agency.  And so, in summary again, what it really does is just to address the concern allowing all of those individuals or groups out there that may have an idea or suggestion that they want to bring forward to the Education Committee or to the Special Education Accountability Commission how they might cut costs in special education.  It does not preclude the idea that there may be another idea out there.  There may be something else out there or other suggestions even to improve the block grant proposals that will be coming.  And so it is that that I offer the amendment and I have checked with Senator McKenzie and, Senator McKenzie, I will give you time, if




you would like, to say if you support the amendment or not.  Thank you.


SENATOR HALL:  Senator Robinson, to the Bohlke amendment.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  I stand to support the Bohlke amendment but I do have a question for Senator McKenzie.


SENATOR HALL:  Senator McKenzie, if you would respond.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  On this ...  on this upcoming budget year for special education, how much will they be able to spend, the school district?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  The amount, Senator Robinson, that has been projected is 122 million in state funds, but they also have their 10 percent share.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  So, actually, it's business as it has been.  Is that a good way to say it?  Is there...  is there a cut ...


SENATOR McKENZIE:  As of this ...


SENATOR ROBINSON:  ...  for this coming year, I guess, is ...


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Well, special education is paid a year in arrears.




SENATOR McKENZIE:  So the projection for what is currently being spent this year is 122 million.  That will be paid out next year.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  So they will be paid...  there will be no reduction.  Am I reading it correctly?  There's no reduction in their year in arrears?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  That's correct.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  Okay.  Okay, now, okay, let's go to the next .year now.  What happens?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  The next year the fund that the state provides reimbursement through because we will not have moved to




the new system will be 122 million plus 5 percent.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  Plus 5 percent.  Now is ...  is that the place where you're going to save six...  that you're going to save $6 million?  Okay.  And then after that we'll see what happens then.  It's a good way to put it.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Actually, there...  Senator Robinson....


SENATOR ROBINSON:  What happens the following year then.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  They will also be under 5 percent.




SENATOR McKENZIE:  I mean, this will be a 5 percent lid unless school spending goes below 5 percent or we adjust it to some other level.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  Of course, it depends what we find out under the studies and so forth too.




SENATOR ROBINSON:  Okay.  Thank you very much.


SENATOR HALL:  Thank you, Senator Robinson.  Senator Bernard-Stevens, your light is next to speak to the Bohlke amendment.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Thank you, Senator Hall, members of the Legislature, I, too, support the Bohlke amendment.  There's one portion of the amendment I'm not totally comfortable with and I may offer an amendment later, but I haven't had a chance to speak with either Senator McKenzie or Senator Bohlke, so I will just raise the concern now, knowing that we're probably not ...  we...I don't know if we'll get through the bill today or not.  And that would be on lines 18 through 19, the portion that also says that alternatives would be given to the Education Committee and the Special Education Task Force, and I guess my concern is that I don't want that Special Education Task Force to have to do too much and one of the concerns I've had all along is that...  is that they may be asked to do more than..  more than what we can expect from them.  But I think Senator Bohlke probably has discussed that and has worked that portion out and




so that's why I'm not offering any amendments at this point until I get a chance to chat with them.  But I did want them to know that if we could...  if they could let me know later, I would appreciate that.  The other parts of the Bohlke amendment, and even that itself is a good amendment, and I give whatever time I have to Senator McKenzie so she can actually use now the time that Senator Bohlke granted that Senator Hall did not give.


SENATOR HALL:  Thank you, Senator Bernard-Stevens.  1 appreciate the fact that I fell down on my duties.  Senator McKenzie, you have approximately three minutes.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Thank you, Mr. President, and members, and thank you, Senator Bohlke, thank you, Senator Bernard-Stevens.  I, too, rise in support of the Bohlke amendment and do appreciate the fact that one of the concerns that parent advocacy groups certainly are concerned about is their ability to be involved in this process, not only the parent advocate groups but the groups such as ARC who are out there and who have traditionally in the past been very, very involved in whatever revisions have been proposed to Rule 51 to changes in state statute and who are very concerned about the civil rights of their children and their family members.  So I think it's absolutely essential that we provide for this opportunity that they can bring in their suggestions or alternatives for consideration to both the Education Committee and the Special Education Accountability Commission.  Again, I stand in support of the Bohlke amendment and would yield the remainder of Senator Bernard-Stevens' time to Senator Bohlke.


SENATOR HALL:  Thank you, Senator McKenzie.  Senator Bohlke, you have approximately two minutes.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Yes, Senator Hall, I thank you for recognizing the fact that you dropped the ball and Senator Bernard-Stevens for recognizing the fact that you did drop the ball and giving then the time to Senator McKenzie that I was going to give to her, now she's giving back to me so that I can answer Senator BernardStevens' question which is, why do we have both the Education Committee and the Special Education Accountability Commission mentioned?  Originally, it was just the Education Committee and Senator Bernard-Stevens was correct when he and I talked about that.  That's what I had told him.  Since that time, I had heard from the Special Education Accountability Commission that they really Just wanted to be kept informed as




we may get these ideas at the Education Committee so they would know, as they are looking at block grants, what those other ideas...


SENATOR HALL:  One minute.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  ...  may be.  And so it was at that suggestion that we then included them also but certainly looking that the Education Committee would be the ones who would look into the ideas and suggestions that may come forward from the other groups.  So I ask for your adoption of the Bohlke amendment.  Thank you.


SENATOR HALL:  Thank you, Senator Bohlke.  Senator McKenzie, your light is next.  Waives off.  Senator Bohlke, yours is the last light, would you care to close?  She waives closing.  The question is the adoption of the Bohlke amendment to the McKenzie amendment.  All in favor vote aye, opposed nay.  Have you all voted?  Record, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  28 ayes, 0 nays, Mr. President, on the adoption of Senator Bohlke's amendment.


SENATOR HALL:  The Bohlke amendment is adopted.  The next item on the amendment, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Senator Bromm and Bohlke would move to amend Senator McKenzie's amendment.  AM2173, Senator.  Senator Bromm, do you want to...  I'm sorry, didn't see this here.  Mr. President, a priority motion.  May I read some items.


SENATOR HALL:  Items for the record, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Mr. President, amendment by Senator Bohlke to LB 531.  Study...  from Senator Lynch to LB 455; Senator Hillman to LB 392.  One study resolution to be referred to the Executive Board.  (Re:  LR 160.) (See pages 2219-20 of the Legislative Journal.)


Senator Bromm would move to adjourn.  Senator, may I assume it's eight-thirty instead of nine o'clock?  Senator Bromm would move to adjourn until eight-thirty tomorrow morning.


SENATOR HALL:  You've heard the motion.  All in favor say aye.  Opposed.  We are adjourned.