Debate Transcripts

LB 272 (1999)

General File

February 19, 1999


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  LB 86A advances.  LB 272.


CLERK:  (LB) 272, Mr. President, introduced by Senator Stuhr and others.  (Read title.) Bill was introduced on January 11, referred to the Education Committee, advanced to General File.  I do have committee amendments pending, Mr. President.


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  Senator Stuhr, you're recognized to open on LB 272.


SENATOR STUHR:  Thank you, Mr. Speaker and members of the Legislature.  LB 272 deals with the issue of county superintendents and I want to emphasize that this is a follow-up bill to LB 806 that was passed in 1997, and it is essentially the same bill as LB 1217 that I introduced in 1998 and which remained on General File.  LB 272 replaces the office of county superintendent with the optional office of a county school administrator, and I hope that you listen very carefully to that because it still does allow for local counties to make that decision.  What this bill does is remove references to county superintendents in the various statutes and also transfers the statutory duties of county superintendent to other elected county officials or to district superintendents.  I want to emphasize again that if a county board wishes to continue the functions of a county school administrator, it may continue to contract with an educational service unit or a qualified individual, as they have in the past.  And I do want to say that I have the deepest respect and appreciation for all of those that have served as county superintendents and presently do serve.  I know that they have worked very hard and diligently on behalf of students across the state.  I also realize that there are areas in the state with many Class I schools and they may continue to feel that they would like to have a county administrator working with this school or their schools, and this bill does permit that option.  Times change, however, and the need for county superintendents today is different than it was in the 1860s.  It was reported in December of 1998 that there are only six people serving as full-time county




superintendents today.  And I just want to review the provisions that were passed in 1997 in LB 806, which stated, the elected office of county superintendent of schools shall be eliminated by June 30th, 2000.  The State Department of Education shall make recommendations on which of the duties assigned to county superintendents should be eliminated, which duties should be retained, and to whom the retained duties should be assigned.  And the department should report its recommendations to the Clerk of the Legislature, not later than December 1, 1997.  In July of 1997, a committee was appointed by the Commissioner of Education to research and develop recommendations regarding the duties of the county superintendent and the transfer of these duties.  This committee met three times for a full day each time.  On the committee were a number, six or seven, of county superintendents that were serving at the time.  The committee considered various recommendations and in developing their report and, based upon the recommendations of the State Department of Education, LB 70...  272 resulted.  In recognizing the diverse needs and the demographics of Nebraska, I believe LB 2*72 continues to serve the needs of Nebraska students, schools and communities.  The bill addresses cooperation and greater efficiencies on the county level.  The bill also provides for the elimination of county reorganization committees and transfers their duties to the state reorganization committee.  In reorganization, local control is still present with the involvement of local school boards and patrons.  With the passage of LB 272, it could be possible to have a decrease in county expenditures of approximately $1.6 million beginning in 2000 and 2001, based upon 1996 and '97 estimated expenditures.  I want to emphasize again that this bill eliminates references to county superintendent in the statutes, but still lets counties have the option to contract for a county school administrator if they so desire.  Thank you and I would be happy to answer any questions.




SENATOR CUDABACK:  There are committee amendments.  Senator Bohlke, you are recognized to speak on the committee amendments.  (Standing Committee amendment AM0228 is found on page 566 of the Legislative Journal.)




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you, Mr. President and members.  The committee amendments really deal with 117 sections (laugh) of this bill and so I think I won't go through them all for you, but I will tell you that the committee amendments address the areas, the number of sections in the bill, that need revision or corrections.  One of the corrections is the operative date for the sections needing a specific operating date and changing it back to July 1, 2000.  But all the others really and truly are the sections that need either revision or corrections due to doing away with the county superintendents.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Thank you, Senator Bohlke.  Is there any discussion on the committee amendments?  Senator Hartnett, would you want to speak?  Senator Hartnett waives.  Senator Stuhr, did you wish to speak?  Your light is on.  Anybody else wishing to speak on the committee amendments?  Seeing none, the question before the body is....  Senator Bohlke, did you wish to close?  Did you waive?  Thank you.  The question is whether the committee amendments should be adopted.  All those in favor of the adoption vote aye; those opposed vote nay.  Have you all voted?  Record, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  25 ayes, 0 nays, Mr. President, on adoption of committee amendments.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  The committee amendments are adopted to LB 272.  We are now on discussion of advancement of LB 272.  Senator Hartnett, you are recognized to speak.


SENATOR HARTNETT- Mr. President and members of the body, I want to congratulate my seatmate here, Senator Stuhr, because I had this issue, I think, four or five years ago and I was not very successful.  So she's very successful.  I think she's made a good progress of cutting do-on government and I congratulate her and will support her efforts here.  Thank you.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Thank you, Senator Hartnett.  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  Thank you.  I Just wanted to make one comment on the state reorganization committee.  'There has been some concern about removing the county reorganization committee, but all in all it still involves local school boards, it still involves




patrons.  And the state reorganization committee is composed of six members.  They are appointed by the State Board of Education.  They ...  the makeup of that committee involves three laypersons and two people holding teachers certificates, with the Education Commissioner being the ex officio.  I also wanted to point out that many of the duties have been transferred to county officials, such as county clerks, county treasurers, count assessors, all people that have been involved in actually doing these responsibilities with the county superintendent then passing that information on to the county superintendents.  So, with today's technology and such, we are really just reducing that need and it is being picked up by many of the district superintendents.  So thank you.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Thank you, Senator Stuhr.  Senator Jones, you're recognized to speak.


SENATOR JONES:  Mr. President and members of the body, I just wanted to ask Senator Stuhr a question, if I could.




SENATOR JONES:  Yes, county superintendents in my home county has been real important.  There's about eight country schools and they take care of all that, and they had the authority at one time to appoint them and so they've appointed a superintendent from each school, you know, to do that.  But this don't change that power any so that they don't have that privilege to still appoint somebody to take that position?  it don't actually take the office clear away from that county and...?  I know I got a lot of counties that's only one school left in it and there's really no need for a county superintendent, but I knew Custer County has got eight country schools and I Just wanted your comments on that and get it on record.


SENATOR STUHR:  Yes, it will give the county board the authority to appoint a person to still coordinate those activities that some of the counties may wish to continue, such as county spelling contests,...






SENATOR STUHR:  ...  artwork that is of-ten displayed at county fairs, so that there will still be a person that could do that if the counties so desire.  And many of them will probably select a district or a primary high school superintendent to oversee some of those responsibilities and others, such as yours, may continue to appoint a person.  So they still have that option.


SENATOR JONES:  Thank you.  I just was wanting to check that for sure, because I know my ...  my home county would say something to me if I didn't say something.




SENATOR JONES:  Thank you.


SENATOR STUHR:  Thank you.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Thank you, Senator Jones.  Senator Janssen, you're recognized to speak.


SENATOR JANSSEN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Members of the Legislature, I too am in support of LB 272.  One of the provision, I can't find what section that is in, is elimination of the county reorganization committee.  Senator Stuhr, what ...  what section is that in?




SENATOR STUHR:  Thank you.  That begins, I believe, on Section 28 and then continues on through Section 30, and if I can ...  but if you start in that area you will see...  find it in that area.


SENATOR JANSSEN:  All right.  Thank you, Senator Stuhr.  And going through some reorganizations with some of the school districts that I represent, the county reorganization committees have, at some times, been not really a roadblock but an...I ...  as I felt, an unnecessary hurdle that had to be ...  had to ...  had to be taken over.  Also, when you have school districts that are in several different counties it sometimes was very hard to get all




of those reorganization committees together at the same table.  And thank you, Senator Stuhr, for bringing this to us today and I will be in support of 272.  Thank you.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Thank you, Senator Janssen.  Senator Redfield, you're recognized to speak.


SENATOR REDFIELD:  Mr. Chairman, members of the body, I also want to rise to support this bill.  I think that we're all aware that there is room for duplication of services, there is room there in this current office for just a lot of paper shuffling.  And we've all said that we want efficiency in government.  I think with the communication facilities that we have today and the technology available, this is a very good approach to good government.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Thank you, Senator Redfield.  Senator Baker.


SENATOR BAKER:  Mr. Chair and members of the body, I also support this bill and I commend Senator Stuhr for all the work she's done on it.  I served what seems like forever on a county reorganization committee, and this goes back to Senator Janssen's comments a minute ago, that it was very difficult to get a county reorganization committee together for one county, let alone we had reorganizations of four counties.  It was impossible to get everybody together.  So I ...  I see absolutely no problem with eliminating county reorganization committees.  And, also, it needs to be pointed out the state reorganization committee overrules anything the county does anyway, so they really have limited authority.  Thank you.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Thank you, Senator Baker.  Seeing no other lights, Senator Stuhr, would you like to close on LB 272.


SENATOR STUHR:  I just also want to add my thank though to everyone that has been involved in this process, which has been a long process.  It has been what you call small steps finally leading to this accomplishment.  And I do want to turn some time over to Senator Bohlke.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Senator Bohlke, you are recognized to speak.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Yes, Mr. President and members, I just didn't have my light on to rise in support of this, but certainly do.  And Senator Stuhr and Senator Hartnett and others have worked on this for a very long time and appreciate all of their efforts and the work that ...  and their perseverance on this issue.  And so, with that, I support the passage of LB 272.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Seeing no further lights, the question before the body is, shall LB 272 advance to E & R Initial?  All in favor of such vote aye, opposed nay.  Have you all voted?  Record, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  28 ayes, 0 nays, Mr. President, on the advancement of 272.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  LB 272 does advance.  Mr. Clerk, LB 272A.


CLERK:  (LB) 272A by Senator Stuhr.  (Read title.)


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Senator Stuhr, you are recognized to open on LB 272A.


SENATOR STUHR:  Thank you, Mr. Speaker and members.  The comment that I have on the fiscal note is that it was felt that we had to put a small amount because of some possible increase in the workload for the Nebraska Department of Education, and that is addressed in the fiscal note.  Thank you.


SENATOR CUDABACK:  Thank you, Senator Stuhr.  We are now open for discussion on LB 272A.  Senator Wehrbein, you're recognized.


SENATOR WEHRBEIN:  Yes, Mr. Speaker and members, I just want to acknowledge that this is an A bill that's justified probably, in terms of General Fund.  It is the state taking over a local county function.  It does contribute to property tax relief if things follow through like they are intended to do.  I don't want to make an extra issue out of this.  It is another issue where, though, that the state is spending General Fund money to take over a function of county governments as part of our, I guess, overall reorganization, but it is a slight increase again.  That's all I want to say.