Observations of the Business Meeting of the Nebraska State Board of Education

Without a doubt, the highlight of the two days of regularly scheduled February meetings of the Nebraska State Board of Education (SBOE) was two presentations made by students who represent the FCCLA and the FFA. These two students representing their respective organizations emphasized what I already knew, Career and Technical Education (CTE) is extremely important to Nebraska Education!

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Greetings from your State Capitol. This week the Legislature continues to hold debate in the mornings and Senators attend various Committee hearings in the afternoons. The Legislature spent most mornings discussing a bill to cap local school board spending and remove local control, which was defeated. Senators then took up LB906, which as amended, requires employers mandating COVID-19 vaccines offer religious and medical exemptions to their employees. The amendment represents a compromise between stakeholders. I voted in favor of the compromise that was reached and will continue to monitor the bill as it moves through the next two rounds of debate.

It’s Past Time to BY ROBIN STEVENS Balance the Budget

Last week, for the first time in history, our national debt exceeded $30 trillion. For far too long members of both parties have put off the tough decisions needed to get our country’s fiscal house in order, passing the buck to future generations. Unfortunately, my Democrat colleagues would still rather raise taxes and continue their reckless spending sprees than curb their spending addiction. Raising taxes is not the answer because we do not have a revenue problem in this country – we have a spending problem. In fact, every year since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – tax reform President Trump signed into law – was enacted, revenue has increased.

Enhancing Public Safety in Nebraska

Here in the Good Life, we must not take our public safety for granted. We’ve seen other states fail to support law enforcement and underinvest in their corrections. News stories with video footage of rampant theft and outbreaks of violence have become the unfortunate norm in cities like San Francisco and Washington, DC. Residents of these areas feel unsafe, and they’re fleeing to find a better place for their families. More than half of the San Francisco Bay area population plans to leave permanently in the next few years. Washington, DC lost over 20,000 residents from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021.

Mental Health

This week I participated in a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the mental health crisis in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five American adults live with some form of mental illness. Other government data show, among school-aged children, diagnosed cases of anxiety and depression are increasing over time—from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011-2012. These alarming numbers are pre-pandemic. While the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the need to address the mental health crisis in this country, there are many contributing factors to Americans’ declining mental health.

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In my free time, between writing and knitting, I enjoy video games. There is one game, in particular, that I am obsessed with. It’s an RPG (roleplaying game) by the game company Bio-Ware, titled Dragon Age: Inquisition. In this game, players create their character and then are dropped into a medieval-fantasy world that is on the verge of destruction. There are three main fractions that your character can align themselves with: the chantry (a religious entity), the Templers (a military entity), and the mages (an independent entity that no one understands but everyone wants to suppress).

Reducing Property Tax Burden

Greetings from your State Capitol. Again, during this legislative session there has been a great deal of media coverage about the Legislature’s efforts to reduce the property tax burden. A bill debated this week, LB986, is touted as a property tax relief proposal and is similar to LB408 from last year’s session. The premise of LB986 argues school districts are overspending, which is a false narrative in our part of Nebraska. LB986 proposes to impose additional levy limits on locally elected school boards, even though there is undisputed evidence that those boards are staying within existing limits. Further, I believe it is offensive to make a general assumption that school boards are overspending. I am reminded that the same people that elect our local officials also elected me.

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I’ve had social anxiety for as long as I can remember. I hate change because I hate unpredictability. I operate on a weekly set schedule. My planner is a vital tool in my life. Before 2019 I refused to get officially diagnosed. My reasoning was simple. I am a writer. I have always been and will always be a writer. My creativity is something I can’t live without and my friends who had anxiety, depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder all told me that their medication made their brains feel like they were constantly swimming in a sea of fog. I couldn’t have that, not when I’m writing.

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Greetings from your State Capitol. This week the Appropriations Committee began hearings on the Governor's proposal for distribution of the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds. You may remember from previous newsletters that Nebraska is receiving just over $1 billion to distribute under ARPA to mitigate economic and other damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to sincerely thank all the members of the Appropriations Committee for their dedicated service to this process. The initial hearing began at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon and did not end until nearly 10:00 p.m. that evening.