Voter approval for certain school bonds advanced

Lawmakers gave first-round approval Feb. 22 to a bill intended to ensure that voters must approve certain bonds issued to pay for the construction of school buildings.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan
Sen. Lou Ann Linehan

LB299, introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, would prohibit any joint entity that includes a Nebraska school district or educational service unit from issuing bonds without approval from a majority of their qualified voters in a special election. The restriction would apply to joint public entities created on or after the bill’s effective date.

If the bond question fails, it could not be submitted to voters again for at least six months.

Linehan said current law allows school districts, in partnership with an ESU, to issue bonds for building projects without approval from voters, as is required in a traditional bond issue.

“If the citizens are going to be paying for these projects over the decades,” she said, “they deserve to approve the projects.”

Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth supported LB299. He said a joint entity created by Beatrice Public Schools and its educational service unit circumvented the will of voters by issuing bonds to replace four aging elementary schools with a new building after two similar bond issues had failed.

Also in support was Adams Sen. Myron Dorn. Although the method used by Beatrice Public Schools and at least two other Nebraska school districts is allowed under current law, he said, a public vote on bond issues is “very important.”

Senators voted 38-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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