Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Bill to make ServeNebraska a statutory agency fails to advance

An effort to make the Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission, also known as ServeNebraska, a statutory agency failed to advance from first-round debate Feb. 6.

Sen. Mike McDonnell
Sen. Mike McDonnell

Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, sponsor of LB111, said ServeNebraska was created by executive order of then-governor Ben Nelson in 1994 and administers the AmeriCorps program for the state. He said restructuring the organization as a statutory agency would provide greater stability and make it easier for the commission to leverage federal dollars.

McDonnell said every other state in the country has made their equivalent commission into an independent agency and that his bill would empower ServeNebraska to better carry out its mission of serving Nebraskans.

“In 2020, Nebraska had over 2,700 AmeriCorps senior members and volunteers serving in 335 locations in our state with a total federal and local investment of $7.3 million,” McDonnell said.

Under the bill, the commission would have between 15 and 25 voting members, appointed by the governor, including representatives from business, government, education and community service organizations. The commission could employ an executive director, who could hire up to 15 full-time staff.

Among other duties, the commission would be tasked with recommending a comprehensive community service plan, to be updated annually, that ensures outreach to diverse community-based agencies that serve underrepresented populations.

Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas supported the bill, saying it would provide greater accountability and oversight. Vargas said that, as a former AmeriCorps member, he sees the value of supporting ServeNebraska, which has been a leader in the nation in community service.

Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood offered a motion to recommit the bill to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. He said Nebraska already has 75 state agencies and that he did not believe the committee thoroughly vetted the bill or considered its impact on the state’s budget.

McDonnell said no one testified in opposition to LB111 at its public hearing and that the committee advanced it to the floor of the Legislature for debate on an 8-0 vote.

The recommit motion failed on a vote of 23-16. Twenty-five votes were needed.

Lawmakers then voted 24-12 on advancing the bill to select file, one vote short of the number needed.

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