Association membership would be optional for community colleges

A bill that would no longer require community colleges to join an association was advanced from general file Feb. 8.

LB211, introduced by York Sen. Greg Adams, would finalize an agreement reached by the community college boards. Under the bill, joining an association of community colleges would be voluntary.

Adams said mandatory involvement in associations was eliminated in 2011 but was never officially removed from statute.

“The community college association doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “This bill reaffirms that they don’t have to belong to any association they don’t want to. The coordination of any programming will not be done by the Postsecondary Commission.”

The bill would strike an existing statute requiring that any meeting by a community college association be conducted in accordance with the Open Meetings Act. Additionally, the bill would authorize the board of governors of any community college to use college funds to pay for association membership.

Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar introduced an amendment that would reinstate the open meetings provision. He said the Legislature originally added the open meetings requirement and removing it now would be moving the state in the wrong direction.

“What does the community college association have to hide?” Haar asked. “If they have nothing to hide, why should we get rid of the open meetings requirement?”

Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery supported the amendment, saying that transparency is vital to retaining citizens’ trust.

“Openness is fundamental to the ability of our citizens to hold public entities accountable,” he said.

Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer opposed the amendment, saying any decision made by an association would have to be approved by a community college’s board of governors, which would be subject to the open meetings law.

“When we change a government entity to a nongovernment entity, it loses the requirements of a government entity,” Scheer said. “Any decisions made go back to the boards of governors and votes are taken during an open meeting.”

Haar withdrew the amendment and said he would raise the issue again on select file.

Following the adoption of a technical amendment, senators advanced the bill to select file on a 34-1 vote.

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