By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial made good on his promise to introduce a bill that would allow teachers to carry a concealed weapon in schools.
His bill, LB 879, would create a new class of concealed handgun permits, called a Level II permit.
Christensen said this week he believes the bill would pass if it hits the floor. However, his first challenge will be to get the bill out of the Judiciary Committee.
Christensen said the chairman of the committee, Sen. Brad Ashford, doesn’t like the bill. Even though Christensen sits on the committee, that’s not enough assurance it will get out on the floor.
Christensen expects there will be plenty of political maneuvering to keep the bill stuck in committee.
Christensen said he believes there’s a real need for the law, especially in rural school districts. It could be hours before any SWAT team or attack squad could be assembled in most rural areas, he said.
He introduced a similar bill three years ago that stalled. But since then, some sentiments have changed, especially after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn.
While he believes the bill is needed, he’s not unrealistic about opposition to the bill, as well. Push back is expected from groups that represent teachers and administrators.
This will mark Christen-sen’s final session as a state senator, along with 16 of his colleagues who have been term-limited out.
So even if the bill doesn’t get passed this year, Christensen expects the bill will re-surface again next year. He said one senator has already expressed interest in carrying the bill.
If nothing else, this year’s bill will generate discussion and could lead to passage of the bill in a future session, he said.
Governor’s State of the State
State senators heard from Gov. Dave Heineman last Wednesday morning as he delivered his State of the State address.
Heineman said the state faces a number of challenges, but nothing bigger than the state’s high tax rates.
He’s pushing for lower income tax rates which is something the Legislature controls.
He also asked local government entities to slow their growth in spending to provide some property tax relief.
Property taxes are based on local spending and those taxes are not set by the Legislature, he said.
He also wants to preserve the health of the ag economy by changing the way ag land is valued. He’s supporting a move to tax ag land at 65 percent of its market value, versus the present 75 percent.
He said the “implementation of Obamacare has been one disaster after another.”
He said the responsible choice in Nebraska is to not expand Medicaid, which is a decision left to each state.
He doubts the federal government will be able to meet its financial obligations if the state would expand Medicaid.
Following his address, the governor made a hop across the state to deliver his message.