Lawmakers pass roads bill, truancy restrictions


May 11th, 2011

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Lincoln, NE – The Nebraska Legislature gave final approval to a roads construction bill that Gov. Dave Heineman has criticized, which gives him five days to decide whether or not to veto it. Heineman also signed into law tougher rules on truancy.

Gov. Dave Heineman is still considering a veto on a bill to provide more funding for roads construction in Nebraska. (Photo courtesy State of Nebraska)

It was a day of final action on a number of legislative bills. In the morning, senators gave final approval to the budget for the next two years. It cuts aid to schools, local governments and Medicaid providers, among others, and dips deeply into the state’s cash reserve to close what had been projected to be a nearly 1 billion dollar gap. In the afternoon, lawmakers took final action on one of the most significant bills this session, to set aside more money for road construction in the future.

The bill sets aside a quarter cent of the existing state sales tax for road construction, — between $60 and $65 million a year — starting in two years. Critics, including Gov. Dave Heineman, have said that could take money away from other future needs, including schools and health spending. The bill passed with 33 votes, three more than would be required to override a veto. Following the vote, Sen. Deb Fischer, chief sponsor of the bill, said she has no idea what the governor intends. Gubernatorial spokeswoman Jen Rae Hein said the governor has until Tuesday to decide what to do with the bill.

The governor did sign another piece of legislation dealing with truancy. Sponsored by Omaha Senator Brad Ashford, it requires superintendents in the Omaha-area learning community school districts to develop plans to reduce excessive absenteeism. That’s defined as more than five unexcused days per quarter, or 20 days a year. Heineman said he thinks the bill strikes a proper balance between avoiding heavy-handed government and promoting school attendance.

“When a person misses for an excused absences, hopefully that will be taken into account by the superintendent and the school board,” Heineman said. “But also, when you miss more than 20 days, there does need to be a review – why is that occurring? I was commenting to Sen. Ashford and it’s probably true of him – I don’t remember missing 20 days in four years of high school.”

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