Superintendent pay transparency, Nebraska statehood commission among new laws taking effect


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LINCOLN, Nebraska — Nebraska school districts will now have to publish superintendent pay, benefits and other contract provisions under a new state law that goes into effect Tuesday. It's one of four new laws that become official on July 1 — the first day of the new fiscal year.

School districts could meet the new requirement by posting superintendent contracts online. They also have to file them with the Nebraska Department of Education.

Superintendent pay is already considered public information under state law, but the new law's backers say it isn't always easy to learn about fringe benefits in employment contracts. Among the high-profile cases was that of former Omaha Public Schools Superintendent John Mackiel, whose contract allowed him to collect a nearly $1 million retirement payout on top of his regular retirement pay.

Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk introduced the bill during this year's session to ensure that the public and school board members realize the costs they incur with superintendents. The law requires that districts publish amendments to existing contracts three days before they're approved, or two days after they're approved if they've hired a new superintendent.

Another new law will increase the state fees for certified copies of vital records. Birth certificates will increase from $12 to $17. The cost of death, marriage and divorce certificates will all rise from $11 to $16.

A third law will officially create a state commission to plan for Nebraska's 150th anniversary as a state in 2017. The Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission will consist of 17 members appointed by the governor. Starting Tuesday, Gov. Dave Heineman will have 60 days to appoint the members, said Sue Roush, a spokeswoman for the governor.

"We wanted the festivities to be statewide and extensive, and the only way you can do that is to have a committee to organize it," said Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln, the bill's sponsor.

The fourth new law establishes a program in the Department of Health and Human Services to help pay for treatment of certain food- and protein-related allergies, a blood cell disorder and other ailments. The new program will pay up to 50 percent of a patient's out-of-pocket costs, not to exceed $12,000, for amino acid-based formulas that are considered medically necessary. A DHHS website (http://1.usa.gov/1lti5O7 ) went live Monday to outline who may qualify, said department spokeswoman Kathie Osterman.

Most of the new laws approved this year will go into effect July 18.

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AT A GLANCE — NEW LAWS THAT TAKE EFFECT JULY 1

LB254: Establishes a Department of Health and Human Services program to pay for treatment of certain allergies, a blood cell disorder and other ailments.

LB470: Requires school districts to publish superintendent salary, benefit and contract information.

LB744: Create the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission to plan for the 150th anniversary of statehood in 2017.

LB994: Increase fees for state vital records.

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