LB 1402 passage leaves Opportunity Scholarship Act referendum up in the air

LB 1402 passage leaves Opportunity Scholarship Act referendum up in the air
Opponents of state funding of scholarships for students to attend private or parochial schools rally on the steps of the State Capitol Building Saturday after passage of LB 1402 (courtesy photo)
April 22nd, 2024 | Scott Miller

After the passage of LB 1402 by the Nebraska Legislature last week, it begs the question of what will happen with a referendum question on the November ballot.

The measure changes the state funding mechanism for scholarships for students to attend private or parochial schools, with an appropriation of $10 million to be doled out by the State Treasurer to non-profit scholarship-granting organizations.

It also included a provision repealing LB 753, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, which was the focus of a successful petition drive by the groups Support Our Schools Nebraska and the Nebraska State Education Association placing the law passed last year before voters in November.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen says the new bill, expected to soon be signed into law by Governor Jim Pillen, creates a unique situation. “The Secretary of State is designated by law to interpret and enforce the Election Act, this all comes under the Nebraska Election Act, and to do so in consultation with the Attorney General,” said Evnen. “This is not something that comes up every day. I don’t know if it’s ever come up before. but we’re talking with the attorney General’s office.”

Evnen did not give a timeline for a decision on whether the referendum question will still go before voters in November.

Opponents of state-funded scholarships for private or parochial schools have said their fight against the school choice funding issue isn’t over. During a rally in Lincoln over the weekend, NSEA President Jenni Benson said they’re looking at options, from trying to force a referendum on LB 1402 yet this year, or going to the courts to challenge the constitutionality of the measure.

Evnen says if opponents do choose to circulate a referendum petition on LB 1402, they would face an early July deadline for voter signatures to be turned in for verification.


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