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Tangle of bills spikes Dream Act and NSAA discussion -- for now

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An attempt to get some state control over the association that governs high school sports and other activities failed Friday when senators voted to put off further debate until the last day of the session.

The Nebraska School Activities Association would have been required to follow open meeting and public meeting laws under the measure (LB1021).

The bill had detractors -- a group of senators who felt the state should not intervene in the workings of a private group whose members are public and private schools.

But more than that sentiment killed the bill. It got tied to another bill (LB1001) that would repeal in-state college tuition rates for some students who are illegal immigrants.

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, who opposed the NSAA bill, was offering two amendments -- the first to delay any discussion until the last day of the session, an automatic death sentence, and the second to add the tuition repeal as part of the NSAA measure.

Rather than have to deal with the immigration issue, some senators decided to simply kill the host bill, said Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln, sponsor of the NSAA bill.

This likely won't be the last time senators try to bring the in-state tuition repeal bill to the floor. Adding it as an amendment to another bill is the only way to make this happen since the repeal is locked in the Legislature's Education Committee and will not make it to the floor on its own.

Lautenbaugh said he was looking for another host bill for the tuition repeal measure, a "better vehicle" than the NSAA bill.

Now, about 50 Nebraska high school graduates who are illegal immigrants are paying in-state tuition at state-supported colleges.

The tuition repeal bill's sponsor, Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, said he will at least talk about the issue during debate on a bill (LB1110) requiring the state to provide prenatal care to pregnant illegal immigrants, and he might try to use the prenatal bill as a host for tuition repeal.

The compromise version of the NSAA bill was a slimmed down version of the original, which would have redrawn boundaries for the board. Nebraska is one of nine states that don't have some state control over the organization that runs high school athletics, Avery said.

The bill, even though it failed, was a warning to the NSAA, several senators said.

"Hopefully it goes a long way to let the NSAA know that a lot of people have issues with them. This is a wake-up call," said Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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