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Consolidation merits closer look

School consolidation has been a recurring topic of debate in Nebraska for generations. Now, Nebraska lawmakers are saying, the time has come to look anew at the issue and address it.

It's an appropriate occasion for such a discussion. Nebraska currently has 244 school districts covering a large range of student population sizes. Public school districts account for about 60% of all property tax collections in Nebraska, said Albion Sen. Tom Briese. At the same time, lawmakers should be mindful not to exaggerate the cost-saving possibilities from consolidation.

In an amendment, Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne proposed school districts complete a consolidation feasibility study in cases where two or more high schools from different school districts compete in extracurricular activities as a single team. Twenty-seven Nebraska counties already have only one school district.

Senators acknowledged the political difficulties if lawmakers would move toward making consolidation mandatory, rather than voluntary. But if discussions at the Legislature on the issue next year are as thoughtful as the one state senators held recently, Nebraskans will be well served.

- Omaha World-Herald


Tariffs' pain not going anywhere

It is anyone's guess whether President Donald Trump's latest bluster on tariffs will produce favorable long-term results. For now, it's a signal the president's grievances against China won't be resolved until it learns to play by the rules and stop stealing technology, manipulating its currency and negotiating trade deals fairly and honestly.

Here in farm country, it seems farmers and ranchers are being punished worse than China. Having lost access to some of their best trading partners, U.S. farmers certainly have become the pawns in the trade battle.

Crop and livestock producers have seen profits decline and, in some cases, disappear as the trade war drags on. Ag commodity prices are tanking. It will remain difficult to be optimistic about the economy in farm states until farmers and ranchers again can market their meat and grain competitively around the globe.

We residents of farm country are patiently waiting for the president to make good on his claim that trade wars are easy to win. If that’s the case, give us the trophy, and let's return to normal as quickly as possible.

- Kearney Hub


Raise age for e-cigarettes

With a unanimous vote in favor of LB149, Grand Island Sen. Dan Quick's bill to raise the minimum age to buy and use electronic cigarettes in Nebraska to 19, the Legislature should move quickly to complete the second and third votes and send the bill to Gov. Pete Ricketts.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn liquid often containing nicotine into an inhalable vapor. They're generally considered a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes, but health officials have warned nicotine is harmful to developing brains.

They are often marketed as a smoking cessation device for adults, but they're designed to look like candy – and use by teens has been skyrocketing.

This bill takes a common-sense approach to addressing a public health threat to the state's teenagers. The reduction of the age minimum from 21 to 19 is regrettable, but it's still a good first step. The Legislature should pass Quick's bill and then consider next year increasing the age to 21.

- Grand Island Independent

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