News In Brief

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Nebraska voters last week approved a complex constitutional amendment that educators believe will bring financial stability to school budgets.

A preliminary count of last week's balloting showed about 56 percent of voters approving Constitutional Amendment 1, which establishes real estate and personal property as separate tax categories under the constitution. (See Educaion Week, May 6, 1992.)

The amendment solves a taxation problem that began about 20 years ago, when the state began to exempt certain types of property from the personal-property tax.

Over the past five years, some of the state's largest industries have successfully challenged the exemptions in federal and state courts.

Last summer, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that all exemptions were illegal, and ordered that all personal property be put back on the tax rolls as of the beginning of this year.

To ensure that some of the state's key industries would not move to neighboring states to avoid the new taxes, the legislature adopted the amendment earlier this year.

Lawmakers also adopted a tax package that will now go into effect. The package includes exemptions for certain types of property.

Educators in the state had been concerned that if the amendment failed, there would have been great pressure on the legislature to remove all personal property from the tax rolls. That would have lead to a greater reliance on the real-estate property tax, which is largely used to fund schools.

Gov. Howard B. Dean of Vermont has signed a bill to ensure that all state residents have access to health insurance by 1994.

Under the measure, a governor-appointed panel will negotiate for lower health costs and develop plans for universal access by 1993. The legislature would then enact one of the plans the following year.

The bill expands "Dr. Dynasaur,'' the state's medical program for pregnant women, and children up to the age of 7, who come from families that earn less than 225 percent of the federal poverty level. As of July 1, the program will be expanded to children up to the age of 18.

Mississippi school officials will be liable for criminal penalties for sending unsafe school buses out on the road, under a bill signed by Gov. Kirk Fordice.

The measure, approved by the Governor late last month, empowers state officials to condemn unsafe buses and remove them from service.

The new law provides that any school official who approves the operation of such a bus before it passes re-inspection shall be charged with a misdemeanor and, if convicted, jailed for up to 60 days and fined between $500 and $1,000.

Previously, state inspectors who declared buses unsafe had lacked the authority to keep the buses from being used.

Vol. 11, Issue 35, Page 21

Published in Print: May 20, 1992, as News In Brief
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