NEBRASKA — A new bill aims to require the Nebraska SchoolActivities Association to comply with state open records and meetings law.
The proposed bill, LB1021, titled the High School Education Act, wasintroduced on Jan. 20 by Sen. Bill Avery and Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, andwould require the association’s meetings to abide by the state’s Open MeetingsAct.
The NSAA is a private, non-profit organization that oversees the state’shigh school athletic and fine arts activities. Avery said that every school hasto pay annual dues as well as a fee for each activity the NSAA supervises forthem.
He said the NSAA should held accountable to the public because theorganization receives tax money and that makes them a public body.
“If they spend one nickel of public money [and] if they receive one nickelof public money, that means that they are going to be open to scrutiny by thelegislature in the form of compliance of open meetings and open records,” Averysaid.
Jim Tenopir, executive director of the NSAA, said there is a differencebetween a public entity and a tax-supported entity.
“I believe we are a private association that conducts a public function…however, there are those who have tried to indicate that because schools may usemoney that was once collected through property taxes that we are a tax-supportedentity and I would contend that that is not the case,” Tenopir said.
Subjecting the NSAA to open meetings law is only one part of the plan torestructure the organization.
Nebraska media outlets testified in favor of the bill last week, accordingto Nebraska Press Association Executive Director Allan Beerman. He said the NPAhas always had a good relationship with NSAA.
Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate of the Student Press Law Center, said thebill brings to light a public interest that is not being met.
“Students are being asked to put even more trust into these organizations,because they invest themselves very deeply into their athletics, and yetprobably don’t have any idea as to how the league actually runs,” he said.
The public hearing in front of the Education Committee is set for Feb.9.