Six Omaha school board members, including President Freddie Gray, could face another incumbent during elections this spring under a bill before the Legislature that would shrink the size of the board.
Legislative Bill 125 would reduce the board from 12 members to nine and restrict members to two consecutive terms. Board members have no term limits now.
The measure calls for new board members to be elected this spring during the city election. It also calls for the Legislature to approve new subdistricts using 2010 Census data. Under proposed boundaries included in the bill:
» Gray would be in the same north Omaha subdistrict as newly elected member Nicole Walker-Nash, who ran unopposed in November. Gray has been on the board since 2008 and was re-elected in November.
» Mary Morrissey and Sarah Brumfield would be in the same southeast Omaha subdistrict. Morrissey has been on the board since 2009 and ran unopposed in November. Brumfield received about 62 percent of the vote in November when she defeated Oscar Duran.
» Incumbents Marian Fey and Bambi Bartek would be in the same subdistrict that covers parts of midtown and northwest Omaha. Fey was first elected to the board in 2010; Bartek was elected in 2006.
State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha introduced the bill last week. He has been trying for more than a year to shrink the OPS board, which he says is too large to be effective.
Lautenbaugh, with the help of board member Justin Wayne, drew the proposed subdistrict boundaries.
Fey wouldn't comment on the possibility of facing Bartek, but said she wishes the subdistricts of the Omaha Public Schools were drawn like many other Nebraska districts — without the Legislature's input.
“It is troubling to me that we would allow the Legislature to set these boundaries,” Fey, the board's vice president, said Tuesday. “The Legislature doesn't ... speak for the students and families of the Omaha Public Schools.”
Lautenbaugh said he doesn't know where board members live and paid no attention to that when redrawing the districts.
He said he and Wayne wanted to keep the minority population in the majority for a north Omaha subdistrict.
“I just wanted them to be fair and logical and user-friendly for the voters,” Lautenbaugh said. “I don't believe the districts belong to the incumbents, and I never have.”
In 2001, when Lautenbaugh was Douglas County Election Commissioner, his redistricting placed two OPS board members into subdistricts already represented by other board members, and two subdistricts were renumbered. The decision spurred a lawsuit that made it to the Nebraska Supreme Court in 2002.
The court ruled that the election commissioner could redraw the boundaries but could not swap the numbers, which affects when seats are up for election.
Lautenbaugh said Wayne received no preferential treatment because he has supported Lautenbaugh both last year and this year in efforts to shrink the size of the OPS board.
“There was really no discussion of where he lives and where he doesn't live,” Lautenbaugh said.
OPS officials have said they're studying the bill.
On Tuesday, the bill was referred to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
A bill can move from committee approval to final passage within 10 days. A bill can be passed with an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately upon the governor's signature.
But adding an emergency clause requires 33 votes on final passage, instead of the usual 25.
If the bill passes in time for the spring elections, current officeholders would have to file by Feb. 15. New candidates would have until March 1.
Demographic breakdown of proposed districts
Hispanics are included in the “white” category.
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