Tom Osborne-TeamMates

Last fall, Tom Osborne talked about the TeamMates mentoring program, which was in its 25th year.

LINCOLN — An effort to allow state legislative employees to be paid while volunteering for efforts such as the TeamMates mentoring program will wait for another day.

On Wednesday, state lawmakers stripped an amendment that would have cleared the way for legislative staff to volunteer at a local school or for a nonprofit organization “that focuses on education” without a loss of pay.

State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said that while volunteering for organizations is a worthy cause, allowing state workers to volunteer while on the taxpayers’ dime might be problematic.

Other senators questioned where to draw the line on how many hours someone could volunteer, or to which organizations someone could or couldn’t volunteer.

Krist said that his son works at an Omaha bank and is encouraged to volunteer during working hours. But, he said, it’s a different matter when taxpayer dollars are involved.

Gretna Sen. John Murante introduced a measure this year, Legislative Bill 655, that would allow all state employees to participate in such volunteer activities.

It is something already allowed at several private businesses, he said.

Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, the co-founder of the TeamMates program, was among those who testified in favor of LB 655.

Osborne said that such programs benefit mentors and mentees and that allowing more people to mentor could help improve state graduation rates and decrease disciplinary problems in schools.

Murante, who volunteers with the Partnership 4 Kids mentoring program, attempted to amend a portion of LB 655 into another bill.

The amendment was limited to state legislative staffers.

But after the amendment began drawing opposition and was ultimately defeated, Murante said he would work to resolve the concerns expressed through his initial bill.

LB 655, he said, probably won’t be debated until next year.

paul.hammel@owh.com, 402-473-9584

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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