Law would subject NSAA to open records, meetings regulations

NEBRASKA -- A new bill aims to require the Nebraska School Activities Association to comply with state open records and meetings law.

The proposed bill, LB1021, titled the High School Education Act, was introduced on Jan. 20 by Sen. Bill Avery and Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, and would require the association's meetings to abide by the state's Open Meetings Act.

The NSAA is a private, non-profit organization that oversees the state's high school athletic and fine arts activities. Avery said that every school has to pay annual dues as well as a fee for each activity the NSAA supervises for them.

He said the NSAA should held accountable to the public because the organization receives tax money and that makes them a public body.

"If they spend one nickel of public money [and] if they receive one nickel of public money, that means that they are going to be open to scrutiny by the legislature in the form of compliance of open meetings and open records," Avery said.

Jim Tenopir, executive director of the NSAA, said there is a difference between 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 use money that was once collected through property taxes that we are a tax-supported entity 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 to restructure the organization.

Nebraska media outlets testified in favor of the bill last week, according to Nebraska Press Association Executive Director Allan Beerman. He said the NPA has always had a good relationship with NSAA.

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate of the Student Press Law Center, said the bill 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 yet probably 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.

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