|Budget Debate to Begin Next Week
Senators will begin next week with a 9:00 a.m. briefing on the Appropriations Committee's $8.8 billion budget proposal. The proposal is available
. Debate on the budget bills -
- will begin on Tuesday. During a short session, the budget must be placed on General File by the 40th day, which is March 9.
Senators will also begin looking at bills to recommend for a consent calendar that will be scheduled sometime in March. According to the Legislative Rules, only bills that are advanced out of committee with no dissenting votes are eligible for consent calendar. Bills must be noncontroversial, open up a topic that is noncontroversial, make a limited amount of changes and not have a general fund impact. Bills must have been reported to General File as of March 13, the deadline to request consideration of a bill for consent calendar.
Speaker Scheer has released a
of possible late night debate, beginning on Tuesday, March 13. On each scheduled late night, the body will recess for 30 to 40 minutes around 5:30 p.m. and adjourn around 9:00 p.m. However, debate could go as late as 11:50 p.m.
| State Payment of Prosecution Costs Advanced
Senator Dan Watermeier described a bill to help counties with state prison facilities pay for costs of prosecuting disturbances as a "catastrophic insurance policy" during General File debate.
, which was prioritized by the Appropriations Committee, would require the state to pay when costs exceed an amount equal to a 2.5 cent levy of the county. In Johnson County, home of the Tecumseh State Correctional Facility, state payment would kick in after prosecution costs exceeded $228,000. In Lancaster County, 2.5 cents of levy authority would generate more than $6.3 million.
Members of the Appropriations Committee cautioned that although the bill does not have an immediate fiscal impact, an event such as the Mother's Day 2015 riot at Tecumseh could cause future state expenditures.
A Judiciary Committee amendment was adopted to put in place a process of filing a claim through the State Miscellaneous Claims Act. An
offered by Senator Burke Harr based on
was also adopted before the bill advanced to Select File. The amendment would allow the Attorney General to ask for court-appointed independent counsel for actual or perceived personal or ethical conflicts.
|Inmate Phone Call Rate Debated
Senators spent two hours on Tuesday debating
, a bill to provide requirements for inmate access to phone calls and videoconferencing systems. The bill was debated two weeks ago but the session adjourned for the day before a vote was taken. On Tuesday, after a motion to bracket the bill until April 18 failed, Speaker Scheer used a speaker hold to delay further debate and move on to the next item on the agenda without taking action on the bill.
Under the bill as introduced, county and city jails would have to make prepaid or collect telephone systems available to inmates. Currently most jails contract with a provider that sets a rate per minute for collect or prepaid calls. In some instances, the county receives a commission in addition to the cost per minute. Counties generally use these revenues to provide re-entry or other inmate programming and services for inmates such as legal software subscriptions, cable tv, and magazine subscriptions.
As introduced, counties could not receive revenue in excess of the reasonable operating costs for establishing and administering the system. The provider of the phone system would have to allow inmates to communicate on the phone or by videoconference with their attorney without charge and without monitoring or recording by the jail or law enforcement. The Jail Standards Board would be responsible for prescribing rules for access to phones and videoconferencing and ensuring that jails provide inmates with "affordable and meaningful means to communicate by telephone or videoconferencing with inmates' families, loved ones, and counsel."
Proponents argued that access to phones is especially important because many inmates are being held pretrial and need regular phone access to communicate with their attorneys. Opponents argued that access to phones and the cost is an issue of local control. Some counties already provide texting and other access beyond what is prescribed by the bill.
was offered by Senator John McCollister that would require the Jail Standards Board to consider rates set by the Federal Communications Commission for inmate calling services. The amendment would prohibit excessive commissions and bonus payments, including awards paid to a county.
LB776 is Senator McCollister's priority bill.
|Snapshots of County Issues
Bills Advanced by Committees
Bills Advanced from General File
Committees reported that a number of bills were placed on General File this week including the following bills of interest to counties.
The Retirement Committee sent one of its committee priority bills,
, to the floor with a committee amendment that contains concepts from several other bills. LB1005 would grant the Public Employees Retirement Board (PERB) and the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System (NPERS) the authority to pursue an actuarial study at the employer's cost if an employer in the county or school plan makes a business decision to withdraw from the plan. Several schools have made the decision to hire support staff through an employment agency to avoid paying retirement and other benefits. When outsourced employees leave the retirement system, it affects the plan's structure and ability to generate returns for other members.
Other bills that are part of the Retirement Committee amendment to LB1005 include
that would make PERB's promulgation of rules and regulations permissive, and
that would clean up actuarial equivalent language inadvertently left out of
The Judiciary Committee reported several bills to the floor on Thursday.
would authorize the one-time use of Community-based Juvenile Services Program funds to convert existing juvenile detention facilities into uses as alternatives to detention.
would prohibit certain juvenile offenders from possessing firearms until they turn 25. A committee amendment would make the new offense of possession of a firearm by a prohibited juvenile offender applicable to acts constituting a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
would require law enforcement agencies and jails to notify their governing body before entering into an agreement to enforce immigration laws or detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.
Minors aged 16 and older could ask the court for emancipation from their parents under
. Because there are currently no emancipation procedures in statute, parents have full legal control over their children until age 19. A Judiciary Committee amendment outlining the procedures and criteria was adopted before the bill advanced from General File. The bill was introduced by Senator Sara Howard and designated as a speaker priority bill.
has been filed to make technical changes to reporting requirements and will be considered on Select File.
Bills Advanced from Select File
would adjust district court judicial district boundaries to balance court workloads without requiring additional resources. Clay and Nuckolls counties would be moved from the first judicial district to the tenth judicial district. Otoe County would move from the second judicial district to the first judicial district. The bill was advanced from General File.
, a measure to implement Next Generation 911, was advanced from General File today following debate on the appropriate standard of care for service providers and carriers. The bill creates the 911 Service System Advisory Committee to advise the Public Service Commission on the implementation of future 911 implementation, coordination, and funding.
, an update of tax increment financing (TIF) laws, was advanced from Select File on Tuesday with a technical amendment to clarify that the analysis of whether an area is substandard and blighted can be conducted by the city or by another entity on behalf of the city. Other provisions of the bill would require tax statements to show the amounts of taxes that are allocated to the redevelopment project and a statement explaining that taxes on the real property have been divided as part of ta redevelopment project under the Community Development Law for a period not to exceed 15 years.
A tax on internet sales by sellers without a physical presence in Nebraska advanced despite concerns about reporting and opposition from Governor Ricketts.
, which was prioritized by Senator Dan Watermeier, advanced from Select File on Thursday.