The 106th Nebraska Legislature, First Session, adjourned sine die on August 13, 2020. From a four-month suspension to new safety protocols, the coronavirus made the session unlike any other. Despite the challenges, senators passed 140 bills, including a property tax reform and business incentive package. This Final 2020 Legislative Report is a brief synopsis of some of the bills passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Pete Ricketts. This report highlights particular provisions of interest to counties within the included bills and notes bills that were amended into other measures. Please review the actual legislative bills for more specifics. The full text of the final version of each bill, called the slip law, can be viewed on the Legislature's website
. Copies of bills can be requested from the Legislature's Bill Room at (402)471-0617. Also, consider contacting your county attorney with questions regarding the implementation of a particular bill in your county.
More than 480
bills, resolutions, and constitutional amendments were introduced this year. Bills that were not adopted in 2020 are considered indefinitely postponed and do not carry over to 2021.
Most bills will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on November 14, 2020, which is three calendar months after the Legislature's adjournment, including bills that were passed before the session was suspended. Bills passed with a specific operative date
or emergency clause become effective on the specified date or upon the governor's signature.
The 90-day 2021 session
is scheduled to convene on January 6. Pursuant to Article III, section 10
of the Nebraska Constitution, regular sessions of the Legislature commence at 10:00 a.m. on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January each year.
The NACO staff appreciates all county officials and employees who responded to requests to contact legislators, testify at hearings, review legislation, and answer surveys during this year's session. The direct involvement of county representatives is essential to a productive legislative session.
Please contact the NACO office or your affiliate group if you have suggestions for possible legislation for NACO to pursue in 2021. NACO's 2021 legislative priorities will be selected following NACO's 15th annual legislative conference on October 8 in Lincoln.
sets out additional requirements for county boards and other governing bodies holding budget hearings. Such hearings must be held separately from regularly scheduled meetings and cannot be limited by time. At least three copies of proposed budget statements must be available to the public at the hearing. The governing body must make a presentation outlining the key provisions of the proposed budget statement, including a comparison with the prior year’s budget. Any member of the public must be allowed to address the body about the proposed budget statement and must be given a reasonable amount of time to do so.
The bill redefines reasonable advance publicized notice of meetings to require publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the public body’s jurisdiction and on the newspaper’s website, if available. Notice may also be provided by other appropriate methods designated by the body. Bodies must record the methods and dates of notice in their minutes.
prohibits counties, cities and agencies from adopting ordinances or resolutions prohibiting the use of or setting fees on the sale, use or marketing of containers. Containers include single-use and recyclable plastic and paper bags, cardboard, glass, and other materials.
requires county, village, and city treasurers to complete an annual continuing education program approved by the Auditor of Public Accounts. The costs for attending the program will be borne by the corresponding county, village, or city. The Auditor will maintain attendance records and notify the appropriate county, village, or city attorney and the Attorney General if a treasurer does not complete the required training. The Auditor will work in consultation with NACO and the League of Municipalities to approve continuation education programs in conjunction with the training that is already offered. NACO has been developing its own continuing education program for county treasurers that should comply with the bill.
In addition, LB1047
was amended into LB781 to revise and modernize publication of semi-annual statements by treasurers. In January and July, treasurers must publish a tabulated statement showing receipts and disbursements from their office. New language provides that if a newspaper is unable to publish the statement in a timely manner, publication on a county’s website is considered compliance with publication requirements. Senator Curt Friesen introduced LB1047 for NACO to ensure that counties have met their statutory obligation in the event that technical difficulties or human error don’t allow newspapers to publish the statement by the deadline. The amendment also modernizes language describing the funds that must be reported. The bill has already taken effect.
gives the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission authority to regulate the consumption of alcohol on special party buses. The commission or local governing bodies, including county boards if the licensed premises are not within municipal boundaries, may inspect such charter buses when the bus has stopped to allow passengers to embark or disembark.
allows farm wineries and certain other liquor license holders to apply to local governing bodies, rather than the Liquor Control Commission, for a temporary expansion of their premises to an immediately adjacent area for special events. Counties and cities issuing the permits can establish criteria for approving or denying the applications. The bill took effect on August 15.
removes outdated deadlines for counties and cities to include an energy element in new or updated comprehensive plans.
, an omnibus banking bill, contains language originally introduced in LB854
to make technical revisions to the single bank pooled collateral method of holding public funds that was adopted last year. It requires statements to be provided to the governmental unit, rather than the custodial official, and allows posting reports on the pool administrator’s website.
combines concepts from several bills into a property tax relief and business incentive package. It creates $125 million in refundable income tax credits based upon the amount of school property taxes paid. It sets a minimum of $275 million in the Property Tax Credit Fund that appears on property owners’ tax statements. Depending on the state’s net receipts and the amount held in the state’s cash reserves, additional funding for the programs could be required. By the end of the fifth year, the amount available for credit must be $375 million. After that, increases will be tied to the amount of overall statewide growth in valuations. The $10,000 personal property tax credit exemption is eliminated. New caps are set for the ImagiNE tax incentive act that was passed last year to replace the Nebraska Advantage Act. The bill also allocates funding for a potential academic hospital and an all-hazards disaster response facility at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
provides clarification in how solar panel arrays are taxed under a nameplate capacity excise tax. While most other kinds of renewable energy are based on an alternating current, or AC, rating, energy generated by solar panels is calculated on a DC, or direct current, rating. The DC current must be converted to AC current before connection to the power grid. A percentage of the megawatts of power are lost through this process. LB76 clarifies that solar panels are taxed on their AC, not DC, rating. It will take effect on January 1, 2021.
clarifies last year’s legislation requiring members of mutual finance organizations to levy the same property tax rate for one of three years covered by the agreement. LB1130 provides that the members need not levy the agreed-upon rate during the same year. Mutual finance organizations are groups of fire districts, cities, or villages that enter into interlocal agreements to provide fire emergency responses or training for a joint area of operation.
revises the Nebraska Job Creation and Mainstreet Revitalization Act, otherwise known as the Historic Tax Credit. It requires the Department of Revenue to determine the amount of expenses eligible for the credit within 60 days after the application is submitted. It imposes a .06 percent fee to offset the Department’s costs.
allows municipalities of all sizes to create or join land banks. Land banks are used to facilitate the return of vacant and dilapidated properties to productive use. The bill revises the membership on land bank boards and prohibits financial benefits to board members, their businesses, or immediate families. The bill limits the number of parcels the land bank can own.
changes the flat $25 filing fee for real property valuation cases appealed to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) to a tiered system based on the value of the property. For property valued at less than $250,000, the fee is $40. The maximum fee is $85 for properties valued at over $1 million. The bill also allows commissioners to be reimbursed for travel from their residence to the state office building or location where hearings are held. The bill carried an emergency clause and was signed by Governor Ricketts on February 12.
creates the Jury Selection Act. The bill was introduced by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks on behalf of NACO and the clerks of the district court to modernize and reorganize jury selection laws, define terms, and clarify procedures. The bill distinguishes between procedures for one-step and two-step qualifying and summoning systems for grand and petit jurors. It changes the age for automatic exemption from jury service from 65 to 70 to make it consistent with the federal jury system and allows juror qualification forms to be delivered and returned electronically. LB387 takes effect on January 1, 2021.
, an omnibus Judiciary Committee bill, prohibits courts from automatically deducting fines from bonds posted by offenders but allows offenders to consent to such deductions. Bailable defendants can be released on personal recognizance unless they have failed to appear in the case or within the past six months or if a judge determines that a release could jeopardize the safety of the defendants, victims, witnesses or other persons. If the court requires the defendant to post a bond, counsel must be appointed for the defendant if he or she is unable to pay the amount required and is indigent. Making copies of transcripts of grand jury proceedings for deaths during custody or apprehension would be allowed under limited circumstances. This provision was part of LB1041
, which was introduced by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks on behalf of NACO.
authorizes the Nebraska Supreme Court to promulgate rules for clerks of the district court to issue subpoenas for discovery in Nebraska for civil proceedings pending in foreign jurisdictions. The rules may specify the amount for a fee. This language was introduced as LB869
allows preservation duplicates of original court records to be maintained in formats other than microfilm. Formats must conform to state definitions for durable mediums. The deadline for courts to transmit money to treasurers from forfeited recognizances is increased from 10 days to 30 days. This reflects the current practice of courts to reconcile accounts on a monthly basis.
authorizes a person claiming to be the biological father of a child who is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to intervene to establish the paternity of the child. The cost of a genetic test is paid by the person requesting the test, the county, or the state, at the discretion of the judge.
requires law enforcement officers to annually complete at least two hours of anti-bias and implicit bias training designed to minimize apparent or actual racial profiling.
provides that it is Class IIA felony for a person to possess, receive, retain or dispose of a stolen firearm when the person should have known or had reasonable cause to believe the firearm was stolen.
changes provisions for the cultivation and transportation of hemp. Peace officers may detain persons transporting hemp without the proper documentation. Failure to produce documentation constitutes probable cause to believe the hemp may be marijuana or another controlled substance.
expands Nebraska’s Good Samaritan law to exempt persons who enter a motor vehicle to remove a child when it is necessary to avoid immediate harm to the child. Under the law, persons who render emergency care at the scene of an accident are exempt from civil liability as a result of their acts or omissions during the incident.
creates the Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights. It grants victims the right to have an advocate of their choosing present during medical evidentiary or physical examinations, and interviews by peace officers, prosecutors, or defense attorneys. Victims are granted the right to counsel but the bill specifically states that this right does not create a new obligation by the state or a political subdivision to appoint or pay for counsel.
was introduced as a bill to support sex trafficking survivors but as passed, only contained provisions from LB745
, a bill to create procedures for certification of immigration laws and visas by law enforcement.
requires public postsecondary educational institutions to submit reports to the Legislature regarding sexual harassment and Title IX compliance. Among other things, the report must include information on any agreements between the institution and a local law enforcement agency or county attorney related to addressing instances of sexual harassment.
Several bills were passed in response to last year’s crisis at the state’s Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC) in Geneva.
requires operating, strategic, and emergency plans for the YRTCs. No new facilities may be built or existing facilities transferred to another location except in case of an emergency until the planning process is completed. The bill requires a needs assessment and cost analysis to be conducted on the establishment of an inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit housed within the Lincoln Regional Center.
creates the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center Special Oversight Committee of the Legislature to study the quality of care, funding, and other issues related to the YRTCs. The committee terminates on December 31, 2020. The Office of Public Counsel is required to inspect a number of state institutions, including the YTRCs, and report to the Legislature. The Office of Juvenile Services and Department of Health and Human Services are also required to report incidents and grievances.
gives the juvenile court authority to commit a youth to a specific YRTC facility and requires the Office of Juvenile Services to provide notice of placement changes to the court, parents, and other interested parties.
establishes the position of superintendent of schools to administer educational programs under the subdivision of the Department of Health and Human Services that houses juveniles. The bill identifies the YRTC at Kearney as used only for the treatment of boys and the facility at Geneva for girls. In the event of an emergency such as a natural disaster or fire, either facility may be used for boys or girls for up to seven days.
limits the use of room confinement in juvenile detention facilities, staff secure juvenile facilities, and juvenile facilities operated by the state.
, an omnibus election bill, requires that counties conducting all-mail elections have a secure ballot drop box at the office of the county clerk. In March the Secretary of State and NACO purchased and installed secure ballot drop boxes so that voters in every county without one could return their primary election ballots during the pandemic.
The bill sets guidelines for poll watchers that were originally found in LB1086
that was introduced on behalf of NACO. Civic groups, political parties, and others have recently begun to post election observers in polling places. New language sets out requirements for pre-registration and the distance poll watchers have to maintain from ballots and polling booths.
LB1055 expands prohibitions on the timing of special elections to restrict the months of March and September in even-numbered years unless the special election is held in conjunction with a statewide primary or general election. Special elections to allow a political subdivision to approve a property tax levy or exceed a property tax limitation are exempted from the September restrictions.
Other sections give election commissioners three extra days to prepare early voting ballots for counting and allow officials who are appointed after the incumbent filing deadline to file for election using the non-incumbent deadline of March 1. These provisions were originally found in LB820
, and LB1120
was introduced for NACO by Senator Matt Hansen to harmonize annexation deadlines for cities of the first and second class and villages with deadlines in the Election Act. Existing law requires these municipalities to complete annexations at least 80 days prior to the primary election. This date falls after the February 15 deadline for incumbents to file for office. Accepting boundary changes after an incumbent has filed could mean that the candidate resides in a different district than their filing. The Election Act requires annexations to be completed at least five months prior to the primary election.
is the annual cleanup bill from the Department of Motor Vehicles. A number of bills were amended into it, including LB831
which allows for issuance of a salvage title, rather than a junk title, for a restored vehicle manufactured before 1940 with no replaced major component parts. Language from LB1067
allows ATVs and UTVs to cross highways of more than two lanes for agricultural purposes between sunrise and sunset. Drivers must have an operator’s license and insurance and use headlights and taillights, as well as a bicycle safety flag. Five new license plates are authorized in the bill: “Donate Life”, Down syndrome awareness, “The Good Life is Outside”, “Support the Arts”, and “Pets for Vets”. Other sections update Nebraska laws to reflect recent changes in federal law.
changes motorboat registration fees to a set amount based on the class of boat, rather than a rate set by the Game and Parks Commission and capped at a statutory amount. The Aquatic Invasive Species fee, which was a separate charge, is rolled into the registration amount. This change allows the Commission to receive Coast Guard grants. No fiscal impact is expected. The bill also changes fees for hunting and fishing permits.
allows loads to be 15 percent overweight when hauling grain or other seasonally harvested agricultural products from farm storage to market or factory. The overweight provisions already apply to products hauled from the field to storage, market, or stockpile. The damage to county roads caused by the additional weight is estimated to lead to a nearly 40 percent increase in annual maintenance costs.
creates the Dry Pea and Lentil Resources Act to protect and stabilize these industries. In addition to creating a board, the bill adds dry peas and lentils to the list of farm products that are exempted from overweight load limitations on roads.
, which contains recommendations from the Nebraska Rural Broadband Task Force, is intended to facilitate broadband expansion into rural areas by using existing electrical easements. It creates the office of state broadband coordinator on July 1, 2022. The Public Service Commission will establish a matching-fund program to provide incentives for fiber optic cable to be constructed to benefit public libraries. An Attorney General’s opinion
issued in February examined the constitutionality of the bill’s notice to property owners and hearing requirements. It concluded that the bill did not violate procedural due process requirements.
creates the Broadband Data improvement Program to help ensure that the State of Nebraska is represented in federal broadband grant programs. The program, which is administered by the Public Service Commission, is intended to complement and supplement broadband availability data. If a federal program isn’t available to crowdsource broadband mapping, the Commission can develop a state-based broadband data crowdsource program.
excludes fifty percent of military retirement benefit income from taxation, beginning on January 1, 2022.
increases the amount of tuition assistance available to members of the Nebraska National Guard who attend state-supported institutions of higher learning.
allows disabled veterans to receive a free lifetime state park entry permit. The bill also caps the fee for nonresident annual park permits at $65. Currently the fee cannot exceed $55.
provides for the acquisition of the former Nebraska Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Grand Island and making it part of the state’s veteran cemetery system.
Tax Increment Financing
makes tax increment financing available for smaller “microTIF” projects and permits cities to allow expedited reviews of development plans for such projects. Only properties in substandard and blighted areas in counties under 100,000 are eligible. Structures must be at least 60 years old. The assessed value of the project when completed cannot exceed $250,000 for a single-family residential structure. When the work is finished, the redeveloper must notify the county assessor who determines the assessed value and whether the project is complete. Taxes for microTIF projects will be divided for a period not to exceed 10 years, compared to 15 years for other TIF projects.
allows cities of the second class and villages to annex noncontiguous land to relocate after catastrophic flooding. The bill was introduced to provide an option for the village of Winslow that was destroyed in last year’s flooding. Eight other municipal bills were amended into LB1003, including LB855
that requires notice of approval by the State Historic Preservation Officer to be submitted with civic and community center grant financing applications and LB801
related to tax increment financing (TIF). It consolidates and reorganizes TIF notice requirements and defines the kinds of substantial modifications to redevelopment plans that require a public hearing.
State Budget and COVID-19 Response
appropriates $83,619,600 for emergency funding for the state’s COVID-19 response. The appropriation includes more than $38 million for personal protective equipment and other supplies to local jurisdictions and health departments, $13 million for surge staffing, and $25 million in unobligated reserves. The appropriation carried an emergency clause and was signed by Governor Ricketts on March 25 after senators were called back from suspension to make the appropriation.
, this year’s budget bills, appropriate an additional $1.5 million for local public health departments. Unallocated coronavirus relief funds will be reoffered through a grant process to meet remaining unmet needs including rental and food assistance, small business and livestock stabilization, broadband, workforce retraining, and child care. If allowed by federal law, excess and unallocated federal coronavirus funds will be transferred to the state’s cash reserves. Nearly $500,000 is allocated for pilot programs for problem-solving courts for mental health and young adults. Over $9.2 million is appropriated for state aid to counties which have a cost share for relief projects for the March 2019 weather-related disasters that total 20 percent or more of the county’s 2018 taxes levied. Additional appropriations for flood relief bring the total to $55.2 million.
removes a prohibition against filing a revocation of a previously-recorded transfer on death deed within 30 days of execution. Rather, the deed would need to be recorded before the grantor’s death. The period for recording could be extended beyond the grantor’s death if the grantee is a bona fide purchaser for value. Other sections of the bill create procedures to recognize international wills.
enacts the Animal Health Disease Control Act. In addition to duties for animal owners and the Department of Agriculture to prevent, suppress, and control dangerous diseases in livestock, it requires sheriffs to cause animal carcasses to be properly buried or disposed of if the owner has not taken action after notice from the Department. The county board must pay the person rendering services and the costs can be recovered in a civil action if the owner has not paid the expenses within 30 days after notice. The Department may request the assistance of sheriffs and deputies to execute its orders, including arresting violators of the Act and the Exotic Animal Auction or Exchange Venue Act. Officers must immediately notify the county attorney for prosecution of the person arrested.
eliminates outdated references in emergency medical service provider laws to recognize that modern paramedics and EMTs serve in a variety of care settings that can include ambulances, in-hospital services, and other community settings. Their scope of practice can range from patient education to complex interventions use to treat critically ill patients.
adds breast and ovarian cancer to the list of service-related injuries that are considered incurred in the line of duty for firefighters and firefighter-paramedics who are paid members of a municipal fire department or a rural or suburban fire district.
provides opportunities for first responders to receive annual resilience training in how to manage and recover from mental health stressors that result from their jobs. The bill is intended to help address post-traumatic stress syndrome and the mental injuries and mental illness suffered by first responders.
is an omnibus bill that was heard by the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee. Five bills were amended into it, including LB775
which updates the Nebraska Real Property Appraiser Act to be in compliance with federal laws.
allows state officials and employees and members of state boards and commissions to be reimbursed for meal and travel expenses on a per diem basis, rather than for actual expenses documented with receipts. The per diem rate is calculated as a percentage of the federal per diem rate. The new provisions do not apply to the legislative or judicial branches or to county officials and employees. The bill takes effect on January 1, 2021.
renames Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day to recognize the historic, cultural, and contemporary significance of the people indigenous to the Americas, specifically Nebraska. The bill requires the display of flags in the Warner Legislative Chamber representing the four federally recognized tribes with headquarters in Nebraska: the Omaha, the Ponca, the Santee, and the Winnebago.
sets the date for the state to certify the amount of state aid to schools to May 1 for the 2020-21 school year. The bill carries an emergency clause and was signed on February 12, 2020.
restructures and increases filing fees collected by the Secretary of State in order to incentivize online filing. Four funds are consolidated into a single fund to reduce reliance on the state’s general fund.
prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against employees who file a claim under the Wage Payment Collection Act or participate in an investigation concerning the Act. The Act prohibits paydays from being altered without prior notice and the timing of an employee’s final paycheck upon separation from the employer.
updates state-administered retirement plans, including the County Employees Retirement Act, to comply with federal changes to the age triggering required minimum distributions from 70 and a half to 72.
expands the Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act to prohibit vaping in public buildings.
sets the legal age for using tobacco products at 21. This brings Nebraska in compliance with federal law.
LR288 is a non-binding resolution to urge Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize flood control on the Missouri River.