Nebraska Association of County Officials

Legislative Report
February 14, 2020 Legislative Report Archive
Debate on Sentencing Reform Wraps Up Week
Senators wrapped up the week with debate on a sentencing reform bill that would revise the way minimum sentences are calculated. As introduced, LB131 would set the minimum sentence for some felonies at no more than one-third of the statutory maximum term. A Judiciary Committee amendment would require the minimum sentence to be no more than half of the maximum number of years for the sentence. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, the introducer, and proponents argued that sentencing reforms could reduce overcrowding and make inmates eligible for parole sooner.
LB131 appears on Tuesday’s agenda after debate on priority bills to create the Broadband Data Improvement Program ( LB996) and update banking laws ( LB909). Debate on LB974, the Revenue Committee’s property tax relief bill, is expected to begin on Wednesday.
Other bills on sentencing reform were heard by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday and remain in committee. LB959 would eliminate habitual criminal penalties for non-violent felony offenses. LB1181 would also make changes to habitual criminal penalties and allow courts to disregard mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses.
Priority Bills Advanced from General File
The Legislature advanced priority bills designated by Senator Ernie Chambers, Senator Tim Gragert, and the Retirement Systems Committee from the first round of debate this week. LB924, Senator Chambers’s priority bill, would require law enforcement agencies to include two hours of anti-bias education in their annual training. LB 770, Senator Gragert’s priority bill, would provide free Game and Parks motor vehicle permits for certain disabled veterans who are Nebraska residents. LB1054, the Retirement priority bill, would update Nebraska statutes to comply with new federal laws changing the age triggering required minimum distributions from 70 ½ to 72.
Senators debated Senator Brett Lindstrom’s priority bill, LB242, to provide for a turnback of state sales tax revenue to help cities pay for water and sewer services. The bill stalled after three hours of debate and no vote was taken.
Senator priority bills must be designated by February 19 and committee priority bills must be selected by February 21. The Speaker may also designate up to 25 bills as speaker priorities. Most of the remaining 35 days of the session will be filled with debate on priority bills.
Brand Committee Elimination Hearing Next Week
County sheriffs and treasurers would assume more responsibility in handling stray livestock under a bill that will be heard by the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, February 18.  LB1165 would eliminate the Nebraska Brand Committee. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture would take over the committee’s administrative roles, such as recording brands, and brand inspections would be eliminated. County sheriffs would be responsible for selling estray livestock in all areas of the state and county treasurers would hold and distribute the proceeds of the sale. Existing law requires the Brand Committee to perform these functions in areas of the state that are part of the Brand Inspection Area.

The committee will also hear LB1200, a bill to update statutes related to the Brand Committee.
Accepting Partial Payments of Property Taxes Proposed
County treasurers would be required to accept partial payments for real and personal property taxes, interest, publication costs, and penalties pursuant to LB1087 that will be heard by the Revenue Committee on Wednesday, February 19. The hearing will begin at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1524 of the State Capitol and will be livestreamed through NET.
In 2000, county treasurers were given specific authority to accept partial payments upon a resolution of the county board. The county treasurer could require minimum, limited, or periodic payments and would hold the money in escrow until the accumulated payments were sufficient to pay at least one-half of the real property taxes currently due or the full amount of any delinquency, plus interest, penalties, and any other charges. Partial payments of personal property taxes would be held until the accumulated payments were sufficient to pay the full amount of the delinquency for one year and any interest, penalties or other charged due to the delinquency. LB1087 would retain these requirements and make accepting partial payments mandatory.
Motor Vehicle Clean Up Bill Advances from First Round
LB944, one of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee’s priority bills, was advanced from General File on Tuesday. LB944, as introduced, is the Department of Motor Vehicles’ annual clean up bill. As amended, it contains provisions from the following bills:
LB768 would update Nebraska statutes to match federal regulations for cabin trailers, hazardous materials, and other issues, including odometer statements. When vehicles are transferred, such statements would be required for 20 years, rather than 10 years, after the vehicle’s manufacture.
LB785 would revise weight, length, and load provisions to allow exceptions for stinger-steered automobile transporters, certain electric battery-powered vehicles, covered heavy-duty tow and recovery vehicles, and other vehicles.
LB831 would allow the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a salvage title for a vehicle manufactured prior to 1940 if the previous title was a junk title. The owner would have to show that no major component parts had been replaced, the vehicle had been inspected, and that it had been restored to its original specifications.
LB983 would eliminate the one-point deduction from operator’s licenses for speeding of up to five miles per hour over the limit.
LB1067 would allow ATVs and UTVs to cross controlled access highways if the vehicle is being used for agricultural purposes. Vehicles and operators would be subject to existing requirements for these vehicles, including liability insurance, speed limits, headlights, and operator’s licenses.
Jury Selection Act Passed
LB387, a bill to modernize jury selection statutes, was passed by the Legislature on February 13. The bill would reorganize the jury statutes in Chapter 25, Article 16 to place procedures in chronological and topical order. For example, it would clarify procedures for one-step and two-step jury selection processes by moving them into separate subsections of statute. The bill would increase the age of exemption from serving as a juror from 65 to 70 to broaden the pool of potential jurors. It would allow prospective jurors to complete their questionnaire online, rather than on paper. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks first introduced this concept on behalf of NACO four years ago.
Snapshots of Committee Hearings
The Legislature’s standing committees continued to hold hearings on new bills this week.
Special Election Changes
Special elections would be prohibited during the months of March ( LB1119) and September ( LB11120) in even numbered years. Special elections are already prohibited in the months of April, May, June, October, and November due to the statewide primary and general elections. Election officials, the Secretary of State’s office, and NACO testified in support of both bills.
LB1193 would prohibit special elections for all bonds and levy overrides. Instead, such elections would have to be held during a statewide primary or general election or regularly scheduled municipal primary or general election. Exceptions could be made for emergencies such as destruction of a facility or infrastructure by fire, flood, or tornado. The bill was introduced to create transparency in financial matters.
LB1110 would harmonize the amount of time before a school board must file the order for a school bond election with the Election Act that regulates other elections.
The bills were heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. No action has been reported.
Regulation of Poll Watchers
Persons observing elections would need to provide notice to election officials in advance of the election under LB1086. Such observers, or poll watchers, would need to wear credentials identifying them as such, and would have to remain a minimum of eight feet away from the sign-in table, the sign-in register, the polling booths, the ballot box, and any ballots which have not been cast. Election commissioners, the Secretary of State’s office, Civic Nebraska, and NACO testified in support of the measure at the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday. Senator Matt Hansen introduced LB1086 on behalf of NACO.
Sanitary and Improvement District Elections
This week the Urban Affairs Committee took testimony on a bill that would clarify how to determine residency for sanitary and improvement (SID) board member elections. Existing law provides that if 90 percent or more of the district is owned for purposes that are not residential, five members of the board are elected by the property owners, rather than the residents. NACO and election officials suggested amending the bill to define residential property based upon assessors’ records. As introduced, the determination would be based upon occupancy. The committee did not report any action on LB1114.
Funding for Health and Human Services
The Appropriations Committee heard bills this week to fund community-based mental health and substance abuse services ( LB897), competency restoration ( LB1161), developmental disability service providers ( LB827), and aging and disability resource centers ( LB877). The committee also heard LB874 that would limit funding of new programs from the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund. After June 1, 2020, new programs could only be funded from the investment income accrued during the previous fiscal year. The Health Care Cash Fund receives funds from the Nebraska Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund and the Nebraska Intergovernmental Transfer Trust Fund.
Suspension of Liquor Licenses
Counties and cities could suspend liquor licenses of businesses that do not comply with local laws regarding the payment of taxes, fees, or assessments under LB1090. Payments would have to be at least 90 days in arrears. Local governments already have authority to cancel or revoke liquor licenses for violations of ordinances and resolutions relating to alcoholic liquor. Senator Carol Blood, the introducer said that cities and counties cannot pay their bills if taxpayers aren’t paying their bill. NACO and city representatives testified in support of the bill. The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission opposed the bill. The General Affairs Committee has not reported any action on the bill.
Consumption Tax
On Wednesday, the Revenue Committee heard LR300CA, a proposed constitutional amendment to replace property, income, sales, and inheritance taxes with a single-rate consumption tax on the purchase of new goods and services. If passed by the Legislature and approved by voters, the Legislature would be required to enact the tax no later than January 1, 2022 and could not grant any exemptions. Senator Steve Erdman, the introducer, said that all state residents would get “pre-bate” checks based on the amount of spending by people at the federal poverty level to help offset the new tax.
Specialty License Plates
The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard six bills to create new license plates. LB1088 would provide for the issuance of personalized message plates for holders of organizational specialty plates. LB843 would provide for Donate Life plates. LB903 would provide for Down Syndrome Awareness plates. LB921 would provide for The Good Life Is Outside plates. LB942 would provide for Support the Arts plates. LB1139 would provide for Pets for Vets plates.
Community Antenna Television Service
On Tuesday, the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard LB1046, a bill to reduce the maximum fees collected by cities and counties on community antenna television service. Fees are currently capped at five percent; the bill would set the cap at three percent. Opponents from municipalities told the committee that their revenues would drop, especially if existing rates were not grandfathered in. Supporters from cable communications companies said savings would be passed directly to consumers.
Jail Reimbursement for Holding State Prisoners
Counties could be reimbursed by the state for housing individuals who have escaped from or been involved in the commission of a crime at a Department of Correctional Services (DCS) facility, secure youth confinement facility operated by DCS, the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTCs), or any juvenile chemical dependency program or juvenile psychiatric residential treatment facility operated by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Judiciary Committee heard LB978 on Wednesday and has not reported any action on the bill.
Funding for the Commission on Public Advocacy
NACO testified in support of LB1082, a bill to increase court fees by one dollar to help support the Commission on Public Advocacy. Since 2005, the commission has been funded by a three dollar fee that is assessed as court costs on cases filed in Nebraska courts. Because the number of case filings has decreased each year, the additional funding would help the commission to cover costs. The commission was created in 1995 to provide property tax relief to counties that are required to provide legal representation to indigent defendants charged with first-degree murder and serious or violent drug-related felonies. The Judiciary Committee heard LB1082 on Wednesday.
Diversion Programs for Caregivers
LB1209, which was heard by the Judiciary Committee, would allow counties and cities to implement diversion programs for nonviolent offenders who are the primary caregiver for a child under the age of 18 to rehabilitate themselves. County attorneys could establish such programs with the concurrence of the county board and in consultation with the judges of the county and district court for the county.
Mutual Finance Organization Clean Up
Senator Mike Groene, who introduced legislation last year ( LB63) to set out procedures for mutual finance organizations (MFOs) to levy an agreed-upon property tax rate once every three years, introduced LB1130 to make further clarifications to the process. LB1130 would provide that all members of the MFO do not need to levy the agreed-upon rate during the same year of the three-year cycle. It would more closely align the MFO funding timeline with the budget-setting process. The Revenue Committee heard LB1130 on February 12.
Bills Signed by Governor Ricketts
Governor Pete Ricketts signed 15 bills into law on February 12. Unless a specific operative date is provided, bills will take effect three calendar months after the Legislature adjourns. Based on a tentative adjournment date of April 23, the bills will take effect on July 14.
LB148 requires budget hearings to be held separately from regularly scheduled meetings of governing bodies. At least three copies of proposed budget statements must be available to the public at the budget hearing. The governing body must make a presentation outlining key provisions of the proposed budget statement, including a comparison of to last year’s budget. Any member of the public must be allowed to address the governing body on the budget and be given reasonable time to do so. The bill also sets out publication requirements.
LB230 limits the use of room confinement in juvenile detention and other facilities to one hour during a 24-hour period. It requires continuous monitoring through regular in-person visits that can be supplemented by electronic video monitoring. Juveniles could not be placed in room confinement unless all other less-restrictive alternative have been exhausted and the juvenile poses an immediate and substantial risk of harm to self or others.
LB4 sets the filing fee in appeals to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission in tiers based upon the taxable value of the property, beginning at $40 for properties with a taxable value of less than $250,000. Currently the filing fee is $25 for all properties It also provides reimbursement for Commissioners for their actual mileage to the site of a Commission hearing or the place of Commission business. LB4 carries an emergency clause and takes effect immediately.
LB76 provides clarification in how solar panel arrays are taxed under the nameplate capacity system. 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. The bill will take effect on January 1, 2021.
LB731 removes a 2015 deadline for counties and cities to include an energy element in new or updated comprehensive plans.
Reminder: NACO Scholarship Applications are Due March 1
Each year, NACO awards twelve scholarships to the children and stepchildren of county officials and employees. Click here for details.
Hearing Schedule for Selected Bills
Every bill introduced by the Legislature is the subject of a public hearing. Following is a schedule of bills that are of interest to counties. Note that bills not appearing on this list may be heard during the same hearing. A complete list of hearings is available on the Legislature's website.Hearings will conclude on February 27.

If you are unable or do not wish to testify in person, you may submit a written position letter that will be included in the official hearing record. Such letters must be delivered to the office of the committee conducting the hearing or emailed to the committee chair by 5:00 p.m. on the last work day immediately prior to the hearing. Letters must include your name, address, bill number, position (for, against, neutral), and a request that it be included as part of the public hearing record. For tips about testifying at a hearing, click here.

Tuesday February 18, 2020
Agriculture Committee
Warner Chamber - 1:30 PM
LB1200 (Brewer) Rename the Livestock Brand Act and the Nebraska Brand Committee and change provisions relating to livestock
LB1165 (Stinner) Eliminate the Nebraska Brand Committee and provide powers and duties for the Department of Agriculture under the Livestock Brand Act
Appropriations Committee
Room 1524 - 1:30 PM
LB1018 (Vargas) Appropriate funds to the Department of Health and Human Services
LB1019 (Vargas) Appropriate funds to the Department of Health and Human Services

Urban Affairs Committee
Room 1510 - 1:30 PM
LB1003 (Walz) Provide annexation powers to cities of the second class and villages for relocation due to catastrophic flooding
LB876 (Walz) Change provisions of the Community Development Law relating to limitations on blighted areas
LB1021 (Groene) Provide for an expedited review of certain redevelopment plans under the Community Development Law
LB801 (Urban Affairs Committee) Change and eliminate provisions of the Community Development Law
Wednesday February 19, 2020
Judiciary Committee
Room 1113 - 1:30 PM
LB1062 (Lathrop) Allow the Department of Correctional Services to establish a pre-discharge reentry pilot program

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 – 1:30 PM
LB1087 (Friesen) Change provisions relating to partial payments of property taxes           
LB1075 (Linehan) Change tax provisions relating to net book value          
LB1106 (Scheer) Eliminate obsolete sales tax provisions
LB1107 (Scheer) Change property tax provisions relating to notice of preliminary valuations

Thursday February 20, 2020
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 – 1:30 PM
LB1167 (Albrecht) Require members of the public to be allowed to speak at each meeting subject to the Open Meetings Act    
LB878 (Walz) Redefine immediate family and change conflict of interest provisions under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act            
LB935 (Hunt) Change the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act to authorize expenditures for an officeholder's child care services             
LB936 (Hunt) Change the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act to authorize expenditures for conference expenses for certain members of an officeholder's family

Friday February 21, 2020
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 – 1:30 PM
LB1195 (Morfeld) Change provisions regarding access to public records

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 – 1:30 PM
LB829 (Erdman) Change provisions relating to certain in lieu of tax payments made by the Game and Parks Commission      
LB812 (McCollister) Change acceptable ranges and authorize orders for rehearings under the Tax Equalization and Review Commission Act               
LB930 (Briese) Require a minimum amount of tax relief under the Property Tax Credit Act            
LR284CA (La Grone) Constitutional amendment to eliminate the state income tax over a four-year period
Monday February 24, 2020
Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee
Room 1507 - 1:30 PM
LB1108 (Gragert) Change provisions relating to property under the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act, the School Employees Retirement Act, and the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Wednesday February 26, 2020
Judiciary Committee
Room 1113 - 1:30 PM
LB749 (Blood) Adopt the Nebraska Anti-Terrorism Act
LB1113 (Kolowski) Provide that photographing or recording a peace officer is not obstruction of justice
Thursday February 27, 2020
Judiciary Committee
Room 1113 - 1:30 PM
LB750 (Blood) Prohibit discrimination based on military or veteran status
LB1091 (Vargas) Adopt the Face Surveillance Privacy Act