Nebraska Association of County Officials

Legislative Report
February 26, 2021 Legislative Report Archive View the video Legislative Report here
Public Committee Hearings Wind Down
Legislative committees continued to hold hearings on introduced legislation this week. All hearings, except for those on bills assigned to the Judiciary Committee, will be concluded on March 4. Due to the large number of bills assigned to the Judiciary Committee, they were given an extra week to complete hearings.

Full mornings of floor debate are scheduled for March 2, 9, 10 and 11. Floor debate will focus on General File bills and Select File bills with no amendments. Full days of floor debate will begin on March 15. The Legislature will be in recess next Friday, March 5.
Clerk of the District Court Consolidation Bill Heard
On Thursday, clerks of the district court and NACO testified in opposition to LB102, a bill that would eliminate the position of ex officio clerk of the district court and transfer those duties to the state. If a vacancy occurs in the office of elected clerk of the district court or if the clerk of the district court chooses not to run again, the county board could shift the office to the state. Proponents from the Court Administrator’s Office said that the bill was not a criticism of clerks of the district court or ex officios but a method to provide efficiency in courts and support to judges.
Clerks of the district court outlined their duties and education. They noted the lack of voter input on the decision to eliminate the elective office if the incumbent does not run again and the short window of time for the county board to make that decision. NACO argued that county officials are responsive to local needs and reminded the committee that the state returned the assessment function to counties after a state takeover of nine counties proved too costly and regionalizing the offices was ineffective. 
Sixty-four letters in opposition were submitted by clerks of the district court, both individually and as groups by judicial district, and county boards. The committee did not report any immediate action on the bill.
Bills Reported Out of Committees
Committees continued to meet in executive sessions and send bills to the floor this week, including the following measures:
LB344 would create the Underground Excavation Safety Committee to review complaints about violations of the One-Call Act. The Attorney General would review the most serious complaints. Currently all complaints are filed with the Attorney General. An amendment would add two representatives of locators to the committee. The One-Call Act is the enabling legislation for Nebraska811, sometimes called the diggers hotline, which locates underground utilities before digging occurs.
LB631 would prohibit counties from enacting measures prohibiting short-term rentals of property, such as Airbnb. The restriction would not apply to counties regulating housing for sex offenders, selling alcohol or illegal drugs, and other public safety issues. Similar legislation applicable to cities was adopted last year.
LB387 would provide an income tax exemption for all military retirement benefits, to the extent that they are included in the taxpayer's federal adjusted gross income. A committee amendment based on LB6 would expand the source of documentation of the benefit to include a Form 1099 from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Subsequently LB6 was indefinitely postponed by the Revenue Committee. The fiscal note estimates a reduction in state General Fund revenues of more than $14 million by FY24-25. Senator Tim Gragert prioritized LB387.
Summaries of Committee Hearings
Public Funds Investment Pool
LB654 would authorize the State Treasurer to create an investment pool for local government entities. Many counties already participate in NPAIT (Nebraska Public Agency Investment Trust), a pool created through an interlocal agreement and governed by a board of trustees comprised of participant representatives. NACO and the Bankers Association testified in opposition, citing the quality of funds that could be used as investments by the proposed pool and the opportunities presented by single bank pooled collateral legislation that was adopted last year. The Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee has not reported any action on the bill.
911 Surcharge
Representatives from Douglas County and NACO testified in support of LB215 that would harmonize authority for 911 surcharges statewide. Existing law allows all counties except Douglas County to enact a surcharge of up to $1 per month on landline phones to help pay for 911 services. In Douglas County, the rate is capped at 50 cents. In addition, Douglas County residents cannot pay a surcharge in excess of 50 cents per month on cell phones. The maximum rate in the rest of the state is capped at 70 cents. The wireless rate is set by the Public Service Commission and is currently at 45 cents per month.
Funding for Local Public Health Departments
Five million dollars would be appropriated to local public health departments for FY21-22 under LB585. Each department would receive $75,000 for critical health services and the remainder would be distributed based upon population. In addition to their vital role during the COVID-19 pandemic, local health departments support Nebraskans during disasters, such as the 2019 floods, and work to improve public health outcomes. Health directors testified in support and NACO submitted written support testimony.
Public Records
Nonresidents could be charged for staff time and attorney reviews of public records requests under a bill heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday. Existing law prohibits charges for staff and officials’ salaries the first four cumulative hours of searching, identifying, physically redacting, or copying public records and does not allow for attorney fees. LB557 would increase the four-hour window to eight hours for residents’ requests. It would allow nonresidents to be charged for salaries from the first hour of research and include proportional charges for an attorney to review the records. LB557 would also list law enforcement body camera footage as a public record that may be disclosed to the public. NACO and the League of Municipalities testified in opposition to the bill. Representatives from the Attorney General’s office and Omaha Police Department opposed the proposed body camera language.
The Executive Board heard a bill on Thursday that would prohibit charging members of the Legislature for public records requests. An amendment was offered at the hearing on LB212 that would narrow the bill to apply only to requests for state agency records. A senator who serves on both committees suggested combining LB557 and LB212. Neither committee has advanced the bills.
County Concealed Carry Authority
LB236 would allow counties to authorize carrying concealed weapons without a state-issued permit. An amendment was offered that would allow counties to enact such an ordinance after receiving advice and counsel from the sheriff. Proponents expressed concerns that it is cost-prohibitive to obtain a concealed carry permit and framed it as a Second Amendment rights issue. Senator Tom Brewer introduced the bill with three co-signers. Five senators have added their names to the bill since it was introduced.
Bills Indefinitely Postponed
The Revenue Committee and Transportation and Telecommunications Committee reported that a number of bills have been indefinitely postponed, which suspends all further activity, effectively killing the bill.
LB656 would have allowed cities to provide broadband or Internet services on a wholesale or retail basis. NACO supported the bill with an amendment to give counties the same authority.
LB10 would have exempted one motor vehicle and a mobile home owned by disabled veterans from taxation and motor vehicle registration fees.
LB126 would have required headlights and taillights to be on when windshield wipers are in continuous use.
LB239 would have added offenses to the list of prohibited actions using a handheld wireless device while operating a motor vehicle.
LB240 would have required all vehicle occupants, including back seat passengers, to wear a seat belt.
LB574 would have allowed out-of-state vehicle inspections to be conducted by law enforcement agencies, rather than the state police, from other states. 
Committee Hearings Scheduled
Legislative standing committees are holding public hearings on bills. Please note that some hearings will begin at 9:30 a.m. and others will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 3
Judiciary Committee -- Room 1113, 9:30 a.m.
LB85 (Bostelman) Require Nebraska State Patrol to provide notice of expiration of concealed handgun permits
LB244 (Clements) Change permit renewal provisions of the Concealed Handgun Permit Act

Judiciary Committee -- Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
LB116 (McCollister) Change provisions relating to handgun transfer certificates and require suicide prevention training and informational materials
LB173 (Hansen, B.) Change provisions relating to carrying a concealed weapon
LB300 (Slama) Change provisions relating to justification for the use of force
LB404 (Lowe) Change permit and renewal time periods under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act
LB417 (Halloran) Authorize possession of a firearm on school grounds by a full-time, off-duty law enforcement officer

Revenue Committee -- Room 1524, 9:30 a.m.
LB431 (Revenue Committee) Change taxation provisions relating to improvements on leased lands, the assessment of undervalued and overvalued property, methods for giving notice, and the collection of certain taxes and fees
LB542 (Walz) Authorize the issuance of highway bonds under the Nebraska Highway Bond Act

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee -- Room 1507, 1:30 p.m.
LB577 (Bostar) Establish Election Day as a holiday and change provisions relating to early voting and automatic voter registration

Thursday, March 4
Judiciary Committee -- Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
LB157 (Wayne) Change provisions relating to grand juries in cases of death during apprehension or custody
LB636 (Cavanaugh, J.) Eliminate cash bail bonds, appearance bonds, and related provisions

Revenue Committee -- Room 1524, 9:30 a.m.
LB599 (Lindstrom) Change an exemption from the documentary stamp tax

Revenue Committee -- Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
LB329 (Wayne) Change provisions relating to taxes imposed on the average wholesale price of gasoline
LB430 (Revenue Committee) Change tax provisions relating to net book value
LB679 (Linehan) Require the Tax Commissioner to collect lodging taxes as prescribed

Friday, March 5 -- Legislature in Recess
Reminder: NACO Scholarship Applications Are Due March 1
NACO will award twelve scholarships to graduating high school seniors. Click here for details.