Nebraska Association of County Officials

Legislative Report
February 5, 2021 Legislative Report Archive View the video Legislative Report here
Committee Hearings Continue
Standing committees continued full days of public hearings this week. Speaker Mike Hilgers announced that hearings will conclude for most committees by March 4. Due to the volume of bills heard by the Judiciary Committee, their hearings will conclude on March 12. Full days of floor debate will begin on March 15. Floor debate has been scheduled intermittently for several mornings, starting with February 16.
Revenue Committee Hears Consumption Tax Proposal
An EPIC shift in the method of taxation used to fund state and local entities was heard by the Revenue Committee on Wednesday. EPIC stands for the elimination of property, income and corporate taxes. Those taxes, as well as sales and inheritance taxes, would be eliminated and replaced with a tax on consumption. Homestead exemptions, school aid, and tax increment financing are among the programs that would be eliminated.
Under LB133, counties would submit their budgets to the Appropriations Committee and Governor. If more funds were needed than the amount that could be generated through a county consumption tax, the Legislature could backfill county budgets with an annual appropriation. In 2019, counties levied over $2.6 billion in property taxes statewide.
A constitutional amendment, LR11CA, would place the issue of a consumption tax before voters at the 2022 general election. The committee took no action on the measures.
A separate bill, LB422, would impose a sales tax on services and lower the state’s sales tax rate to 5 percent. The committee has not reported any action on these bills.
Revenue Committee Hearings Next Week
Next Wednesday the committee will hear bills to drop agricultural and horticultural land values to 30 percent for school district bonds (LB2), revise special valuation (LB98), and add notice and publication requirements for setting budgets (LB644). Other proposals before the committee on Wednesday would:
  • Require property tax refunds to be made through the next year’s budget, rather than over five years if there is hardship (LB189)
  • Extend the time for assessors to present tax exemption applications to the county board of equalization to March 1 (LB63)
  • Annually increase the $275 million appropriated to the Property Tax Credit Act (LB79)
  • Change the assessment of real property that is damaged (LB165)
On Thursday, the committee will hear bills to:
  • Set the value of ag land for schools at 65 percent in 2022 and later at 55 percent (LB454)
  • Require assessors to prorate property taxes when a property is sold if proration doesn’t occur during the closing (LB466)
  • Define wasteland and recreational land and make other changes similar to property tax regulations (LB214)
  • Require in lieu of tax payments on property owned by the Game and Parks Commission to be based on the property’s highest and best use (LB222)
  • Allow late filings of homestead exemption applications due to the death of a spouse (LB313).
Summaries of Hearings This Week
Motor Vehicles
On Monday, the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard LB226, a bill to allow charitable and other non-profit organizations to exempt the first $28,000 of a motor vehicle’s value. The remaining value would be subject to tax. The Department of Motor Vehicles found that there are 216 vehicles registered to tax exempt entities with a value in excess of $28,000. NACO raised concerns that some vehicles used by non-profits have special modifications that increase their value over $28,000.
On Tuesday, the committee heard LB508 to provide a motor vehicle tax exemption on one vehicle owned and operated by an Armed Forces veteran with a 100 percent service-connected disability rating recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and certain spouses of veterans. The Department of Motor Vehicles estimated that if all eligible veterans and spouses took advantage of the tax exemption, the total reduction in motor vehicles taxes would be over $2 million, with a reduction in county revenues of more than $800,000.
The committee also heard LB616 to require law enforcement agencies to send certified notice to lienholders of abandoned vehicles or vehicles that were no longer needed for investigatory purposes. The committee did not report action on any of these bills.
Law Enforcement
Bills on law enforcement officer training and the use of excessive force were heard by the Judiciary Committee this week. LB51 and LB551 would increase the number of hours of annual training from 20 to 40, with specified training in de-escalation, mental health, implicit bias and other issues. The bills would require accreditation of law enforcement agencies and prohibit the use of chokeholds in law enforcement. Under LB601 and LB551, law enforcement agencies would maintain public records of disciplinary actions taken against officers.
On Friday, the committee heard bills on juvenile justice, including LB568 that would state an intent to increase funding to the Community-based Juvenile Services Aid Program to $10 million. Truancy would no longer be considered a juvenile offense and county attorneys would be more involved in diversion of students with excessive absenteeism.
One-Call Before Excavation
State statutes would set mandatory minimum depths for the burial of telecommunications, oil, gas, and other underground lines under LB619 that was heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on Monday. The bill would also exempt fine grading of residential lots from the definition of excavation. In her introduction, Senator Rita Sanders said she offered the bill to start a dialog on the issue. The committee also heard LB344 that would create a safety committee to address complaints of small violations of the One-Call Act and leave more serious issues with the Attorney General. The committee did not report action on either bill.
Restricted Funds and Distributions
NACO testified in support of several bills heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday. LB105 would update reporting dates that were inadvertently omitted in legislation last year that updated semiannual statement publication requirements.
LB242 would allow counties to pay for bridges for a period after the construction was complete. A similar concept was approved in 2019 so that the state could more quickly begin to develop the South Beltway around Lincoln. Senator Tom Brandt, the introducer, offered an amendment to simplify the bill. 
LB303 would create an exemption from restricted funds budgeted for law enforcement, fire protection, or emergency services. The bill was introduced on behalf of the city of Lincoln to provide flexibility in budgeting as the city grows.
LB41 would add townships to the list of entities that automatically receive a distribution of funds from the county treasurer on the 15th of the month. Senator Myron Dorn introduced a similar bill last year.
State Budget
This week the Appropriations Committee heard testimony on this year’s state budget bills and selected agency budgets. NACO expressed support of continued funding for riparian weed management. An appropriation of $706,000 is included within the Department of Agriculture’s budget for this purpose. Hearings on other agency budgets are scheduled for next week.
Committee Hearings Scheduled
Legislative standing committees have begun scheduling 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.
Monday, February 8
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee -- Room 1113, 9:30 a.m.
LB388 (Friesen) Adopt the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act
LB456 (Friesen) Adopt the Nebraska Enhancing Broadband Act
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee -- Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
LB455 (Friesen) Adopt the Broadband Pole Attachment Act
LB520 (Friesen) Provide for applications for the collocation of certain wireless facilities
LB604 (Geist) Adopt the Nebraska Accelerated Broadband Deployment Grant Program Act and change telecommunications provisions
Tuesday, February 9
Agriculture Committee -- Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
LB572 (Halloran) Change provisions of the Livestock Brand Act
LB571 (Halloran) Provide for backgrounder lot registration under the Livestock Brand Act
LB614 (Erdman) Eliminate registered feedlot provisions under the Livestock Brand Act
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee -- Room 1113, 9:30 a.m.
LB460 (Brandt) Authorize leasing of dark fiber and eliminate certain powers of the Public Service Commission
LB600 (Brandt) Provide powers and duties for political subdivisions regarding broadband facilities and infrastructure
LB498 (DeBoer) Require the Public Service Commission to implement a broadband service testing and mapping program
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee -- Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
LB398 (Bostelman) Change provisions relating to broadband speeds and services
LB338 (Bostelman) Provide powers and duties for the Public Service Commission regarding redirection of funding for broadband services
LB656 (Wayne) Authorize municipalities to provide broadband and Internet services
Urban Affairs Committee -- Room 1510, 9:30 a.m.
LB9 (Blood) Change annexation requirements and property tax special valuation provisions
LB161 (Urban Affairs Committee) Provide for the applicability of state and local construction codes
Wednesday, February 10
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee -- Room 1507, 9:30 a.m.
LB65 (Williams) Change contractual conflict of interest provisions under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act
LB482 (Cavanaugh, J.) Change provisions relating to use of public resources by public officials and public employees
Judiciary Committee -- Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
LB444 (Hansen, M.) Change provisions relating to credit against jail terms
Revenue Committee -- Room 1524, 9:30 a.m.
LB2 (Briese) Change the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land for certain school district taxes
LB98 (Walz) Change provisions relating to agricultural or horticultural land receiving special valuation
LB189 (Halloran) Change provisions relating to property tax refunds
LB644 (Hansen, B.) Adopt the Property Tax Request Act
Revenue Committee -- Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
LB63 (Lindstrom ) Change certain deadlines relating to property tax exemptions
LB79 (Briese) Change the minimum amount of relief provided under the Property Tax Credit Act
LB165 (Erdman) Change provisions relating to the assessment of real property that suffers significant property damage
Thursday, February 11
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee -- Room 1507, 9:30 a.m.
LB631 (Bostar) Prohibit counties from prohibiting the use of residential property as short-term rentals
LB664 (Groene) Change distributions from the Mutual Finance Assistance Fund
LB261 (Linehan) Change provisions regarding grave markers for certain veterans
Judiciary Committee -- Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
LB150 (Morfeld) Increase the indigent defense court filing fee
LB352 (Lathrop) Change the amounts of certain court fees
Revenue Committee -- Room 1524, 9:30 a.m.
LB454 (Friesen) Adopt the School Property Tax Stabilization Act and change the valuation of agricultural land
LB466 (Linehan) Require the proration of property taxes when real property is sold
Revenue Committee -- Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
LB214 (Linehan) Define certain terms for purposes of property taxes
LB222 (Erdman) Change provisions relating to certain in lieu of tax payments made by the Game and Parks Commission
LB313 (Sanders) Change provisions relating to late applications for homestead exemptions
LB412 (Cavanaugh, M.) Change a tax and assessment provision under the Nebraska Housing Agency Act
Friday, February 12
Recess Day
Monday, February 15
Presidents' Day Holiday