Nebraska Association of County Officials

Legislative Report
February 7, 2020 Legislative Report Archive
Debate on Bridge Bonds Continues
Senators began the week with first-round debate on LB267, a bill to expand counties’ authority to borrow money and issue bonds as a way to help make funds available to pay for emergency work on bridges. Existing law ( § 23-120) allows counties without debt to borrow a limited amount for county jails, courthouses, and other buildings without a vote of the people. As introduced, the bill would expand this authority to include payment for bridges owned by the county that are deemed scour critical or structurally deficient pursuant to Department of Transportation (NDOT) standards.
A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote of the county board and declaration by resolution that an emergency exists in order to access funds to repair, retrofit, reconstruct, or replace bridges owned by the county. Only bridges destroyed or damaged as a result of a natural disaster for which a disaster declaration was issued by the President or bridges designated a scour critical or structurally deficient by NDOT would be eligible.
Much of the debate focused on counties’ authority to borrow money without submitting the question to voters. An amendment based on LB20 was filed to require public building commission bond issues to be placed on the ballot. The session adjourned for the day before taking a vote on the bill or amendments. LB267 appeared on the daily agenda for the rest of the week but was not debated further. It appears on Monday’s agenda after debate on two priority bills, LB242 and LB1054.
Priority Bills
Senators have begun selecting their priority bills for the session. Each senator can designate one bill as their personal priority bill. Most committees may designate two priority bills. The deadline for senator and committee priority bills is February 21. The Speaker may designate up to 25 bills as speaker priority bills. The speaker priority bills will be announced on February 25. Senators are allowed to request a speaker designation for their bills.
The list of priority bills can be found here.

Bills Advanced by Committees
Committees have begun advancing more bills to the floor of the legislature for full debate. Some of these bills include:

LB763 to allow counties to automatically disburse taxes to townships in the same way disbursements are made to schools, cities, villages, fire districts and other entities.
LB820 to eliminate language referring to home and work telephone numbers on voter registration applications. A committee amendment contains language from LB822, an election cleanup bill to revise the timeline for ordering and holding a special recall election.
LB911 to include the former Nebraska Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Grand Island within the state veteran cemetery system.
LB854 to make technical changes to last year’s legislation allowing a single bank pooled collateral process to be pledged as security for public funds.
Transportation Committee Prioritizes Broadband Bill
The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee has selected LB992, a bill to adopt the Broadband Internet Service Infrastructure Act, as one of its priority bills for the session. The bill, which was heard by the committee this week, would implement recommendations of the Rural Broadband Task Force. It would give broadband providers greater access to existing electric utility easements and create the position of state Rural Broadband Coordinator. Counties would be encouraged to appoint a county or regional broadband coordinator to facilitate local broadband planning and coordination.
The committee also heard LB898 to cap fees for permits to collocate wireless facilities on existing structures and the placement of new towers and associated wireless facilities. Payments for consultants would have to be included within the permit fee. Proponents stated that excessive upfront fees for consultants hamper development of wireless facilities. Opponents argued that small local governments do not have the expertise to determine whether applications meet siting requirements and rely upon consultants for advice in the permitting process. Two technical amendments were proposed at the hearing.
Another bill heard by the committee, LB996, would create the Broadband Data Improvement Program to help ensure that Nebraska is accurately represented in federal broadband grant programs. Such programs typically base coverage on data using census tracts for measurement, rather than more granular data. NACO testified in support of the bill and encouraged the committee to consider using data collected by the National Association of Counties’ TestIT program to map where broadband service is available.
The committee did not report any action on the bills. It designated LB944, a motor vehicle clean up bill, as its second priority bill.
Poll Watcher, Special Election Bills Set for Wednesday Hearing
Persons observing elections would need to provide notice to election officials in advance under a bill that will be heard on Wednesday, February 12. 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. Exceptions would be made if the polling place is too small to accommodate that distance or if the poll watcher has been selected by the voter to provide assistance. Senator Matt Hansen introduced LB1086 on behalf of NACO.
Other bills that will be heard at the same Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing include bills to limit the dates for special elections, harmonize a deadline for school elections, and prohibit special elections for bond issues and levy overrides.
LB1119 would prohibit special elections during the month of March in even-numbered years. LB1120 would prohibit special elections during the month of September in even-numbered years. Special elections are already prohibited during the months of April, May, June, October, November, and December in even-numbered years.
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.
LB1193 would force all bond and levy override elections to be held during a statewide primary or general election or regularly scheduled municipal primary or general election unless there is an emergency, such as destruction of a facility or infrastructure by fire, flood, or tornado. Issues could not be submitted at a special election within six months after being defeated at any election.
LB1114, a bill to clarify how to determine occupancy in sanitary and improvement (SID) elections will be heard by the Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday, February 11. The bill is intended to help determine whether the members of the SID board are elected by a vote of the property owners or a vote of the residents of the SID. An amendment will be offered to set a date for county clerks and election commissioners to set the list of eligible voters and other issues.
Snapshots of Committee Hearings
Copies of Grand Jury Transcripts
Transcripts of grand jury proceedings would continue to be available for public review but copies could not be made for the public pursuant to LB1041, which was heard on February 6. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced the bill on behalf of NACO and clerks of the district court. An amendment offered at the hearing would more clearly define procedures about how and when the transcript could be reviewed when a grand jury returns a true bill or a no true bill in proceedings related to death during apprehension or while in the custody of law enforcement.
Continuing Education for County Treasurers
County and city treasurers would have to complete an annual continuing education program approved by the Auditor of Public Accounts under LB781, a bill that was heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday. Costs of attending the program would be borne by the corresponding county or city. The Auditor would maintain attendance records and notify the appropriate county or city attorney and the Attorney General if a treasurer did not complete the required training. At NACO’s request, an amendment was offered at the hearing that would require the Auditor to approve continuing education programs in conjunction with statewide associations representing counties and cities. NACO has been developing its own continuing education program for county treasurers that should comply with the bill.
Publication of Semiannual Statements
On Wednesday, the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard a bill introduced on behalf of NACO and county treasurers to allow posting of semiannual statement on a county website to meet publication requirements if a newspaper cannot publish the statements in a timely manner. Senator Curt Friesen introduced LB1047. The statements must be published during the months of January and July each year. They show the receipts and disbursements of the county treasurer’s office for the last preceding six months. The bill would modernize the terminology for the listed items and consolidate several statutes into a single section of law.
Appeals of Special Permits
Senator John Lowe introduced LB1057, a bill to address the method of judicial review of appeals of zoning special permits, on behalf of NACO. LB1057 would provide that judicial review of a zoning decision by a planning commission or a county board involving a conditional use or special exception could only be obtained through a petition in error process. The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard the bill on Wednesday.
Elected Public Defenders
Counties over 45,000 that do not have an elected public defender would be allowed to appoint a qualified attorney to fill the position under LB1194. Currently the population threshold is 35,000. Senator Lynn Walz introduced LB1194 on behalf of Dodge County, which will exceed 35,000 after the next census and would like to retain the option of appointment. Dodge County officials testified in support of the bill.
Road Maintenance Contracts with Homeowners Associations
Homeowners associations could contract with counties to provide road maintenance or snow removal on nonpublic roads which serve the association in LB973, which was heard by the Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Payment for this service would have to fairly represent the cost to the county. Counties already can clear snow and ice from the public streets of incorporated sanitary and improvement districts after the county roads are clear.
Temporary Liquor License Expansion
Farm wineries, craft breweries and other liquor license holders could apply for a specially designated license to temporarily expand their premises to an immediately adjacent are for up to 15 days per year under LB1056. The licensee would have to file an application with the appropriate county, city, or village, rather than the Liquor Control Commission. The General Affairs Committee heard the bill on Monday.
On Monday, February 10, the committee will hear LB1090, a bill to allow local governing bodies to suspend liquor licenses for nonpayment of taxes, fees, and special assessments. Counties and cities can already revoke liquor licenses for various behaviors.
Flood Mitigation Task Force
A flood mitigation and planning task force would develop a coordinated strategy to prepare for catastrophic flooding as part of LB1201. The task force would be housed within the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and chaired by the Adjutant General. Other members of the task force would include the directors of the Department of Natural Resources, Environment and Energy, Transportation, and Agriculture, as well as a representative from a natural resources district, the chair of the legislature’s Natural Resources Committee, and an at-large member. Political subdivisions, including counties, would be part of stakeholder advisory groups that would assist the task force. NACO testified neutral on the bill and asked for a county representative to be added to the task force itself. The committee reported no action on the bill.
The committee also heard LR288, a resolution introduced by Senator Julie Slama, to urge Congress and the U.S. Corp of Engineers o priority flood control as a top priority.

Legislature Passes Juvenile Room Confinement Bill
On Thursday, senators passed a series of bills. Some bills of interest to counties include the following:
LB230 would limit the use of room confinement in juvenile detention and other facilities to one hour and require continuous monitoring through regular in-person visits that could be supplemented by electronic video monitoring.
LB4 would set the filing fee in appeals to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission in tiers based upon the taxable value of the property. The bill carries an emergency clause and would take effect immediately. It also provides reimbursement for Commissioners for their actual mileage to the site of a Commission hearing or the place of Commission business.  
LB76 would provide 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 would clarify that solar panels are taxed on their AC, not DC, rating.
LB148 would require at least three copies of proposed budget statements to be available to the public at the budget hearing. The hearing would have to be held separately from a regularly scheduled meeting of the governing body and could not be limited by time. The governing body would have to 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 would be allowed to address the governing body on the budget and would have to be given reasonable time to do so. The bill also sets out publication requirements.
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.

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.

Monday February 10, 2020
Appropriations Committee
Room 1524 - 1:30 PM
LB827 (Hilkemann) Appropriate funds to the Department of Health and Human Services
LB874 (Howard) Restate intent regarding funding programs from the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund
LB877 (Walz) State intent regarding appropriations for aging and disability resource centers
LB1215 (Walz) Appropriate funds to the Department of Health and Human Services
Business and Labor Committee
Warner Chamber - 1:30 PM
LB1216 (Vargas) Adopt the H3 Rural Renewal Award Act
General Affairs Committee
Room 1510 - 1:30 PM
LB1090 (Blood) Allow local governing bodies to suspend liquor licenses for nonpayment of taxes, fees, and special assessments
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Room 1113 - 1:30 PM
LB1088 (Friesen) Provide for personalized message specialty license plates
LB843 (Cavanaugh) Provide for Donate Life license plates
LB903 (Kolowski) Provide for Down Syndrome Awareness license plates
LB921 (Hilkemann) Provide for The Good Life Is Outside Plates
LB942 (Hunt) Provide for Support the Arts license plates
LB1139 (Wishart) Provide for Pets for Vets license plates

Tuesday February 11, 2020
Agriculture Committee
Room 1003 - 1:30 PM
LB1159 (Stinner) Change certain use restrictions and provide for unlimited license examination attempts under the Pesticide Act
Appropriations Committee
Room 1524 - 1:30 PM
LB897 (Cavanaugh) Appropriate funds for behavioral health aid
LB1161 (Hansen, M.) Appropriate funds to the Department of Health and Human Services
Agency 25 - Health and Human Services
   Note: Public Health, Children and Family Services, Behavioral Health, Facilities
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Room 1113 - 1:30 PM
LB1046 (Friesen) Change provisions relating to taxes and fees on community antenna television service
Urban Affairs Committee
Room 1510 - 1:30 PM
LB743 (Blood) Adopt updated electrical standards
LB1114 (Hansen, M.) Change election provisions for sanitary and improvement districts
LB1178 (Wayne) Prohibit land banks from entering into certain agreements to temporarily hold real property

Wednesday February 12, 2020
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 - 1:30 PM
LB1193 (Linehan) Change election provisions for certain bond issue, tax levy, and property tax limitation questions
LB1110 (La Grone) Change procedures for calling a school bond election
LB1119 (La Grone) Restrict special elections under the Election Act as prescribed
LB1120 (La Grone) Restrict special elections under the Election Act as prescribed
LB1086 (Hansen, M.) Provide for poll watchers under the Election Act
Health and Human Services Committee
Room 1510 - 1:30 PM
LB840  Quick   Prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices as prescribed under the Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act
Judiciary Committee
Room 1113 - 1:30 PM
LB978 (Murman) Provide for county, city, and village jail reimbursement
LB1082 (Morfeld) Increase the indigent defense court filing fee
LB1171 (Cavanaugh) Change provisions under the Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act
LB1180 (Wayne) Change provisions regarding alternate jurors
Natural Resources Committee
Room 1525 - 1:30 PM
LB861 (Hughes) Change provisions of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Act with respect to consumer merchandise and containers
Revenue Committee
Room 1524 - 1:30 PM
LR300CA (Erdman) Constitutional amendment to prohibit all forms of taxation other than a consumption tax
LB1130 (Groene) Change provisions relating to agreements and application deadlines under the Mutual Finance Assistance Act

Thursday February 13, 2020
Health and Human Services Committee
Room 1510 - 1:30 PM
LB893 (Bostelman) Change provisions relating to emergency care providers and provide for community paramedicine and critical care paramedics
LB1124 (Howard) Adopt the Opioid Prevention and Treatment Act
Judiciary Committee
Room 1113 - 1:30 PM
LB1181 (Wayne) Adopt the Fair Sentencing Act and change provisions relating to mandatory minimums, the habitual criminal enhancement, and pretrial detention
LB1209 (Vargas) Provide a diversion program for caregivers
LR281CA (McCollister) Constitutional amendment to allow the Legislature to enact legislation authorizing courts to reduce sentences
Revenue Committee
Room 1524 - 1:30 PM
LB987 (Pansing Brooks) Impose sales and use tax on dating and escort services and provide for the use of the revenue
LB989 (Wayne) Impose sales and use taxes on digital advertisements
Friday, February 14 – Recess

Monday, February 17 – President’s Day