Nebraska Association of County Officials

Legislative Report
Budget Bills Passed by Legislature
After contentious second-round debate, senators passed this year’s budget bills, LB1008 and LB1009, on Friday. Senators debated how to spend federal COVID funds and $90 million in additional revenue projected by the forecasting board last week. Some senators proposed applying the funds toward the $400 million estimated shortfall expected during upcoming fiscal year. Others suggested providing rent assistance, child care, coverage of some COVID-related costs for local governments, or property tax relief. Governor Pete Ricketts has five days, excluding Sundays, to sign, veto, or line-item veto the bills.
 
This week senators engaged in extended debate on bills to prohibit certain types of abortion ( LB814), allow teachers to use physical restraints on students ( LB147), and incentivize affordable housing ( LB866), among others. A motion to allow the introduction of a new bill to provide workplace protections for employees of meat processing facilities failed, but the concept was offered as an amendment, AM3238, to LB667. The Business and Labor Committee will hold a public hearing on AM3238 on Thursday, August 6 at 1:30 p.m.
 
The Revenue Committee held a special hearing on an amendment, AM3093 to LB1074, to decouple Nebraska’s income tax from the federal adjusted gross income. No action has been taken on the amendment but Senator Lou Ann Linehan, chair of the Revenue Committee, offered a different amendment, AM3235, to LB1074. AM3235 would allow individuals who itemized deductions on their federal income tax returns to subtract either the standard deduction or the sum of their itemized deductions and the amount of state and local property taxes from their Nebraska return.
 
On Monday, August 3, senators will return to discussions of affordable housing in LB866 and begin debate on tax increment financing for small projects, called microTIF, in LB1021.
 
After Friday, seven days remain in the session, which is scheduled to adjourn sine die on August 13. Several senators have suggested that the session should adjourn earlier but no motions have yet been made. Bills that do not pass in 2020 will not carry over to the 2021 session.

Broadband Expansion Advanced from General File
LB992, a bill containing recommendations from the Nebraska Rural Broadband Task Force, was advanced from the first round of debate on Monday. The bill is intended to facilitate broadband expansion into rural areas by using existing electrical easements. It would create the office of state broadband coordinator on July 1, 2020 and encourage counties and regions to appoint a broadband coordinator to facilitate broadband planning and coordination throughout the area. The Public Service Commission would 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.
 
Another broadband bill, LB996, was signed by Governor Ricketts on Monday. It 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.
 
The National Association of Counties has developed a crowdsourced cell phone app to collect broadband data. TestIT is available here .
Legislature Passes YRTC, Annexation, Overweight Load Bills
On Friday the Legislature passed a number of bills including a package of bills related to juvenile justice and the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTCs) in Kearney and Geneva. More bills are scheduled for Final Reading on Monday, August 3. Below are some of the bills affecting counties that were passed on Final Reading this week.
 
LB797 would harmonize annexation deadlines for cities of the first and second class and villages with deadlines in the Election Act. The Act requires annexations to be completed at least five months prior to the primary election.
 
LB931 would allow 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.
 
LB1003 would allow cities of the second class and villages to annex noncontiguous land to relocate after catastrophic flooding.
 
LB43 would create the Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights. It would grant 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 would have 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.
Bills Signed by Governor Ricketts
Governor Ricketts signed 11 bills on Monday, including the following bills of interest to counties:
 
LB344 updates animal disease provisions overseen by the Department of Agriculture. It recodifies the duties of sheriffs and county boards to dispose of dead animal carcasses when the owner has not done so. It authorizes the Department to request the assistance of law enforcement officers, including sheriffs and deputies, to execute its orders. Officers may arrest persons found violating the Animal Health and Disease Control Act, the Exotic Animal Auction or Exchange Venue Act, or other rule and regulation adopted under these Acts. Officers must immediately notify the county attorney of such arrest and the county attorney must prosecute the offender. 
 
LB770 allows disabled veterans to receive a free lifetime park permit. To be eligible, a veteran’s discharge or separation would have to be characterized as honorable or general (under honorable conditions) and be rated as fifty percent or more disabled or be receiving a veterans’ disability pension for a disability not incurred in the line of military duty.
 
LB909, an omnibus banking bill, contains language from LB854 that revises the Public Funds Deposit Security Act. It makes technical changes to last year’s legislation allowing the single bank pooled method of collateralizing deposits. It requires statements containing information relating to public funds to “governmental units” rather than “custodial officials”.
 
LB1016 prohibits retaliation or discrimination against an employee because they have filed a complaint under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act or assisted in an investigation of a violation of the Act.

Introduction of Interim Studies Concludes
Legislators continued to introduce interim study resolutions through Tuesday, the 50 th day. Each study resolution is assigned to a legislative committee for research during the summer. The studies are prioritized by the committees and some have public hearings. The studies examine issues related to bills introduced this year or that might be addressed in the 2021 session. Selected studies of interest to counties are listed below by number, introducer, description, and committee assignment. A complete list of study resolutions of interest to counties will be included in the final 2020 Legislative Report.
 
Inheritance Tax
LR415 (Clements) Interim study to examine the state inheritance tax, its current structure, and recommendations on whether it should be amended, replaced, or repealed. Revenue

County Operations
LR357 (Hansen, M.) Interim study to review occupational regulations for locksmiths. Business and Labor
LR367 (Dorn) Interim study to examine set fee and fine amounts and the costs experienced by county governments when administering the associated services. Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
LR429 (DeBoer) Interim study to examine issues related to mapping broadband coverage throughout Nebraska. Transportation and Telecommunications
LR438 (Friesen) Interim study to continue to monitor the activities of the Rural Broadband Task Force that was created by Laws 2018, LB994. Transportation and Telecommunications
LR455 (Wishart) Interim study to examine the burden on counties with regard to the costs paid for office space used by the Dept. of Health and Human Services for the administration of public health programs. Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
 
Retirement
LR398 (McDonnell) Interim study to examine retirement benefits for law enforcement employees in all counties except counties containing a city of the metropolitan class. Nebraska Retirement Systems
 
Elections
LR397 (Cavanaugh) Interim study to examine the implementation and impact of eliminating felony disenfranchisement in Nebraska. Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
 
Roads
LR345 (McDonnell) Interim study to examine efforts to protect Nebraska's archaeological and paleontological resources. Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
LR437 (Friesen) Interim study to review the current model of collecting revenue to build and repair roads. Transportation and Telecommunications
LR440 (Friesen) Interim study to examine existing laws, rules, and regulations related to excavation, in particular regarding underground facilities. Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
 
Natural Resources
LR333 (McDonnell) Interim study to examine the possibility of placing one or more reservoirs on the Platte River and its tributaries for the purpose of flood control, hydroelectric energy, recreation, economic development, and environmental stewardship. Natural Resources
 
Law Enforcement
LR377 (Pansing Brooks) Interim study to complete a comprehensive review on the reform of policing in Nebraska. Judiciary
LR379 (Geist) Interim study to examine whether continuity of care and safety for individuals and the public can be enhanced by allowing mental health providers to coordinate with law enforcement. Judiciary
LR381 (Hansen, M.) Interim study to review the collective-bargaining agreements of law enforcement agencies and the statutory requirements for such agreements. Business and Labor
LR416 (Hansen, M.) Interim study to examine the terms used to refer to law enforcement officers in Nebraska statutes. Judiciary
LR417 (Hansen, M.) Interim study to examine law enforcement jurisdictions in the state and the existing policies on the use of force by law enforcement officers. Judiciary
 
Courts
LR388 (Hansen, M.) Interim study to examine the coordination of efforts to find alternatives to incarceration for offenses that involve operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. J udiciary
LR418 (Hansen, M.) Interim study to examine the categorization of criminal offenses. Judiciary
 
Juvenile Justice
LR386 (Pansing Brooks) Interim study to examine Nebraska law, policy, and application in the filing and transferring of cases involving youth between juvenile and criminal court and to examine how the jurisdictional structure supports the intent of the juvenile code. Judiciary
LR393 (Pansing Brooks) Interim study to review juvenile justice involvement for youth who commit certain status offenses. Judiciary
LR405 (Cavanaugh) Interim study to examine the feasibility of developing the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Information System. Judiciary
 
Jails
LR453 (Geist) Interim study to examine barriers to obtaining state identification that may exist for inmates in county correctional facilities who are in the process of being released or who have recently been released. Judiciary