Nebraska Association of County Officials

Legislative Report
March 12, 2021 Legislative Report Archive View the video Legislative Report here
Inheritance Tax Reduction Advanced from Revenue Committee
Although it has not been officially reported by the Legislature, NACO has received word that LB310, a bill to significantly reduce inheritance tax collections, has been advanced by the Revenue Committee with an amendment that would lessen the blow to counties. As introduced, the bill proposes a formula to lower inheritance tax rates and increase exemption amounts through 2024, then annually reduce the exempt amount. Under the amendment, the tax rates and exemptions would be subject to a lesser one-time change. County treasurers would report data on the number of beneficiaries, amount received, and whether they are residents.
 
A separate bill on inheritance taxes, LB377, would change the definition of relative to include spouses and former spouses of the decedent’s relatives if the relative was married to the spouse at the date of death of the decedent. It was advanced from the Revenue Committee on a 8-0 vote.
Action on a third bill with inheritance tax provisions has not been officially reported but NACO has been told that LB133 was advanced by the committee. It would eliminate inheritance taxes as part of a plan to replace sales, income, and other taxes with a consumption tax. A related proposal, LR11CA, would place consumption taxes in the Nebraska Constitution. LR11CA was prioritized by Senator Steve Erdman.

Full Days of Debate Begin Next Week
The Judiciary Committee wrapped up its final hearings this week with testimony on eight bills, including three acts to protect privacy: LB199 to adopt the Face Surveillance Privacy Act, LB277 to adopt the Doxing Prevention Act, and LB370 to adopt the Personal Privacy Protection Act.
 
Next Monday, floor debate will be held in the morning beginning at 10:00 a.m. Executive sessions for committees are planned for the afternoon. Although there may be other scheduling changes later, full days of debate will be held for the rest of the session. Bills on Monday’s agenda include LB285, an election omnibus bill, and LB83, a measure to expand the use of video conferencing for open meetings. Speaker Mike Hilgers’ memo outlining the plan for next week can be found here.
Three Percent Cap on Property Taxes Prioritized
LB408, a bill to cap property taxes at 3 percent over the prior year unless voters approve a higher rate, has been prioritized by Senator Suzanne Geist. A Revenue Committee amendment would allow a governing body to vote to exceed the limit for no more than two consecutive years, not to exceed 9 percent over a three-year period. Senator Lou Ann Linehan has offered AM521 as a technical cleanup to the committee amendment.
 
Three other property tax bills have been prioritized. LB2, introduced and prioritized by Senator Tom Briese, would reduce the valuation of agricultural and horticultural lands to 30 percent of actual value when levied to pay the principal and interest on school bonds. LB454 would reduce the assessed value of ag land from 75 percent to 55 percent and adjust the school aid formula. It was introduced and prioritized by Senator Curt Friesen. LB644, from Senator Ben Hansen, would require additional notice, including a postcard to all affected property taxpayers, if the property tax request for the coming year exceeds the prior year's request. All three bills remain in committee.

Other Priority Bills
Senators and committees finished designating their priority bills on Friday. Speaker priority bills will be announced on March 16. While a priority designation does not guarantee that a bill will come out of committee and be debated on the floor, priority bills and the state budget will be the focus of debate during the remaining 48 days of the session. Some non-prioritized, noncontroversial bills will be advanced through a consent calendar process. The Speaker’s March 4 memo sets out the requirements for bills to be considered for a consent calendar.
 
Following is a list of some of the priority bills affecting counties. The senator or committee making the designation and the bill’s current status is shown after the description.

Senator Priorities 
LB2 Change the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land for certain school district taxes – Briese, Revenue Committee
LB40 Adopt the Nebraska Rural Projects Act – Groene, General File
LB54 Change immunity for intentional torts under the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act and the State Tort Claims Act – Lathrop, Judiciary Committee
LB103 Appropriate funds to aid counties to pay certain federal judgments – Dorn, Appropriations Committee
LB236 Permit counties to authorize carrying concealed weapons as prescribed – Clements, General File
LB307 Change provisions relating to appointment of counsel for juveniles – Pansing Brooks, General File
LB338 Provide powers and duties for the Public Service Commission regarding redirection of funding for broadband services – Bostelman, Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
LB371 Provide for games of chance under the Nebraska Racetrack Gaming Act at state, district, and county fair locations – Aguilar, General File
LB388 Adopt the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act – Hilgers, General File
LB408 Adopt the Property Tax Request Act – Geist, General File
LB409 Provide a moratorium on construction of electric transmission lines and create the Electric Transmission Line Study Committee of the Legislature – Brewer, Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
LB454 Adopt the School Property Tax Stabilization Act and change the valuation of agricultural land – Friesen, Revenue Committee
LB542 Authorize the issuance of highway bonds under the Nebraska Highway Bond Act – Walz, Revenue Committee
LB644 Adopt the Property Tax Request Act – B.Hansen, Revenue Committee
LR11CA Constitutional amendment to require enactment of a consumption tax and prohibit certain other forms of taxation – Erdman, Revenue Committee

Committee Priorities 
LB17 Change actuarial valuation and amortization provisions for certain state retirement systems – Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee, General File
LB51 Change and provide qualifications for and duties relating to certification of law enforcement officers, require accreditation of law enforcement agencies, prohibit chokeholds in law enforcement, and require policies on excessive force – Judiciary Committee, Judiciary Committee
LB83 Change the Open Meetings Act to provide for virtual conferencing – Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, General File
LB215 Change 911 service surcharge provisions – Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
LB274 Provide for a promotional farmers market special designated license under the Nebraska Liquor Control Act – General Affairs Committee, Select File
LB285 Change provisions relating to elections conducted pursuant to the Election Act – Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, General File
LB568 Change provisions relating to truancy, juvenile courts, the Community-based Juvenile Services Aid Program, the Commission Grant Program, and compulsory education – Judiciary Committee, General File
LB572 Change provisions of the Livestock Brand Act – Agriculture Committee, General File
Bills Reported Out of Committees
The following bills are among those reported out of committee this week. Some received priority designations and are likely to appear on the agenda for General File debate in the coming weeks.
 
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
All counties except Douglas and Lancaster could enact ordinances to authorize the carrying of concealed weapons by persons who are not otherwise prohibited from doing so under state or federal law under a Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment to LB236. The county board would have to receive “advice and counsel” from the county sheriff before enacting such an ordinance. Persons carrying concealed weapons who are contacted by peace officers or emergency services personnel would have to immediately disclose that they are carrying a concealed weapon. Senator Robert Clements prioritized the bill.
 
LB285, which was selected as a Government Committee priority bill, contains election law changes proposed by the Secretary of State. It would change the starting date for candidates to file for office from December 1 to January 5. This change would allow more time for redistricting and clarify that campaign reports for two years would not need to be filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. The filing deadlines of February 15 for incumbents and March 1 for all other candidates would remain in place. A committee amendment would prohibit posting voter registration lists on the internet. LB285 is the second bill on the agenda for floor debate on Monday.
 
LB261 would require counties to provide metal grave markers for persons who served in the active duty or reserve forces of the U.S. military, the Nebraska National Guard in active duty federal service, and the Nebraska National Guard on or after July 1, 1973. Currently the markers are available for persons who served during a period of war, actual hostilities in any war, or a conflict prior to April 6, 1917. It is unclear how many veterans would be eligible for markers or what the financial impact would be.
 
Judiciary Committee
LB271 would codify a 24/7 sobriety program that would use twice-a-day testing to allow participants to receive a special permit for limited driving during the pendency of a DUI. A committee amendment would clarify that a 24/7 sobriety permit could only be issued to persons under an administrative driver’s license revocation.
 
LB352 would increase the court automation fee, training fee, and dispute resolution fee. A committee amendment would incorporate LB150, which would increase the indigent defense fee that is used to fund the Commission on Public Advocacy. More funding is needed because the number of court filings has decreased and the Commission is defending more cases in counties.
 
LB307 would not allow a court to accept a waiver of counsel by a juvenile unless an order is in place prohibiting the juvenile’s removal from the home. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks prioritized the bill.
 
LB568 would increase funding for Community-based Juvenile Services Aid that is provided to counties through grants to reduce the risk of juveniles coming into contact with the juvenile justice system. The bill also addresses truancy. A committee amendment would reduce the proposed funding from $10 million to $8.5 million. The Judiciary Committee has prioritized the bill.
  
Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee
LB17, a Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee priority bill, would shorten amortization periods for the judges, state patrol and schools retirement plans. A committee amendment would incorporate increased court fees earmarked for the judges retirement system. The current fee of $6 would be increased to $12 beginning July 1, 2025. Clerks of the district court and county court would remit fees monthly, rather than quarterly.
 
Revenue Committee
In addition to the bills mentioned elsewhere, the Revenue Committee reported out LB63, which would extend the deadline for county assessors to recommend permissive property tax exemptions to county boards from February 1 to March 1. Senator Brett Lindstrom introduced the bill on behalf of NACO and county assessors.
 
LB189 would strike existing authority for a political subdivision to make property tax refunds over a five-year period if the refund would create a hardship creating a serious interference with its governmental functions. Instead, refunds would have to be made out of the next budget. Interest would accrue on the unpaid balance at a rate of 9 percent.
Bills Advanced from Select File
LB93 would eliminate an obsolete mailed report of marriage licenses issued each month. The information is available to the Department of Health and Human Services electronically. NACO requested LB93, which was introduced by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
 
LB94 would prohibit invalidating transactions completed by an online notary in the period between Governor Ricketts’ Executive Order No. 20-13 in April and the effective date of LB186 (2020) that allowed online notarial acts. LB186 was originally scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2020 but the pandemic accelerated the need for such services. Pursuant to the Order, LB186 took effect on April 2.
 
LB66 would make technical cleanups to laws passed in 2019 to allow financial institutions to use a single-bank pooled collateral system to provide security for deposits of public funds in excess of FDIC coverage. An emergency clause was adopted before the bill was advanced from Select File.
 
LB106 would begin to generate funds to pay for an updated drivers’ license issuance system. The existing $3 fee for insurance companies, banks, and others who access drivers’ license records would be increased by $4.50. The new system would be implemented by 2032. Senator Ben Hansen offered and withdrew amendments to decrease the new fee in 2032. He stated plans to pull the bill back from Final Reading for discussion on a cleaner version of the concept proposed in the amendments.
 
LB113 would update motor vehicle statutes and create a funding mechanism for a new Motor Carrier Division computer system within the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It would allow DMV to charge postage and handling fees on all specialty license plates directly from production to the customer. This authority is already available to counties.
 
LB509 would revise statutes related to the State Treasurer’s office, including replacing language requiring the State Treasurer to “draw a warrant on the State Treasurer in favor of” counties with a requirement to “make payments to” counties.
Bills Passed by the Legislature
LB174 would modernize Department of Transportation laws and make more substantive changes to licensing laws for county highway superintendents and city street superintendents, such as combining licenses for persons holding multiple licenses of various classes. It would increase the threshold for reporting damages from a motor vehicle accident by a peace officer or vehicle operator from $1,000 to $1,500. If a peace officer investigates a crash, the operator would not have to file a report.
 
LB25 would implement Amendment 2, which was approved by voters last year. It would extend the maximum duration of tax increment financing projects from 15 years to 20 years if more than half of the property is designated as extremely blighted.
 
LB532 would revise unclaimed property laws to allow aggregated reporting and allow unclaimed property holders to accumulate property until the value exceeds $50 before submitting it to the State Treasurer. Currently the amount is $25.