Nebraska Association of County Officials

Legislative Report
March 5, 2021 Legislative Report Archive View the video Legislative Report here
Most Committees Conclude Public Hearings
Public hearings wrapped up this week for all committees except the Judiciary Committee, which will end hearings on March 12. Full mornings of floor debate on General File bills are scheduled for March 9, 10 and 11, with afternoons reserved for executive sessions. Speaker Mike Hilgers encouraged senators and committees to use this time to work on their priority bills, which must be designated by next Thursday. Each senator can designate one bill as his or her personal priority for the session and most committees can designate two bills. Twelve bills have received priority designations as of Thursday, the 38th day of the session, and the five bills that have already been sent to the floor of the Legislature appear on the agenda for General File debate on March 9. Among those is LB274, which would create a new special designated liquor license to allow for the sale of alcohol at farmers markets.

In addition to committee hearings, the Legislature spent Tuesday morning in floor debate. Senators advanced a series of bills from General File, including LB93, which would eliminate an obsolete mailed report of marriage licenses issued each month. NACO requested LB93, which was introduced by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

NACO supported LB94, which was also advanced from General File. It 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.

Bills were also advanced from Select File, including LB25 that would provide implementing legislation for Amendment 2 that was approved by voters in November. It would extend the maximum time period for tax increment financing from 15 to 20 years in extremely blighted areas. Also advanced were LB174, the Department of Transportation’s annual omnibus bill to make technical and cleanup changes, and LB532 that would clean up unclaimed property statutes by removing aggregate reporting limits and increasing the deferred reporting amount from $25 to $50.
Property Tax Request Act Advanced by Revenue Committee
A political subdivision’s property tax request could not exceed 3 percent over the prior year under a bill advanced from the Revenue Committee on a 7-1 vote. As introduced, LB408 would allow increases in excess of 3 percent upon a vote at a special, primary or general election. Amounts needed to pay the principal and interest on bonds would not be included within the limit. Real growth due to new construction, improvements, or annexation would be outside of the limit.

A Revenue Committee amendment would clarify that the property tax request could not exceed its prior authority by more than 103 percent. It would allow a governing body to vote to exceed this limit for no more than two consecutive years, not to exceed 9 percent over a three-year period. If a political subdivision chooses not to increase its property tax request by the full amount, one-half of the unused authority could be carried over to a future year. At the annual budget presentation, each political subdivision would have to include information showing that they are in compliance with these provisions. The new restrictions would take effect on January 1, 2022 and sunset in 2027.

LB408 is likely to be part of a tax reform package that is being considered by the Revenue Committee. The package would include income tax reform and broadening of the sales tax base.
Bills Reported Out of Committees
Committees continued to meet in executive sessions and send bills to the floor of the Legislature. Some of the bills would affect counties.

LB75 would require the county board to hold a hearing to determine whether a township library should be disposed of, merged, or continue operation when voters discontinue the township form of government in the county. As introduced, the county board could continue to levy within the former township for library funding. A General Affairs Committee amendment would eliminate the proposed taxing authority and add notice of the hearing to the Nebraska Library Commission and regional library system. Senator Tim Gragert introduced the bill on behalf of NACO.

LB371 would allow games of chance to take place at licensed racetrack enclosure facilities at or near where any state, district or county agricultural society fair is being held.

LB664 would revise the disbursement formula for state aid to fire districts under the Mutual Finance Assistance Act. Under current law, funds are distributed on a per capita basis. LB664, as revised by a Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment, would distribute $10,000 to each qualifying first- or second- class city and fire district participating in a mutual finance organization.

LB166 and LB317 would create two new license plates. LB166 would create a Josh the Otter – Be Safe Around Water plate and LB137 would create a Nebraska History plate.
Summaries of Committee Hearings
Elections
Election Day would be a state holiday under LB577 that was heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. According to proponents, voters could more easily access the polls on a day off work, but a fiscal note submitted by the state’s Department of Administrative Services shows an estimated $479,000 in extra holiday pay for state workers.

The bill would require counties to pay for return postage on early voting ballots. Drivers’ license application information would be used for voter registrations unless the applicant opted out. Existing motor voter provisions allow drivers’ license applicants to register to vote if the applicant opts in. NACO and election commissioners opposed LB577. The committee has not reported any action on the bill.

The committee also heard LB8, a bill to increase reporting requirements for contributors to “electioneering communications”. The bill is intended to increase transparency and limit the use of dark money in campaigns.

Handgun and Concealed Carry Permits
On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee heard bills on gun rights and concealed handgun permits. Unlike last year, when an estimated 400 gun rights supporters lined the halls outside of the hearing room, this year’s bills did not generate large crowds. Among the proposals were LB116, which would increase the handgun certificate fee from $5 to $10 and add a two-day waiting period. LB404 would extend the time period for renewal of concealed carry permit from 5 years to 10 years. LB244 would allow a 30-day grace period to renew concealed handgun permits. LB85 would require the Nebraska State Patrol to send a renewal notice at least four months prior to the expiration of a concealed carry permit. LB173 would clarify concealed weapon laws for persons transporting unloaded firearms in a case or box, such as a purchaser leaving a store. LB300 would expand the “castle doctrine”, which allows a person to defend their home from threats, to protection of their dwelling, place of work, or motor vehicle. LB417 would allow the possession of a firearm on school grounds by a full-time, off-duty law enforcement officer.

Revenue Committee Bills
This week the Revenue Committee heard two highway funding bills. LB329 would codify the minimum wholesale price of gasoline used to calculate Nebraska’s gas tax at $2.44. Currently, the rate is set every six months and the amount counties receive from the Highway Allocation Fund can fluctuate. The committee also heard LB542, that would allow the state to issue up to $400 million in bonds to accelerate projects identified in the Build Nebraska Act. Counties’ share of Build Nebraska funds would not be affected by the bonds. NACO supported both bills.

In addition, the committee heard bills to require the state to collect lodging taxes for cities (LB679), a technical cleanup bill from the Department of Revenue (LB431), and a revision of documentary stamp tax exemptions for transfers within families and family-owned businesses (LB599).

Grand Juries and Bonds
Special prosecutors would be appointed when grand juries are called when a person has died while being apprehended or while in the custody of law enforcement under LB157. Existing law designates the county attorney or a member of his or her staff to be the special prosecutor. County costs could increase, especially in counties where a state correctional facility is located. NACO, county attorneys, and law enforcement opposed the bill.

The Judiciary Committee also heard LB636, which would eliminate cash bail and appearance bonds. Counties could see increased costs to supervise persons who would otherwise be in jail. This could be offset by reduced costs to hold persons in jail who are unable to pay for cash bail or an appearance bond.
Final Judiciary Committee Hearings Scheduled
The Judiciary Committee has scheduled the following hearings this week. All other committees have concluded their hearings on Friday. Several special hearings are set for Tuesday, March 9.
Tuesday March 9, 2021
Health and Human Services Committee -- Room 1510, 12:30 p.m.
Special Hearing -- YRTC Five-Year Plan Briefing

Revenue Committee -- Room 1524,1:30 p.m.
Special Hearing on AM373 to LB39

Urban Affairs Committee -- Room 1510, 3:00 p.m.
LR49 (Wayne) Provide the need for the Legislature to understand the reasons for and circumstances surrounding the natural gas shortages. Invited Testimony Only

Wednesday March 10, 2021
Judiciary Committee -- Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
LB474 (Wishart) Adopt the Medicinal Cannabis Act
LB31 (Wayne) Authorize punitive damages as prescribed and provide for distribution
LB397 (Bostelman) Prohibit certain causes of action by motorists without liability insurance or convicted of DUI offenses, require the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish and maintain an online verification system for accessing certain private passenger motor vehicle insurance information, and authorize a disclosure of certain motor vehicle records
LB634 (Cavanaugh, J.) Provide a cause of action for unsafe disposal of treated seed

Thursday March 11, 2021
Judiciary Committee -- Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
LB199 (Vargas) Adopt the Face Surveillance Privacy Act
LB227 (Morfeld) Adopt the Doxing Prevention Act and change and provide penalties and a civil action for false reporting
LB370 (Sanders) Adopt the Personal Privacy Protection Act

Friday March 12, 2021
Judiciary Committee -- Room 1113, 9:30 a.m.
LB276 (Hunt) Eliminate a requirement that the physician be physically present in the same room when an abortion is performed