Nebraska Association of County Officials

Legislative Report
Full Days of Debate Begin
Committee hearings concluded last week and full days of legislative debate began on Tuesday. For most of the week, senators debated committee, senator, and Speaker priority bills on General File. On Friday, senators took up Select File bills before returning to General File bills. Bills must pass three stages of debate – General File, Select File, and Final Reading – before being presented to the governor for his signature.
 
Some of the bills advanced from General File include:
LB43, the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, would give sexual assault survivors the right to have an advocate present during medical evidentiary or physical examinations and interviews with law enforcement, prosecutors, and defenders.
 
LB848 would recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day.
 
LB247, the Advance Mental Health Care Directives Act, would allow individuals to set forth instructions for any foreseeable mental health care if the person loses capacity to make decisions about their own care.
 
At adjournment on Friday, senators were debating LB1056, a bill to streamline the permit approval process for temporary expansions of licensed premises by farm wineries, craft breweries, and other liquor license holders. Debate on LB1056 will resume on Monday.

Omnibus Election Bill Advances from First Round
On Thursday, senators gave first-round approval to LB1055, an omnibus election bill that was introduced by Senator Tom Brewer, chair of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. As introduced, LB1055 would require that counties conducting all-mail elections have a secure ballot dropbox at the office of the county clerk, allow voters to return ballots to the county clerk’s office, and maintain at least one in-person voting location at the office of the county clerk.
 
A Government Committee amendment was adopted that included provisions from LB1086, LB820, LB1136, LB1119, and LB1120.
 
LB1086 was introduced by Senator Matt Hansen on behalf of NACO to set guidelines for poll watchers. Civic groups, political parties, and others have recently begun to post election observers in polling places. New language would set out requirements for pre-registration and the distance poll watchers would have to maintain from ballots and polling booths.
 
LB820 would remove outdated language asking for applicants’ home and work telephone numbers on voter registration application forms and make changes to the timeline for recall elections.
 
LB1136 would add local public power board members to the list of officials whose conduct is regulated by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act.
 
LB1119 and LB1120 would prohibit special elections during the months of March and September in even-numbered years unless held in conjunction with a statewide primary or general election. This language was revised in an amendment from Senator Andrew La Grone that was adopted during debate. The amendment would strike the new language prohibiting special elections in March and limit special elections in September to those needed to approve a property tax levy or exceed a property tax levy limitation.
 
Other changes in the La Grone amendment would incorporate language from LB1122 that would give election commissioners three extra days to prepare early voting ballots for counting and language from LB1121 that would allow officials who are appointed after the incumbent filing deadline to file for election using the non-incumbent deadline of March 1.
 
Notice of Annexations Advances from General File
 
A separate election bill, LB797 , was advanced from General File on Wednesday. It would harmonize annexation deadlines for cities of the first and second class and villages with deadlines in the Election Act. Existing law requires these municipalities to complete annexations at least 80 days prior to the primary election. This date falls after the February 15 deadline for incumbents to file for office. Accepting boundary changes after an incumbent has filed could mean that the candidate resides in a different district than their filing. The Election Act requires annexations to be completed at least five months prior to the primary election. Senator Matt Hansen introduced the bill on behalf of NACO. LB797 was designated as a Speaker priority bill.
Judiciary Committee "Christmas Tree" Bill Advanced from General File
LB881, a bill to prohibit courts from automatically deducting fines from bonds posted by offenders formed the basis of a “Christmas tree” advanced by the Judiciary Committee. Currently fines and court costs may be deducted from bonds. The Nebraska Constitution earmarks fines for the support of local schools. A separate amendment, AM2763, was adopted to allow offenders to consent to the deduction of fines from their bond.
 
Among the bills that were amended into LB881 was a revised version of LB1041, a bill introduced by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks on behalf of NACO and clerks of the district court to clarify when transcripts of grand jury proceedings may be open for public review and that copies cannot be made.
 
Other bills that were part of the committee amendment to LB881 are: LB1180, LB213, LB777, LB776, LB945, LB282, LB1007, LB1181, and LB881.
 
LB1180 would increase the number of alternate jurors that can be impaneled from one or two alternates to six. It would also increase the number of peremptory challenges to reflect increased numbers of jurors.
 
LB213 would allow persons sentenced to community service to apply to have their conviction set aside. Persons required to register as a sex offender or convicted of certain motor vehicle offenses would not be eligible. Senators discussed the difference between setting aside a conviction and a pardon.
 
LB777 would replace references to infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies to the broader term offenses.
 
LB776 would allow evidence from expert witnesses regarding eyewitness identification and memory to be admitted in criminal and civil proceedings.
 
LB945 would require Omaha and Lincoln to prepare an annual report on the number of untested sexual assault evidence kits.
 
LB282 would provide for bailable defendants to be released on their personal recognizance unless the defendant had failed to appear in the case or within the past six months or if a judge determines that a release could jeopardize the safety of the defendants, victims, witnesses or other persons. If the court requires the defendant to post a bond, counsel must be appointed for the defendant if he or she is unable to pay the amount required and is indigent.
 
LB1007 would shorten the time for required reviews of competency from every six months to every 60 days.
 
LB1181 would prohibit defendants from being held in custody awaiting trial for a period of time longer than the maximum possible sentence for the offense.
 
Senator Matt Hansen introduced and prioritized LB881 as part his ongoing examination of bonds and bail.
Motor Vehicle Clean Up Advanced from First Round
LB944, the Department of Motor Vehicles’ annual clean up bill, was amended and advanced from Select File on Friday. An amendment offered by Senator Curt Friesen would incorporate several license plate bills, including specialty plates for Down Syndrome awareness ( LB903), “Donate Life” ( LB843), “The Good Life is Outside” ( LB921), “Support the Arts” ( LB942), and “Pets for Vets” ( LB1139).
 
An amendment from Senator Kate Bolz would add neurological impairments to the list of criteria eligible for handicapped or disabled parking permits. This issue was introduced as LB976.
 
A Transportation and Telecommunications Committee amendment that was adopted on General File contained provisions from several bills. LB768 would update Nebraska statutes to match federal regulations for cabin trailers, hazardous materials, and other issues, including odometer statements. When vehicles are transferred, such statements would be required for 20 years, rather than 10 years, after the vehicle’s manufacture.
 
LB785 would revise weight, length, and load provisions to allow exceptions for stinger-steered automobile transporters, certain electric battery-powered vehicles, covered heavy-duty tow and recovery vehicles, and other vehicles.
 
LB831 would allow the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a salvage title for a vehicle manufactured prior to 1940 if the previous title was a junk title. The owner would have to show that no major component parts had been replaced, the vehicle had been inspected, and that it had been restored to its original specifications.
 
LB983 would eliminate the one-point deduction from operator’s licenses for speeding of up to five miles per hour over the limit.
 
LB1067 would allow ATVs and UTVs to cross controlled access highways if the vehicle is being used for agricultural purposes. Vehicles and operators would be subject to existing requirements for these vehicles, including liability insurance, speed limits, headlights, and operator’s licenses.

Overweight Hauling from Farm Storage Advanced

LB931 , another bill that was heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, was advanced from General File on Tuesday. It 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. Senator Steve Halloran introduced the bill and Senator Dan Hughes designated it as his priority bill.