April 14, 2017                                                                 Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


on Facebook

revcomApril 21 Debate Set for Property Tax Package
County officials are urged to contact their senators about a bill to make major changes to the way agricultural and horticultural land is valued in Nebraska. LB461, as amended by AM954, would shift from an approach based on the market value of ag land to an approach based on the income generated on the land. The range of ag land values would be shifted from 69-75 percent of actual value to 55-65 percent of actual value. The aggregate growth in ag land values could not exceed 3.5 percent from the prior year. A committee would be appointed by the Tax Commissioner to help develop a capitalization rate to keep ag land values uniform and proportionate.

The NACO Legislative Committee has taken a position in opposition to AM954. The committee makes the following recommendations:
  • Leave the range at 69-75 percent of actual value. Reducing the range will shift the property tax burden to residential, commercial, and industrial properties. In counties that are predominantly ag land with little residential, commercial, or industrial property, the only option is to increase the levy for counties, schools, and other taxing entities. In counties that are near the constitutional 50-cent levy limit, a vote of the people could be necessary to increase levy authority to generate enough property taxes to pay for fundamental county services.
  • Eliminate the 3.5 percent cap on aggregate growth. A statewide aggregate rate does not reflect actual individual county experience. It isn't clear in AM954 how adjustments would be made if the statewide aggregate rate exceeds 3.5 percent. Good public policy dictates the adoption of a floor when a ceiling is enacted.
  • Add an appraiser with ag land experience to the committee. AM954 creates an Agricultural Land Valuation Committee to develop income and expense estimates for agricultural and horticultural land and the capitalization rate necessary to produce uniform and proportionate assessed valuations. One of the committee members must be an appraiser from the private sector who holds a certified general real property appraiser's license or an MAI designation from the Appraisal Institute. In order to accurately weigh ag land proposals, the appraiser on the committee should be experienced in agricultural appraisal.

These recommendations would leave the income approach aspects of AM954 in place. The NACO Legislative Committee notes that the many financial and logistical questions remaining unanswered in the bill will prove challenging under the 2018 implementation date.
Contact information for individual state senators can be found here:
Emails and phone calls are equally effective. You may not be able to speak to your senator directly due to the recess day on Monday or if they are involved in debate on the floor, but their staff will relay the message. LB461 is scheduled for first-round (General File) debate on Friday, April 21.
 legactLegislative Activities This Week 
First and second round debate on senator, committee, and speaker priority bills continued this week. As of April 13, the 65 th day, nearly 70 percent of the priority bills are on General File or have been debated at some level. Although only one priority bill has passed, 44 others are on Final Reading or undergoing technical checks in final enrollment and review and will soon be placed on Final Reading. Pursuant to the Legislature's rules against passing bills reducing the General Fund until the appropriations bills are passed, some priority bills will remain on Final Reading for the next several weeks. The budget will be released next Friday, April 21, and debate on the appropriations bills will begin on Tuesday, April 25. In a 90-day session, the Appropriations Committee must place appropriations bills on General File no later than the 70 th day and pass the appropriations bills no later than the 80 th day.
Senators will tackle controversial bills on property taxes and school funding before starting the budget debate. After a recess day on Monday, March 17, senators will begin debate Tuesday morning with LB620, a bill to reduce the maximum levy available to school districts from $1.05 to $0.987 per $100 of value beginning with fiscal year 2018-19. This reduction would be offset by funds from the existing property tax credit. Select File debate is planned for the afternoon.
On Wednesday, March 19, the morning will be devoted to debate on changes to the school funding formula in LB409. Legalizing medical marijuana ( LB622) will be debated in the afternoon and LB661, a bill to exempt records related to lethal injection from disclosure, will be taken up in the evening. This will be the first scheduled late evening adjournment. A dozen amendments and a motion to re-refer LB661 to the Judiciary Committee are pending.
Thursday will be spent on General File consent calendar bills. The list of bills will be released on Tuesday night along with Wednesday's agenda. To be considered for consent calendar, bills must be non-controversial and not open up a topic that is controversial. Bills must not add a lot of changes or have a General Fund impact. Consent calendar bills may be removed from the agenda upon the written request of three or more senators and are voted on at the expiration of 15 minutes of debate, if not before. Several NACO bills are possible candidates for placement on the consent calendar.
Debate on Friday will focus on LB461, a comprehensive proposal that would change the valuation of agricultural property to an income approach and revise income tax rates. A separate article addresses this bill in more detail.
After a 9:00 a.m. budget briefing on Monday, April 24, senators will spend the morning on Final Reading bills and the afternoon on LB595, which would make revisions to school discipline policies. Extended afternoon debate is expected.

 snapSnapshots of County Issues
Bills Reported out of Committees
Two committee priority bills of interest to counties were reported to General File this week. LB415 is a Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee priority bill that would be amended to contain language from seven other bills heard by the committee to revise various aspects of all five state-administered retirement plan. Language that would be amended into LB415 from LB32 would change the frequency and method of calculating prior service annuity payments for certain county retirees. Language from LB219 would revise the annuity rate used to calculate a county or state employee's cash balance annuity plan.
LB333 is a Health and Human Services Committee priority bill that would end funding to a program that provides financial aid and medical assistance to persons who are disabled but do not meet the duration requirements for a disability as defined by the Social Security Administration. The program serves an average of 50 people per month and served a total of 147 individuals in 2016. Currently some individuals who do not qualify for this program seek general assistance from counties under ยง68-131. A committee amendment would specifically state that a county board may furnish medical services or maintenance support based on disability under the eligibility criteria for the program. The amendment would not change the obligation to provide general assistance.
Another bill that was reported out of the Judiciary Committee this week but did not receive a priority designation is LB145. As introduced, the bill would require courts t o examine the defendant's ability to pay before imposing a jail sentence to secure the payment of a fine. The court could allow the payment of fines by installments or through the performance of community service. A committee amendment would revise the process for determining financial status and the involvement of community correctional facilities in providing opportunities for community service.

Bills Debated on General File but not Advanced 
Juvenile offenders across the state would be entitled to legal representation if their parents couldn't afford it under LB158. An amendment offered by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, the bill's introducer, would have provided $400,000 in funding from the Court Automation Fund to offset any costs to counties for providing additional legal services. The amendment fell three votes short of adoption on General File. A motion to reconsider the vote was adopted and a motion to bracket the bill until June 2, 2017 was pending when time for debate ran out.
LB628 would prohibit counties and cities from enacting resolutions or ordinances prohibiting short-term rentals of property, such as rentals booked through Airbnb. Senators discussed lodging taxes, safety, and pre-emption of local control during General File debate. A motion to indefinitely postpone the bill was pending when debate ended.

Bills Advanced from General File
Cloture motions were needed to end first-round debate this week on two bills of interest to counties.
Counties and cities would not be able to regulate firearms, ammunition, and firearm accessories by ordinance or resolution under LB68. An amendment was adopted to accommodate Omaha's existing gun ordinances. Proponents of the bill argued that it would protect the constitutional rights of gun owners. Opponents argued on behalf of local control. A filibuster is also expected on the second round of debate.
LB72 would grant first priority to bondholders if a governmental unit files bankruptcy. Proponents argued that bondholders, including persons who invested their retirement funds in government bonds expecting them to be secured through tax dollars, should be made whole in the event of a bankruptcy. Opponents argued that employee pensions should be paid before investors who assumed the risk that the bonds could fail.
Among the other bills that advanced through the first round of debate is LB253, which would allow counties to enter into interlocal service agreements for sewage disposal systems. The bill would only apply to Sarpy County.
Senators also advanced LB44 that would require online sellers without a physical presence in Nebraska to collect and remit sales tax if their gross revenue in the state exceeds $100,000 or their sales in the state consist of 200 or more separate transactions.
Bills Advanced from Select File
Senators advanced the following bills impacting counties from Select File this week.
First responders, including law enforcement officers and licensed emergency responders, who suffer serious bodily injury from an on-duty assault that results in the officer falling below the minimum number of working hours to maintain health insurance would continue to receive continued coverage under LB444. An amendment was adopted to expand coverage to frontline state employees of the Department of Correctional Services or Department of Health and Human Services whose duties involve direct interaction with high-risk individuals.
LB535 would eliminate the filing of an unnecessary Real Estate Transfer Statement (Form 521) on oil, gas and mineral leases. When these easements are filed, it does not reflect a change of ownership in the property. Last year NACO worked with the Property Tax Administrator and utility companies on legislation to eliminate the filing of 521's on other types of easements. Oil, gas and mineral leases were not exempted at that time. The bill would also allow, but not require, registers of deeds to accept digital or electronic signatures.
LB217 is a Revenue Committee omnibus bill that contains several provisions requested by NACO. It would provide a 30-day grace period to pay delinquent taxes on rejected homestead exemptions before taxes accrue. County assessors could certify valuations to taxing entities electronically. Other provisions would clean up rent-restricted housing laws and require notices of pending tax deeds to include the name of the property owner. An amendment was adopted on Select File that would incorporate provisions from LB251 that would require the determination of a parcel's primary use for agricultural or horticultural purposes to be made without regard to whether the parcel is platted and subdivided.
LB75 would eliminate the two-year waiting period between the completion of a felony sentence or probation and the restoration of an individual's voting rights. Prior to 2005, voting rights could only be restored by the Board of Pardons.
LB263 is the omnibus Transportation and Telecommunications Committee bill. Original provisions of the bill would allow motor vehicle dealers to provide titling and registration services. A committee amendment adopted during the first round of debate incorporated language from other bills that would require county treasurers to remit both title and registration fees on the 20 th of each month. Other provisions would change oversight of the One-Call Board of Directors, exempt vehicles with remote starters from laws prohibiting leaving vehicles unattended without removing the key, and allow public power district vehicle registrations to be kept at the principal place of business of the district.
Nebraska Association of County Officials
1335 H Street | Lincoln, NE 68508 | 402-434-5660
Join Our Mailing List