April 27, 2017                                                                  Legislative Report Archive 

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  agAg Land Valuation Debate Set for Tuesday
Property tax reform is back on the Legislature's agenda for debate on Tuesday afternoon. Last week, LB461 was debated but did not move forward after the allotted three hours of debate. A motion to recommit the bill to the Revenue Committee failed on a 15-29 vote and the time ran out. Some senators feel that this indicates that there are not enough votes to invoke cloture and force a vote to advance the bill, but three hours of debate remain before Senator Jim Smith, the bill's introducer and chair of the Revenue Committee, can make a cloture motion. In addition to the pending Revenue Committee amendment, AM954, other amendments have been offered to revise income and sales tax laws and the amount earmarked for the Property Tax Credit.
AM954 contains elements from LB338, a bill introduced by Senator Lydia Brasch on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts. It would change the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land to an income approach, expand tax credits for low-income families, and change personal and corporate income tax rates. AM954 would place ag land values within a range of 55 to 65 percent of actual value and cap aggregate growth at 3 percent.
Several other bills that could affect property taxes were debated this week. LB409 would adjust the formula for state aid to schools. Senator Rick Kolowski offered an amendment give schools temporary additional levy authority. Senator Curt Frisesen offered an amendment to rebate to school districts 20 percent of the state income taxes paid by district residents. Both amendments failed and the bill advanced from Select File.
LB233, as proposed to be amended by Senator John Stinner's AM998, would suspend the angel investment tax credit for one year and the personal property tax credit for two years. After about an hour and a half of debate, the bill was removed from Tuesday's agenda.
biennialBiennial Budget Advanced from First Round
Tuesday afternoon marked the beginning of debate on the next biennial budget. Bills to appropriate funds for salaries of members of the Legislature ( LB328) and constitutional officers ( LB329) were advanced from General File, as was the capital construction appropriations bill, LB330.
LB327, the mainline budget bill, generated policy debate over abortion. Language in the budget proposal would shift funding for health clinics away from facilities that might also provide abortions. Several amendments were offered but none adopted. More debate is expected on Select File. The body also addressed an amendment by Senator Curt Friesen that would take only $15 million, rather than $30 million, from the Department of Roads Cash Fund to help balance the state's budget. The amendment was not adopted. The bill was advanced to Select File Wednesday night.
In an effort to facilitate the budget debate, Speaker Scheer, with unanimous approval of the Executive Board, designated the four main budget bills as major proposals. This designation allows the Speaker to determine the scheduling of the proposals and the order of amendments and motions to be considered.
In addition to the $900 million shortfall senators have been tackling this session, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met this week and reduced its projected tax collections through the end of the year. Senators will have to cut another $50 million from the budget.
Appropriations bills must be passed no later than the 80th day of a 90- day session. Tuesday is the 74 th day of the session. The Appropriations Committee's proposed budget report is available here.

electionAction Taken on Election Bills
LB451, an election clean-up bill introduced by Senator John Murante on behalf of county clerks and election commissioners and the Secretary of state, advanced from General File on Tuesday. It would move the date for certain political subdivisions to certify the races that must be filled on an upcoming ballot from July 1 to June 15 in even-numbered years. A committee amendment would change the minimum number of days prior to an election that an election notice must appear in the newspaper from 40 to 42.
The bill would change the length of the term for gubernatorial appointees who fill vacancies in the Legislature and on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. Existing law provides that if such a vacancy occurs within 60 days of a regular general election, the duration of the appointment depends upon when the vacated term is originally set to expire. The bill proposes changing to a deadline of February 1 to determine how long the appointee serves before standing for election. this language will be the subject of negotiation before Select File debate.
Two election bills were passed by the Legislature this week. LB34 would change the process for political parties to maintain their officially recognized status. Under existing law, parties must receive at least five percent of the total votes in one of the two previous statewide elections. The bill would allow parties to maintain their status if at least 10,000 voters have registered as members of the party. Last fall, the Libertarian party hit this milestone.
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. Governor Pete Ricketts has announced his veto of the bill.

 snapshotSnapshots of County Issues
Bills Debated on General File
Several bills were debated on General File but no vote was taken on advancement.
LB595, which would allow teachers or administrators to use necessary physical force to subdue a student who presents a danger to himself, herself or others, was debated on Monday afternoon but the Legislature adjourned before voting on advancement.
LB333 would end funding to the State Disability Program that provides assistance to persons who are disabled but have not yet met the duration requirements to qualify for Social Security disability. Counties help provide financial assistance for the first six months and the state helps cover the second six months. Stakeholders discussed several amendments but none made it to the floor for debate. No action was taken on the bill before time ran out.

Bills Advanced from Select File
Senators used regular floor debate and a consent calendar to advance bills from Select File, the second round of debate, this week.
LB253 would allow counties to enter into interlocal service agreements for sewage disposal systems. The bill would only apply to Sarpy County.
LB300 would change the statute of limitations for civil actions for sexual assault of a child. An amendment was adopted to address constitutional concerns about retroactivity.
LB259 would provide options for indigent persons who would otherwise sit out their fines in jail. Courts would be required to consider a defendant's ability to pay a fine before sentencing him or her to jail time for nonpayment. Courts could instead impose community service or allow for payment by installments. Courts would be required to consider all methods of bond payments to avoid pretrial incarceration. Counsel would be appointed for indigent debtors if being found in contempt of court might result in imprisonment.
LB268 would redefine estate terms to allow the state to recover hidden assets when persons are applying for Medicaid.
LB45 would update the state's electrical code to reflect the 2017 edition of the National Electrical Code. The current code is the 2014 version.
LB558 would revise the definition of "knife" within the criminal code to return to statutory language from 2009 that required courts to consider the intent of the party to use the knife as a deadly weapon.
LB20 would eliminate the requirement for veterans who are totally disabled by a non-service accident or illness to annually submit certification of their total disability to the assessor in order to qualify for a homestead exemption. Individuals who have certain permanent physical disabilities or amputations are already exempt from such filings unless their medical condition changes. The county assessor or Tax Commissioner could request certification to verify that there has been no change in the applicant's medical condition.

Bills Passed on Final Reading
On Monday morning senators took up nearly 50 bills on Final Reading. Some of the bills that would impact counties include the following.

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. The determination of a parcel's primary use for agricultural or horticultural purposes could be made without regard to whether the parcel is platted and subdivided.
LB263 is the omnibus Transportation and Telecommunications Committee bill. It would allow motor vehicle dealers to provide titling and registration services. County treasurers would be required 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.

LB444 would allow city or county law enforcement officers, paid firefighters, emergency responders, and certain front-line state employees 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.

LB151 would change the number of days before a public hearing on a proposed budget statement from five days to four calendar days. The day of publication would count as a day but the day of the hearing would not. It would create penalties for failure to report information requested annually from counties and other entities, including lists of interlocal agreements. A 14 percent penalty would be assessed on delinquent payments for fees for services provided by the Auditor.

LB432 would revise the authority granted to governmental entities to adjust their budgets to account for delinquent taxes. Existing law allows for a five percent offset as well as an allowance for anticipated litigation. LB432 would trigger the allowance if the prime rate published by the Federal Reserve Board is 10 percent or greater at the time the entity's budget is filed and certified.

LB535 would eliminate the filing of a Real Estate Transfer Statement (Form 521) on oil, gas and mineral leases. The bill would also allow, but not require, registers of deeds to accept digital or electronic signatures. This authority already exists in Neb.Rev.Stat. ยง86-611(3).

LB271 would allow the Nebraska Department of Roads to assume responsibility for conducting environmental assessments for road projects. The reviews are currently conducted at the federal level. Conducting these assessments at the state level could save up to $19 million and significantly reduce wait times for projects.
LB339 would merge the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads to form a unified Department of Transportation. The new department would be headed by the Director-State Engineer. A Director of Aeronautics would be appointed by the Director-State Engineer and confirmed by the Legislature to head the aeronautics division.

LB407 would create the Whiteclay Public Health Emergency Task Force to examine the public health implications of alcohol sales in Whiteclay, Nebraska. The task force would consist of five members of the Legislature and three nonvoting members representing the commission on Indian Affairs, a public health expert, and a data analysis expert. The task forces would terminate in 2019.
LB518 would establish a workforce housing grant program for nonprofit development organizations in rural communities in counties of less than 100,000.
LB590 would change state building code occupancy provisions related to in-home day cares and other care facilities to harmonize them with the Department of Health and Human Service's childcare regulations.
LB9 would create the Radon Resistant New Construction Task Force to develop minimum standards for radon resistant construction. The recommendations would be used to develop legislation in 2019.

LB625 would revise the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) mechanism for municipalities to finance the up-front costs of energy efficiency improvements on commercial, industrial, and residential properties. Senator Tyson Larson has introduced an interim study resolution LR109, to further review the PACE process.
LB180 would provide for bridge orders transferring juvenile court jurisdiction of a juvenile to a district court.

LB487 would provide immunity from prosecution for drug possession for persons who seek help for themselves or another person due to a drug overdose. The bill also protects emergency responders who administer certain drugs to treat an apparent opioid overdose.

LB222 would change membership in the Nebraska Tourism Commission and provides for a program of innovative tourism grants.

Bills Signed into Law
Among the bills passed by the Legislature this week were three measures aimed at veterans. Governor Ricketts signed the bills on April 24.
LB88 amends the Uniform Credentialing Act allow military spouses to obtain temporary licensing in health professions. The temporary license would allow them to work in Nebraska for one year while they obtain their permanent licenses.
LB639 expands the hiring preference given to members of the military to spouses. The preference applies to state government jobs during the period of military service and six months after discharge.
The third bill, LB340, transfers oversight of the state's four veterans homes to the State Department of Veterans' Affairs. Currently the Department of Health and Human Services has oversight of these facilities.
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