February 15, 2019                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


Property Tax Reform Hearings Held

Juvenile Issues Heard by Judiciary Committee

Snapshots of County Issues

2019 NACO Scholarship Applications Available

Schedule of Selected Hearings


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ptreformProperty Tax Reform Hearings Held
On Thursday, the Revenue Committee heard nearly ten hours of testimony on three property tax reform proposals: LB314, LB497, and LB677. Earlier in the week, the Education Committee took testimony on measures to reduce property taxes by revising school financing and senators debated a General File bill (LB183) to change the valuation of ag land for school bond purposes. These measures, as well as a proposed constitutional amendment supported by Governor Ricketts, and numerous bills to increase funding to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund, will be considered as the Revenue Committee prepares a comprehensive property tax reform proposal.
LB314, introduced by Senator Tom Briese, would generate additional revenue for property tax relief and aid to schools through increasing the state sales tax and eliminating exemptions. The bill would increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.
LB497, introduced by Senator Curt Friesen, would revise K-12 school financing so that the state would cover 50 percent of basic education costs. It would lower the valuation of ag land for purposes of school taxation from 75 percent to 40 percent of actual value over the course of three years. The bill would increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes and eliminate sales tax exemptions for food and certain services.
LB677, introduced by Senator Mike Groene, would reduce maximum school levies and make up the funds through the Property Tax Credit Cash fund. At the Revenue Committee hearing, he suggested amending LB695, his bill that was heard by the Education Committee, into LB677 for a comprehensive approach. LB695 would revise the formula for state aid to schools and provide foundation aid.
The Education Committee also heard LR5CA, by Senator Tom Brewer, that would prohibit more than 33 percent of school funding from coming from property taxes. The measure does not address alternative sources of funding. LB662, by Senator Curt Friesen, would eliminate the school state aid formula on July 1, 2022. He introduced the bill to encourage the Legislature to develop a school funding solution before that time.
On Wednesday, the Revenue Committee heard LB182, a bill to allow school boards to impose a local option income surtax of up to 20 percent for property tax reduction or building construction, remodeling, and site acquisition. The surtax would have to be approved by voters.
Because the Revenue Committee has not had time to hear and evaluate all of the property tax proposals, senators delayed General File debate on LB183, a measure to reduce the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land to one percent of its actual value when applied to school bonds. After Senator Justin Wayne made a motion to bracket the bill until April 1, Senator Tom Briese, the bill's introducer, asked the Speaker to hold the bill. A Revenue Committee amendment is pending to change the bill to 30 percent of actual value.
Hearings Next Week
Hearings on property tax relief bills continue next week. On Thursday, February 21, the committee will hear the following bills:

LB444 would provide a homestead exemption for dwellings located on military installations. The property owner would make payments in lieu of taxes in an amount equal to what would be payable to school districts if the property was not exempt.

LB420 would create the Property Tax Circuit Breaker Act to provide a refundable income tax credit for property taxes paid.

LB530 would assess agricultural land and horticultural land at 65 percent of its actual value, rather than 75 percent.

LB663 would erase a small increase in some personal property tax valuations that was enacted by last year's LB1089.

LB483 would value agricultural land and horticultural land by its productivity based on the land's capitalized net earning capacity. The rates would be set by an Agricultural Land Valuation Board.
On Friday, February 22, the committee will hear the following bills of interest to counties:

LB218 would exclude electric generators, street lighting, and other structures owned by political subdivisions from being considered as tangible personal property.

LB237 would restore a one-half of one percent collection fee retained by county treasurers for collecting motor vehicle sales taxes in excess of $3,000 per month. Seventy-five percent of the fee would be deposited in the county general fund and 25 percent in the county road fund. Prior to 2002, counties were allowed to collect the proposed fee in addition to the 2.5 percent fee on amounts under $3,000.

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juvjusjudJuvenile Issues Heard by Judiciary Committee
Juvenile justice issues, including the duties of school resource officers, were the topic for Thursday's Judiciary Committee hearings.
LB651 would limit the use of Community-based Juvenile Services Aid Program grant funds to services provided directly to juveniles or services provided to carry out express statutorily-authorized functions. Currently, 10 percent of the funds, more than $600,000, are used by counties and multi-county entities for system improvements that would not be eligible for funding by the bill. NACO and the Crime Commission are working with Senator Justin Wayne to address his concerns that more funds should be appropriated to impact juveniles directly.
The committee also heard LB230, a measure to provide parameters for room confinement in juvenile detention facilities. Before the hearing, NACO and county officials worked with with Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, the introducer, to define the bill's requirement for continually monitoring juveniles who are in room confinement. She offered an amendment at the hearing to allow continuous monitoring to be accomplished through regular in-person visits to the confined juvenile that could be supplemented by electronic video monitoring.
The committee heard two bills regarding school resource officers. LB390 would set out duties for school resource officers and security guards. Law enforcement agencies and security agencies would be required to adopt a memorandum of understanding with a school district if they provide security guards to schools. The Crime Commission would develop and distribute a model agreement. LB589 would prohibit peace officers from serving as school resource officers.
On Wednesday, senators heard LB335, a bill introduced on behalf of Lancaster County, to create the 24/7 Sobriety Program Act. It is modeled after a South Dakota program in which participants arrested for drunken driving are tested twice a day at designated testing facilities in place of incarceration or other conditions of bond. Lancaster and Douglas counties already have programs in place but legislation is needed to revise mandatory sentencing and drivers' license provisions to provide incentives for participants to actively participate and complete the program.
The committee also heard LB282 and LB646 that address bonding by pre-trial detainees. LB 282, introduced by Senator Matt Hansen, is the result of an interim study, LR415 (2018), that looked at the current statutory scheme relating to money bonds for all crimes, particularly minor misdemeanors and violations of city ordinances. The bill would eliminate bonds for those offenses. LB646, introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers, would eliminate cash bail and appearance bonds.
These bills continue efforts started in 2017 to reduce the number of persons sitting out fines in jail. Legislation adopted in 2017 ( LB259) required examination of a defendant's ability to pay a fine before imposing a jail sentence for nonpayment. A pilot program started by the ACLU in Lancaster County last summer provided bond money to low-income persons being held pre-trial in the county jail.
The committee did not report action on these bills.

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shotsSnapshots of County Issues
Upcoming Hearings
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
The wireless surcharge fee collected by the Public Service Commission and used to help fund Enhanced Wireless 911 service would be reduced to no more 35 cents under LB550. Currently the fee is capped at 50 cents in Douglas County and 70 cents elsewhere in the state. LB550 would also outright repeal the prepaid wireless surcharge act. The bill will be heard on Tuesday, February 19.
Urban Affairs Committee
On Tuesday, February 19 the Urban Affairs Committee will hear LB424, a bill to allow any municipality to create or join a land bank through an interlocal agreement. Currently only municipalities in Douglas and Sarpy counties are authorized to create a land bank. The bill would set limits on the number of parcels zoned as commercial property that could be held by different sized of cities.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
If a county's development interests have changed, it could move to a different planning and development region under LB452 that will be heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, February 20. The bill would move Cass County from Region 6 to Region 8.
On Thursday, February 21, the committee will hear LB273 to move restricted funds budgeted for law enforcement, fire protection, and emergency services from budget limits. The committee will also hear LB609 to update mileage reimbursement provisions of the Local Government Miscellaneous Expenditure Act to address rental, commercial, or charter vehicles. Governing bodies could establish different mileage rates based on whether personal automobile usage is at the convenience of the local government or the convenience of the official or employee. LB618 would define electioneering for purposes of election law.
Health and Human Services Committee
Existing law provides that committed offenders who are not under a sentence of death or life in prison can be granted medical parole if they become terminally ill or permanently incapacitated. The cost of their care can be expensive and often falls to county general assistance. LB726, which will be heard by the Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, February 20, would require the state to pay the costs.
Judiciary Committee
Wrongfully incarcerated or wrongfully convicted persons who have obtained a final judgment against a political subdivision and the political subdivision could jointly or individually file a claim with the state for payment of the judgment if it exceeds the subdivision's available financial resources under LB474. The bill is one of three measures introduced by Senator Myron Dorn to help Gage County pay a $28.1 million judgment to six people wrongfully convicted of a 1985 homicide. The Judiciary Committee will hear LB474 on Thursday, February 21 at 1:30 p.m.
Hearing dates have not been set for two other bills, LB472 and LB473, that would provide assistance to counties in similar situations. LB472 would allow counties to impose sales and use taxes to pay for a qualified judgment that has been rendered against it by a federal court. LB473 would allow counties and other local governments facing court judgments to get a loan from the state at a rate of one-half of one percent.
On February 20, the committee will also hear LB240 to allow outpatient treatment for criminal defendants found mentally incompetent to stand trial.
On Friday, February 22, the committee will hear LB43 that would create a sexual assault survivors' bill of rights. The bill sets out procedures for physical examinations and interviews of victims.
Hearings Held this week
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Lincoln's long-awaited South Beltway could be built faster using a build-finance method under LB616, which was heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on Monday. The bill would authorize the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to make payments to the entity that completes the project for up to ten years after the date of completion. The financing requirements would be a part of the initial request for proposals or project solicitation. NDOT could obligate up to ten percent of the annual revenue of the Highway Trust Fund to secure payment for the project. Senator Mike Hilgers offered an amendment that would replace the bill with language authorizing interest payments rather than issuing public bonds.

Governor Ricketts announced earlier this week that an expedited construction schedule will allow the beltway to be completed by the end of 2022. In March 2018, the project was awarded a $25 million federal grant. The entire project estimated to cost $300 million.
The committee also heard testimony on LB462, a bill to revise the One-Call Notification Act. An interim study this summer examined restructuring the one-call board and placing it under the Public Service Commission. LB462 would continue oversight by the State Fire Marshal and would create a dispute resolution board to address complaints of mismarked lines and excavations causing damage to underground lines. Facility locaters would have to be licensed by the Fire Marshal.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
The authority to hold recall elections would be eliminated under LB415, a bill heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The bill was heard the day after a county commissioner and a mayor were recalled by voters. Senator Curt Friesen introduced LB415 because many recent recall petitions and elections are based upon decisions made by officials in the exercise of their duties rather than misconduct. The committee discussed whether recall elections have a chilling effect on potential candidates, the costs to taxpayers, and the disruption in a public official's work if they are subjected to a recall petition mid-term. A testifier reviewed the history of recall elections and defense statements, as well as 2017 legislation that would have only allowed recalls for malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance in office.
The committee also heard LB411 that would allow county commissioners to place the question of increasing from three to five members on the ballot. Under existing law, the question can only be presented to voters following a petition.
Retirement Systems Committee
The Retirement Systems Committee heard LB565, a bill affecting the designation of beneficiaries under the county and state plans, on Tuesday, February 12. The bill, as revised by an amendment offered at the hearing, would provide that if a member dies without a designated beneficiary at the time of the member's death, the spouse would be the designated beneficiary. If the member is not married at the time of his or her death and there is no surviving beneficiary on file, the benefit would be paid to the member's estate.
The committee has selected LB31 and LB34 as its priority bills. LB31 would change the Class V schools plan. LB34 would prohibit employees who have been terminated and filed a grievance from withdrawing funds from their retirement ccount during the grievance process.
Advanced from General File
Among the bills advanced from first-round debate this week is a measure to increase the amount of information provided when taxing entities change their tax asking from the prior year. LB103 has been touted as a way to increase transparency when valuations increase but levy rates do not, resulting in an overall increase in tax asking. The bill as amended would require the hearing notice for the meeting to state the certified valuation for the prior and current year and the percentage change in valuations, tax rates, and operating budgets from the prior year to the current year. The bill includes a list of information that must be included in a resolution or ordinance setting the property tax rate in excess of the prior year's rate.
Senators also advanced LB8, a bill to allow physician medical directors to use flashing lights on their vehicles while en route to the scene of an emergency or accident, and LB156 to allow surplus military vehicles that are purchased by the public to be titled and registered as motor vehicles.
Advanced from Select File
Senators advanced 21 bills from Select File (second round) debate on Monday. The bills included:

LB56 to allow county board to create an expedited application process for special designated liquor licenses;

LB11 to allow cities and counties to sign interlocal agreements to regulate nuisances within the municipal extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction;

LB32 to update the investment account options for members of the county retirement plan; and

LB63 to modify requirements for agreed-upon levy rates for fire districts participating in mutual finance organizations. If a fire district's levy request was denied by the county board in any of the prior three years, it could levy up to ten and one-half cents. This provision is currently available for one year.

schol2019 NACO Scholarship Applications Available 
Nebraska high school seniors who are the children, stepchildren, or under the legal guardianship of county officials or employees are encouraged to apply for one of twelve $1,000 NACO scholarships. In addition, a special award, the Ronda Dix Memorial Scholarship, may be presented to an applicant planning a career in nursing, physical therapy or another medical field.

Additional information and the application form can be found on the front page of the NACO website. The scholarship application deadline is March 1, 2019. To access the application from this article, click here.

NACO began its scholarship program in 1999 when it presented six high school seniors with $500 awards to be used toward their post-secondary educations. Since 2004, NACO has presented twelve high school seniors with $1,000 awards. Scholarships are available for one year and are not renewable. Since its inception, NACO has offered nearly $200,000 to students of higher education due to this scholarship program.

To be considered for a NACO scholarship, students must complete the required application form, submit a seven-semester transcript from an accredited Nebraska high school and prepare essays on the importance of county government in Nebraska and their future goals and career plans.

Scholarship recipients must attend a post-secondary educational institution within the state of Nebraska and may use the NACO scholarship for any costs associated with their continuing education.
selhrgSchedule of Selected Hearings
Every bill introduced by the Legislature is the subject of a public hearing. Following is a schedule of bills that are of interest to counties. Due to construction at the Capitol, the Judiciary and Transportation and Telecommunications Committees will meet in the Warner Chamber.
Note that bills not appearing on this list may be heard during the same hearing. A complete list of hearings is available on the Legislature's website. For tips about testifying at a hearing, click here.

Monday, February 18 - President's Day Holiday

Tuesday, February 19
Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB672 (Clements)  Change provisions of the Motor Vehicle Registration Act relating to a named driver insurance policy

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB550 (Vargas) Require voter approval of fees and taxes on wireless services and eliminate the Prepaid Wireless Surcharge Act
Urban Affairs Committee
Room 1510 1:30 p.m.
LB424 (Quick) Change the Nebraska Municipal Land Bank Act
LB68 (Hansen, M.) Change provisions of the Business Improvement District Act as prescribed
LB197 (Urban Affairs Committee) Provide a procedure for detachment of real property from the corporate limits of a city or village and eliminate existing detachment provisions
Wednesday, February 20
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB151 (Brewer) Adopt the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act
LB452 (Clements) Change boundaries of Nebraska planning and development regions and provide a procedure for a county to move to an adjacent region

Health and Human Services Committee
Room 1510 1:30 p.m.
LB726 (Walz)  Require a protocol for individuals eligible for medical parole to apply for medical assistance

Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB240 (Hansen, M.) Change procedures for determining competency to stand trial
LB510 (  McCollister) Change applicability of Sex Offender Registration Act to certain out-of-state juvenile adjudications

Thursday, February 21
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB9 (Blood) Prohibit cities, counties, and villages from taxing or regulating distributed ledger technology
LB386 (Erdman) Change provisions relating to cash reserves under the Nebraska Budget Act
LB609 (La Grone) Provide for reimbursement of actual costs of a rental vehicle by county and local governments
LB273 (Hansen, M.) Provide a restricted funds budget limitation as prescribed for certain political subdivisions

Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB474 (Dorn) Change provisions relating to claims against the state for wrongful incarceration and conviction
LB621 (Kolowski) Change provisions relating to solar energy and wind energy, declare certain instruments void and unenforceable, and provide for a civil cause of action

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB444 (McDonnell)  Provide a homestead exemption for certain dwelling complexes
LB420 (Bolz)  Adopt the Property Tax Circuit Breaker Act
LB530 (Groene) Change the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land for property tax purposes
LB663 (  Friesen) Change provisions relating to Nebraska adjusted basis
LB483 (Erdman) Change the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land

Friday, February 22
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB618 (Hilgers) Change provisions relating to electioneering

Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB43 (Bolz) Adopt the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights Act
LB516 (Pansing Brooks) Change provisions relating to child abuse, the Child Protection and Family Safety Act, human trafficking, and child welfare services
LB532 (Cavanaugh) Change provisions relating to harassment protection orders, sexual assault protection orders, and domestic abuse protection orders
LB680 (DeBoer) Adopt the Uniform Civil Remedies for Unauthorized Disclosure of Intimate Images Act

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB187 (Lindstrom) Change the Sports Arena Facility Financing Assistance Act
LB242 (Lindstrom) Adopt the Infrastructure Improvement and Replacement Assistance Act and provide for a turnback of state sales tax revenue
LB218 (Lindstrom) Redefine tangible personal property and gross receipts for tax purposes
LB236 (Crawford) Change access to sales and use tax information with respect to the Nebraska Advantage Transformational Tourism and Redevelopment Act
LB237 (Crawford) Change provisions relating to sales and use tax collection fees

Monday, February 25 - Recess Day

Tuesday, February 26
Appropriations Committee
Room 1003 1:30 p.m.
LB293 (  Speaker Scheer) Provide, change, and eliminate provisions relating to appropriations
LB294 (Speaker Scheer) Appropriate funds for the expenses of Nebraska State Government for the biennium ending June 30, 2021
LB295 (Speaker Scheer) Appropriate funds for salaries of members of the Legislature
LB296 (Speaker Scheer) Appropriate funds for salaries of constitutional officers
LB297 (Speaker Scheer) Appropriate funds for capital construction and property acquisition
LB298 (Speaker Scheer) Repeal funds and authorize, provide, change, and eliminate fund transfer provisions
LB299 (Speaker Scheer) Change Cash Reserve Fund provisions

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB325 (Bostelman) Provide for motor vehicle tax exemptions for one hundred percent service-connected disability compensation rated veterans and dependency and indemnity compensation recipients

Thursday, February 28
J udiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB54 (Lowe) Change provisions relating to carrying a concealed weapon
LB58 (Morfeld)  Adopt the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act
LB198 (  Halloran) Change provisions relating to use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and prohibit use of a facsimile firearm to commit a felony
LB343 (Halloran) Adopt the School Safety Rapid Response Option Act and authorize schools to allow employees to carry concealed handguns
LB275 (Hansen, M.) Require notification when persons prohibited by state or federal law attempt to obtain a handgun purchase permit or concealed handgun permit
LB582 (Brewer) Change provisions relating to possession of a stolen firearm

Tuesday, March 5
Urban Affairs Committee
Room 1510 1:30 p.m.
LR14CA (Wayne) Constitutional amendment to authorize municipalities to pledge property taxes for up to twenty years if more than one-half of the property in a redevelopment project is extremely blighted
LB648 (Wayne) Change the Community Development Law
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