February 22, 2019                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


Nonpartisan County Election Hearing Scheduled

Funding for Counties Facing Judgments Proposed

Tax Sales Bill Advanced, Property Tax Hearings Continue

Snapshots of County Issues

2019 NACO Scholarship Applications Available

Schedule of Selected Hearings


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nonpartisanNonpartisan County Election Hearing Scheduled
County voters could decide whether all county races should be nonpartisan in the primary election and partisan in the general election pursuant to a bill that will be heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, February 27 at 1:30 p.m. Under LB144, the issue could be placed on the ballot in counties under 15,000 by a county board resolution or a petition. The question would be submitted to voters at the first statewide general election held at least 60 days after the adoption of the resolution or verification of petition signatures. The issue could not be submitted to voters more than once every three years.
Another bill, LB211, that would make all county elections nonpartisan in counties of all sizes, has not been scheduled for hearing.
The NACO Board is neutral on both bills.

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 gageFunding for Counties Facing Judgments Proposed
Persons who are wrongfully incarcerated or wrongfully convicted and who have obtained a final judgment against a political subdivision could file a claim with the state for repayment of amounts exceeding the political subdivision's available financial resources as part of a bill heard by the Judiciary Committee this week. LB474 would also allow the political subdivision or the person obtaining the judgment and the subdivision to file the claim jointly. The bill was 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.
Another bill, LB473, will be heard by the Revenue Committee on Thursday, February 28. If a political subdivision is unable to budget sufficient funds to pay any judgment in its entirety, the governing body would have to pay the portion that is available under constitutional and statutory limits and apply to the State Treasurer for a loan to pay the judgment in full. After a determination that the loan would be proper, the State Treasurer would make the loan from funds available for investment in the state treasury at an interest rate of one-half of one percent. The State Treasurer would determine the repayment schedule. The governing body would be required to annually budget and levy a sufficient amount for repayment.
The third bill, LB472, has been referred to the Revenue Committee but a hearing date has not been set. The bill would allow counties facing a federal court judgment to impose a half-cent sales tax on purchases in the county.

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taxsaleTax Sales Bill Advanced, Property Tax Hearings Continue
The Revenue Committee sent LB463, a bill to revise notice procedures for treasurer's deeds, to the floor for debate by the full Legislature. Senator Matt Williams introduced the bill after a veteran in his district failed to pay property taxes and an investor acquired the property through a treasurer's deed. The bill contains provisions requested by NACO and county treasurers to create a checklist of items that must be included with the application for a treasurer's deed and a title search by a registered abstractor.
The committee also advanced LB222 to revise administration of the tax credit in the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act.
Hearings Held This Week
The committee held hearings this week on bills to provide property tax relief and revise Nebraska's tax structure. Chair Lou Ann Linehan has scheduled a March 4 evening executive session for committee members to discuss proposed property tax legislation.
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.
LB663 would erase a small increase in some personal property tax valuations that was enacted by last year's LB1089.
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 a portion of residential property taxes paid.
LB530 would assess agricultural land and horticultural land at 65 percent of its actual value, rather than 75 percent.
LB661 would revise income tax rates and direct additional revenues to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund.
LB615 would revise income tax rates and transfer funds to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund if the state's cash reserves have a $500 million minimum balance.
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. NACO and county treasurers testified in support of the bill.
LB218 would exclude electric generators, street lighting, and other structures owned by political subdivisions from the definition of tangible personal property.
Hearings Next Week
Next Wednesday, February 27, the committee will hear Governor Ricketts' property tax relief proposals. LB303 would set a $275 million floor on state appropriations for property tax relief, beginning in 2019. LR8CA would cap increases on property tax revenues at 3 percent of the prior fiscal year unless voters approve a higher rate. The limit would not apply to property tax revenue needed to pay the principal or interest on bonded debt.
The committee will also hear LB482 and LB506. LB482 would require assessors to report destroyed real property to the county board of equalization. The county board of equalization would adjust the assessed value of the property based upon the portion of the year that the property was destroyed and replacement property. LB506 would limit the growth of property tax increases for schools to 2.5 percent or the Consumer Price Index increase. Adjustments could be made based on school funding and enrollment.
On Thursday, February 28, the committee will hear LB710, a bill to increase tobacco taxes to pay for Medicaid expansion. Other funds would be earmarked for behavioral health provider rate stabilization, public health agencies, and other health needs.
LB493 would require housing agencies to provide notice of certain exempt property to county assessors.
LB529 would create a property tax exemption for hospitals that permit licensed medical practitioners to use the hospital's facilities regardless of whether they are employed by the hospital. The exemption would be in proportion to the percentage of the hospital's services that are provided gratuitously.
On Friday, March 1, the committee will hear bills to revise sales and income taxes. LB162 would impose sales taxes on body piercing, tattooing, tanning and other services. LB507 and LB508 would impose sales taxes on certain services and credit the new funds to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund. LB614 would eliminate itemized deductions, repeal the personal property tax credit, implement consumption taxes, and increase tobacco and liquor taxes. The increased revenue would be distributed to school and an increase in the earned income tax credit.

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shotsSnapshots of County Issues
Hearings Scheduled for Next Week
Appropriations Committee
The Appropriations Committee will hear this year's state budget bills on Tuesday, February 26. Hearings on state agency appropriations requests will be held during the rest of the week. The committee has until the 70th day of the long session, May 2 this year, to place the budget bills on General File. More information about the state budget process is available here.
Executive Board
A task force including NACO's executive director or designee would be created to determine whether it is advisable to create a system to monitor the financial condition of counties and municipalities by LB636. Two interim studies, LR210 (2017) and LR455 (2018), and a bill, LB1111 (2018), have previously examined methods to determine fiscal stress in local governments. The Executive Board will hear the bill at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 28.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Next week the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee will hear two bills, LB524 and LB414, that were introduced at NACO's request.
On Thursday, February 28, the committee will take testimony on LB524 that would set a June 30 deadline for annexations to be included in current year's certified valuation. Annexations occurring after that date would be part of the following year's valuation. An amendment will be offered at the hearing that would exempt cities of the metropolitan class from the date change. The bill also adds detail to the process for notifying counties of the annexation. Senator Myron Dorn introduced the bill.
The committee will also hear LB522, to restructure the civil service program in Douglas County to be more like Lancaster and Sarpy counties. LB525 would allow county boards to sell property in fee simple to other political subdivisions rather than going through a surplus property process. LB736 would cap license and occupation taxes in counties and municipalities at $25.
On Friday, March 1, the committee will hear NACO's bill to eliminate an annual report made by highway superintendents. The information is already included in the One-and-Six Year Plans and SSAR (Standardized System of Annual Reporting). Senator Tom Brandt introduced LB414.
The committee will also hear LB633 to restrict disclosure of names and residential addresses in numerical indexes maintained by registers of deeds, inventory statements, and other county records and LB583 to expand counties' ability to use design-build for roads.
Hearings Held this Week
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
The wireless surcharge imposed on each cell phone to help pay for the next generation of 911 would be eliminated by LB550 that was heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on Monday. The Enhanced Wireless 911 surcharge would drop from a maximum of 70 cents to a maximum of 35 cents. The rate is established by the Public Service Commission and currently set at 45 cents per active telephone number or functional equivalent. The fund is estimated to lose more than $2 million annually under the proposal. The bill would also eliminate the surcharge on prepaid wireless phones. Municipalities could enact an additional fee on wireless or prepaid services.
Judiciary Committee
On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee heard LB240, a bill to allow outpatient treatment for some criminal defendants who are found mentally incompetent to stand trial. Currently, these individuals must be sent to the Lincoln Regional Center for treatment to restore competency. When beds are not available, they are housed at the Lancaster County jail. Allowing outpatient treatment in appropriate cases would reduce the county's jail population. The measure was similar to LB1010 that Senator Matt Hansen introduced last year. During the interim, he offered LR370 to study the issue.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Restricted funds budgeted for law enforcement, fire protection, and emergency services would be moved from budget limits under LB452 that was heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday. Law enforcement officers, city officials, and NACO testified in support of the bill. Committee members questioned whether the bill as drafted would guarantee additional funding for law enforcement, fire protection, and emergency services or whether the funds could be used elsewhere.
Counties could authorize employees to rent cars or use commercial charters rather than using their own vehicles and receiving reimbursement at the statutory mileage rate under LB609. 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. The bill was introduced at the request of Lancaster County.
Counties and other political subdivisions could not adopt budgets with a cash reserve exceeding 50 percent of the total amount received from personal and real property taxes under LB386. Introducer Senator Steve Erdman presented data showing certain community colleges and educational service units with reserves far exceeding their annual tax asking. Committee members discussed basing reserve amounts on strategic plans. Opponents representing community colleges and other taxing entities outlined the use of reserves for cash flows, matching funds, accreditation requirements, and bond ratings.
If a county's development interests have changed, it could move to a different planning and development region under LB452. The districts would have to enter into a written agreement to resolve legal and financial issues before the transfer could occur. An amendment was presented at the hearing to impose a one-year moratorium on transfers. The bill would move Cass County from Region 6 to Region 8. A related bill, LB1019, was introduced last year and an interim study, LR374, led to changes in this year's proposal.
Counties, cities, and villages would be prohibited from taxing or regulating the use of distributed ledger technology by LB9. Distributed ledger technology is an electronic record of transactions that is uniformly ordered, redundantly processed to guarantee consistency of data, and validated by the use of cryptography.

LB618 would define electioneering for purposes of election law.
Health and Human Services
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 would require the state to pay the costs.
Urban Affairs
Cities of all sizes could create or join a municipal land bank under LB424. Currently only municipalities in Douglas and Sarpy counties are authorized to create a land bank. Land banks acquire vacant, abandoned, or dilapidated properties and work to bring the properties back to the tax rolls by renovating, demolishing, or selling them for future uses. Municipal officials testifying in support of the bill stressed the lack of affordable housing in both rural and urban areas and the potential for land banks acquisitions to be used for residences. A related bill, LB873, was introduced last year and vetoed by Governor Ricketts. An interim study, LR400, examined the issue this summer.
Another bill heard by the Urban Affairs Committee, LB197, would harmonize procedures for disconnecting property from the corporate limits of municipalities to mirror language used by cities of the first class. Springfield and Fremont are the only two cities that have disconnected property in recent years. Only property adjacent to corporate limits would be disconnected which would prevent an entire subdivision from using the process to remove itself from a city.
Bills Reported to the Floor
Committees continue to report bills to the floor for General File debate by the full Legislature. These include LB239 to harmonize notice of budget hearings in the County Budget Act and LB191 to harmonize the definition of bonds and repeal obsolete bond language.
Bills Advanced from Select File
Senators advanced a series of bills from Select File on Thursday including LB111 that would change language in motor vehicle titling statutes from "husband and wife" to "married couple." LB80 would allow motor vehicle franchisees to submit photographs and other documents electronically to sheriffs for title inspections.

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 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

Wednesday, February 27
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB626 (Pansing Brooks) Create the position of veterans' workforce development coordinator in the Department of Labor
LB144 (Hughes) Provide for voter approval of nonpartisan nomination and partisan election of county officers

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB303 (Lindstrom) Change the amount of relief under the Property Tax Credit Act
LR8CA (Linehan) Constitutional amendment to limit the total amount of property tax revenue that may be raised by political subdivisions
LB506 (Briese) Adopt the Property Tax Request Limitation Act
LB482 (Erdman) Provide for an adjustment to the assessed value of destroyed real property

Thursday, February 28
Executive Board
Room 152512:00 p.m.
LB636 (Stinner) Create the Financial Condition of Counties and Municipalities Task Force

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB522 (Linehan) Name and change the purpose of the County Civil Service Commission Act, change provisions relating to commission membership and duties, and provide for appointment of a human resources director
LB524 (Dorn) Change provisions relating to annexations under the Nebraska Budget Act
LB525 (Dorn) Change provisions relating to the sale of county land in fee simple
LB736 (Murman) Provide restrictions on occupation taxes, license fees, and regulation by counties and municipalities

Judiciary 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

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB473 (Dorn) Change revenue and taxation provisions relating to judgments against public corporations and political subdivisions, authorize certain loans, and provide powers and duties to the State Treasurer
LB710 (Cavanaugh) Change provisions relating to tobacco including sales, crimes, a tax increase, and distribution of funds
LB493 (Wayne) Change provisions relating to property tax exemptions under the Nebraska Housing Agency Act
LB529 (Groene) Change provisions relating to a property tax exemption for hospitals

Friday, March 1
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB637 (Stinner) Authorize sales of tourism promotional products by the Nebraska Tourism Commission
LB583 (Hilgers) Provide powers for certain counties under the Transportation Innovation Act
LB414 (Brandt) Change county highway superintendent duties as prescribed and eliminate an annual report requirement
LB633 (Wishart) Change provisions relating to real property owner information available to the public

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB162 (Hunt) Impose sales and use taxes on certain services
LB507 (Briese) Impose sales tax on certain services and eliminate sales tax exemptions
LB508 (Briese) Impose sales and use taxes on certain services, eliminate sales tax exemptions, and use the increased revenue for property tax credits.
LB614 (Crawford) Change revenue and taxation provisions
LB441 (McCollister) Change provisions relating to certain sales and use tax refund deductions and applicability to municipalities as prescribed

Monday, March 4 - Recess Day  
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

Wednesday, March 6
Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB179 (Hilgers) Authorize the appeal of certain motions as final orders
LB231 (Pansing Brooks) Change provisions relating to legal defense of juveniles
LB352 (Morfeld) Provide requirements relating to the use of jailhouse informants
LB377 (DeBoer) Provide for voidability of certain releases from liability
LB595 (Albrecht) Change Office of Dispute Resolution to Office of Restorative Justice and Dispute Resolution and change powers and duties of the office
LB690 (Cavanaugh) Adopt the Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act

Thursday, March 14
Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB387 (Pansing Brooks) Change and modernize provisions relating to juries
LB427 (Howard) Change terminology relating to legitimacy of children
LB471 (La Grone) Provide a procedure for consolidation of related civil actions in multiple judicial districts
LB643 (McDonnell) Change death and disability-related prima facie evidence provisions relating to emergency responders
LB708 (Brandt) Adopt the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
LB712 (Friesen) Prohibit joint entities and joint public agencies from taking action against representative for their speech

Wednesday, March 27
Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB455 (Arch) Change medical services payment provisions relating to jails

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