Every bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature is given a public hearing by a committee. County officials are encouraged to provide testimony on bills that may affect their office. Please note that if you are not testifying in person on a bill and would like to submit a written position letter to be included in the official hearing record as an exhibit, the letter must be delivered to the office of the committee chair (or emailed to the committee chair) of the committee conducting the hearing on the bill by 5:00 p.m. CST on the last work day prior to the public hearing.The letter must include your name and address, state a position of for, against, or neutral on the bill and include a request for the letter to be included as part of the public hearing record.
Following is a summary of discussion at selected committee hearings this week.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee took testimony this week on
, a measure to establish an early warning system to identify counties, cities and villages that are in fiscal distress. The bill would require the State Auditor to review financial indicators from taxing authorities and determine whether they should be placed on a fiscal watch. The indicators include a review of bonded debt, liabilities in excess of 20 percent of revenue, levying at the maximum rate for the past three years, and other factors. The Auditor would evaluate the fiscal indicators to determine whether the taxing entity might be at risk of fiscal stress. Senator John Stinner, the introducer, cited the Beatrice 6 lawsuit against Gage County and the loss of Cabela's in Cheyenne County as examples of situations that might cause counties to be under fiscal stress.
On Thursday, the committee heard testimony on
, which would require photo identification for voting, and
, which would require the Secretary of State to check the citizenship status of all registered voters against federal homeland security records. Senator John Murante, LB1064's introducer, offered an amendment to replace the verification with a requirement for the Secretary of State to cross-check voter registration records against the Department of Motor Vehicles' records. The Secretary of State already performs this comparison periodically.
Next Wednesday, the committee will hear three election bills and a measure to provide residential address protection to members of the Nebraska National Guard (
). The election bills would set a deadline for returning ballots on behalf of someone else (
), permit the use of electronic poll books (
), and make technical and clean-up changes requested by election officials (
Cities and villages could enter into interlocal agreements with counties for the removal, abatement, or prevention of nuisances inside the municipality's extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction (ETJ) under
, which was heard by the Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Senator Carol Blood introduced the bill to add another tool for areas that have significant development outside of municipal boundaries. Currently counties have little ability to address nuisances in the ETJ if a city chooses not to exercise their authority to do so. Although such agreements may already be acceptable under the Interlocal Cooperation Act, the bill would grant specific authority for the agreements.
A tax sales certificate purchaser requested the introduction of
, a bill to allow investors in delinquent taxes to make improvements to abandoned and dilapidated property. The improvements could equal up to 25 percent of the assessed value of the property and would accrue interest at the delinquent tax rate of 14 percent. County officials, NACO and the Nebraska Realtors Association testified in opposition to the bill.
The committee has not reported action on either bill.
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
would implement the recommendations of a next generation 911 master plan that was commissioned by the state in 2016. NACO and county officials were part of the group of stakeholders that collaborated on the plan and testified in support of LB993. The bill would provide a continued role for stakeholders through a new advisory committee. It would task the Public Service Commission with determining the allocation of the wireless 911 surcharge to help cover costs of next-gen 911 services. NACO and county officials testified in support of the bill at Monday's hearing.
Maximum speed limits could be increased on the interstate, highways and roads in Nebraska under
. The increase would reflect actual speeds used by drivers, as indicated by engineering and speed studies. It would an additional functional classification of roads for two lane highways designed primarily for through traffic with passing lanes spaced intermittently and on alternating sides of the highway.
County assessors testified before the Revenue Committee on Wednesday in opposition to a section of the Department of Revenue's clean-up bill that would provide a process for reassessment in the event of a major calamity. Those provisions of
contain concepts similar to
, which was heard earlier.
Senator Tom Briese's Property Tax Limitation Act that would revise state aid to schools was heard on Thursday.
would also terminate the Personal Property Tax Relief Act, increase cigarette taxes, eliminate sales and use tax exemptions, impose an alternative minimum income tax, and take other steps to increase revenue.
Chair Jim Smith introduced three shell bills -
- to provide placeholders if needed later for concepts on corporate and individual income taxes and property taxes. LB963, as introduced, would require assessors to inspect and review real property parcels every three years, rather than every six years. Smith assured the committee that the bill would not be advanced as introduced.
Because so many bills were assigned to the Judiciary Committee this year, Chair Laura Ebke scheduled a full day of hearings on a recess day. On Friday, February 9, the committee heard nine bills primarily dealing with criminal law issues and juveniles.
The committee considered legislation related to electronic modes of currency on Wednesday.
would create the Nebraska Virtual Money Laundering Act. This bill would deal with cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin.
would authorize smart contracts and authorize use of distributed ledger technology. It would add blockchain and smart contracts to the Electronic Notary Public Act and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. LB695 would allow smart contracts, which are virtual contracts that are administered using distributed ledger technology, to be recognized as having the same force and effect as a regular paper or digital contract under Nebraska law.
The Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee has heard another version of a virtual currency bill,
. The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee will hear
that would prohibit cities and villages and counties from taxing or regulating distributed ledger technology.
Bills Debated on Select File
Counties would not have to post weight limit signs on bridges if the weight limit matched the limit on the road under
. Senator Curt Friesen introduced the bill last year on behalf of NACO. The bill was debated on Select File but time ran out before it could be advanced. An amendment was adopted on General File to define culverts to fix an oversight in legislation adopted in 2016 setting weight limits for implements of husbandry being operated on county roads. The amendment exempts culverts with a span of less than 60 inches from these restrictions.
Bills Passed on Final Reading
A bill to update court terminology and practices to reflect the functionality of the JUSTICE system was passed by the Legislature on Thursday. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced
on NACO's behalf.
Among the other bills that were passed by the Legislature is LB100 that would require mental health boards to use a clear and convincing standard of proof when determining whether a petitioner's rights to obtain a handgun should be reinstated.
LB146 would allow persons convicted of infractions to petition the court to set aside the conviction in the same manner as misdemeanors and felonies.
LB93 would set parameters for the use of automatic license plate readers by governmental entities and limit the retention of data to 180 days.