March 15, 2019                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


Priority Bill Designations Continue

Treasurer's Tax Deed Bill Advances

Revenue Committee Hears TERC Videoconference Bill

Election Funding Requests Heard

Snapshots of County Issues

Schedule of Selected Hearings


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priorPriority Bill Designations Continue
As the midpoint of the 90-day session approaches, the final public hearings on bills are being scheduled by committees. After committee hearings conclude on March 28, the 50th day, the Legislature will move into full days of floor debate.
Senators and committees continue to designate their priority bills. Each senator is allowed to select one priority bill and most committees may designate two priority bills. The deadline for these priority designations is March 19. A list of bills designated to date is available here.
The Speaker may designate up to 25 measures as speaker priority bills. Requests for designation of bills as speaker priorities were due on March 14 and the list of speaker priority bills will be announced on March 20.
The Appropriations Committee continues to hear state agency appropriations requests and work on the budget. The committee's preliminary budget is available here. Bills representing the Appropriations Committee's recommendations must be placed on General File by the 70th day, May 2 this year. The appropriations bills must be passed by the 80th day.

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ttdeedTreasurer's Tax Deed Bill Advances
Property owners who owe back taxes would receive more targeted notice when a tax sales certificate investor applies for a treasurer's deed through a bill that was advanced from the first and second rounds of debate on Tuesday. LB463 was introduced and prioritized by Senator Matt Williams. If the property owner cannot be reached through other types of service, the bill would require publication in the newspaper designated by the county board for publication of notices.
At the request of county treasurers, the bill includes a specific checklist of documents that must be included with the application for a treasurer's deed, including a copy of the title search conducted by a registered abstracter.
An amendment was adopted on General File debate to clarify the timing of changes to tax sales laws. Under existing language, tax sales certificates sold between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2017 are governed by the law as it existed in 2009. As introduced, the bill would have inserted a 2016 ending date for the 2009 statutes. The amendment would clarify that tax sales certificates sold between January 1, 2017 and the effective date of the bill would be governed by the law that are in effect on the effective date of the act.
The bill would also require the publication of parcel identification numbers along with the delinquent tax list. During the first round of debate, several senators suggested adding the property owner's name to either the delinquent tax list or publication of application for a treasurer's deed to encourage timely payment.
Senators Robert Clements, Steve Erdman, Curt Friesen, and Mike Groene spoke in first-round support of LB463. There was no debate on the second round and the bill advanced by a voice vote.
 tercvidRevenue Committee Hears TERC Videoconference Bill
This week the Revenue Committee heard LB707, a bill to allow the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) to hold single commissioner hearings by telephone or video conference. This process can be used for statewide equalization hearings but there is no stated authority to hold such hearings with a single commissioner. The bill would reduce travel expenses for counties that would otherwise have to drive to Lincoln for a hearing with a single commissioner. NACO testified that one Panhandle county estimated costs of over $900 in mileage reimbursement, lodging, and other expenses for one employee to travel to Lincoln for a hearing. TERC testified that single commissioner video and telephone conferences are a tool that they will examine, regardless of the outcome of LB707. Committee members expressed concerns that taxpayers from western Nebraska should not always have to travel to Lincoln for hearings. Senator Steve Erdman introduced the bill on NACO's behalf.
The committee also heard a bill to allow counties subject to a qualified federal court judgement against them to impose a sales and use tax to pay for the judgment. Under LB472, the county board would adopt a resolution imposing the tax by at least a two-thirds vote. The tax would terminate when the judgment was paid in full. NACO testified in support of the bill. City representatives opposed the bill.
LB472 is the third measure introduced by Senator Myron Dorn to help Gage County pay for a $28.1 million judgment to six people who were wrongly convicted of a 1985 homicide. The other bills, LB473 and LB474, would allow political subdivisions to apply for low-interest loans from the state to pay for federal court judgments and would allow such claims to be filed with the State Claims Board. All of the bills remain in committee.

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 govelectElection Funding Requests Heard
County commissioners could place the question of increasing the county board from three to five members on the ballot pursuant to a bill that advanced from General File on Thursday. Existing law provides for the question to appear on the ballot only after a petition process. LB411 also serves as the base for a "Christmas tree" of Government Committee bills. Each bill was advanced individually by the committee, then included in the committee amendment to LB411. The committee amendment and a technical amendment were adopted before the bill advanced.
Language from LB608 would eliminate outdated concepts regarding electronic voting and authorize the use of precinct-based ballot counting.
LB618 would define the term electioneering to bring Nebraska into compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky (2018).
LB246, the Secretary of State's annual bill, would make a number of clean-up and procedural changes including harmonizing dates for elections to eliminate the township form of government and modifying recall petition provisions. Other language would clarify the authority of the Secretary of State to withhold certain confidential information from public voter registration lists.
LB280 would increase the penalty for violations of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act from $2,000 to $5,000.
LB342 would move oversight of Metropolitan Utilities board of director elections from the Douglas County election commissioner to the Secretary of State.
LB101 would clarify conflict of interest provisions for school board members and elected officials of certain cities and villages.
Election Hearings Held This Week
Nebraskans applying for or renewing a driver's license or state identification card would be automatically registered to vote or have their voter registration updated unless they opted-out under LB687 that was heard by the Government Committee on Thursday. The individual's information would be transmitted to county clerks and election commissioners for verification. LB687 is similar in concept to a bill introduced in 2017. Both bills were opposed by county officials due to concerns over the number of duplicate registrations that the proposal would generate. Existing motor-voter law allows individuals to opt-in to register to vote.
Senators asked whether other methods, such as all mail elections or planned efforts by the Secretary of State to cross-check voter registration addresses with other states, would increase voter registration and turnout. Similar questions were raised during Wednesday's Appropriations Committee hearing on LB531 and the Secretary of State's appropriations request. As written, LB531 would transfer $200,000 from the Election Administration Fund to aid in increasing the number of eligible Nebraskans who create, update, or affirm their voter registration while interacting with state agencies. The appropriations request contains $6 million to purchase vote tabulating equipment. Counties would be required to provide a 10 percent match.
The Government Committee also heard LB733, which, as introduced, would codify accessibility standards in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Senator Rick Kolowski, the Secretary of State, and representatives of disability advocacy groups developed an amendment that would refer to the acts by name, rather than placing the contents in statute. The Secretary of State would make an accessibility training manual available and include accessibility training in their biennial training for county clerks and election commissioners. Accessibility training would be required for all poll workers.
LB718 would require election offices in counties over 100,000 to open for additional office hours for early voting at least two weeks prior to the election. Election commissioners testified that the bill is unnecessary because they are already offering extended hours based on the type of election and community needs.

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shotsSnapshots of County Issues
Hearings Held This Week
Appropriations Committee
LB232 would lower the threshold for counties to file claims to recover costs for the prosecution of incidents at correctional facilities. Legislation adopted last year would allow counties to seek payment from the state when the prosecution costs exceed the amount of property tax that could be raised in the county by a 2.5 cent levy. LB232 would further limit county liability by decreasing the rate to an amount generated by a 1.5 cent levy. The earlier legislation was introduced in response to costs incurred by Johnson County to prosecute inmates involved in riots at the state prison in Tecumseh.
Judiciary Committee
The Judiciary Committee heard LB387, a bill to update jury statutes, on Thursday, March 14. The bill was developed by clerks of the district court to update and reorganize jury selection statutes to create the Jury Selection Act. The Act would modernize terminology and current practices in the selection of jurors. The bill would increase the pool of potential jurors by increasing age to opt out of jury service from 65 to 70. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced LB387 and carried similar legislation for NACO in 2016 and 2017. Those bills had been advanced by the Judiciary Committee but not debated due to lack of time. No one testified in opposition to LB387.

On Friday, March 15, the committee heard a bill intended to allow offenders to become eligible for parole sooner and alleviate overcrowding in prisons. LB131 would reestablish a repealed statute stating that a minimum term does not exceed one-third of the maximum term for certain felonies unless a mandatory minimum sentence is required by statute. The committee also heard LB176 to eliminate certain mandatory minimum sentences. This would allow inmates to begin accruing good time credits upon admission and affect the parole eligibility of inmates convicted of Class IC and ID felonies.
Hearings Next Week
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Counties, cities, and other political subdivisions would have to prepare their budget statements with generally accepted accounting principles using the accrual basis under LB581 that will be heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, March 20. The State Auditor would include these principles within their minimum accounting standards applicable to reports filed by political subdivisions with the state. Currently most counties operate on a cash basis. The bill would take effect on January 1, 2020.
Revenue Committee
On Wednesday, March 21, the Revenue Committee will hear two bills to change provisions of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act. LB560 would limit beginning farmers to one successful lease agreement in the program. LB623 would limit tax credits for agricultural assets to three years.
Business and Labor Committee
LB363 would create the In the Line of Duty Compensation Act to recognize law enforcement officers, firefighters, and associated rescue squad and emergency medical services ambulance squad members who are killed in the line of duty or die within one year after an injury on the job. To be eligible, law enforcement officers would have to serve for more than 100 hours per year and be authorized to make arrests. The amount of compensation would be $50,000 in 2020 and would increase annually based upon the Consumer Price Index. The State Claims Board would consider claims and payment would be made by the state. The Business and Labor Committee will hear LB363 at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 18.
General Affairs Committee
The Tax Commissioner or any peace officer could seize certain electronic gaming devices that violate the Nebraska County and City Lottery Act under LB722. Such gray devices accept coins, tokens or other value in exchange for play and award monetary prizes or credits or simulate casino, poker, or card games. Cell phones and ATMs would not be treated as gray devices. The General Affairs Committee will hear LB722 on Monday, March 18.
Bills Passed on Final Reading
Senators passed 25 bills on Friday, including the following bills of interest to counties:
LB284 would require online sellers with 1) a gross revenue from Nebraska sales of $100,000 or 2) 200 or more separate transactions in Nebraska to collect Nebraska sales tax beginning April 1.
LB8 would allow physician medical directors to use rotating or flashing red or blue lights on their motor vehicles when traveling to an emergency requiring their service. The lights would be identical to those available to volunteer firefighters and peace officers. Such physicians would have to successfully complete an emergency vehicle operator course and be authorized by the county sheriff to use the lights.
LB124 would allow counties, cities, and villages to form joint clean energy assessment districts under the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act (PACE). PACE is a mechanism for municipalities to finance installation of energy efficiency improvements for renewable energy systems in exchange for the property owner's agreement to pay an annual assessment not to exceed the weighted average useful life of the project. PACE assessments are collected at the same time as property taxes unless a third-party lender agrees to make the collections. Copies of assessment contracts are filed with the assessor and register of deeds of the county where the property is located. The bill carries an emergency clause.
LB156 would create a process for the operation, titling, and registration of former military vehicles. A former military vehicle is defined as a vehicle that was manufactured for use in any country's military forces and is maintained to accurately represent its military design and marking but is no longer used, or was never used, by a military force.
LB16 would allow the withholding public records related to the details of physical and cyber assets of critical electric infrastructure. The bill applies to assets for which incapacity or destruction would negatively affect security, economic security, public health or safety, or any combination thereof.
LB148 would create a state designation for colleges and university campuses that are supportive to their veteran and active duty students. Some of the criteria for the designation could include giving college credit for certain types of military activities, having a military leave of absence policy, and specific recognition of military or veteran students. 
Bills Signed by Governor Ricketts
Governor Ricketts signed bills into law on March 7 and 12.
LB11 would allow counties and municipalities to enter into interlocal agreements for nuisance enforcement within the municipality's extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction.
LB32 would revise and modernize investment options for the County and State Retirement Plans. The bill does not address transfers from the defined compensation plan into the cash balance plan.
LB42 would require condominium association boards to annually file a listing of the board members' and officers' names and addresses with the register of deeds of the county in which the condominium is located. The registration would provide contact information for the service of legal notices and other information.
LB56 would allow county boards to create an expedited application process for special designated liquor licenses. The licenses could be issued 12 days, rather than 21 days, before the event.
LB63 would allow individual fire districts that are members of a mutual finance organization (MFO) to lower their levies if additional funds are not needed. Existing law requires all members of an MFO to levy the same rate. LB63 would allow a fire district to levy an amount below the agreed-upon rate for two of the three years of the agreement. The bill carries an emergency clause.
LB80 would allow motor vehicle franchisees to submit photographs and other documents electronically to sheriffs for title inspections.
LB82 would allow counties to certify completion of the One-and-Six Year road plans and other reporting documents to the state rather than submitting the entire document.
LB103 would require governing bodies whose annual property tax request would be higher than the prior year to hold a hearing and pass a resolution or ordinance to set the property tax request. The bill would require additional information to be published in the hearing notice and included in the resolution or ordinance. The bill carries an emergency clause so it would be in effect for the coming budget cycle.
LB111 would change language in motor vehicle titling statutes from "husband and wife" to "married couple."
LB117 would revise the way contractors become prequalified to bid on projects let by the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
LB152 would grant certain National Guard members the same protection of their residential addresses in assessors' and registers of deeds' records as is authorized for law enforcement officers.
LB154 would require the Nebraska State Patrol to conduct a study to determine how to increase state criminal justice protective and investigative resources for reporting and identifying missing Native American women and children in the state. The study would involve federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement representatives.
LB185 would require the owner or lessee of land consisting of five contiguous acres or less to provide an IRS Schedule F to document a profit or loss from farming for two out of the last three years in order to qualify for special valuation. The bill would take effect on January 1, 2020.
LB192 would expand the pool of veterans eligible for a veteran's designation on drivers' licenses and state identification cards. Separate designations would be made for members of the National Guard or Reserves.
LB200 would clarify licensure requirements for facilities used to house persons under civil protective custody.
LB372 would change land capability groups used to value agricultural land to the use applied by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Currently these are based on dryland farming categories.
LB622 would authorize the use of a single-bank pooled collateral method for pledging collateral for government investments in excess of FDIC insured amounts. The Director of the Department of Banking would designate a bank, savings association, trust company, or other qualified entity to administer the single-bank pooled method.

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, March 18
Business and Labor Committee
Room 1003 1:30 p.m.
LB363 (Hansen, M.) Adopt the In the Line of Duty Compensation Act

General Affairs Committee
Room 1510 1:30 p.m.
LB722 (Albrecht) Authorize seizure of gray devices under the Nebraska County and City Lottery Act

Wednesday, March 20
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB581 (Albrecht) Require the use of generally accepted accounting principles in preparing budgets under the Nebraska Budget Act

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB560 (Geist) Change provisions relating to tax credits under the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act
LB623 (Williams) Change provisions relating to qualifications under the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act

Thursday, March 21
Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB324 (La Grone) Change immunity from liability under the 911 Service System Act

Monday, March 25
Appropriations Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB480 (Quick) State intent relating to appropriations to local public health departments

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

Thursday, March 28
Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB369 (Vargas) Require jails, law enforcement agencies, and the Nebraska State Patrol to provide public notice before entering into agreements to enforce federal immigration law and to allow audits of noncomplying entities

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