|Hearings Conclude, Full Day Debate Begins Next Week
Senators wrapped up committee hearings this week with hearings on the death penalty, solitary confinement, and carrying concealed weapons. When the session reconvenes on Tuesday, March 28, full days of floor debate will start.
Senators began morning floor debate this week with a cloture vote to advance
from the second round of debate. LB46A is the companion appropriations bill to
, a bill to create Choose Life license plates. Two weeks ago, cloture was needed to end first-round debate on both bills. It is likely that cloture votes will be needed again when the bills are on Final Reading.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the body debated and advanced several senator and committee priority bills, including measures to shift environmental impact studies on state highways to the Department of Roads (
) and provide grants for rural workforce housing (
Senators spent most of Thursday morning passing nearly 20 bills on Final Reading.
Revenue Committee Releases First Package of Bills
The Revenue Committee reported one of their committee priority bills to the floor on Wednesday.
, which was introduced by Senator Burke Harr at NACO's request, serves as the vehicle for six additional bills. The process of amending numerous bills onto a single measure is often referred to as a Christmas tree; this bill is also called "the bus" because it carries other bills.
LB217, as introduced, would provide a grace period to pay delinquent taxes on rejected homestead exemptions before interest begins to accrue. Because the Department of Revenue does not receive the income information needed to verify eligibility until after the property taxes have become delinquent, the applicant may not learn of the rejection for up to three years. The bill provides a 30-day window to pay the taxes without interest after the county assessor receives approval from the county board to place the property back on the tax rolls. Although counties would not receive the 14 percent interest generated on the delinquent taxes, NACO requested the bill as a customer service.
A second bill introduced at NACO's request,
, is included in the package. The bill would allow county assessors to certify valuations to taxing entities electronically.
, a technical clean-up of rent-restricted housing laws requested by the Rent-Restricted Housing Projects Valuation Committee.
NACO worked with proponents of
, a tax sale bill, on an amendment to require names of property owners to be included on notices that a treasurer's deed has been requested. Certified mail or designated delivery service could be used to provide the notice. The bill would also provide that tax sales certificates sold and issued between 2010 and 2017 would be governed by the laws that were in effect on December 31, 2009. Under existing statutes, those laws apply to tax sales sold between 2010 and 2014.
Two other bills in the committee amendment that would be amended onto the bus would change reporting of federal tax changes (
) and streamline procedures for the Department of Economic Development (
The final bill in the committee amendment to LB217 is
. The bill was introduced as a clean-up bill for the Department of Revenue and prioritized by Senator John Stinner. A Revenue Committee amendment would revise e-filing for tobacco products and make technical corrections to the Affordable Housing Tax Credit. Revenue Committee Chair Jim Smith has offered an amendment,
, that would strike the original sections and amendments. AM707 would delay the $10,000 personal property tax exemption in the Personal Property Tax Relief Act, as well as the Angel Investment Tax Credit, and the School Readiness Tax Credit Act, for two years. A special Revenue Committee hearing will be held on AM707 on Tuesday, March 28 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 2102 of the State Capitol.
Other Tax Bills
The committee is working on a second package of bills targeted at tax reform. Although nothing has been sent to the floor, it has been reported that three bills are tentatively in the package: Governor Ricketts' plan to cut the top income tax rate (
), his proposal to value agricultural land differently and cap ag land increases at 3.5 percent (
), and a measure to change the bottom two income tax brackets and reduce corporate tax rates (
). The committee has asked for more data on how the income tax bills would impact taxpayers at various income levels. An education funding piece is expected to be added to the package before it is sent to the floor.
Some of the same concepts in LB217's AM707 were raised during a Revenue Committee hearing on
on Wednesday. Nearly 20 exemptions, incentives, credits and deductions that were implemented in the last ten years would be repealed by the bill. Senator Paul Schumacher introduced the bill to draw attention to measures that have a negative impact on revenues. Some of the concepts in LB373 may or may not be part of the Revenue Committee's final package.
Some of the programs to be repealed include the Build Nebraska Act, the Personal Property Tax Relief Act, and the Property Tax Credit Act. Sales tax exemptions for molds and dies used in manufacturing, fees and admissions for certain sporting events, C-BED wind energy development projects, repair and replacement parts for ag machinery would be repealed.The valuation of agricultural and horticultural land would be increased from 75 to 80 percent. Applications for several tax incentive programs would be denied.Income tax brackets and exemptions would be adjusted. The maximum value of the property designated in a homestead exemption would be reduced.
Senator Tom Brewer has filed an amendment to his bill to cap property taxes for two years. AM399 to LB576 would replace the original language with a cap on the assessed value plus improvements for four years. A deduction could be made for improvements to the real property that have been destroyed or removed in the past year. The bill was heard by the Revenue Committee on March 9 but was not prioritized.
Snapshots of County Issues
Bills Heard by Committees
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Columbus Day would become Standing Bear and Indigenous Leaders' Day under a bill heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday. An amendment was offered to
that would combine the recognition into a single state holiday.
The committee also heard
that would shift reimbursement for meals for state employees to a percentage of the federal per diem rate, rather than the current system of matching receipts to reimburse the actual amount. A bill proposing similar subject matter but through a different process was vetoed last year.
The committee took no immediate action on these bills and three shell bills, LB421, LB422, and LB423. The latter bills were introduced in case the committee needed a vehicle for other legislation
The Judiciary Committee heard emotional testimony on both sides of a bill to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. Last year senators overrode a veto to abolish the death penalty but voters reinstated it at November's election.
was introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers.
A measure by Senator Paul Schumacher would redefine solitary confinement and create an inmate's right to review after 90 days in restrictive housing.
would implement recommendations of the LR424 committee that investigated the Department of Correctional Services pursuant to a 2014 study.
The committee also heard
, a bill to allow persons age 21 and older to carry concealed guns without permits. Guns could not be carried into schools, certain governmental buildings, financial institutions, churches, bars, and other specified facilities.
None of the bills are prioritized and the committee took no immediate action on them.
Bills Advanced from Committees
Committees continued to meet in executive sessions this week to send bills to the floor for debate by the full body. The Judiciary Committee sent
, a bill to modernize and reorganize jury selection statutes, to the floor. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced LB192 on NACO's behalf to reflect current practices in the selection of jurors.
The committee also advanced bills to define the term "knife" in response to a recent Nebraska Supreme Court case
) and create the offense of using a facsimile firearm (
would clarify the distribution of court fees in mediation cases determining paternity or parental support.
would enact the Medical Cannabis Act. A committee amendment would strike the original bill and replace it. LB622 is Senator Anna Wishart's priority bill.
would exempt from disclosure records reasonably calculated to lead to the identity of a person that participates in lethal injection. Senator John Kuehn has prioritized the bill.
Advanced from General File
Among the bill advanced this week from General File, the first round of debate, are the following bills of interest to counties:
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.
would provide matching funds from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for grants to nonprofit organizations to provide workforce housing in rural areas.
would ease the process for military spouses to continue in their health care professions when they move to Nebraska. The bill would allow spouses who are already licensed in another state and meet Nebraska's educational requirements to receive a temporary license while they are waiting for their permanent license.
would revise state building codes to align with the Department of Health and Human Services occupancy rules for home day cares.
LB340 would shift the Division of Veterans' Homes from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Veterans' Affairs
Bills Passed by the Legislature
On Friday morning, senators passed 19 bills, which more than doubled the number of bills passed thus far this session.
LB8 would authorize the Office of Probation Administration to develop a matrix of graduated response sanctions and incentives for juveniles on probation.
LB11 would provide for transfers of juveniles between district or county court and juvenile court.
LB85 would prohibit persons from filing for office if they have outstanding civil penalties and interest imposed by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act. The Accountability and Disclosure Commission would provide filing officers with a current list of outstanding civil penalties and interest. Potential candidates would be allowed to file if an appeal of the matter is pending before a state court or if the candidate files a surety bond with the Commission. Candidate filing forms would contain a statement by the candidate of whether civil penalties are owner or a surety bond has been filed. The bill prohibits appointment to any elective or appointive office until such penalties and interest are paid.
LB113 would clarify references to municipal population thresholds by adding requirements to use the most recent federal decennial census or the most recent revised certified count by the U.S. Census Bureau.
LB133 would clean up statutes governing second class cities and villages. The changes are technical and grammatical in nature.