|Hearings Conclude, Full Days of Debate to Begin
Return to top
Committees held their final afternoon public hearings this week and will begin full days of floor debate on April 2, the 51st day of the 90-day session. Speaker Jim Scheer plans to release a schedule in mid-April for late night debate during the final weeks of the session.
Although all bills have had a public hearing, committees may occasionally hold a special hearing on an amendment that contains new content. On April 3, the Revenue Committee will hold a special hearing on
, one of the committee's priority bills. AM974 would define doing business in the state for income tax purposes. LB288 was introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan, Revenue Committee chair, as a shell bill to serve as a placeholder for a bill that would be developed by the committee after bill introductions ended on Day 10. The committee has prioritized a second shell bill,
, that may be used as the mechanism for a property tax reform bill.
Debate This Week
The debate this week focused on bills on General File, the first round of debate. Among the bills was
, a bill to expand eligibility of felons for SNAP benefits. It failed to garner enough votes to invoke cloture and end debate. No vote was taken on
, a measure to extend the duration of tax increment financing in extremely blighted areas, and the bill remains on General File
On Thursday, senators did not take up the Select File bills that appeared on the agenda. Instead, they used confirmation hearings on two appointees to revisit debate and votes on earlier measures, including LB169 and LR14CA. Senators expressed frustration at the personal nature of some of the debate and the lack of civility in the body and on social media. The same Select File bills appear on the agenda for Tuesday, April 2.
Because of the extended debate this week, senators did not take up
, a bill to change the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land to a productivity method, or
, a bill to allow counties to implement a sales tax to pay for federal judgments. Amendments have been offered to both bills. The bills appear on Tuesday's agenda and are likely to be debated next week.
|Time Runs Out on TIF Debate
A proposed constitutional amendment to allow tax increment financing (TIF) to be extended to a maximum of 20, rather than 15 years, if more than half of the property in the project area is designated as extremely blighted, stalled after debate on Monday and Tuesday.
, if passed by the Legislature, would appear before voters on the November 2020 ballot.
Last year senators adopted
to update TIF laws, including creating a definition of
based on unemployment and poverty factors. During debate on LR14CA, some senators questioned whether the definition should also be included in the constitution.
Senator Mike Groene offered a
to require one hundred percent of the property in the project area to be designated as extremely blighted. The amendment led to discussion of drawing project boundary lines along census tracts that may not follow local streets or other arbitrary boundaries.
Senators spent three hours on the measure before moving on to the next bill without a vote or an opportunity for a cloture motion. This procedure was criticized during Thursday's debate. Per the Speaker's policy, LR14CA may reappear on the agenda if the introducer can demonstrate sufficient support for a cloture motion.
Senator Justin Wayne introduced LR14CA and the Urban Affairs Committee selected it as a priority bill. Two other bills,
, use the definition of extremely blighted to focus on workforce housing and tax credits. Senator Wayne introduced these measures and several others to provide development opportunities for extremely blighted areas in his north Omaha district.
|Judiciary Committee Hears Fitness for Confinement Bill
On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee heard
to clarify which governmental entity is responsible for the costs of medical examinations of persons who are arrested or detained but not lodged in jail and no other form of payment, such as insurance, is available. Under current law, if a person is injured during the course of an arrest or apprehension, the arresting or apprehending agency is responsible for the person's medical bills. The county is responsible for medical costs when the person is lodged in the county jail. It is less clear who is responsible when municipal law enforcement officers cite and release persons or an arrestee requires medical services before lodging in order to meet jail standards.
The Nebraska Supreme Court recently examined the issue in
Chase County v. City of Imperial. Imperial police arrested an individual for disturbing the peace and transported him to the Chase County jail for booking. Because he was heavily intoxicated, jail personnel requested medical clearance before he could be admitted to the jail. The hospital submitted the bill for the fitness for confinement examination to the county and later to the city. The county and the city each contended that the other party was responsible for payment.
The District Court decided in favor of the county and the Court of Appeals decided in favor of the city. The Supreme Court declined to assign the costs on the grounds that there was no showing of whether the individual or his insurance carrier could pay the costs. The opinion noted that two pending bills, LB455 and
, would amend the pertinent section of statute and might provide guidance in the future. LB216 would prohibit law enforcement from releasing a person in custody to a health care provider to avoid the cost of medical services unless certain conditions are met. LB216 was heard by the Judiciary Committee and has not been advanced.
Senator John Arch, who introduced LB455, noted in his opening that counties and cities have been meeting to work on language to resolve this issue. He asked the committee to hold the bill until a consensus is reached.
A deputy Sarpy County Attorney, Lancaster County Corrections Director, and NACO testified in support of the bill. An attorney representing the City of Imperial and the League of Municipalities testified in opposition to LB455. All speakers expressed a willingness to continue working on the issue.
Return to top
The committee also heard testimony on
, a measure introduced by Senator Steve Lathrop to address prison overcrowding by providing for a limited release of inmates if the state reaches emergency levels and is forced to reduce the number of prisoners. He urged the committee to use the bill as a vehicle to address overcrowding before the state is forced to build a new facility. Committee members expressed concern that the state does not appear to be on course to reduce overcrowding before an emergency occurs.
Scott Frakes, Director of the Department of Corrections, testified in opposition to the bill and answered questions about staffing at state correctional facilities, execution drugs, and the agency's appropriations request. The ACLU, which has filed a lawsuit against the state for overcrowding, testified neutral, stressing that addressing mental and behavioral health issues inside and outside of prisons would reduce overcrowding.
Immigration Enforcement Agreements
The committee heard
, a bill to require law enforcement agencies entering into 287G agreements to enforce federal immigration laws to notify the governing body of their political subdivision. Copies of the agreement and a record of the public hearing, including a transcript, would have to be submitted to the Crime Commission. Failure to do so could result in an audit by the State Auditor at the cost of the county.
NACO asked Senator Tony Vargas, the introducer, to remove the requirement for a transcript of the public meeting since county boards do not generally transcribe proceedings. He offered an amendment at the hearing to make this change. He also acknowledged NACO's request to limit potential audits to the immigration agreement, rather than an audit of all county procedures. NACO testified neutral on the bill due to the changes.
|School Resource Officer Agreement Bill Advances
Return to top
Schools and law enforcement agencies with officers serving as school resource officers (SROs) would be required to have a comprehensive and clear memorandum of understanding (MOU) delineating their roles and relationships under
. Schools would be responsible for disciplinary issues while SROs would enhance safety, respond to law violations, and serve as a community resource for students, parents, and school staff.
As advanced from General File on Monday with a Judiciary Committee amendment, the Department of Education would develop a model memorandum. School districts would have to provide a copy of the MOU to the Department or post on the district's website. The MOU would require each school resource officer or security guard and one school administrator to attend a minimum of 20 hours of training specific to school law, behavior, de-escalation techniques, and awareness of adolescent issues. Records would need to be maintained on student referrals for prosecution from SROs, including demographic information. The MOU would need to identify school policies about when parents would be notified, when a student would be advised of their constitutional rights, and other issues.
Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced and prioritized LB390.
|Snapshots of County Issues
Hearings Held This Week
The Revenue Committee's final hearings of the session focused on fuel taxes, bonding for roads, and alcohol sales by tax exempt entities. LB338 would set the floor on the average wholesale price of gas used to calculate gas taxes. The average wholesale price is derived using data from the State Energy Office on a per gallon basis and is taken from gasoline sold over the previous six-month period. When a five percent tax on the wholesale price of gas was enacted in 2008, $2.44 was used as the basis for discussion, but was not set in statute. Shortly thereafter, gas prices dropped and counties, cities, and the state lost the anticipated revenue. By setting a floor, LB338 would assure that gas taxes would not fall below a specified level. Counties and cities would each receive 17 percent of the wholesale fuel tax, approximately $7.8 million in FY21, and the Nebraska Department of Transportation would receive 66 percent, approximately $30.5 million. NACO and city officials testified in support of the bill.
LB97 would authorize the state to issue up to $200 million in highway bonds to accelerate completion of the projects identified in the Build Nebraska Act. The Highway Cash fund could be pledged for repayment of the bonds. Senator Justin Wayne has introduced similar legislation three times to continue discussion of a bridge in north Omaha.
would strike the 20-hour per week limitation on the sale of alcohol on property owned by educational, religious, charitable, or cemetery organizations. A proponent asked the committee not to advance the bill because they are working with their county assessor to resolve the situation that led to introduction of the bill.
This week the Appropriations Committee heard bills on public health, service provider rates, and youth rehabilitation facilities, as well as continued agency appropriations requests.
would appropriate $900,000 to local health departments. Each of the 18 local public health departments would receive $50,000 to help improve preventive health and promote worksite wellness.
would increase rates paid to behavioral health service providers by five percent in each of the next two years. Proponents testified that treatment for mental health and substance abuse services could reduce prison overcrowding by reaching individuals before they become part of the criminal justice system.
would appropriate $3.9 million for hiring and training staff at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTCs) in Kearney and Geneva. The goals of the bill would be to increase youth-staff ratios without using additional overtime, use evidence-based programming and mental health treatment for committed youth, and develop re-entry planning and transition supports for youth exiting the centers. A portion of the appropriation would be used for a study of the centers on the evidence-based spectrum.
would appropriate $2 million to build a fence around the YTRC at Kearney.
Bills Reported out of Committee
Committees continued to send bills to the floor this week. Among these is
, a bill introduced and prioritized by Senator John Halloran to enact the Neighbor Spoofing Protection Act to prohibit caller ID services from knowingly transmitting incorrect information. The bill would not apply to activities of an authorized law enforcement agency or when a court order specifically authorizes the use of caller ID manipulation. The Public Service Commission could impose a penalty for violations.
Bills Advanced from General File
Among the bills advanced from General File this week were
LB218, as introduced, would amend the definition of tangible personal property for sales and use taxes to exclude electric generation, transmission, distribution, and street lighting structures to make them exempt from sales and use tax. A Revenue Committee amendment was adopted before the bill advanced from General File that would rewrite the definition of real property to include these types of property.
LB320 would update federal regulations in the Pesticide Act.
Bills Signed by Governor Ricketts
Governor Ricketts signed a treasurer's deed reform bill on Wednesday.
creates a checklist of items that must be submitted with an application for a treasurer's deed, including a title search by a registered abstracter. Property owners who owe back taxes will receive more targeted notice when a tax sales certificate investor applies for a treasurer's deed. If the property owner cannot be reached through other types of service, the bill requires publication in the newspaper designated by the county board for publication of notices.
The governor also signed
that will require school boards to appoint a committee on American civics to examine the school's social studies curriculum to ensure various assessments and activities are in place. Among the possible activities are taking a written civics tests, completing a project about a specified holiday or person, or attending or participating in a meeting of a public body and completing a project or paper to discuss the personal learning experience of the student related to the meeting.