March 31, 2017                                                                  Legislative Report Archive 

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debpriorFull Days of Debate Begin
Senators started full days of debate on Tuesday with a mix of General File senator, committee and speaker priority bills. As of March 31, one priority bill has been passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Ricketts. Twenty priority bills remain in committee and one has been indefinitely postponed. The rest await first-round debate on General File or second-round debate on Select File. March 31 is the 57 th day of the 90-day session.
On Monday, senators will start the day with Final Reading on Choose Life license plates ( LB46) and the accompanying appropriations bill, then move on to Select File priority bills.
Senators have begun recommending bills for a consent calendar that will be scheduled sometime in April. Bills and topics must be noncontroversial, must not have a general fund impact, and must have been reported to General File by April 5 for consideration on consent calendar.

debpriorBills Advanced from General File
Debate this week focused on advancing bills from General File, the first round of debate. The following bills are among the measures that were advanced from General File.

First Revenue Committee Package
LB217, one of the Revenue Committee's priority bills, advanced from General File on Thursday afternoon with minimal debate. The committee amendment to the bill, which was introduced by Senator Burke Harr at NACO's request, serves as the vehicle for six additional 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.

Another bill introduced at NACO's request is part of the committee amendment. LB238 would allow county assessors to certify valuations to taxing entities electronically.

NACO supported LB228, a technical clean-up of rent-restricted housing laws requested by the Rent-Restricted Housing Projects Valuation Committee. Income and expense data from owners of rent-restricted housing projects would be reported to the Department of Revenue, rather than to individual county assessors. The Department would forward the statements to assessors by August 15 each year.
LB288, another piece of the committee amendment, would allow certified mail or designated delivery service to be used to provide notice that a treasurer's tax deed has been requested. 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 that are part of the committee amendment would change reporting of federal tax changes ( LB49) and streamline procedures for the Department of Economic Development ( LB387).

The final bill in the committee amendment is LB233. The bill was introduced as a clean-up bill for the Department of Revenue and prioritized by Senator John Stinner. Revenue Committee Chair Jim Smith offered an amendment to LB233, AM707, 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 was held on Tuesday to discuss AM707.
The Revenue Committee's second priority bill has not been reported to General File.

Budget Allowances for Unpaid Property Taxes
Governmental entities could make an allowance of up to five percent for delinquent taxes in their budgets if the prime rate published by the Federal Reserve Board is 10 percent or greater at the time the entity's budget is filed and certified under LB432. Senator Steve Erdman introduced and prioritized the bill to strike the five percent allowance as well as an allowance for anticipated litigation because most taxes are paid and few entities are using the allowances. Opponents testified at the committee hearing that there was a time when taxes were not being paid and that could happen again. The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment that was adopted inserted the prime rate triggering language.

Audit and Budget Revisions
LB151, as originally introduced, would require state entities audited by the state auditor to provide a detailed written description of corrective actions taken in response to the auditor's recommendations. A Government Committee amendment, which was adopted before the bill advanced from the first round of debate, added elements from several other bills. LB89 would change the number of days before a public hearing on a proposed budget statement from five days to four calendar days. The day of publication would count as a day but the day of the hearing would not. LB90 would require public entities to provide suitable accommodations for the Auditor when he or she is conducting an audit. LB27 would create penalties of $20 per day for failure to report information requested annually from counties and other entities, including a list of participation in interlocal agreements. A 14 percent penalty would be assessed on delinquent payments for fees for services provided by the Auditor. State agencies and the state purchasing bureau could not extend contracts for more than 50 percent of the original contract term. The State Auditor would be allowed to share working papers with the Legislative Council, Attorney General, Internal Revenue Service and other listed investigatory agencies.

An amendment was offered by Senator John Stinner that would clarify that sealed or confidential court records could not be disclosed within the working papers exception. A second amendment by Senator Stinner would add an emergency clause to the bill. LB151 is a speaker priority.

Health Insurance Coverage for Injured Officers
City or county law enforcement officers who suffer serious bodily injury from an on-duty assault that results in the officer falling below the minimum number of working hours to maintain health insurance would continue to receive coverage under LB444.The city or county could cancel the coverage if the officer does not return to employment within 12 months after the date of the injury. A Judiciary Committee amendment would rewrite the bill to apply to first responders, which are defined as a sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, volunteer or paid firefighter, or certain volunteer emergency responders. An amendment was adopted before the bill advanced from General File to strike coverage for volunteers. Senator Lynne Walz introduced and prioritized the bill.

Motor Vehicle Titling and Registration Revisions
Motor vehicle dealers could provide titling and registration services under LB263. The electronic dealer services system would be developed as part of the new Vehicle Titling and Registration System (VTR). A Request for Proposals for the new VTR system was released on March 27. The bidder will be selected in August, with an October 1, 2017 contract start date.
In addition to allowing dealer titling, LB263 would require county treasurers to remit both titling and registration fees to the state on the 20th of each month. Currently title fees are remitted on the 15th and registration fees are remitted on the 25th of each month. It also provides that a vehicle with tax situs in the state can be titled and registered in any county.
A Transportation and Telecommunications Committee amendment was adopted that would incorporate provisions from a number of other bills. LB54 would clarify that vehicles with remote starters are exempt from laws prohibiting leaving a vehicle unattended without removing the key. LB70 would provide courts with discretion in sentencing violators to probation for driving under a suspended license. LB143 would allow public power district vehicle registrations to be kept at the principal place of business of the power district. LB294 would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to enter into reciprocity agreements with foreign countries for mutual recognition of operator's licenses. LB460 would change supervision of non-emergency medical transportation routes. LB164 would revise the definition of cabin trailer and require the Department of Motor Vehicles to maintain records for motorboats, all-terrain vehicles, minibikes, and other vehicles in the same manner as other motor vehicle records. LB483 would grant a limited exemption from the Administrative Procedures Act for certain filings of the Public Service Commission. LB418 would update federal regulations. LB459 would change oversight over the One-Call Board of Directors to allow more flexibility in day-to-day operations.
LB263 is a Transportation and Telecommunications Committee priority bill.

Roads Department Merger
LB339 would merge the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads to form a unified Department of Transportation. The new department would be headed by the Director-State Engineer. A Director of Aeronautics would be appointed by the Director-State Engineer to head the aeronautics division. In an effort to ensure that funding for aeronautics would not be diverted for road projects, Senator Bob Krist has offered an amendment that will be debated on Select File that would make the new position subject to confirmation by the Legislature.

Political Party Recognition
Political parties would have an easier time remaining recognized in the state under LB34, Senator Laura Ebke's priority bill. Under existing law, parties maintain their officially recognized status if they receive at least 5 percent of the total votes in one of the two previous statewide elections. To reach these numbers, parties must spend the time and resources to periodically run a candidate. The bill would allow parties to maintain their status if at least 10,000 voters have registered as members of the party. Last fall, the Libertarian party hit this milestone.

Felon Voting Rights Restoration
LB75 is Senator Justin Wayne's priority bill. It would eliminate the two year waiting period between the completion of a felony sentence or probation and the restoration of an individual's voting rights. Prior to 2005, voting rights could only be restored by the Board of Pardons.
Oil, Gas, and Mineral Interest Recording
LB535 was introduced and prioritized by Senator Dan Hughes to eliminate an unnecessary filing of a Real Estate Transfer Statement (Form 521) on oil, gas and mineral leases. When these easements are filed, it does not reflect a change of ownership in the property. Last year NACO worked with the Property Tax Administrator and utility companies on legislation to eliminate the filing of 521's on other types of easements. Oil, gas and mineral leases were not exempted at that time.
A committee amendment was adopted to exempt subsequent assignments of such leases.

An amendment containing LB38, which was originally introduced by Senator Burke Harr, was also adopted before the bill advanced from first-round debate. The new language would specifically allow, but not require, registers of deeds to accept digital or electronic signatures. The authority already exists in Neb.Rev.Stat. §86-611(3). The amendment would add it to § 23-1503.01, which sets out document formatting requirements.

Property Assessed Clean Energy Collections
Last year legislation was enacted to create a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) mechanism for municipalities to finance the up-front costs of energy efficiency improvements on commercial, industrial, and residential properties. Counties were required to collect the annual assessments in the same manner as property taxes. Because the notice and collection process would be cleaner and more efficient if the collections were treated as special assessments, NACO suggested technical amendments for collections on residential property that were not adopted before LB625 advanced from the first round of debate.

Veterans Preference for Active Duty Service Members
LB629 would extend current veteran's employment preferences in public employment to active duty service members and their spouses. The bill is intended to give more stability to military families who stay in Nebraska or move to the state after completing their service. The bill was introduced by Senator Bruce Bostelman and designated as a speaker priority.

Human Trafficking Penalty Increase
Senators advanced a bill increasing penalties for human trafficking on Wednesday with amendments. As advanced, LB289, a Judiciary Committee priority bill, contains provisions from LB178 that would allow victims of sexual assault to file for civil protection orders and LB394 that would prohibit a person who is under a valid protection order from buying or possessing a firearm. Provisions from LB188 would allow the parent of a child born as the result of a sexual assault to petition to terminate the parental rights of the assailant. Provisions from LB191 would allow victims to renew protection orders before they expire and prohibit the withdrawal of a petition for a protection order except upon an order of the court.

 snapSnapshots of County Issues
Bills Debated on General File but not Advanced.
Senators spent Thursday morning debating LB98, a measure to extend the maximum three cent levy authority for fully- or over-appropriated natural resources districts from FY2017-18 to FY2025-26. A motion to bracket the bill until June 2, 2017 failed on a 19-19 vote. More amendments were pending when debate ended at noon and other bills were scheduled for the afternoon. LB98 is a Speaker priority bill.
Bondholders would be given first priority for payment if a governmental unit files bankruptcy under LB72. The bill, a Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee priority measure, was debated for several hours on Wednesday before adjourning for the day with two amendments pending. Proponents argued that bondholders, including persons who invested their retirement funds in government bonds expecting them to be secured through tax dollars, should be made whole in the event of a bankruptcy. Opponents argued that employee pensions should be paid before investors who assumed the risk that the bonds could fail.

Bills Signed by Governor Ricketts 
Governor Ricketts signed a number of bills into law this week, including the following measures of interest to counties. The bills will take effect three calendar months after the session adjourns.   
LB8 authorizes the Office of Probation Administration to develop a matrix of graduated response sanctions and incentives for juveniles on probation.
LB11 provides for transfers of juveniles between district or county court and juvenile court. 
LB85 prohibits 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 will provide filing officers with a current list of outstanding civil penalties and interest. Potential candidates will 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 will 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 clarifies 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 cleans up statutes governing second class cities and villages. The changes are technical and grammatical in nature. 
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