March 8, 2019                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


Treasurer's Deed Bill on Agenda for Tuesday, March 12

Jail and Juvenile Justice Funding Bills Heard

Government Committee Hears Election Bills

Snapshots of County Issues

Schedule of Selected Hearings


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 trdeedTreasuer's Deed Bill on Agenda for Tuesday, March 12
Next Tuesday the full Legislature will begin debate on LB463 that would revise notice provisions for investors applying for treasurer's tax deeds. The day convenes at 9:00 a.m. with confirmation of appointees to the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission. LB463 appears on the agenda immediately after the confirmation reports.
LB463 caps more than a year's efforts by county treasurers to improve the treasurer's deed process. NACO hosted stakeholder meetings last summer for county treasurers, county attorneys, registers of deeds, tax sales investors, bankers, title industry representatives and others to consider revisions to the treasurer's deed process. Treasurers developed a checklist to set out the items that must be included within the application for a treasurer's deed.
The issue gained media exposure and public momentum after the Nebraska Supreme Court awarded a farm worth $1.1 million to an investor who had acquired the property through a treasurer's deed in Wisner v. Vandelay Investments.
Senator Matt Williams brought in additional stakeholders to work on notice provisions and introduced the bill as LB463. He also designated it as his personal priority bill.
The bill contains the checklist requested by treasurers, a requirement for a complete title search conducted by a registered abstractor to be included in the deed application, clarification in § 77-1837.01 of the effective date of 2009 statutes, and additional directions for investors to give notice of pending treasurer's deeds to property owners.
Senator Williams has filed an amendment that would add a new subsection to § 77-1837.01. 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 insert 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 laws that are in effect on the effective date of the act.

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jailfundJail and Juvenile Justice Funding Bills Heard 
County jails would receive $1 million in funding for programming and services, particularly for inmates who have mental illness, under a bill heard by the Appropriations Committee this week. LB446 would distribute the funds through the County Justice Reinvestment Grant Program within the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (Crime Commission). The funding would be aimed at reducing county jail populations. NACO President and Lancaster County Commissioner Deb Schorr, Sarpy County Commissioner Don Kelley, and mental health professionals from Lancaster and Douglas counties testified in support of LB446.
Reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails is the focus the Nebraska Stepping Up Summit that will be held on April 17 in Lincoln. Stepping Up is a national initiative co-sponsored by the American Psychiatric Foundation, National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Lancaster County and NACO are hosting the Lincoln event. Hon. Steve Leifman, Associate Administrative Judge of Miami-Dade County Court-Criminal Division, will be the keynote speaker. Registration information is available on NACO's website.
The Appropriations Committee also heard LB703 that would appropriate $2.5 million from the state's General Fund in FY19-20 to support alternatives for juvenile detention. The funds would be distributed through the Community-based Juvenile Services Aid Program, which helps 71 counties and two Indian tribes provide programs and services to juveniles and deter involvement in the formal justice system through prevention, diversion, and alternative programming.
The committee also heard the Crime Commission's appropriations request.

 govelectGovernment Committee Hears Election Bills
Counties of all sizes could apply to the Secretary of State to conduct elections by mail in specific precincts under LB163, which was heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee this week. Senator Megan Hunt introduced the bill to strike a 10,000 population cap on such elections, opening the process to 17 additional counties. Civic Nebraska testified that counties using all mail voting for all precincts saw an increased turnout and decreased costs per vote. NACO testified that even in large counties, there are pockets where it may be difficult to find an accessible polling place and pollworkers. There was no opposition to the bill.
At the same hearing, senators heard a proposal to require all elections for county offices to be nonpartisan. NACO testified neutral on LB211. A related bill that was heard last week, LB144, would allow counties under 15,000 to vote to change to a nonpartisan primary election and a partisan general election. The committee has not reported action on either bill.
The committee also heard two bills to restore voting rights to persons convicted of a felony. LB83 would strike the current language requiring a two-year waiting period to vote after the completion of a felony sentence. Senator Justin Wayne, the introducer, discussed constitutional issues related to the restoration of civil rights. If the committee advances the bill, he plans to designate it as his priority bill. In 2017, he introduced a similar bill that was vetoed by Governor Pete Ricketts.
The committee was asked to hold LB711, a bill that would allow felons to vote. The bill appears to be in violation of Art. VI, sec. 2 of Nebraska's constitution which provides that no one who has been convicted of a felony or treason is qualified to vote unless restored to civil rights.
Hearings Next Week
On March 13, the Appropriations Committee will hear the Secretary of State's budget request that includes $6 million for vote tabulating equipment. A county match, probably in the amount of ten percent, will be required. The committee will also hear LB531 that would transfer $200,000 from the Election Administration Fund to the Enhanced Motor Voter Fund. The funds are intended to increase the number of eligible Nebraskans who create, update, or affirm their voter registrations while interacting with state agencies. The funding could be used to offset the costs of LB687 that will be heard by the Government Committee on Thursday, March 14. LB687 would require automatic transmission of motor vehicle information to the Secretary of State for voter registration unless the person involved in the motor vehicle transaction opts out. A similar bill, LB290, was introduced in 2017 and opposed by counties.
In addition to LB687, on March 14 the Government Committee will hear bills to require additional office hours for early voting in election commissioners' offices in counties over 100,000 ( LB718) and to codify polling place accessibility requirements ( LB733).
Election Bills Reported Out of Committee
LB411, a bill to allow county commissioners to place the question of increasing from 3 to 5 members on the ballot will serve as the conduit for six other bills sent to the floor of the Legislature by the Government Committee. LB411 was introduced by Speaker Jim Scheer to create another mechanism to present the issue to voters. Currently, the question can be placed on the ballot only by a petition.
The other bills that make up the committee amendment are:
LB246 is the Secretary of State's annual clean-up bill. It would clarify deadlines for the discontinuance of the township form of government, define the information that must be included in boundary changes, modify publication requirements for sample ballots, and make other revisions.
LB608 would eliminate outdated provisions on election technology, including counting methods.
LB618 would define the term "electioneering" in response to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
LB342 would move oversight over Metropolitan Utility District board of director elections from the county election commissioner to the Secretary of State.
LB280 would increase the maximum civil penalty for violations of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act from $2,000 to $5,000.
LB101 would change conflict of interest reporting requirements for elected city, village, and school district officials.
The Government Committee has designated LB411 as one of its committee priority bills.

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shotsSnapshots of County Issues
Hearings Held This Week
Agriculture Committee
The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act would be repealed by LB45, a bill heard by the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. The bill was introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers, who has introduced similar legislation at least three times. The act authorizes counties to carry out coordinated management programs on property within the county.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Lancaster County officials spoke in support of a bill to expand existing authority to allow counties to issue bonds for bridges that are deemed scour critical or structurally deficient by the Department of Transportation. LB267 was introduced by Senator Kate Bolz on behalf of Lancaster County. The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, State Chamber of Commerce, Associated General Contractors, and NACO also testified in support of the bill.
The committee also heard testimony on a bill that would require a vote of the majority of the governing board, rather than 75 percent of the board, to exceed the limitation on restricted funds by one percent. Senator Matt Hansen introduced LB336 on behalf of the City of Lincoln.
Urban Affairs Committee
Adding an extremely blighted category to tax increment financing (TIF) and extending the duration of such projects by five years was discussed by the Urban Affairs Committee this week. LR14CA and LB648 were introduced by Senator Justin Wayne to provide opportunities for areas that meet the requirements for TIF but struggle to find developers. Representatives of municipalities and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce testified in support of the bill. NACO expressed opposition to drawing an arbitrary line to distinguish blighted from extremely blighted areas and reminded the committee that other taxing entities, while enjoying the overall community benefits of economic development, experience additional costs for services without the ability to use valuation increases for 15 years. LR14CA was advanced by the committee.
The Education Committee heard a bill, LB432, that would allow excess valuation from TIF to be included in the adjusted valuation for calculating local property tax resources for school funding.
Judiciary Committee
The Judiciary Committee heard LB231, a bill to require counsel to be appointed when a juvenile court petition is filed. In 2017, legislation was adopted to require counties over 150,000 to provide counsel for juveniles. This year's legislation would expand the requirement to all counties and offset costs by imposing a one-dollar court fee that would be distributed as grants to counties that could demonstrate that the county's per capita juvenile court costs have increased during the past fiscal year compared to the prior three fiscal years due to the new requirements. The Commission on Public Advocacy would administer the grant program. Testifiers said the costs for a few hours of an attorney's time would be less than the costs of detention in many instances but noted that there are few juvenile attorneys in some areas of the state. There was no opposition to the bill. NACO testified in a neutral capacity.
Revenue Committee
This week, the Revenue Committee heard bills on historic tax credits and tax incentives. LB417 and LB613 would terminate the Nebraska Historic Tax Credit Program that counties use to rehabilitate older and historic courthouses. The program offers up to $15 million in state historic preservation tax credits for each calendar year from 2015 to 2022. Counties and municipalities can sell the credits to receive cash.
The committee also heard LB279 to provide a sales tax exemption for food sold by veterans service organizations and LB670 to encourage the support of scholarships for children enrolled in privately operated elementary and secondary schools.
Hearings Scheduled for Next Week
Appropriations Committee
Legislation adopted last year, LB861, authorizes counties to file claims to recover prosecution costs for correctional facility incidents when 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. LB232 will be heard by the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, March 14.
Revenue Committee
Counties with a qualified federal court judgment against them could impose a sales and use tax to pay for the judgment under LB472. The county board would adopt a resolution by at least a two-thirds vote and furnish the resolution to the Tax Commissioner for collection. The tax would terminate on the first day of the first calendar quarter which begins after the qualified judgment is paid in full. A county could not impose the proposed sales tax if it is already collecting a sales tax for public safety. The Revenue Committee will hear the bill on Wednesday, March 13.
The bill 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 U.S. Supreme Court denied Gage County's appeal of the judgment this week. 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. Both bills remain in committee.
The Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) could hold single commissioner hearings by videoconference pursuant to LB707. Video or telephone conferencing can currently 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. Senator Steve Erdman introduced the bill on NACO's behalf. LB707 will also be heard on March 13.
Judiciary Committee
The Judiciary Committee will hear 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. 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.
On Friday, March 15, the committee will hear 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. LB136 would eliminate certain mandatory minimum sentences.
Bills Advanced from Committees
Committees sent a number of bills to the full legislature this week. Some of the bills of interest to counties are listed below.
LB148, as revised by a proposed Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment, would require budget hearings to be held separately from regularly scheduled meetings. The hearing could not be limited by time. Governing bodies would have to make at least three copies of the proposed budget statement available to the public and make a presentation outlining key provisions of the proposed budget, including a comparison to the prior year's budget. Any member of the public desiring to speak on the proposed budget statement would be allowed to address the governing body at the hearing and would be given a reasonable amount of time to do so. Notice of all public meetings would need to be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the public body's jurisdiction and, if available, in a digital advertisement on the paper's website.
LB424 would allow any city in the state to create a municipal land bank jointly with other municipalities. An Urban Affairs Committee amendment would allow land banks in cities of the metropolitan class to operate independently. The bill would limit the number of commercial parcels that could be held by a land bank and would increase the total number of parcels that could be held by a land bank.
LB96 would make the state building code a default code so that it would be applicable in counties, cities, and villages that do not adopt a local building or construction code within two years after the state code is updated. An Urban Affairs Committee amendment would clarify that the bill would not apply to construction on a farm or for farm purposes.
LB9 would prohibit counties, cities, and villages from imposing taxes, fees, or license requirements on the use of distributed ledger technology. The state would be able to impose new taxes and fees as needed. Bitcoin, a virtual currency, is an application of distributed ledger or blockchain technology.
LB305 would require employers with four or more employees to provide paid sick and safe leave. Political subdivisions would not be subject to the new provisions.
LB311 would create the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act to provide partial wage replacement for eligible workers.
Bills Advanced from Select File
Nebraska would begin collecting online sales taxes on April 1 under legislation that advanced from the first round of debate on Monday and the second round of debate on Thursday. LB284, by Senator John McCollister, would require remote 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. Although the state is estimated to receive $30 million or more from online sales tax collections, the increased revenue was already included in October's Forecasting Advisory Board's projections.
Bills Passed by the Legislature
The Legislature passed 33 measures on Thursday, including the following bills of interest to counties:
LB80 would allow motor vehicle franchisees to submit photographs and other documents electronically to sheriffs for title inspections.
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."
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.
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.
Signed by Governor
Governor Pete Ricketts signed a handful of bills on March 6, including LB79, the Department of Motor Vehicles' annual bill to update Nebraska statutes to reflect federal changes, and LB77 to update the Nebraska Real Property Appraiser Act to comply with changes in federal criteria.

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.

Wednesday, March 13
Appropriations Committee
Room 1003 1:30 p.m.
LB531 (Vargas) Create a fund and provide for a transfer of funds
LB551 (Mcdonnell State intent relating to funding for development districts
Secretary of State Agency Appropriations Hearing

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB472 (Dorn) Adopt the Qualified Judgment Payment Act and authorize a sales and use tax
LB707 (Erdman) Authorize the Tax Equalization and Review Commission to hold certain hearings by videoconference and telephone conference
LB437 (Linehan) Change application deadlines under the Nebraska Advantage Act
Thursday, March 14
Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB387 (Pansing Brooks) Change and modernize provisions relating to juries - NACO Bill

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507 1:30 p.m.
LB718 (Hunt) Require additional polling places prior to elections in certain counties
LB733 (Kolowski) Provide and change requirement for ppolling places
LB687 (Vargs) Provide for voter registration of applicants for driver's licenses and state identification cards

Revenue Committee
Room 1524 1:30 p.m.
LB315 (Kolterman) Provide for an inheritance tax exemption and change certain inheritance tax proceedings

Appropriations Committee
Room1003 1:30 p.m.
LB232 (Slama) Reduce the threshold amount for claims against the state for prosecution costs

Friday, March 15
Judiciary Committee
Warner Chamber 1:30 p.m.
LB131 (Pansing Brooks) Change certain provisions relating to minimum sentences

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

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

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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