Hearings Held This Week
The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act would be repealed by
, 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.
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
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.
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,
, that would allow excess valuation from TIF to be included in the adjusted valuation for calculating local property tax resources for school funding.
The Judiciary Committee heard
, 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.
This week, the Revenue Committee heard bills on historic tax credits and tax incentives.
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
to provide a sales tax exemption for food sold by veterans service organizations and
to encourage the support of scholarships for children enrolled in privately operated elementary and secondary schools.
Hearings Scheduled for Next Week
Legislation adopted last year,
, 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.
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.
Counties with a qualified federal court judgment against them could impose a sales and use tax to pay for the judgment under
. 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
Supreme Court denied Gage County's appeal of the judgment this week. The other bills,
, 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
. 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.
The Judiciary Committee will hear
, 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.
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.
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.
, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
, 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:
would allow motor vehicle franchisees to submit photographs and other documents electronically to sheriffs for title inspections.
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.
would change language in motor vehicle titling statutes from "husband and wife" to "married couple."
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.
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.
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.
would clarify licensure requirements for facilities used to house persons under civil protective custody.
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.
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
, the Department of Motor Vehicles' annual bill to update Nebraska statutes to reflect federal changes, and
to update the Nebraska Real Property Appraiser Act to comply with changes in federal criteria.