|Early Adjournment Planned
Speaker Jim Scheer announced on Thursday that the Legislature will plan to adjourn sine die on May 31, rather than June 6, as originally scheduled. Following recess days on May 17 and 20, senators will meet on May 21 -24, with possible evening debate on May 21 and 22.
Final Reading of the state's budget and claims bills are scheduled for Tuesday, as well as Senator Mike Groene's motion to pull
, a student discipline bill, from committee, and a number of Select File and General File bills. General File debate will conclude on May 22 and Select File will end on May 23. The body will convene briefly in the afternoon of May 30 and return on May 31 to complete Final Reading bills and address possible veto overrides.
Legislators continued to introduce interim study resolutions this week. Each study resolution is assigned to a legislative committee for research during the summer. The studies are prioritized by the committees and some have public hearings. The studies examine issues related to bills introduced this year or that might be addressed in the 2020 session. Among the resolutions are studies of unfunded mandates to counties (
) and unfunded mandates to counties related to courts (
). A complete list of study resolutions of interest to counties will be included in the final 2019 Legislative Report.
|Debate on Property Tax Relief to Continue
Despite concerns that a property tax relief package would not be passed this year, amendments that were filed this week offer the possibility that a compromise may be reached in the final days of the session.
Senator Tom Briese has filed an amendment to
, his bill to reduce the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land to 50 percent of its actual value for payment of school bonds. The amendment,
, contains some of the concepts that were offered in LB289, the Revenue Committee proposal that was debated last week but did not advance. AM1846 would eliminate the Personal Property Tax Relief Act and place the program's $14 million in funding into the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund. A number of sales tax exemptions, including those on pop, candy, bottled water and some services, would be eliminated. The new funds would also be earmarked for the property tax credit. An earned income tax credit would be added to protect lower-income Nebraskans from the sales tax increases. The amendment would not increase the rate of sales or cigarette taxes and does not propose changes to the school aid formula.
LB183 is on Select File. It does not appear on Tuesday's agenda but could be debated on Wednesday or Thursday.
A revision to a proposed amendment to
is being discussed but has not been introduced. At last report, the revised amendment would reduce a proposed sales tax increase a quarter-cent and add an income tax component for high earners, as well as making adjustments to the school aid formula that were suggested by larger schools. Because LB289 has already been debated but did not have enough votes to advance, supporters would have to show at least 33 votes in favor of the bill to place it back on the agenda.
A proposal that would provide relief for owners of property destroyed by fires or natural disasters appears for second-round debate on Tuesday's agenda. LB512, a Department of Revenue cleanup bill, initially contained language to
reassess the value of such property as of the date of destruction.Those provisions were amended by
during the first round of debate to more closely match
, a bill introduced by Senator Steve Erdman. He has offered a Select File amendment,
, to further refine the process. Under the amendment, the property owner would have to file a report of the destroyed property with the county assessor and clerk before July 15 of the current assessment year. The county board of equalization would adjust the assessed value of the destroyed real property to its assessed value on the date it suffered significant property damage.
An Attorney General's
issued on April 24 concluded that although the Nebraska Supreme Court has not ruled on whether a change in valuation for destroyed property violates the constitution's uniformity clause, there are some concerns about its constitutionality. However, the Attorney General would not say that the amendment adopted on General File was clearly unconstitutional. The opinion recommended several changes that have been addressed in AM1755.
|State Budget Advanced with Election Funding
Senators advanced part of the state's $9.3 billion budget from Select File on Tuesday and came back on Wednesday to move the remaining bill. A cloture motion was needed to end debate and advance
, a bill to fund state operations. The first cloture vote on the mainline budget bill,
, failed but a second attempt was successful. The budget bills are scheduled for Final Reading on Tuesday.
Under an amendment to LB294, the state would replace election accessibility equipment. The $4 million in one-time funding would be used by the Secretary of State to replace aging equipment before the 2020 election cycle. If the machines are not replaced, repairs and maintenance would be covered by an existing $1 million appropriation in the Help America Vote (HAVA) contingency fund. Replacement of accessibility equipment was recommended by an election technology
An amendment to
was adopted, then later removed, that would require county treasurers to report the percentage of property tax credits issued to property owners who are residents and nonresident of the state. LB298 is the budget bill providing for transfers between funds, including transfers from the state's General Fund to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund.
|Prison Overcrowding Bill Advanced
A bill introduced as a way to gradually ease prison overcrowding was amended by the Judiciary Committee to serve as the basis for an omnibus bill on prison issues.
, as introduced, would have added new thresholds to trigger action by the governor when the prison census exceeds specified capacity and must reduce its population. As amended, the bill contains concepts from the following bills:
would create a penalty for bringing cell phones into a correctional facility. Exceptions are created for attorneys, law enforcement, first responders, and the Public Counsel's office.
would make post-release supervision optional for certain offenses.
would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to contract with outside providers for treatment of defendants who are determined to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. Currently these individuals often remain in county jails if no beds are available in state facilities.
would allow judges to defer judgment and place offenders on intensive probation. After probation is successfully completed, the charges could be dismissed.
would prohibit members of a vulnerable population from being placed in restricted housing.
would change the duties and membership of the Department of Correctional Services long-term restrictive housing work group.
Some senators said LB686 doesn't go far enough to reduce overcrowding and other problems in state prisons. Senator Steve Lathrop, Judiciary Committee chair, acknowledged that sentencing reform coupled with appropriate programs would be the best way to solve overcrowding and that the committee amendment to LB686 only contains bills that could pass. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks suggested that
, her bill to reestablish minimum sentences not to exceed one-third of the maximum sentence, would allow felons to be eligible for parole sooner and lessen overcrowding.
LB686 was advanced from General File on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Legislature advanced a measure to extend the statute of limitations on human trafficking offenses (
) and two bills on the disclosure of sexually explicit images (
|Bills Debated on General File
Three controversial bills were debated on General File this week and failed to advance. The bills may be brought back to the agenda if supporters can show that they have the 33 votes needed to invoke cloture and vote on advancement.
, the Medical Cannabis Act, would provide a regulatory framework for the medical use of marijuana.
would create the ImagiNE Nebraska Act to replace the Nebraska Advantage Act, which will expire in 2020. The new act would provide incentives to businesses that relocate or remain in Nebraska and develop new jobs. Much of the debate focused on whether businesses should be given tax breaks before property owners are given property tax relief.
would create the Opportunity Scholarships Act to provide tax credits for donations to nonprofit organizations that grant scholarships to private elementary or secondary schools.
Among the other bills advanced from General File were
to revise provisions of the One-Call Act and
to lower the percentage of Nebraska-grown grapes that must be used by Nebraska farm wineries.
|Consent Calendar Bills Advanced from Select File
A consent calendar process was used to advance bills from Select File on Thursday. The following bills affect counties:
was introduced by Senator Tom Brandt on behalf of NACO. It would eliminate an outdated annual report made by highway superintendents. The information is already included in the One-and-Six Year Plans and SSAR (Standardized System of Annual Reporting).
would allow county boards to sell property in fee simple to other political subdivisions, rather than going through a surplus property process. Notice of the intent to sell, the legal description of the property, and the address would have to be published at least 30 days prior to the sale.
would allow counties to authorize employees to rent cars or use commercial charters rather than using their own vehicles for county travel and receiving reimbursement at the statutory mileage rate.
would require the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Corrections, to develop protocols for assisting inmates in applying for Medicaid when they have been released on a medical parole. Because these individuals are often indigent, the costs for their end-of-life care often falls to counties as general assistance. The protocols would help them to become Medicaid-eligible before they leave the correctional facility.
would update inheritance tax proceedings. The bill would clarify that life insurance proceeds from trusts are not subject to inheritance tax because they are non-probate assets. This would codify the current practice in which such proceeds not payable to an estate are not subject to inheritance tax. The bill would clarify when notice of a determination of inheritance tax must be provided to the Department of Health and Human Services for decedents 55 years of age or older or having resided in a medical institution. Under LB315, this notice would only be required in an independent proceeding to determine inheritance tax in the absence of a probate proceeding.
|Bills Passed on Final Reading
The Legislature passed a series of bills on Monday. Governor Ricketts has five days, excluding Sundays, to decide whether to sign, veto, or decline to sign the bills.
would make the state building code the default code for any city or county that does not otherwise enact a code within two years after an update to the state building code. The code would not apply to construction on a farm or for farm purposes.
would authorize the appeal of certain motions on sovereign immunity as final orders in response to a Nebraska Supreme Court opinion.
would create the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act to encourage the rapid deployment of 5G wireless coverage in Nebraska. It would create uniform procedures, rates, and fees for permit issuance in public rights-of-way and placement of small wireless facilities on state or local government infrastructure and poles. Wireless providers would have the right to collocate small wireless facilities and install, maintain, modify, operate and replace utility poles along, across, upon, and under the public right-of-way. Such placements would be considered a permitted use and not subject to zoning review or approval. The bill sets out application fees, timelines for approval of applications, pole heights, and other details.
would exempt certain library, archive, and museum materials from disclosure as public records when the donor provides the materials on the condition that they are kept confidential for a specified period of time.
is an election omnibus bill. It would allow county commissioners to place the question of whether to increase the number of commissioners on the ballot by a majority vote of the board. Currently, this question can only be placed on the ballot through a petition. It would define the term "electioneering" to bring Nebraska into compliance with federal law. Dates for township elections would be harmonized as part of the cleanup provisions requested by the Secretary of State and election commissioners. It would require accessibility of poling places and eliminate outdated provisions regarding electronic voting.
would revise tax credit provisions of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act. The bill was amended to contain provisions of
that would change the Act to mirror current practices.
would add restorative justice programs to the Dispute Resolution Act. Restorative justice programs provide an informal opportunity for the person causing harm to accept responsibility and for victims to describe the impact of the harm and identify the losses incurred. Programs can include mediation, conferences and panels, as well as projects or classes. The bill provides for use of restorative justice programs in juvenile court and school settings
would state the intent of the state of Nebraska to protect its land, natural resources, and cultural resources for economic and aesthetic purposes by regulation of energy generation projects. It would create a rebuttable presumption that the exercise of eminent domain to provide needed transmission lines and related facilities for a privately developed renewable energy generation facility is a public use. Before the bill advanced from Final Reading, senators discussed the future of public power in the state and alternative energy sources.