May 19, 2017                                                                  Legislative Report Archive 

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earlyEarly Adjournment Set for May 23
Only one legislative day remains as senators wrap up the 2018 legislative session next week. This 90-day session was originally scheduled to conclude on June 2, but senators completed their required tasks and will now adjourn on Tuesday, May 23, the 86th day. The final day's activities will begin at 1:00 p.m. The agenda includes confirmation reports and an address by Governor Ricketts.
At the time of this writing, 152 bills have been passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Ricketts. Eighteen more have been passed by the Legislature and are on the Governor's desk awaiting action.
Because no substantive debate appears on the agenda, no regular legislative newsletter will be published next week. The next newsletter will be an end-of-session summary published in mid-June.

 vetoesLine Item Budget Vetoes are Sustained 
Eleven motions to override $56.5 million of line-time vetoes to the state's budget were offered on Wednesday but most were withdrawn before a vote was taken. One of the motions that was taken to a vote and defeated would have restored $33.6 million for Medicaid, child welfare, behavioral services, and developmental disability providers. Another defeated motion would have restored $300,000 in funding for probation. The cut was part of a half-percent across the board reduction to most state agencies. Some other motions would have restored funding to the University of Nebraska, juvenile justice transportation costs, and specialty courts. Much of the debate was political in nature.

Earlier Governor Ricketts vetoed $11 million for heating and air handling upgrades for the Capitol. No override was attempted.

disabilState Disability Program Bill Amended
LB333, a bill that would end funding to the State Disability Program, was amended several times as it advanced from General File through passage on Final Reading this week. The program provides assistance to persons who are disabled but have not yet met the duration requirements to qualify for Social Security disability. Under existing law, counties help provide financial assistance for the first six months and the state helps cover the second six months.
Several amendments were considered to remove or reduce the unfunded mandate that would be placed on counties if the state share is eliminated. Ultimately, the entire reference to the disability program was removed from the bill before it advanced from General File. Instead, as it passed on Final Reading, the bill contains requirements from LB417 for the Department of Health and Human Services to develop and implement a quality management and improvement plan for services to individuals with developmental disabilities and concepts from LB495 about funding priorities for persons who are eligible for Medicaid.

bondsGovernment Bond Priority Bill Amended to City Bankruptcy
A bill that as introduced would give bondholders priority over assets if the local government issuer files bankruptcy was amended on Select File to remove counties. LB72, as introduced, pitted bondholders against local government retirees whose defined benefit pensions were at risk in a bankruptcy. As amended and passed, the bill would link the ability to file for bankruptcy with the funding level of city pensions. The ratio of funding would increase incrementally so that municipal defined benefit plans would need to be 90 percent funded after 2038 in order for the municipality to be allowed to file bankruptcy. Bonds issued by cities or villages without a defined benefit retirement plan would be deemed to have a first priority lien on the proceeds of taxes levied, including priority over tort claims and contracts.
tifCloture Vote on TIF Workforce Housing Bill Fails
A bill to allow cities of the first and second class and villages to use tax increment financing (TIF) for workforce housing advanced from the first round of debate on Monday but fell one vote short for a cloture motion on second-round debate on Tuesday. Proponents of LB496 cited adequate worker housing as a boost to economic development. Opponents argued that TIF is a tax abatement that affects local government tax bases and the school aid formula.
Amendments were offered during the second round of debate to cap the maximum value of housing units, remove first class cities, and divide the financing. No amendments were adopted before the cloture vote.
retirementRetirement Omnibus Bill Passed by Legislature
LB415, an omnibus retirement bill, was passed by the Legislature on Thursday. In its final form, the bill focuses on changes to school retirement plans, and contains elements from several technical and clean-up bills. Concepts from LB32 would change the calculation of the county prior service annuity to give counties flexibility to pay the annuity monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. The prior service annuity applies only to employees hired before the current county retirement plan was enacted in 1973. It is estimated that there are 50 to 100 retirees in 12 counties that receive the benefit. Concepts from LB278 would clarify the definition of disability for consistency across the county, state, and school plans. Language from LB219 would revise the mortality tables used to calculate annuities.

 snapshotSnapshots of County Issues
Bills Passed by the Legislature
In addition to the bills mentioned elsewhere, the Legislature passed LB 10 that would add a judge in the separate juvenile court in Douglas County, effective July 1, 2017.

LB289, which would increase penalties for human trafficking, also passed. It would prohibit withdrawal of a petition for a protection order except upon an order of the court and would allow the parent of a child conceived as the result of a sexual assault to petition for termination of parental rights of the perpetrator.

Bills Signed into Law
Governor Ricketts signed a number of bills into law recently, including the following:

LB382 places Highway Allocation Funds and incentive payments outside of the definition of restricted funds for budgeting purposes. This calculation will give counties more flexibility in how they spend money generated from last year's gas tax and the Build Nebraska Act.
LB584 revises deadlines for mowing road ditches. The new language requires mowing to be done sometime in July for the first time and sometime in September for the second time. Landowners, counties or townships can mow at any time for sight distances at intersections and entrances and for snow control as needed. Under existing law, the first mowing must occur before July 15 and the second sometime in August.
LB200 increases to 60,000 a population threshold triggering county surveyors to act as county highway superintendents. Because Buffalo County will exceed the current 50,000 threshold in the next census, they would be forced to overhaul their existing roads system unless the statute is changed.

LB508 addresses a population trigger that would cause Lancaster County to implement a civil service commission. Existing law requires counties in excess of 300,000 to form such a commission. The bill increases the population to 400,000.
LB86 revises bridge bidding procedures in counties over 150,000 that employ a purchasing agent. Bids could be opened outside of county board meetings so that contractors would not have to wait for unrelated items on the county board's agenda.
LB458 exempts purchases by county coroners from the requirements of the County Purchasing Act. A similar exemption is already in place for purchases by county hospitals.
LB259 would provide options for indigent persons who would otherwise sit out their fines in jail. Courts would be required to consider a defendant's ability to pay a fine before sentencing him or her to jail time for nonpayment. Courts could instead impose community service or allow for payment by installments. Courts would be required to consider all methods of bond payments to avoid pretrial incarceration. Counsel would be appointed for indigent debtors if being found in contempt of court might result in imprisonment.
LB280 allows victims of human trafficking to participate in the Address Confidentiality Act administered by the Secretary of State. The program provides for victims of abuse, sexual assault or stalking to apply to the Secretary of State to serve as an agent for purposes of service of process and receipt of mail. The bill carried an emergency clause.
LB624 allows law enforcement officers to request that their residential address is not disclosed as a public record in the office of the county assessor and register of deeds. The request would be good for five years.

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