|Two Days Remain in 2019 Legislative Session
Senators adopted the state's budget, passed a host of bills, engaged in spirited discussion over property tax relief and tax incentives, and pulled a school discipline bill (
) from committee this week.
On Tuesday, senators passed the state's $9.3 biennial budget package. It included a $275 million appropriation to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund and $135 million in school aid to help provide property tax relief. Senators worked to address prison overcrowding by providing funding for specialty courts and more maximum security beds. The budget replaced money in the Governor's emergency fund that had been depleted by responses to this spring's flooding. It included an appropriation to replace aging election accessibility equipment used by counties.
Senators will meet on Thursday, May 30 at 1:00 p.m. for confirmation of appointments, veto overrides, and Final Reading on
, a bill to create a property tax exemption for privately-owned housing complexes on military bases. The body will convene on Friday, May 31 to take up any remaining veto overrides and adjourn sine die until January 2020. Bills that were not passed or indefinitely postponed (killed) will carry over to the 2020 session.
Due to the early adjournment, a Legislative Newsletter will not be published next week. A session wrap-up edition will be published in mid-June.
|Property Tax and Incentive Bills Stall on Select File
A late-session opportunity to adopt a property tax relief package turned into a showdown over a tax incentive bill this week. Both bills ended up stalled on Select File after failed cloture votes.
On Wednesday, the Legislature spent three hours debating
, a bill to create the ImagiNE Nebraska Act to replace the Nebraska Advantage Act that will end in 2020. The new act would provide incentives to businesses that relocate or remain in Nebraska and develop new jobs. Senators had debated the bill for three hours last week but no vote was taken. Senator Mark Kolterman, the introducer, was able to show 33 votes in support, the amount needed for cloture, and it was placed on the agenda this week.
Much of the debate focused on whether businesses should be given tax breaks if property owners do not receive property tax relief. Speaker Jim Scheer and others encouraged members to vote in favor of LB720 and work for a reciprocal vote on
, a property tax relief measure that was scheduled for debate immediately after LB720. Because LB720 was on the first round of debate, senators would have an opportunity to stop it on Select File if the property tax bill was unsuccessful. In the spirit of compromise, 37 senators agreed, some with reservations, and a cloture motion was successful. LB720 advanced from General File.
Select File debate on LB183, the property tax relief bill, was also taken to a cloture vote but received only 23 votes, effectively killing the bill for this year. The original version of the bill would have reduced the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land to 50 percent of its actual value to pay for school bonds. The
that was debated on Wednesday pulled concepts from
, the Revenue Committee's property tax relief bill. It proposed eliminating the Personal Property Tax Relief Act and placing 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 and the new funds earmarked for the property tax credit. A minimum of $275 million would be distributed through the credits and excess funds would be used for K-12 education funding. 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 would not make changes to the school aid formula.
LB720 was debated on Select File on Friday. An amendment was adopted to cap incentives at $125 million with regular increases based on the General Fund's gross receipts and possible increases for individual applications approved by the Legislature's Executive Board. When the cloture vote was taken, an amendment was being debated that would provide additional incentives to applicants whose corporate boards of directors have at least 50 percent female members. The cloture vote failed, 30-18.
| Bills Passed by the Legislature This Week
A number of bills were advanced from Select File and passed by the Legislature this week.
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 its 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 create the Online Notary Public Act. It would allow registered online notaries to use technology to accept notarizations for acknowledgments, jurats, verifications or proofs, and oaths or affirmations. The Secretary of State would adopt and promulgate rules and regulations to create standards and ensure the integrity, security, and authenticity of online notarial acts. Online notaries would have to keep a secure electronic record for at least ten years. All counties would be required to accept electronic filings of real estate documents by July 1, 2020. Funds would be transferred from the Treasury Management Cash Fund to the state's General Fund to cover the implementation costs.
would change the valuation of property destroyed by fire, earthquake, flood, or other natural events. 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 the significant damage. An amendment was adopted on Select File that made changes suggested in an April Attorney General's opinion.
would rewrite the definition of real property to include electric generation, transmission, distribution, and street lighting structures. The bill was introduced in response to the Department of Revenue's determination that power lines and power poles are tangible personal property subject to sales tax.
would provide a $5,000 nonrefundable income tax credit for individuals purchasing a home in an area that has been designated as extremely blighted. The bill sets out a process for municipal governing bodies to declare areas extremely blighted after a study, consideration by their planning commission, and a public hearing with notice to affected taxing entities and neighborhood associations. The bill is intended to increase the number of affordable homes in north Omaha and to increase home ownership in historically impoverished areas. A one-time transfer from the Affordable Housing Trust to the state's General Fund would cover the costs of implementing the bill.
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 counties over 150,000 and large cities to use design-build and alternative construction delivery methods for road projects under the Transportation Innovation Act.
would revise the One-Call Notification System Act. The One-Call system protects underground facilities, excavators, and the public by locating underground facilities prior to excavation so that proper precautions may be taken. The bill would require the board of directors to submit a report to the Governor and Legislature and allow them to review locator training materials.
Jails and Courts
which was introduced as a prison overcrowding bill, contains elements from other several bills. It would create an offense for bringing a cellphone or other electronic device into a state correctional facility (
) and allow the Department of Health and Human Services to contract with outside providers for the treatment of defendants who are determined to be mentally incompetent to stand trial (
). It would prohibit placing members of vulnerable populations in restricted housing after March 1, 2020. It would simplify the process and criteria used by judges to determine whether deferred judgment is appropriate.
, the Healthy Pregnancies of Incarcerated Women Act, would prohibit state, county, and city detention facilities from using restraints on pregnant women during labor, delivery, recovery, and transport to medical facilities. The administrator of the facility could make an individualized determination that there are extraordinary circumstances such as a substantial flight risk that dictate that restraints are used.
would update procedures related to harassment, sexual assault, and domestic abuse protection orders. The court could treat petitions for one kind of protection order as a petition for a different kind of order if it appears that another kind of protection order is more appropriate.
would make the distribution of intimate images and videos without consent unlawful. The practice is often referred to as revenge porn. The bill would create an affirmative defense for children under 18 who consensually send images so that they would not automatically be considered felons and subject to the sex offender registry. A committee amendment based on
that would have addressed the registration of juveniles adjudicated in another state was removed by
would create civil penalties for revenge porn.
would extend the statute of limitations for human trafficking. It would allow law enforcement to apply for authorization to use wiretapping during investigations of human trafficking.
would require clerks of the district court to forward payments for child, spousal, or medical support to the State Disbursement Unit by electronic transfer. The State Disbursement Unit was created in 1999 to facilitate the statewide collection and disbursement of support order payments.
would increase the number of district court judges in Douglas County from 16 to 17 on July 1, 2021.
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 create the Regional Metropolitan Transit Authority Act to allow a municipality or group of municipalities within a metropolitan statistical area to create a regional transit authority. The bill is intended to provide flexibility for bus service in the Omaha metro area.
would eliminate the Angel Investment Tax Credit Act and redirect $4 million from the tax credit to the Governor's emergency program in FY20-21. The bill would shift Cass County from a more rural planning and development region into a more urban region composed of Douglas, Sarpy and Washington counties. It would prohibit regions from entering into negotiations to change regional boundaries until July 1, 2020. The moratorium would provide time for the regions to develop a process for changing boundaries.
would allow limited hemp farming and regulate its transportation. Law enforcement officers would be allowed to detain persons carrying or transporting hemp if they could provide the required documentation. Failure to present documentation would constitute probable cause to believe that the hemp could be marijuana or another controlled substance. Due to concerns about costs, an amendment was adopted to temporarily open the Noxious Weed Cash Fund and the Fertilizers and Soil Conditioners Administrative Fund to help cover the costs until the hemp program is self-supporting.
would modernize the Civic and Community Center Financing Act. Existing law allows grants made through the fund to be used to construct or improve community facilities such as libraries, recreation and wellness centers, convention centers and other spaces, as well as the conversion and rehabilitation of historic buildings. The bill would expand the types of facilities that are eligible for grants. Grants could be awarded to facilities owned jointly by municipalities and other political subdivisions, including counties, if the municipality has at least a 50 percent ownership interest.
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 Signed by Governor Ricketts
On May 17, Governor Ricketts signed the following bills into law:
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 polling places and eliminate outdated provisions regarding electronic voting.
expands restorative justice programs in the Dispute Resolution Act. Restorative justice programs emphasize repairing the harm caused to victims and the community by the person who committed the offense. Restorative justice may be used in addition to any other condition, consequence, or sentence imposed by a court, a probation officer, a diversion program, a school, or another community program. Programs can include mediation, conferences and panels, as well as projects or classes.
updates the tax credit provisions of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act. The Act provides a personal property tax exemption and income tax credit for qualified beginning farmers and livestock producers who rent cropland, pasture, machinery and other assets from existing ag producers. The owner of the assets is eligible for income tax credits on the rent of the assets. The bill allows participants to file subsequent applications on different assets after the initial three-year rental agreement has expired.
exempts 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.
creates the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act to encourage the rapid deployment of 5G wireless coverage in Nebraska. It creates 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 are given 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.
makes 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 does not apply to construction on a farm or farm purposes.
sets out the state's intent to protect its land, natural resources, and cultural resources for economic and aesthetic purposes by regulation of energy generation projects. It creates a rebuttable presumption that the exercise of eminent domain to provide energy transmission lines and related facilities for a privately developed renewable energy generation facility is a public use.
|Interim Study Resolutions Introduced
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. Selected studies of interest to counties are listed below by number, introducer, description, and committee assignment. A complete list of study resolutions of interest to counties will be included in the final 2019 Legislative Report.
(Albrecht) Interim study to examine the laws for accounting and financial reporting in political subdivisions to determine a more uniform method of reporting.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
(Hunt) Interim study to examine the financing of energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on single-family residential property under the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act.
(La Grone) Interim study to examine issues related to unfunded mandates to county governments for the administration of judicial proceedings.
(Wayne) Interim study to examine the burden of unfunded mandates on county budgets.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
(La Grone) Interim study to examine the long-term sustainability of recurring election technology replacement.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
(McCollister) Interim study to examine the processes and procedures used in the assessment and valuation of real property and in appeals before the Tax Equalization and Review Commission.
(Hansen, M.) Interim study to assess the readiness of correctional facilities to implement the provisions of LB258, 2018, by its operative date of July 1, 2020.
(Hansen, M.) Interim study to examine the effectiveness of cash bail and cash bonds for misdemeanors and city and village ordinance violations.
(Wayne) Interim study to examine the feasibility of introducing a Prosecutor Transparency Act in Nebraska.
(Hansen, M.) Interim study to examine the effectiveness of 24/7 sobriety programs and determine potential standards for statewide implementation.
(Cavanaugh) Interim study to carry out a comprehensive study of incarceration and mental health services in Nebraska.
(Hunt) Interim study to ensure youth in the foster care system and juvenile justice system understand their rights, to ensure their rights are being upheld, and to explore the need for additional rights.
(Cavanaugh) Interim study to examine the metrics used in the juvenile justice system to track outcomes for youth who are under system supervision and after contact with the juvenile justice system.
(Lathrop) Interim study to examine issues related to juvenile justice.
(Friesen) Interim study to review the current model of collecting taxes to build and repair roads.
Transportation and Telecommunications
(Cavanaugh) Interim study to examine the Highway Trust Fund and ways it can be used to increase transit infrastructure in areas with limited access.
Transportation and Telecommunications
(Kolterman) Interim study to examine the public employees' retirement systems administered by the Public Employees Retirement Board.
Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee
(Quick) Interim study to examine how to provide a sustainable and adequate stream of state funds to local public health departments to ensure they are able to meet their core responsibilities.