May 3, 2019                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


Property Tax Package to be Debated on Tuesday

Appropriations Committee Budget Filed

Consent Calendar Planned for Friday

County Sales Tax Veto Override Successful

Design-Build for County Roads Advanced

Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Commission Sent to Governor

Snapshots of County Issues


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proptaxdebProperty Tax Package to be Debated on Tuesday
On Thursday, the Revenue Committee sent a much-anticipated property tax package to the floor in the form of AM1572, a committee amendment to LB289. Debate on LB289 will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7. A filibuster of the bill is expected. Governor Ricketts opposes the package and two members of the Revenue Committee did not vote to send the bill to the full Legislature.
The amendment would reduce property taxes by reducing school levies and supplying additional state aid through a revised formula. It would increase sales taxes from 5.5 percent to 6 percent on July 1, 2019, and eliminate sales tax exemptions for certain services. Sales taxes would be added to bottled water, candy, and soft drinks. Cigarette taxes would be increased by 36 cents per pack. The personal property tax credit would be eliminated. Documentary stamp taxes would be increased by one dollar, with the new funds credited to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund. Much of Property Tax Credit Cash Fund would be transferred to the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities (TEEOSA) Fund for distribution through the revised school aid formula. No less than $115 million, rather than the $224 million distributed in tax year 2018, would be distributed as a property tax credit.
In early discussions, the amendment would have decreased the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land from 75 percent to 65 percent of actual value and reduced residential and commercial property from 100 percent of actual value to 90 percent. This was not included in amendment advanced by the Revenue Committee.

appropAppropriations Committee's Budget Filed
The Appropriations Committee presented senators with the proposed FY19-20 and FY20-21 biennial state budget on Thursday, the 70th day of the session. Budget debate will begin on Wednesday morning. Speaker Jim Scheer cautioned senators that late night debate may be necessary and debate may carry over into Thursday. He has designated LB298, a bill to transfer funds, as a speaker major proposal which allows him to determine the scheduling of the bill and the order of the amendments and motions to be considered.
The main budget package contains the following additional bills: LB293 (deficit appropriations and reappropriations), LB294 (mainline appropriations), LB295 (legislative salaries), LB296 (constitutional officer salaries), LB297 (capital construction and property acquisition), and LB299 (cash reserve transfers).
The budget would provide $6,321,639 in FY19-20 to replace aging election equipment throughout the state. Other appropriations would provide funding for contracts for maintenance, support, licensing, and hosting fees for voter registration software, voter tabulation and AutoMark equipment, and the election night reporting system, as well as matching funds for a federal Help American Vote (HAVA) grant. The grant would be spent over five years for enhancements to the voter registration system, supplies for each county to accommodate voters with disabilities, training, and security, including a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security to install network monitoring devised to provide prompt notification of identified threats to election offices.
The bill would return the Governor's Emergency Program to its historical $5 million level. The program is used to assist the state and its political subdivisions in responding to and recovering from natural disasters and man-made disasters and emergencies. An additional $1 million would be appropriated for FY19-20 to provide funds for known estimated obligations for the non-federal share of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual Assistance. In FY20-21, the total appropriation would be reduced to $1 million but would be combined with a $4 million appropriation for the program in LB334A.
Other appropriations include a continuation of $456,000 annually for riparian vegetation management and a continuation of a $6,048,000 for the Community-based Juvenile Services grant program. Funding for the County Justice Reinvestment Grant would be continued but would be expanded to "supplement existing programs, services, and approaches to reduce jail populations and costs." The grant program is intended to provide assistance to counties with increased jail populations as the result of LB605 (2015). The Crime Commission would be allowed to redistribute unexpended aid funds into the next biennium.
Senators will have a briefing on the budget at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday. The session will convene at 10:00 a.m.

consentConsent Calendar Planned for Friday
On Friday, the Legislature will take up General File consent calendar bills. Because the Legislature's rules require consent calendar bills to appear on the agenda for 24 hours before action is taken, the list of potential consent bills will be made available on Wednesday night along with Thursday's agenda.
To be eligible for consideration on the consent calendar, bills must have been advanced out of committee with no dissenting votes and be noncontroversial in nature. Debate on each bill is limited to 15 minutes, after which a vote is taken on the pending amendments, if any, and then on advancement of the bill. Bills can be removed from consent calendar at the written request of three or more senators. The request must be filed with the Clerk of the Legislature prior to the expiration of the 15 minutes allotted for introduction and debate.
overrideCounty Sales Tax Veto Override Successful
Senators voted 41-8 to override Governor Pete Ricketts' veto of a measure to allow counties to impose a sales tax to help pay for federal judgments in excess of $25 million. Senator Myron Dorn, a former Gage County supervisor, introduced LB472 to help Gage County pay for a $28 million federal judgment for the wrongful conviction of six individuals.
LB472, the Qualified Judgment Payment Act, would allow a county board, on a two-thirds majority vote, to enact a sales and use tax of one-half of one percent to help pay for a qualified federal judgment. The county would have to set its property tax levy at the maximum 50-cent level to help pay for the judgment.
Governor Ricketts opposed the bill because the question of implementing a sales tax would not be presented to voters.
Senators praised Dorn for his dedication in researching and pursing options to help Gage County's taxpayers. He also introduced LB473 that would allow political subdivisions to borrow money from the state to pay for a federal judgment and LB474 would allow wrongfully convicted persons to seek payment for damages through the State Claims Board.

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designbuildDesign-Build for County Roads Advanced
Counties over 150,000 would have the same authority as the state to use alternative construction delivery methods for road projects under a bill that advanced from General File on Monday. In 2017, the Transportation Innovation Act expanded the state's authority to allow design-build or construction manager-general contractor contracts for public projects, as well as the traditional design-bid-build method. Currently, counties are limited to a design-bid-build process for road projects.
When a design-build process is used, a single, collaborative entity handles all phases of the project. This can lead to faster delivery and fewer change orders. Under design-bid-build, an architect creates a design that is put out to bid. Separate entities, with separate contracts, perform the work. This method can lead to more bidders and offer more transparency in the bidding and construction process.
LB583 was introduced by Senator Mike Hilgers to provide more options for larger counties. An amendment was adopted before the bill advanced from General File that would expand the authority to use design-build to cities of the metropolitan and primary class.
electionElection Omnibus Bill Amended, Advanced
Elements from three more bills were added to LB411, an election omnibus bill, before it advanced from Select File this week. As introduced, LB411 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.
A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment added concepts from six other bills. Language from LB608 would eliminate outdated concepts regarding electronic voting and authorize the use of precinct-based ballot counting.

LB618 would define the term electioneering to bring Nebraska into compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky (2018).

LB246, the Secretary of State's annual bill, would make a number of clean-up and procedural changes including harmonizing dates for elections to eliminate the township form of government and modifying recall petition provisions. Other language would clarify the authority of the Secretary of State to withhold certain confidential information from public voter registration lists.

LB280 would increase the penalty for violations of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act from $2,000 to $5,000.

LB342 would move oversight of Metropolitan Utilities board of director elections from the Douglas County election commissioner to the Secretary of State.

LB101 would clarify conflict of interest provisions for school board members and elected officials of certain cities and villages.
Senator Tom Brewer offered an amendment during Select File debate that would incorporate language from three other bills: LB98, LB733, and LB522.
LB98 would change the number of signatures needed to place the name of a candidate for partisan office on the ballot.

LB722 would insert references to federal laws requiring accessibility of polling places. The Secretary of State would make an accessibility training manual available and include accessibility training in their biennial training for county clerks and election commissioners. Accessibility training would be required for all poll workers.

LB522 would change civil service language for Douglas County to be consistent with Lancaster and Sarpy counties.

mvcommMotor Vehicle Sales Tax Commission Sent to Governor
On Thursday, the Legislature approved a measure to increase county commissions for collecting motor vehicle sales taxes on behalf of the state. Currently counties and retailers collecting sales taxes receive a commission of 2.5 percent on the first $3,000 of collections. LB237 would add an additional one-half of one percent commission on all amounts in excess of $6,000 remitted each month. Prior to January 1, 2023, the money would be divided equally between the county general fund and the county road fund in order to provide additional funds for repair of roads damaged by flooding. After January 1, 2023, 75 percent of the additional amount would be placed in the county general fund and 25 percent would be deposited in the county road fund.
In counties exceeding 150,000, the county treasurer would remit one dollar of the collection fee for the first 5,000 vehicles registered on or after January 1, 2020 to the state treasurer for credit to the Department of Revenue Enforcement Fund. The bill would take effect on January 1, 2020.
Senator Sue Crawford introduced LB237 as part of her ongoing commitment to relieve counties of unfunded mandates.
snapshotsnewSnapshots of County Issues
Bills Advanced from Select File
On Thursday, the Legislature advanced bills from Select File, including the following:
LB184 would create the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act to facilitate the rapid development of 5G wireless coverage in Nebraska. 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.
LB96 would make the state building code the default code for any city or county that does not otherwise enact a code. The code would not apply to construction on a farm or farm purposes.
LB155 would state the intent of the state of Nebraska to protect its land, natural resources, and cultural resources for economic an 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. As introduced, LB155 would have prohibited the use of eminent domain for such purposes. It was prioritized by Senators Tom Brewer and Robert Clements.
LB179 would authorize the appeal of certain motions on sovereign immunity as final orders in response to a Nebraska Supreme Court opinion.
LB595 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.
LB86 would prioritize extremely blighted areas to receive grants from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The bill sets out procedures for cities to declare an area extremely blighted. It contains language from LB88 that would provide a $5,000 refundable income tax credit to persons who purchase and live in a residence located in an extremely blighted area.
LB560 would revise provisions of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act addressing tax credits, subsequent rent agreements, and subsequent applications.
LB657 would allow Nebraska farmers to grow hemp as a commercial crop. Growers would have to be licensed and fields identified by maps and GPS coordinates.
LB375 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.
Bills Passed by the Legislature
The following are among the bills passed by the Legislature this week:
LB524 would require political subdivisions except cities of the metropolitan class to give notice of annexations to county officials prior to July 1 in order for the newly-annexed property to be included in the entity's taxable valuation for the current year. Annexation information received after July 1 would be considered in their taxable valuation the following year. Currently, the information must be provided by August 1 and assessors must certify taxable values to taxing entities by August 20. Cities of the metropolitan class would remain subject to the existing August 1 deadline. Senator Myron Dorn introduced LB524 on behalf of NACO.
LB616 would speed up development of the south beltway around Lincoln by allowing the Department of Transportation to enter into contracts with non-appropriation clauses. The clause would state that the funding for the project is subject to an annual appropriation by the Legislature. Because there would not be a bonding instrument or debt mechanism in the contract, it would not violate Nebraska's constitutional prohibition against the state incurring debt.
LB6 would change residency requirements for spouses and children of active duty military personnel who are assigned to duty outside of Nebraska. The bill would allow postsecondary students to be considered as in-state residents for purposes of determining tuition rates.
LB130 would require new residential construction to use radon resistant construction standards.
LB405 would update statutory references to the International Building Code and International Residential Code that are used by the state, counties and cities. Counties, cities, and villages would have to notify the State Energy Office within 30 days if they amend the local building code in a way that deletes portions of the state code. The bill would take effect on July 1, 2020.
LB138 would create several specialty license plates for persons who have served in the armed forces, as well as new Support Our Troops license plates for persons who have not served but want to support servicemembers. Money generated from sales of the Support Our Troops plates would be used to fund a veterans' workforce development coordinator at the Department of Labor.
LB356 would create new wildlife conservation specialty license plates supporting sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep, and ornate box turtles, as well as other specialty plates supporting prostate and childhood cancer awareness. The Department of Motor Vehicles would be allowed to cease issuance of certain specialty plates at the next issuance cycle if fewer than 250 plates were issued during the prior two-year period.
LB227 would limit filing nuisance claims under the Nebraska Right to Farm Act to two years after the condition which is the subject matter of the suit reaches the level of offense sufficient to sustain a claim of nuisance.
LB496 would increase penalties for tampering with witnesses, informants, juries, and physical evidence.
LB693 would enact the Neighbor Spoofing Protection Act. It would allow the Attorney General to recover a civil penalty from persons transmitting incorrect phone caller-ID information with an intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
Signed by Governor Ricketts
Governor Ricketts signed a number of bills that were presented to him last week. Bills of interest to counties are listed below.
LB663 makes corrections to like-kind exchange laws adopted last year that use the net book value of depreciable personal property to determine the Nebraska adjusted basis. Last year's laws were intended to retain Nebraska's tax policy allowing the exchange of similar kinds of equipment despite federal tax law changes. However, further revisions were needed this year to clarify the process.
LB23 amends the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act (PACE). It eliminates a requirement for city ordinances and county resolutions creating PACE districts to contain language requiring verification that the renewable energy system or energy efficiency improvement was properly installed and operating as intended. PACE is used to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades to buildings. Projects can include insulation, storm windows and doors, energy recovery systems, certain energy-efficient fixtures, and other energy efficiency improvements. The city or county, property owner, and sometimes a third-party lender enter into agreements in which the governmental entity agrees to provide financing for an energy project in exchange for property owner's agreement to pay an annual assessment for a period not to exceed the weighted useful life of the energy project.
LB222 requires volunteer fire departments and rescue squads to certify to the state the total number of points accumulated by volunteer members toward a $250 income tax credit. Under existing law, the volunteer department's certification manager forwards the information to the county, city, village or fire district, which approves and certifies the list of volunteer hours and files it with the Department of Revenue. The bill removes the unnecessary certification by the local governing body beginning on January 1, 2020.
LB698 requires the cargo or contents of commercial motor vehicles and trailers to be properly distributed and secured to prevent it from falling out. Violations are an infraction subject to a fine of $200 for the first offense and $500 for a second or subsequent offense. A civil penalty of $1,000 may also be imposed.
LB304 amends the Nebraska Pure Food Act to clarify a cottage food exemption. Sellers would have to complete a nationally accredited food safety and handing education court or a certified food safety and handling course offered at a culinary school or as required by a county, city or village to obtain a food handler permit.

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