May 5, 2017                                                                  Legislative Report Archive 

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taxrefTax Reform Package Fails to Advance
A comprehensive tax reform bill did not have enough votes to survive a filibuster on Tuesday, but some of its tax relief concepts were brought up during debate on other bills throughout the week. LB461 had been first debated on General File two weeks ago. At that time, a motion to recommit the bill to the Revenue Committee failed on a 15-29 vote and time ran out before further votes were taken.
A Revenue Committee amendment to LB461 proposed changing the method of valuing ag land to an income approach, reducing the acceptable range of valuations, and setting a 3.5 percent cap on aggregate valuation growth. It also proposed cuts to personal and corporate income taxes. The concepts were originally introduced in LB338 by Senator Lydia Brasch on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts. The income tax revisions were introduced by Senator Jim Smith on behalf of the Governor in LB337.
During continued General File debate on LB461 this week an amendment was offered to slow the pace of income tax cuts and provide a $45 million increase in the Property Tax Credit Fund when state revenues projections grow by 3.5 percent. A cloture motion was offered before a vote was taken on the amendment. It failed on a 27-9 vote. Thirty-three votes are needed to invoke cloture and end debate on a bill.
On Thursday, Senator Bob Krist offered an amendment during debate on a budget bill that would have pulled in some of the elements discussed during debate on LB461. He withdrew the amendment before a vote was taken.
With 13 days remaining in the 2017 session, it's uncertain whether further attempts will be made to adopt some or all of the comprehensive tax package this year.

Budget Advanced through Second Round of Debate
Senators amended and advanced the state's biennial budget from the second round of debate this week. The bills are scheduled for Final Reading next week. The budget must be adopted no later than the 80th day of a 90 day session. Monday, May 8 is the 78th day.
 recmodRecords Modernization Bill Sent to Governor
LB152, a bill to eliminate a 2018 sunset on filing fees used for records preservation and modernization, was passed by the Legislature on May 3. Governor Pete Ricketts has five days, excluding Sundays, to act on the bill.

The fee structure was implemented in 2012 to help provide funding to maintain and upgrade documents filed in the offices of county registers of deeds and the Secretary of State. The fees are used for technology projects such as microfilming and digitizing records and implementing e-recording. Some counties have used the funds to repair old land record books and provide public access computers in register of deeds offices. If the termination date is not removed, the filing fee structure will return to the complicated pre-2012 formula of counting lots and blocks, with no funding earmarked for records preservation and modernization.

Senator Joni Craighead introduced LB152 on behalf of NACO. Senator John Lowe introduced as similar bill, LB369, and put his support behind LB152.

felvoteOverride of Felon Voting Rights Veto Scheduled
Senators will consider their first veto override on Monday. LB75
would eliminate the two-year waiting period between the completion of a felony sentence or probation and the restoration of an individual's voting rights. Prior to 2005, voting rights could only be restored by the Board of Pardons. Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill, citing constitutional and policy concerns.       
Senators are tentatively scheduled to begin debate on another election issue on Tuesday, May 9. LR1CA would require voters to present a photo identification prior to being able to vote. Motions have already been filed to indefinitely postpone the bill, bracket it until June 2, 2017, and recommit it to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

The body advanced an election clean up bill, LB451, from Select File this week. An amendment was adopted to address General File concerns about the timing of elections and appointments to fill vacancies in the Legislature. The bill is scheduled for Final Reading on Monday's agenda.

 snapshotSnapshots of County Issues
Bills Debated on General File
Several bills were debated on General File but not advanced to Select File this week. Senators spent three hours on Thursday morning debating a bill to prevent double-dipping by participants in the county, state, school, and State Patrol retirement plans who return to work for the public entity shortly after their retirement. Opponents argued that the bill would prevent former teachers from returning as substitute teachers. An interim study resolution, LR130 was introduced by Education Committee Chair Mike Groene and others to examine issues related to substitute teachers. After additional debate and the adoption of a committee amendment containing provisions from numerous other bills, LB415 advanced from General File on Friday morning.

Another bill that was debated but did not advance would have extended a maximum three cent levy for natural resources districts in fully or over appropriated districts.

Bills Advanced from Select File
Senators used a consent calendar to advance bills from Select File this week. The bills appear on Monday's agenda for Final Reading.

LB86 would revise 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.

LB584 would revise deadlines for mowing road ditches. The bill would require mowing to be done sometime in July for the first time and sometime in September for the second time. Landowners, counties or townships could 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. The bill is intended to increase bird habitat and reduce erosion.

LB280 would allow victims of human trafficking to protect their residential addresses under the Address Confidentiality Act administered by the Secretary of State. These protections are already available to victims of domestic violence.

LB624 would allow 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.

LB458 would exempt purchases by county coroners from the requirements of the County Purchasing Act. A similar exemption has already been granted to purchases by county hospitals.

LB200 would increase to 60,000 a population threshold triggering county surveyors to act as county highway superintendents. Because Buffalo County will exceed the 50,000 threshold in the next census, they would be forced to overhaul their existing roads system unless the statute is changed.
LB508 would address 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 would increase the population to 400,000.

LB382 was introduced by Senator Steve Erdman on behalf of NACO. The bill would place Highway Allocation Funds and incentive payments outside of the definition of restricted funds for budgeting. This calculation would give counties more flexibility in how they spend money generated from last year's gas tax and the Build Nebraska Act.
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.

Bills Passed by the Legislature
The Legislature passed the following bills of interest to counties this week and presented them to Governor Ricketts. 
LB253 would allow counties to enter into interlocal service agreements for sewage disposal systems. The bill would only apply to Sarpy County.
LB300 would change the statute of limitations for civil actions for sexual assault of a child.
LB558 would revise the definition of "knife" within the criminal code to return to statutory language from 2009 that required courts to consider the intent of the party to use the knife as a deadly weapon.
LB20 would eliminate the requirement for veterans who are totally disabled by a non-service accident or illness to annually submit certification of their total disability to the assessor in order to qualify for a homestead exemption. Individuals who have certain permanent physical disabilities or amputations are already exempt from such filings unless their medical condition changes. The county assessor or Tax Commissioner could request certification to verify that there has been no change in the applicant's medical condition.

Bills Signed Into Law
Governor Ricketts has signed a number of bills that passed last week.  Some of the bills that would impact counties include the following.

LB217 is a Revenue Committee omnibus bill that contains several provisions requested by NACO. It provides a 30-day grace period to pay delinquent taxes on rejected homestead exemptions before taxes accrue. County assessors could certify valuations to taxing entities electronically. Other provisions clean up rent-restricted housing laws and require notices of pending tax deeds to include the name of the property owner. The determination of a parcel's primary use for agricultural or horticultural purposes could be made without regard to whether the parcel is platted and subdivided.

LB263 is the omnibus Transportation and Telecommunications Committee bill. It allows motor vehicle dealers to provide titling and registration services. County treasurers must remit both title and registration fees on the 20th of each month. Other provisions change oversight of the One-Call Board of Directors, exempt vehicles with remote starters from laws prohibiting leaving vehicles unattended without removing the key, and allow public power district vehicle registrations to be kept at the principal place of business of the district.
LB444 allows city or county law enforcement officers, paid firefighters, emergency responders, and certain front-line state employees who suffer serious bodily injury from an on-duty assault that results in the officer falling below the minimum number of working hours to maintain health insurance.
LB151 changes the number of days for notice before a public hearing on a proposed budget statement from five days to four calendar days. The day of publication counts as a day but the day of the hearing does not. It creates penalties for failure to report information requested annually from counties and other entities, including lists of interlocal agreements. A 14 percent penalty will be assessed on delinquent payments for fees for services provided by the Auditor.
LB432 revises the authority granted to governmental entities to adjust their budgets to account for delinquent taxes. Existing law allows for a five percent offset as well as an allowance for anticipated litigation. LB432 permits the allowance if the prime rate published by the Federal Reserve Board is 10 percent or greater at the time the entity's budget is filed and certified.
LB535 eliminates the filing of a Real Estate Transfer Statement (Form 521) on oil, gas and mineral leases. The bill also allows, but does not require, registers of deeds to accept digital or electronic signatures. This authority already exists in Neb.Rev.Stat. ยง86-611(3).
LB271 allows the Nebraska Department of Roads to assume responsibility for conducting environmental assessments for road projects. The reviews are currently conducted at the federal level. Conducting these assessments at the state level could save up to $19 million and significantly reduce wait times for projects.

LB339 merges the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads to form a unified Department of Transportation. The new department will be headed by the Director-State Engineer. A Director of Aeronautics will be appointed by the Director-State Engineer and confirmed by the Legislature to head the aeronautics division. The bill takes effect on July 1, 2017.
LB407 creates the Whiteclay Public Health Emergency Task Force to examine the public health implications of alcohol sales in Whiteclay, Nebraska. The task force consists of five members of the Legislature and three nonvoting members representing the commission on Indian Affairs, a public health expert, and a data analysis expert. The task forces will terminate in 2019.

LB518 establishes a workforce housing grant program for nonprofit development organizations in rural communities in counties of less than 100,000.

LB590 changes state building code occupancy provisions related to in-home day cares and other care facilities to harmonize them with the Department of Health and Human Service's childcare regulations.

LB9 creates the Radon Resistant New Construction Task Force to develop minimum standards for radon resistant construction. The recommendations will be used to develop legislation in 2019.
LB625 revises the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) mechanism for municipalities to finance the up-front costs of energy efficiency improvements on commercial, industrial, and residential properties. Senator Tyson Larson has introduced an interim study resolution LR109, to further review the PACE process.

LB180 provides for bridge orders transferring juvenile court jurisdiction of a juvenile to a district court.
LB487 provides immunity from prosecution for drug possession for persons who seek help for themselves or another person due to a drug overdose. The bill also protects emergency responders who administer certain drugs to treat an apparent opioid overdose.
LB222 changes membership in the Nebraska Tourism Commission and provides for a program of innovative tourism grants.

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