April 28, 2011                                                                                     Legislative Report Archive

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BudgetBudget Debate to Begin Next Week

The Appropriations Committee presented its budget package to senators this week. The 283-page committee report is available on the Legislature's website. The report notes that more than $9.6 million in county aid programs has already been stricken from the budget by LB 383.  

The budget package may be altered based upon the projections of the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board. The board meets today to review existing revenue forecasts. While the Legislature is not obligated to follow the board's projections, any variations in projections will likely be taken into consideration as proposed cuts are addressed.  

Debate on the budget bills will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, May 2, the 72nd day of the session.  Senators are tentatively scheduled to work on the budget into the evening on May 3, if necessary, and begin the second round of budget debate later in the week. The budget must be passed by the 80th day, which is May 17. 


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SalesTaxCounty Sales Tax Clarification Advanced

A bill that began as an opportunity for counties to implement a local option sales tax to help pay for transportation infrastructure projects was amended before advancement to Select File.  Under existing law, county sales tax proceeds can only be used for certain public safety projects financed by a public safety commission or to provide the county's share of funds under an interlocal agreement or joint public agency.  Because there are no municipalities with which to enter into an agreement in some parts of the state, Senator LeRoy Louden introduced an  amendment to LB 106 to allow county sales taxes to finance public safety services provided by the county alone. The amendment also expands the definition of public safety services for purposes of existing county sales tax to include crime prevention, offender detention, and firefighter, police, medical, ambulance, or other emergency services. The proposed authority to use sales tax dollars for infrastructure was eliminated from the bill.


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snapshotsSnapshots of County Issues
Advanced from General File

Counties, cities and villages holding special events that temporarily shut down or encroach upon state highways would have to indemnify the state pursuant to LB 589.  The bill was introduced to harmonize the process for requesting the use of such roads.  Several senators spoke in support of the concept but raised questions about the interaction between the state and political subdivision tort claims acts, as well as other specific liability concerns.  Amendments will be offered on Select File to address those concerns.  The measure was designated as a Speaker priority bill.

Senators advanced nearly 40 bills from General File today through a consent calendar process.  Under the rules, debate is limited to 15 minutes, after which a vote is taken. Bills with substantive amendments, other than committee amendments, cannot be addressed on consent calendar.  Among the bills advanced are LB 550, which clarifies the filing deadline for persons who are already serving in an elected office. 

LB 15 and LB 17 were introduced at the request of NACO and the clerks of the district court.  LB 15 would authorize district court judgements across county lines.  LB 17 reflects records retention requirements following implementation of JUSTICE, the statewide electronic case management system.


LB 309 would provide for reapportionment of special assessments and includes amendments requested by NACO to accommodate parcels subject to a tax sales certificate. 


LB 573 would allow storm spotters and emergency management workers to use flashing or rotating amber lights.


LB 254 would implement standards for documents filed in the register of deeds office.  The bill was introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell at NACO's request.


LB 277 clarifies that it is the responsibility of the county board, with the advice of the visitors committee, to make decisions on the expenditure of County Visitors Improvement Funds. 


LB 162 would eliminate an obsolete requirement for assessors to file an abstract of personal property. 


LB 234 reflects an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services, Governor Heineman, Senators Deb Fischer and Lavon Heidemann, and NACO.  The bill would allow counties to ask the Department to review office and service facilities provided to the Department to determine if the space can be reduced or eliminated.  Existing law requires counties to maintain the same facilities that were provided when the state assumed administration of public assistance in 1983.  Since then, reorganization has altered the state's needs for office space in some counties.

Advanced from Select File

An amendment to LB 449 was adopted to prevent latecomers from having their name placed on the general election ballot before the bill was advanced from Select File on Tuesday. The amendment would allow candidates to appear on the general election ballot for partisan office who were not registered to vote with a party affiliation on or before March 1 in the calendar year of the general election if they were not candidates in the primary election. Some senators questioned the applicability of a 1997 court case and whether there was a compelling state interest in limiting candidates who belonged to a party.  Other sections of the bill expand election precinct sizes, require training for deputy registrars, and set a time frame for filing for office.
LB 360 makes technical corrections to legislation enacted last year to create a tax structure for wind farms.  Rather than valuing wind turbines as personal property, the tax is based on nameplate capacity.  Senator Tyson Larson offered and withdrew an amendment to assist Knox County and its taxing subdivisions  in the transition to the new taxing mechanism.  A lawsuit is pending that challenges the constitutionality of tax credits under the new system. An amendment was adopted before the bill advanced from Select File that would expand the tax credit on zero-emission tax facilities to include renewable energy tax facilities.

Signed by Governor
Governor Heineman signed 21 bills on April 26 and returned two bills, LB 600 and LB 204, without approval. An override was successful on LB 600, which would institute a provider assessment of $3.50 per day per Medicaid and private pay nursing home patients.  The charge would be reimbursed to facilities through a federal match. A motion has been filed to attempt an override of LB 204, which would require students to undergo blood-lead testing prior to enrollment in kindergarten.
Among the signed bills are LB 35, which changes to the permitting process for oversize vehicles during harvest season and tow trucks hauling disabled vehicles. 
LB 499 revises election issues. 
LB 544 requires high school curriculum to include components to teach the value of civil discourse between opposing interests and  encourage active participation in the improvement of the community, state, country, and world. 
LB 388 transfers $2 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to a new fund administered by the Department of Economic Development to provide grants and low-interest loans to help counties, cities and villages develop industrial sites.  Beginning on Oct. 1, 2011, documentary stamp tax rates are revised to shift 25 cents to the new fund. At least 40 percent of funds must be designated for nonmetropolitan areas.  Governmental entities must provide matching funds. In addition, dollars from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that are recaptured may be used by the Department to provide assistance to political subdivisions impacted by a sudden and significant private-sector closure or downsizing.
LB 479 allows eighteen year olds who are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence to be examined and treated by a physician without the consent or notification of their parents or guardian.
LB 512 regulates the possession of firearms by peace officers providing school security or school event control.  The bill also addresses the removal of restrictions on firearm ownership and concealed handguns for persons who have had a mental health related commitment or adjudication. 

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