May 6, 2011                                                                                     Legislative Report Archive

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LegislatureLegislature Passes TERC Restructuring, Valuation Protest Changes

The Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) would lose its at-large member under LB 384, which was passed by the Legislature on Thursday. The Commission is currently composed of one representative from each congressional district and an at-large member. The reduction in members was proposed as part of the cost-cutting examination that each state agency was required to conduct last year. The term of all of the members will expire on July 1 and the governor will appoint members to fill the three vacant seats. He will also set the salary for commissioners. The duties of commissioners will change as well. LB 384 authorizes certain appeals to be conducted before a single member of the panel.


The bill would also require preliminary notices of valuation changes to be sent to property owners in counties of more than 150,000. Real property owners would be given a chance to meet with the county assessor or a designated representative between Jan. 15 and March 1 each year. If the valuation is protested, the protester would be given an opportunity to meet in person with the county board of equalization or a referee. An amendment was adopted during Select File debate earlier in the week to make these requirements effective on July 1, 2014.


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RedistrictingRedistricting  Hearings Scheduled

The Redistricting Committee will hold a series of statewide hearings on five bills to redraw boundaries in light of the 2010 census. Hearings on LB 700 (Public Service Commissioner districts), LB 701 (Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska), LB 702 (State Board of Education), LB 703 (legislative districts), and LB 704 (congressional districts) will be held on Friday, May 13 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 1525 of the State Capitol with videoconference sites in Columbus, Norfolk, Scottsbluff and Omaha. At 1:00 p.m., a second hearing will be conducted with videoconference sites in North Platte, Hastings, McCook and Alliance. The Redistricting Committee's website will contain details about each location.


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SnapshotsSnapshots of County Issues

 Advanced by the Judiciary Committee


Clerks of the district court and clerk magistrates would provide services for each other when the clerk or their staff are unavailable under a proposed Judiciary Committee amendment to LB 669. The concept was taken from LB 451, one of four bills that would replace the original provisions of LB 669. Language taken from LB 339 addresses juvenile services, including clarification of the costs of the state and counties for the period of detention or evaluation of a juvenile prior to adjudication. Language from LB 349 would revise provisions for jury trials in county court. Provisions from LB 476 would clarify the authority for delivery of service by a commercial carrier. The bill has been designated as a Speaker Priority and appears on Monday's agenda for General File debate.

Advanced from General File


After seven hours of debate on Wednesday, senators advanced a proposal to change the authority of the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR). Debate on LB 397 focused on comparability to other public and private entities and consideration of pension and health care benefits, as well as the power of the CIR to subpoena information from employers. More negotiations are expected before the bill is scheduled for the second round of debate. LB 397 was one of nine bills introduced this year to alter collective bargaining for public employees. The other bills were indefinitely postponed by the Business and Labor Committee.

Advanced from Select File

Senators advanced the state's proposed biennial budget through two rounds of debate this week. The package of eight bills would appropriate $7.1 billion of general funds during the next two years. The Appropriations Committee's proposed budget is available on the Legislature's website. The biennial budget takes into account $44 million in state aid to counties, cities, and natural resources districts that was eliminated by LB 383.


County authority to enact a local option sales tax to help pay for public safety services would be expanded by LB 106. Under existing county sales tax laws, counties must be part of a public safety commission consisting of participating municipalities and fire districts or use the sales tax to provide the county's share of funds under an interlocal agreement or joint public agency. LB 106 would allow county sales taxes to finance public safety services provided by the county alone. This would be especially beneficial in areas like Whiteclay, where there are no municipalities with which to enter into an agreement. The bill was advanced from the second round of debate on Wednesday by a voice vote.


A bill to allow counties to donate surplus motor vehicles was returned to Select File for amendment, then again placed on Final Reading. LB 628 would also revise dollar amounts in laws regarding sales of surplus motor vehicles by counties.


The Legislature again used a consent calendar process to advance a number of noncontroversial bills from the second round of debate. Some of the bills that were advanced included LB 15, which would authorize district court judgements across county lines, and LB 17, which reflects records retention requirements following implementation of JUSTICE, the statewide electronic case management system. LB 309 would provide for reapportionment of special assessments. 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. 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 authorizes counties to request that the Department of Health and Human Services review the office space and service facilities provided by counties to determine whether the space is needed by the state or can be reduced or eliminated.

Passed by the Legislature

A rewrite of last year's wind energy was passed by the Legislature on Thursday. LB 360 would revise last year's legislation implementing a nameplate capacity tax on wind generation facilities for clarification of trade fixture and depreciable tangible personal property references. Other bills sent to Governor Heineman include LB 449, which revises election laws, and LB 463, which addresses sealing juvenile records and truancy.


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