June 23, 2011                                                                                     Legislative Report Archive

In This Issue





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summarySummary of 2011 Legislation


The 102nd Nebraska Legislature, First Session adjourned on May 26. This Legislative Report is a summary of some of the 269 bills adopted in 2011. 


Attention has been focused primarily on those bills of possible interest and impact to counties. These bill summaries are intended to provide a brief synopsis only and to highlight particular provisions of interest within each of the bills. For a more thorough understanding of any of these measures, please review the actual legislative bills. Bills can be requested from the Legislature's Bill Room at (402)471-0617. The full text of the final version of the bill, called the slip law, can be viewed at the Unicameral's website.  A link to this site can be found on NACO's website. Also, consider contacting your county attorney with questions regarding the implementation of a particular bill related to your county.


More than 700 bills and constitutional amendments were introduced this year. Bills that were not adopted or indefinitely postponed will carry over to the 2012 session. Because provisions from one bill were often amended into another, original and final bill numbers are sometimes noted within the summaries.


Most bills take effect at 12:01 a.m. on August 27, 2011, which is three calendar months after the Legislature's adjournment. Bills passed with an emergency clause become effective either upon receiving the signature of Governor Dave Heineman or on a specified date less than three calendar months after adjournment.


Please contact the NACO office if you have questions about this summary or suggestions for possible legislation for 2012. NACO's 2012 legislative priorities will be selected following NACO's annual legislative conference on October 13 in Kearney.


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OperationsCounty Operations


LB 383 eliminates state aid to counties, cities, and natural resources districts. State aid to counties, county property tax relief, and jail reimbursement will terminate on July 1, 2011. A new state aid program combining these three programs that was scheduled to begin in FY11-12 as stricken from state statute.


LB 62 revises the budgetary relationship between county boards and county officials in response to a Nebraska Supreme Court case. The bill provides for county officers to have necessary clerks and assistants, subject to budgetary approval of the county board. The county board cannot eliminate an office or unduly hinder a county official in their duties. If a county official challenges the county board's decision in court, the official must prove such allegations by clear and convincing evidence.


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. Counties have been required to provide the same amount of office space for public assistance programs since the state assumed responsibility for the programs in 1983.


LB 390 revises the Open Meetings Act to reflect closed sessions for Community Trust discussions regarding certain payments. The bill carried an emergency clause and took effect on May 27. LB 366 revises the Act to classify subcommittees of the Environmental Trust Board as public bodies. LB 366 takes effect on August 27. While neither change directly affects county functions, any alteration of the Act requires public bodies to update the copy of open meetings laws posted in their meeting rooms. NACO is preparing a poster containing the changes from both bills and will make it available by mid-August. Until then, counties should use a copy of the Act which contains the new language from LB 390. This information can be printed from the NACO website.


LB 397 reforms the Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR). The bill requires a vote in a public meeting on the final offer made to a union by a governing body. The dispute would go to the CIR only if both sides turned down the final offer. Wage adjustments ordered by the CIR could fall within a range, rather than a specific midpoint and wage comparisons would fall into an array of seven to nine members.


LB 628 authorizes counties, cities and public utilities to donate used motor vehicles to charities. The bill also contains provisions from LB 139 addressing the sale of surplus mobile equipment. The county board may approve of the sale of obsolete or surplus mobile equipment by a county official without competitive bidding if the property is not usable by the county and valued at less than $5,000.


LB 278 allows counties to pay salaries, reimbursable expenses and other payments by direct deposit or electronic funds transfer.


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 396 allows certain types of pledged collateral to be held by county treasurers, rather than county clerks.


LB 45 increases the statutory amount which triggers the involvement of an architect or engineer in the construction of a public works project. Existing law set an $86,000 trigger, with adjustments every five years, beginning in 2009. LB 45 sets the rate at $100,000 with the first adjustment taking effect on July 1, 2014.


LB 480 allows cities and counties acting as a public building commission to determine whether the provision of fixtures is included in a project.


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TaxSpendingTaxes and Spending


LB 384 eliminates the at-large position on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission and requires reappointment of the other three members. The bill allows hearings on parcels valued at less than $1 million to be conducted by a single commissioner. Beginning January 1, 2014, counties over 150,000 must provide a preliminary notice of valuations to property owners and an opportunity to meet with the county assessor or his or her representative.


Counties can adopt a local option sales tax to finance public safety services they provide independently under LB 106. Existing law requires an agreement with another entity in order to use county sales tax dollars. The sales tax rate may be set at one-half of one percent, one percent, or one and one-half percent.


NACO requested the introduction of two bills to eliminate unnecessary reporting requirements. LB 160 eliminates the filing of a report identifying trusts engaged in farming or ranching in Nebraska. LB 162 eliminates a requirement that county assessors file an abstract of personal property as of June 15 each year with the Property Tax Administrator. A more detailed version of the same information also appears on the certificate of taxes levied.


LB 210 is the Department of Revenue's annual clean up bill. It requires electronic filing from assessors and eliminates the Greenbelt Advisory Committee. The deadline for remittance of sales and use tax returns is moved from the 25th to the 20th of the month.


LB 309 provides for reapportionment of special assessments when land is platted or subdivided. LB 423 provides that a sanitary and improvement district special assessment tax lien survives a tax foreclosure sale. LB 519, a bill to give city special assessment liens parity with general taxes, remains in committee.


LB 360 revises wind energy tax laws enacted last year. It clarifies that depreciable tangible personal property used to generate electricity from wind is exempt from property taxes but real property is not exempt.


LB 54 defines the starting date for tax increment financing projects (TIF) to reflect the life of the project.


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Counties, cities and the state will share about $70 million annually from state sales tax collections to help fund road projects, beginning in 2013. LB 84 earmarks one-quarter percent of the state's 5.5 percent sales tax for roads for twenty years. Fifteen percent of the total will be distributed to counties and cities through the Highway Allocation Fund.


LB 98 allows the state to buy back federal aid transportation funds from counties and cities.


LB 629 creates the Oil Pipeline Reclamation Act. Pipeline carriers are responsible for all reclamation costs related to construction and operation of an oil pipeline. The state, counties and cities may pursue reclamation costs for the maintenance and repair of roads, bridges, or other infrastructure. The bill took effect when signed by Governor Heineman on May 16.


LB 164 requires notification to local authorities and electric utilities when an oversized building or object is moved on a county or township road. The notice must be given at least 10 days prior to the move and describe the size of the object and transporting vehicle, as well as the route, date, and hours of the move.


LB 35 allows permits to be granted for oversize tow trucks to provide for the removal of damaged vehicles from roads. This concept was originally introduced in LB 353. The bill increases the length of time permits may be issued and renewed to haul seasonally-harvested products from 120 days to 210 days. Three other bills proposing changes to oversize vehicle permits and weight limits, LB 102, LB 104 and LB 420, remain in committee.


Liability for parades and other local events that temporarily use state highways would be assumed by the county, city or village staging the event under LB 589. The governing body must formally acknowledge that it indemnifies the state and provide notice to the Department of Roads of the time and date of the event. Any claims arising from the special event would be subject to the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act. The bill was introduced on behalf of the city of Papillion, which hosts summer road races using part of a state highway.


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MVehMotor Vehicles


LB 135 changes the date for remitting motor vehicle title fees from the fifth of the month to the 15th.


LB 289 authorizes counties to regulate the use of low-speed vehicles by ordinance. The vehicles must be titled and carry license plates. Drivers must have a valid operator's license and liability insurance coverage. The bill also replaces the alternative fuel tax with an alternative fuel fee that includes solar and electrical power sources. The $75 fee is credited to the Highway Trust Fund. The bill takes effect on January 1, 2012.


LB 212 makes technical revisions to the electronic lien titling process that was adopted two years ago and authorizes towing by minitrucks.


LB 241 requires sellers of parts vehicles to provide the purchaser with a bill of sale indicating the vehicle identification number, year, make, and model of the vehicle, the name and address of the owner and purchaser, acquisition date, and odometer statement. The bill took effect on Feb. 22.


LB 215 revises numerous procedures related to the issuance of drivers' licenses. All persons and agents involved in the recording of verified application information and persons involved in the manufacture or production of licenses or state identification cards are subject to a criminal background check, with the cost borne by the employer of the person or agent. Other sections require the presentation of specified source documents for applications and allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to retain copies of the documents.


LB 158 revises requirements for issuing drivers' licenses online and the progression through obtaining a learner's permit. The Department of Motor Vehicles is given authority to develop requirements for using electronic means for online issuance of operators' licenses and state identification cards.


LB 170 eliminates a fund used to reimburse motorcycle safety course providers. The balance of the remaining fund will be divided between the Department of Motor Vehicles Cash Fund and the Highway Trust Fund. The funds were generated through a fee on motorcycle operators' licenses.


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lawenfLaw Enforcement and Courts


LB 15 was introduced at NACO's request to provide for the execution of district court judgements across county lines. Such executions are not liens on real property unless a transcript of the judgement is filed in the district court of the county in which the real estate is located.


LB 17 reflects records retention requirements following implementation of JUSTICE, the statewide electronic case management system.


LB 669 provides for district and county court clerks to assist to each other when the clerk or their staff is temporarily unavailable. The State Court Administrator, county board and clerk of the district court must sign the agreement, after obtaining input from the district court and county court judges, county attorney, and county court clerk. The bill clarifies that counties are responsible for detention costs for juveniles before and after an evaluation period prior to adjudication, the cost of delivering the juvenile to the location of the evaluation, and the cost of returning the juvenile to court for further proceedings. The Supreme Court is authorized to appoint judicial hearing officers for county courts sitting as juvenile courts and for separate juvenile courts.


County jails that are accredited by a nationally recognized correctional association are not subject to the authority of the Jail Standards Board under LB 390. As the bill was originally introduced, the Jail Standards Board and the Community Corrections Council would have been eliminated. Sections from LB 463 were amended into LB 390 to expand efforts to prevent truancy by shifting funding from the Learning Community Coordinating Council to an intervention program. The bill includes language from LB 79 which transfers funds from the Commission on Public Advocacy to a special grant program for Court Appointed Special Advocates. LB 390 also sets out a process for sealing juvenile court records.


A number of bills created offenses or changed penalties for existing offenses. LB 19 amends the Uniform Controlled Substances Act to add synthetic cannabinoids used to make the drug K2 to the list of banned substances. LB 61 increases penalties related to unlawful intrusion, such as a dressing room or locker room. The bill also increases penalties for recording such an intrusion and extends the statute of limitations for the offense. LB 67 clarifies that use of a car booster seat by a child up to six years of age is a primary offense. LB 100 provides that a person who is intoxicated is criminally responsible for his or her conduct. LB 226 creates the offense of assault with a bodily fluid against a public safety officer. Peace officers, county jail employees, probation officers and others are considered public safety officers. LB 667 revises crimes and penalties related to motor vehicles, boats and alcohol. Among other provisions, the bill makes ignition interlock devices mandatory for first and second offense driving under the influence and creates a new offense of motor vehicle homicide of an unborn child. LB 500 prohibits the placement of objects, such a fuzzy dice, in a motor vehicle in a way that significantly or materially obstructs the view of a driver. It is considered a secondary offense, subject to a fine and loss of driver's license points.


LB 281 allows passengers in a limousine or private bus to consume alcohol. A physical partition must separate the limousine passengers from the driver.


LB 284 extends the distance at which picketing of a funeral is prohibited. Existing law sets the distance at 300 feet. LB 284 extends the distance to 500 feet.


LB 20 requires retailers to scan and submit buyer information to a national drug log exchange before selling methamphetamine precursors such as psuedoephedrine. The information will be stored and made available only to law enforcement agencies, regulatory agencies, and the exchange. The bill takes effect on January 1, 2012.


LB 479 allows victims of sexual or domestic assault who are at least 18 years of age to be examined and treated by a physician or mental health professional without the consent or notification of a parent or guardian.


LB 512 allows a person who has been prohibited from purchasing or owning a gun or holding a concealed carry permit to seek removal of the restriction. If the mental health board is of the opinion that removing the subject's firearm-related disabilities will not be contrary to the public, the clerks of the courts must notify the Nebraska State Patrol and Department of Health and Human Services. The bill also authorizes the possession of firearms by peace officers when contracted by a school to provide school security or school event control services. The bill takes effect on January 1, 2012.


LB 641 requires sheriffs, deputies, and other officers to report offenses related to the sale of liquor to the Liquor Control Commission.


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LB 499 requires registered voters who are present in the county on election day and who choose to vote on the day of the election to do so at their assigned polling place. Candidates who are in the middle of their term are prohibited from filing for a different, longer term with the same board before their term expires.


LB 449 revises a number of election statutes. Among other changes, it authorizes precinct sizes to increase from 1,000 to 1,750 and includes a field for an email address on voter registration forms.


LB 550 defines the term "incumbent" for purposes of deadlines for filing for office. Persons holding any elective office are considered incumbents and must file by February 15.


LB 368 describes when a candidate may file by petition and when a party may nominate a candidate at its convention. It is intended to prohibit political parties from bypassing the primary election process and nominating candidates at its convention for the general election when no party candidate appeared in the primary election.


LB 342 changes the hours and notice requirements for drainage district elections. Existing law provides for the election to be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the courthouse or other location designated by the drainage district board. New language eliminates references to specific times and requires the hours of the election to be provided in the notice. Because such elections are not subject to the Election Act, these changes do not affect primary, general or special elections.


LB 399 changes the signature requirements for nomination by petition for certain offices in the general election. For districts that include two or more counties, the bill removes the requirement to obtain a certain number of signatures from each county.


LB 699 through LB 703 provide for redistricting of judicial, congressional and legislative districts, University of Nebraska Board of Regents, and Public Service Commission.


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otherOther Issues


LB 254 creates standards for documents filed in registers of deeds offices. The standards, which are based on recommendations by the Property Records Industry Association, address paper size, ink color, font size, and margins. The bill is intended to increase legibility of filed documents for purposes of long-term preservation. LB 14, a bill to increase filing fees, remains in committee.


LB 157 enacts the Nebraska Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act. Guardians and conservators must file copies of his or her letters of guardianship with the register of deeds in every county in which the ward has real property.


LB 509 was introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System to make changes to the five state-administered retirement plans. The bill revises the county and state plans to allow terminated employees to receive a distribution of up to $25,000 or the balance of their employee account, whichever is less, after a grievance is filed. If the employee is reinstated, he or she must pay back the amount received.


LB 474 requires certain retirement plan reports to be sent to the Auditor of Public Accounts, rather than the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Board and the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee. Under existing law counties with a population in excess of 150,000, county medical and multiunit facilities, and county boards of health must submit annual defined contribution plans and defined benefit plan actuarial reports.


LB 573 authorizes the use of rotating or flashing amber lights on vehicles operated by or for emergency management workers or storm spotters activated by a local emergency management organization. The Nebraska Emergency management Agency must develop training, identification and credentialing standards for storm spotters or emergency management workers.


LB 159 provides implementing legislation for Amendment 1, which was approved by voters in the 2010 primary election. The bill authorizes the use of revenue bonds issued by counties and cities to assist in the development of property for use by non-profit enterprises.


LB 337 gives flexibility to the State Auditor regarding the timing of audits, including an examination of funds distributed to counties through the Crime Commission for the purposes of law enforcement and jail operations for the benefit of Indians.


LB 388 shifts documentary stamp tax dollars from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to the Site and Building Development Fund. The Department of Economic Development will use the funds for grants or zero-interest loans to counties and cities make sites and buildings ready for industrial development, matching funds for new construction, and other development projects. Not less than 40 percent of the funds are designated for non-metropolitan areas.


LB 413 adds to the list of activities eligible for funding from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Within existing funding for housing education activities, the Trust may be used to provide support for efforts to improve programs benefitting homeless youth.


LB 421 increases state park permit fees by five dollars, beginning January 1, 2012. Permit sellers, which may include county government, are paid a fee of up to one dollar, as established by the Game and Parks Commission. Governor Heineman vetoed LB 421 but an override attempt was successful.


LB 400 grants expanded levy authority to certain natural resources districts (NRDs) for an additional six years. The additional levy authority is intended to help NRDs in fully appropriated or over-appropriated basins to administer and implement ground water management activities. The concept was originally introduced as LB 528.


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 556 changes the boundaries between Hamilton and Merrick counties to reflect the use of global positioning coordinates rather than the boundaries set by the location of the Platte River.


LB 207 conveys the Bowman State Recreation Area from the Game and Parks Commission to Sherman County.


LB 543 provides for a state outreach program relating to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Department of Health and Human Services must partner with one or more counties or nonprofit organizations to implement the plan.


LB 591 requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a central database of immunization information. Information may be exchanged between health care professionals, including public health departments.


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