The state would hire a consultant to create a roadmap for future 911 technology needs under a bill introduced and prioritized by Senator Scott Price (LB595). The study would be paid for by the surcharge collected monthly on cell phones. Proponents identified the next generation of 911 needs to include the ability to receive 911 calls by text. The committee also heard testimony on LB11, which would set the surcharge on landline and wireless phones in Douglas County at the same rate as the rest of the state. For many years, landline surcharge rates have been capped at 50 cents per line in Douglas County. All other counties are authorized to charge the initial 50 cents and can add an additional 50 cents, capping the total landline surcharge at $1 per line per month. The Public Service Commission is given statutory authority to set the wireless surcharge rate at an amount not to exceed 70 cents per month, but the rate in Douglas County cannot exceed 50 cents. The Commission recently reduced the statewide rate from 50 cents per month to 40 cents. Wireless funds are remitted to the Commission, then distributed to PSAP operators and wireless carriers.
County agricultural societies would be allowed to purchase equipment from funds currently authorized for capital construction under LB597. The bill would strike a requirement for ag societies to use the proceeds from the sale of real property to purchase more real property. Instead, the funds could be placed in a trust for the ongoing support of the county fair. Senator Tyson Larson, LB597's introducer, offered an amendment at the Agriculture Committee hearing that would specifically allow ag societies to lease portions of their property to other entities. A testifier noted that numerous ag societies lease property to schools or cities for sports fields. Without specific authority for such leases, counties could be liable for injuries occurring on their property.
The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard a series of election bills this week and will hear more next week. Some of the measures heard this week include LB565, which would prohibit voters from registering and voting early on the same day, and LB576, which would require election commissioners to place flags 200 feet from the main entrance to polling places. The bills remain in committee. On Tuesday, the committee will hear bills initially scheduled for last week but postponed due to a predicted snowstorm. These include LB292, which would allow counties of up to 20,000 to conduct elections by mail on a precinct-by-precinct basis. This option is currently available to counties of 10,000 or less. On Thursday, the committee will hear LB381, which would require voters to present state-issued identification to vote.
The Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on expanding Medicaid to cover additional adult Nebraskans (LB577) and redirecting health care subsidies to support Medicaid coverage (LB578). Senator Kathy Campbell has indicated that she plans to designate LB577 as her priority bill for the year.
Bills Advanced from Committee
County workers entering private or public property to address drainage issues would be required to make a record of the condition of the premises or any claimed encroachment at the time of entry under LB386. The county would provide ten days' notice of its intent to enter upon the property to modify, relocate, remove or destroy any encroaching private property in the county road right-of-way. The property owner would have five days to respond. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee advanced LB386 to the floor with an amendment adding an exception for emergency situations.
Bills Advanced from General File
Persons requesting public records could be directed to the governmental entity's website under a bill advanced from the first round of debate this week. Under LB363, if county records are available on the county's website and a person requesting the records has reasonable Internet access, the custodian of the record would not be required to copy the record. If public entity provides a copy of a record, it may charge a fee which cannot exceed the actual added cost of making the copy. The actual added cost could not include the salary of employees or officials until after six hours of searching, identifying, or copying the records.
During debate, several senators questioned whether six hours was too long, particularly for small agencies or entities with a single staff person, and whether for-profit or commercial requesters would force public bodies to engage in extended research without remuneration. Proponents of the bill stated that the hours did not need to be consecutive and could include cumulative efforts by several employees. If the request is so voluminous that additional personnel are needed to fulfill the request, their hours could be immediately included in the actual added cost calculation. Because most for-profit or commercial entities requesting public records have access to the Internet as evidenced by their own website, custodians of records could refer them to their website.
An amendment was offered by Senator Tyson Larson that would allow public bodies to charge for staff time after one hour of searching, identifying, or copying the records. The amendment was withdrawn after an agreement was reached to reduce the number of hours to four in a Select File amendment.
A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs amendment addressing time spent physically redacting information and attorney fees was adopted before the bill was advanced from General File.