March 1, 2013                                                                             Legislative Report Archive

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revRevenue Committee Hears Property Tax and Inheritance Tax Bills

Property Tax

Property and inheritance taxes were the focus of Revenue Committee hearings this week. On Thursday, the committee heard testimony on a bill, LB145, to reduce the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land from 75 percent to 65 percent. The 75 percent rate was set by legislation adopted in 2006. They also took testimony on a proposal, LB101, that would phase in reduced ag land values for school district valuation over five years. NACO testified in opposition to both bills.


County officials and NACO testified in support of LB55, a bill to clarify county responsibilities for computer software contracts signed by the Department of Revenue in counties that have reassumed the assessment function from the state. The bill would allow counties to terminate the contract.


On Wednesday, NACO testified in support of a bill to restore state aid to Nebraska's counties and cities. LB370 would provide a general outline that would be examined as part of the overall tax study proposed by LB613. Concepts from a second bill, LB531, which would repeal the use of sales taxes for road funding, would also become part of the study.


On Friday after press time, the Revenue Committee was scheduled to hear bills addressing the valuation of low-income housing and housing related to charitable organizations, as well as a measure changing the deadline for determining ownership for purposes of homestead exemptions.


Inheritance Tax

On Wednesday, county officials testified in opposition to a bill that would revise inheritance tax rates for extended family and unrelated persons. They shared data about the property tax increases that would result from decreased inheritance tax collections and the projects and services funded by inheritance taxes. In FY11-12, counties collected $56 million in inheritance taxes.


Senator John Wightman, the bill's introducer, noted that before the most recent rate change in 2007, inheritance tax rates had remained the same for 106 years. The 2007 change, which was intended to be revenue neutral, shifted taxes away from immediate relatives to more distant beneficiaries.


Under existing law, Class II beneficiaries (nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles) are taxed at 13 percent on bequests in excess of $15,000. LB600 would decrease the tax rate to 9 percent on such bequests. Class III beneficiaries (unrelated individuals) currently pay 18 percent on amounts in excess of $10,000. LB600 would reduce the tax rate to 13 percent.


The OpenSky Policy Institute testified in a neutral capacity to remind senators of their recent study on the impact of inheritance taxes on counties. The study is available here.


The Committee has not taken action on the bills heard this week.


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shotsSnapshots of County Issues 

Bills Heard By Committees This Week

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.



hearSelected Committee Hearing Schedule
Following is a list of some of the bills with county impact that have been scheduled for public hearing in the coming weeks. Please check the Legislature's website for a full listing.

Monday, March 4

Business and Labor Committee

Room 1113 1:30 p.m.

  • LB652 (Lautenbaugh) Provide procedures for taking grievances by certain county corrections officers to the Civil Service Commission

General Affairs

Room 1510 1:30 p.m.

  • LB653 (Davis) Change and provide for distribution of the gallonage tax on beer

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee

Room 1113 1:30 p.m.

  • LB596 (Price) Change provisions relating to specialty license plates and Purple Heart license plates
  • LB378 (Smith) Eliminate fees for the issuance of certain license plates
  • LB383 (Janssen) Provide for Nebraska Armed Forces Price Plates
  • LB93 (Dubas) Provide for notation of veterans status on drivers' licenses and state identification cards

Tuesday, March 5

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee

Room 1507 9:30 a.m.

  • LB417 (Kolowski) Provide for guidelines for election workers
  • LB292 (Karpisek) Change population restrictions for conducting elections by mail
  • LB299 (Seiler) Change political subdivision election provisions
  • LB349 (Murante) Change ballot status and write-in provisions for presidential and vice-presidential candidates

Judiciary Committee

Room 1113 9:50 a.m.

  • LB631 (Harr) Change provisions relating to garnishment
  • LB415 (Seiler) Change provisions relating to financial institutions and attachment and garnishment
  • LB520 (Christensen) Allow land surveyors to enter upon public or private land or waters as prescribed

Agriculture Committee

Room 2102 1:30 p.m.

  • LB636 (Wallman) Provide restrictions for application of certain herbicides

Wednesday, March 6

Natural Resources Committee

Room 1525 1:30 p.m.

  • LB477 (Carlson) Change sunset for Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force 

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee

Room 1507 1:30 p.m.

  • LB632 (Bolz) Change funding for county offices relating to public assistance programs
  • LB588 (Watermeier) Change veteran employment preference provisions and name the act
  • LB382 (Janssen) Change presidential elector selection and voting requirements

Judiciary Committee

Room 1113  1:30 p.m.

  • LB320 (McGill) Change temporary custody without a warrant provisions of the Nebraska Juvenile Code
  • LB342 (Coash) Change right to counsel provisions  under the Nebraska Juvenile Code
  • LB471 (Coash) Change provisions relating to juvenile commitment evaluations
  • LB464 (Ashford) Change court jurisdiction over juveniles and indictment procedures
  • LB562 (Ashford) Change provisions of the juvenile justice system

Revenue Committee

Room 1524 1:30 p.m.

  • LB419 (Hadley) Change provisions relating to the nameplate capacity tax

Thursday, March 7

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee

Room 1507 1:30 p.m.

  • LB381 (Janssen) Require photographic identification to vote 

Judiciary Committee

Room 1113 1:30 p.m.

  • LB86 (McGill) Authorize inspection and regulation of staff secure juvenile facilities
  • LB561 (Ashford) State findings and intent for changes to the juvenile justice system and a funding mechanism 

Thursday, March 14

Revenue Committee

Room 1524 1:30 p.m.

  • LB251 (Hansen) Change a fee relating to the rental of motor vehicles

Wednesday, March 20

Revenue Committee

Room 1524 1:30 p.m.

  • LB581 (Crawford) Change the sales and use tax collection fees
  • LB333 (Schumacher) Change the sales and use tax collection fees
  • LB618 (Karpisek) Create the Agricultural Land Valuation Task Force

Thursday, March 21

Revenue Committee

Room 1524 1:30 p.m.

  • LR2CA (Pirsch) Constitutional amendment to require that any bill that imposes or increases a tax be approved by a majority of the members of the Legislature plus four
  • LB317 (Price) Change a duty of county assessors realting to real property valuation
  • LB62 (Schilz) Change levy provisions for rural and suburban fire protection districts

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registerRegister for Counties' Legislative Day
Make plans now to attend NACO's Counties' Legislative day on April 18. County officials will have an opportunity to view the Legislature while in session as well as meet with state senators. A luncheon will be served at the Cornhusker Marriott hotel and all senators will be invited to attend. This is a great opportunity to discuss issues affecting county government with your senator. To view a tentative program click here. There is no fee to attend, however, registration is required. To register, click here.


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