Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
On Tuesday, the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard a series of election bills. LB292, which was introduced by Senator Russ Karpisek at NACO's request, would allow counties of up to 20,000 to conduct elections by mail for approved precincts in lieu of a polling place. This option is currently available to counties of 10,000 or less. Committee members discussed whether the voter turnout from an all-mail precinct would differ from the turnout at a polling place and whether a mail election would offer an unfair advantage to a candidate in a multi-county district. LB417 would require the Secretary of State to prepare guidelines for election workers so that all counties would have access to the same resources. LB299 would clarify that the question of whether a county board should be elected by district or at large could be placed on the ballot by the petition or the board itself.
On Wednesday, the committee heard a bill to eliminate requirements for counties to provide office space for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). When what was then referred to as county welfare was transferred to the state nearly 30 years ago, counties were required to maintain "office and service facilities used for the administration of the public assistance program as such facilities existed on April 1, 1983." Neb.Rev.Stat. Sec. 68-130. Over time, DHHS facilities have restructured and consolidated, often locating more staff in larger counties to serve as regional hubs. In some instances, counties were not able to house DHHS services in the courthouse and paid to rent office space elsewhere to meet this requirement. LB632, which was introduced by Senator Kate Bolz on behalf of Lancaster County, would shift all facilities costs to the state. Testifiers from DHHS and the state's budget administrator indicated that the state could spend up to $3 million to replace the office space allocated to DHHS in 1983.
On Thursday, the committee heard LB381, which would require government issued photographic identification to vote. Indigent voters without proper identification could receive a state-issued identification card at no cost. The Department of Motor vehicles estimates that as many as 26,000 IDs could be issed. Voters without identification would be allowed to vote provisionally. Senator Charlie Janssen, the introducer, offered an amendment to allow pollworkers to sign an affidavit vouching for the identity of voters who do not have the proper identification.
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Veterans could have a special designation on their drivers' licenses and state identification cards if LB93 is advanced from the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. Veterans would need to provide their discharge papers as proof of service to receive the designation. Veterans testified in support of the bill, noting many benefits available to veterans but the lack of a convenient method of providing documentation of service. Several other states have adopted a veterans designation on drivers' licenses and state ID cards, including the letter "V" and a background with stars.
Other bills heard by the committee would provide for a reduced number of applications to obtain military service personalized plates (LB596 and LB383) and eliminate a $5 fee charged for Pearl Harbor, prisoner of war, disabled veteran and Purple Heart license plates. The fee is used to help operate the veteran's cemetery in Alliance. The committee has not taken action on these bills.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Judiciary Committee focused on bills related to juvenile issues. LB342 would clarify when court-appointed and county-funded counsel would be statutorily required in juvenile cases. LB86 would provide that staff secure juvenile facilities have oversight by the Jail Standards Division of the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement. Currently adult jails and juvenile detention facilities are subject to Jail Standards regulation. Lancaster and Sarpy counties have built staff secure juvenile facilities in compliance with these standards.
LB562 would, among other things, increase the age of juveniles under the authority of the juvenile court to age 21 to allow them to receive services. It would expand the authority for a civil citation program statewide. As proposed, LB561 would close youth rehabilitation and treatment centers at Kearney and Geneva, subject to a transition plan, and add $10 million community-based aid. It would transfer certain functions currently performed by the Office of Juvenile Services and the Crime Commission to a newly created Office of Juvenile Assistance, which would be overseen by the judicial branch. During introduction of the legislation, Senator Brad Ashford, the bill's introducer, indicated that the facilities at Kearney and Geneva would not be closed but the way of doing business would be changed. The committee took no action on the bill but it is likely to be designated as a priority bill.
Bills Advanced from Committee
The Airport Zoning Act would be revised by LB140, which was sent to the floor by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The bill addresses local subdivision authority to zone around airports. A committee amendment has been offered that would allow for modification of zoning regulations and provide for hardship exemptions. The committee also advanced LB215, a bill to revise allocation of the County Visitor Improvement Fund. If the committee amendment is adopted, the bill will provide that if the visitors committee determines that the visitor attractions in the county are adequate, the governing body of the county may only use the County Visitors Improvement Fund to promote, encourage, and attract visitors to the county.
Bills Signed by the Governor
Governor Heineman signed a number of bills on Thursday, including:
- LB28 changes the deadline for imposing a 25 percent penalty for late filing of personal property tax returns from August 1 to July 1
- LB29 eliminates a requirement for county assessors to maintain a controlling account of monthly tax collections
- LB36 provides that the documentary stamp tax is not imposed upon certified or authenticated death certificates filed with the register of deeds
- LB311 clarifies the ten day timing requirement to obtain a bond prior to the beginning of the term of office for county officers
- LB156 eliminates an outdated report made to the Department of Health and Human Services by counties with community service programs
- LB207 shifts the responsibility to mail motor vehicle registration renewal postcards from counties to the state in exchange for a fifty-cent reduction in county fees
- LB210 revises the Uniform Commercial Code to address improperly filed financing statements
- LB7 redefines the Engineers and Architects Regulation Act to delete requirements for a "written" signature thereby allowing electronic transmission of signatures and seals
- LB32 limits the types of license plates that can be used on historical vehicles
- LB137 authorizes the state to establish a fleet card system that could be utilized by counties