April 5, 2013                                                                             Legislative Report Archive

In This Issue


Election Deadline Changes Proposed


Environmental Trust Grant Revision Proposed 




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electionElection Deadline Changes Proposed

Voters wanting to vote early in the election commissioner's or county clerk's office could begin to do so 30 days, rather than 35 days, prior to the election under LB 271. The bill was introduced by Senator Scott Lautenbaugh in response to a complaint by a visually impaired voter who was unable to cast her ballot in person in the election commissioner's office 35 days prior to the election. Despite the best efforts of the election commissioner, the voting machine vendor was not able to program and test the machines before the deadline. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) officer who heard the complaint recommended moving the deadline back ten days to provide adequate time for programming and testing. LB271, as introduced, reflected this recommendation and would have set the date for early voting at 25 days. Before the bill advanced from General File, an amendment was adopted to shorten the ten day period to five days, thereby giving voters 30 days to vote in person prior to the election.


During debate on Wednesday and Thursday, senators discussed options for making ballots available earlier, such as working with vendors for earlier programming. However, programming cannot be completed until printed ballots are available, and timelines for certifying presidential candidates and initiative petitions delay ballot preparation. Senators also discussed other election issues, including the lack of a third "secrecy" envelope for voting by mail, the ability to select other vendors for election machines, and the possibility of an interim study on the issues raised by LB271. To date, no amendments have been filed on these issues.


The Legislature also advanced LB299 which 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 a petition process or by the county board. Other language would address the election of certain city council members by ward or at large.


The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee sent several election bills to the floor on Tuesday. Although most of the bills have not been prioritized, they could be amended onto other election bills or appear on a consent calendar and will carry over to the 2014 session if not adopted. LB219, as revised by a proposed committee amendment, would allow voters who were not candidates in the primary election and not registered with a party affiliation on or after March 1 to have their name on the general election ballot. LB417 would require the Secretary of State to develop and publish guidelines for election workers. LB449 would expand the list of officials who cannot serve simultaneously in two high elective offices. LB565, a speaker priority, would prohibit persons from registering to vote and voting in the election commissioner's office on the same day. A proposed committee amendment would replace the original bill with a process for a secured ballot that is not counted if the acknowledgment of registration is returned as undeliverable within 10 days of the registration.


In addition, the committee indefinitely postponed three election bills. LB235 would have decreased allowable precinct sizes. LB418 would have required election commissioners in counties in excess of 100,000 to perform duties in consultation with the chief deputy election commissioner. LB576 would have required election commissioners to flag an area 200 feet from the main entrance to the polling place to indicate where electioneering is prohibited.


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environEnvironmental Trust Grant Revision Proposed

Property tax losses resulting from the transfer of certain conservation property to federal agencies would be offset under LB57, which was advanced from General File this week. The bill would require additional oversight of Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) grants used by conservation groups and others to purchase property which is sometimes later removed from tax rolls. In several counties, groups have purchased ag land, developed the property into wetlands, and turned it over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or other federal agencies. Payments in lieu of taxes are made, but generally at a lesser rate than property taxes generated on comparable properties. Counties that have experienced such transfers and seen a decrease or elimination of property taxes are encouraged to contact the NACO office with details about the impact on their county.


As amended and advanced, the bill would require grant applicants who will use grant funds to purchase real property that might later be sold, transferred, or exchanged with a federal land management agency and removed from tax rolls to provide for replacement of property tax revenue in the grant contract. Replacement revenue could be provided in the form of payments in lieu of taxes, establishment of a permanent endowment, or other means. Additionally, the contract would require written approval by the NET board prior to the sale, transfer or exchange of such property. If the NET board approves the transaction, the property would be released from further restrictions. If the NET board does not approve of the transaction, the grantee could repay the value of the grant to the trust and be released from further obligations. The deed or other instrument conveying title to property acquired by trust funds would have to contain express provisions stating the restrictions on sales, transfers or exchanges of the property.


Senators debated the bill for eight hours on Tuesday and Wednesday before Senator Tyson Larson, who introduced and prioritized the bill, filed a motion to invoke cloture. The bill advanced from the first round of debate on a 27-17 vote. Twenty-five votes are necessary to advance most bills.


On Thursday, the Environmental Trust board met and changed its position from neutral to opposition to LB57. The grants distributed by the trust are funded through the Nebraska state lottery.



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legconfPlan Now for NACO's Legislative Day

County officials are invited to come to Lincoln to watch the Legislature in person on April 18.  Registration begins at the NACO office at 8:30 a.m. and moves to the Warner Chamber of the State Capitol at 9:15. Lieutenant Governor LaVon Heidemann, Speaker Greg Adams and several key senators have been invited to address the group. Following a lunch with senators at the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel, county officials can visit state offices, tour the Capitol and governor's mansion, and watch legislative debate.  A tentative agenda and on-line registration are available here.


Registrations are also being taken for for NACO's County Board of Equalization Workshop in Kearney on May 9. A tentative agenda is here. 


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snshSnapshots of County Issues 

Bills Advanced from General File

Counties that have reassumed the assessment function would be able to make their own decisions about contracts that had been entered into by the state prior to the transfer.  LB55, which was introduced by Senator John Wightman and designated as a speaker priority, advanced from General File.  

LB423 would address the role of counties in cases of cruelty, neglect or abandonment of livestock animals. As amended by the Agriculture Committee before advancing from General File, the bill clarifies the responsibility for payment for the care of animals that are alleged to be mistreated. 


LB263 would make clarifications to the five state-administered public employee retirement plans. The county plan would be revised to address county employees and officials who are affected by assessment transfers, among other issues. The bill advanced to General File on a 32-0 vote.



Bills Signed by Governor Heineman

Among the bills signed by Governor Heineman this week is LB434. The bill would require the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency to cooperate with other emergency management agencies and public agencies in the development of emergency management registries which include persons with functional needs for purposes of planning before, during and after a disaster or other emergency. Participation in the registry would be voluntary and the registry would not be considered a public record.










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