May 31, 2013                                                                             Legislative Report Archive

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publicPublic Records Bill Passed by Legislature

Custodians of public records would not be able to charge for their time spent researching or copying certain public records requests until after four hours have been dedicated to the task under LB363. The bill was passed by the Legislature on Wednesday and awaits the governor's signature. If signed, it would take effect three calendar months after the end of the session.


LB363 would provide that the custodian of a public record is not required to copy public records that are available to the requester on the custodian's website. If the requester does not have reasonable access to the Internet due to lack of a computer, lack of Internet availability, or inability to use a computer or the Internet, the custodian would have to produce the copies.


When the custodian of a public record makes a copy, existing law allows the charges to include the actual cost of making the copies available, which has been interpreted to include the costs of the custodian's time in preparing the copy. LB363 would state that if copies are provided, the fee cannot exceed the actual added cost of making the records available. Salaries of public officers or employees could not be included in the cost for the first four cumulative hours of searching, identifying, physically redacting, or copying the records. The fee could not include any charges for the services of an attorney who reviews the record seeking a legal basis to withhold the record from the public.


If printed copies are provided, the actual added cost for making the copies could include the cost of the supplies, such as paper, toner, and equipment, or additional payment obligations for contractors needed to comply with the request. If the request is for electronic copies, the cost could include the added cost for providing computer services, including charges from a third-party technology services company.


If a public records request is extensive and the public body provides a cost estimate to the requester, LB363 would give the requester ten business days to review the estimated costs and decide whether to pursue or withdraw the request or to narrow the request. If the requester does not respond, the custodian would not be required to fulfill the request.



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sessionSession Approaches Final Day

Today marks the 87th day of the 2013 legislative session. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die on June 5. Bills not passed or killed will carry over to the 2014 session with their current status. Unless otherwise specified, bills will take effect three calendar months after adjournment.


NACO will not publish a legislative report next week. A summary of the bills that were passed will be published mid-June.



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issuesSnapshots of County Issues

Bills Debated on General File

First round debate on LB348, a measure addressing valuation of rent-restricted properties, began on Tuesday but the bill has not appeared on the agenda again. A Revenue Committee amendment would require assessors, when using the income approach to value rent-restricted properties, to use the capitalization rate provided by NIFA (Nebraska Investment Finance Authority). NIFA would calculate the rate annually, taking into account the federal tax credits available to investors in such projects. The properties are difficult to value due to the lack of sales, especially during the first ten years of operation. Senator Ernie Chambers has filed a motion to bracket the bill until June 5, 2013.


A bracket motion also meant the end of debate on LB574. The bill was introduced on behalf of the League of Municipalities to clarify that unpaid sewer and water bills and similar outstanding amounts owed to cities are considered special assessments for purposes of lien priorities.  


Bills Advanced from Select File

Resident disabled veterans and businesses located in designated enterprise zones would be given preference in receiving state contracts if all other factors are equal pursuant to LB224. The bill was advanced from General File and completely rewritten before advancing from Select File on Thursday. As originally written, counties and other political subdivisions would have been required to give preference to veterans when contracts are awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.


LB613 would give legislative standing and special committees specific authority to issue subpoenas to require state agencies, political subdivisions or persons to provide information relevant to the committee's work. This authority could be used in conjunction with a tax study, LR155, that was adopted on Thursday. The Tax Modernization Committee will be composed of the members of the Legislature's Revenue Committee and several committee chairs, as well as two other members of the Legislature. The committee will consider fairness, competitiveness, stability and other elements deemed necessary to a new tax system. The committee will examine previous tax studies and may request information from state agencies and political subdivisions.


Bills Passed by the Legislature

Senators spent much of Wednesday addressing bills on Final Reading, including LB93 and LB104.


Veterans could have their military service noted on their driver's license or state identification card pursuant to LB93. Veterans would have to register with the Department of Veterans' Affairs in order to be eligible for the notation.


LB104 would give sales tax breaks to wind farms investing at least $20 million in the state. It would also reduce the maximum local option sales tax in cities of the metropolitan class from 2 percent to 1.5 percent.


Bills Signed Into Law

On May 29, Governor Dave Heineman signed LB561 and LB561A. The bills shift the supervision of juvenile offenders in the community to the state's probation system and provide additional funding to County/Community-based Juvenile Services Aid. Additional funding allows the Crime Commission to hire a Director of Juvenile Diversion and a Director of Community-based Juvenile Services to help coordinate juvenile justice diversion and juvenile services in Nebraska. The legislation carried the emergency clause.


Governor Heineman also signed several other bills of interest to counties. LB341 revises tax sales statutes to eliminate the bid down process, increase tax sales certificate issuance fees, and add a bidder registration fee. The bill carries a January 1, 2015 effective date. Some of the language from LB341 may need to be adopted again next year if LB97, which was passed by the Legislature this week, is signed by the governor.

LB97 would authorize the creation of municipal land banks in large counties and would amend some of the statutory sections revised by LB341. Legislation in 2014 would harmonize the two bills, as well as clean up conflicting refund language in LB341.


LB66 allows cities to undertake redevelopment projects on property located on formerly used defense sites located within a sanitary and improvement district. A city approving a project and the county in which the city is located could enter into an interlocal agreement for the county to reimburse the city for the services provided by the city to the site.


LB623 gives counties more flexibility in bidding road and bridge projects. Existing law requires competitive bidding for projects in excess of $60,000. LB623 increases the dollar amount triggering competitive bidding to $100,000. The bidding amount for materials for these projects increases from $10,000 to $20,000.


LB140 amends the Airport Zoning Act. The bill requires every political subdivision that has an airport hazard area within the area of its zoning jurisdiction to adopt specified zoning regulations, even if a comprehensive plan and zoning regulations have not been adopted.


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