March 7, 2014                                                                              Legislative Report Archive

In This Issue


Consent Calendar and Late Nights Planned
Snapshots of County Issues



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consentConsent Calendar and Late Nights Planned

With twenty days left in the session, Speaker Greg Adams has announced plans to lengthen the days of debate beginning on March 18. Except for the final day of the work week, debate on "late nights" will generally conclude by 8:30 p.m., but could continue until 11:59 p.m., if necessary.


In addition, plans are being made to address bills through a consent calendar near the end of the month. To be eligible for  the consent calendar, a bill must be noncontroversial, not make a lot of changes, and have no state General Fund impact. Because bills must be reported to General File by today to be eligible for consent calendar, committees moved numerous bills to the floor today.


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juveniAction Taken on Property Tax Bills

Debate on property tax relief began on Thursday with a bill (LB986) to expand the homestead exemption to add more benefits at higher levels of income. A committee amendment was adopted to add language from LB850, which would make persons with developmental disabilities eligible for the exemption. Debate on LB986 focused on the cost of property tax relief and the need to maintain Nebraska's population. 


The Revenue Committee moved four bills addressing tax and valuation issues and failed to advance a proposal to reduce agland valuation from 75 percent to 65 percent of market value. The committee deadlocked 4-4 on LB670, Senator Beau McCoy's priority bill. A second bill to reduce agland values, LB145, was prioritized by Senator Lydia Brasch and remains in committee.


The bills that advanced are LB723, LB885, LB558, and LB761. None received a priority designation, but some could be candidates for consent calendar or could potentially be amended onto other bills as property tax debate continues.


LB723 would require irrigated cropland to be divided into subclasses of property and add water availability and well capacity as factors for assessors to consider when determining comparable sales. A committee amendment would strike the proposed subclass language and add language waiving the water availability and well capacity consideration if current data is not available from a federal, state, or local government entity. A separate bill, LB686, would change the date to June 1 for property owners to certify the non-irrigated status of their property for purposes of occupation taxes.


LB885 would require assessors in counties of 150,000 or more to use the income approach, including a discounted cash-flow analysis, when determining the value of two or more vacant or unimproved lots in the same tax district that are held by the same person for sale or resale. To qualify for this treatment, the property owner would have to elect to treat the lots as one parcel. A committee amendment would clarify that the lots would be in the same subdivision or tax district. The amendment sets out a process for the county assessor to protest the income approach, including the discounted cash-flow analysis, to the county board of equalization if he or she believes that it does not result in valuation at actual value. The county board of equalization could appeal to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. The appeals process was added to address concerns of unconstitutionality.


LB558 would provide that an action seeking a declaratory judgment that a tax or penalty is unconstitutional must be brought within 12 months after the tax or penalty was assessed. Currently it must be brought within the same tax year.


LB761 would create a state tax amnesty program and change the process for the state to contract with private vendors to identify taxpayers with an outstanding tax liability of $25,000 or more. At least 80 percent of revenue collected would be directed to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund. A committee amendment would strike the amnesty sections and require the state to enter into a contract with a vendor to identify persons who do not file, do not pay, or underreport state taxes in excess of $5,000. 



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snapSnapshots of County Issues

Amendments Filed

A bill dealing with liquor issues would also contain provisions about cemeteries if the General Affairs committee amendment to LB863 is adopted. The cemetery provisions were originally introduced as LB855 and would allow counties to transfer abandoned and neglected pioneer cemeteries to cemetery associations. The original sections of LB863 would address city and village votes for sales of liquor by the drink. In addition to the cemetery language, other bills included in the committee amendment would prohibit the sale of nicotine vapor products to minors (LB861), define hard cider (LB899), allow hard liquor tasting cards (LB1052),and allow certain craft breweries bottling endorsements (LB914). A final bill in the committee amendment, LB888, would allow local governing bodies to permit expanded on- and off-sale of liquor until 2 a.m. on a two-thirds vote. The bill was advanced to General File and is a General Affairs priority bill. It appeared on Friday's agenda but was not taken up before adjournment.


Two amendments to LB464 have been offered to revise a juvenile justice bill adopted last year (LB561) and clarify truancy issues. Senator Bob Krist introduced AM2163 to provide an additional $5 million to the Community-based Juvenile Services Aid program. The amendment would also clarify the cost obligations of counties, Probation, and the Office of Juvenile Services. Senator Brad Ashford offered AM2164 on truancy issues. LB464 is Senator Ashford's priority bill.



Bills Advanced by Committees

Appropriations Committee

The Appropriations Committee released its three-bill budget package on Friday. The package updates the two-year budget adopted last year. Among other provisions, it includes an additional $25 million for property tax credits. Senator Galen Hadley has offered an amendment to increase that amount to $45 million. To assist with overcrowding within state correctional facilities, the budget package provides for a one-time appropriation to pay counties willing to house state inmates in county jails. The committee's recommendations are available here. The jail language appears on page 27. Debate on the budget package will begin at 1:30 on Monday.


Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee advanced LB737 which revises qualifications for county veterans service officers. Existing law requires five years' bona fide residency for five continuous years before assuming the position. As introduced, the bill would have removed the durational residency requirement. A committee amendment would change the residency requirement to one year. If there is no applicant in the county who has been a Nebraska resident for at least a year, the requirement could be waived. The amendment also sets a one-year residency requirement for members of the county veterans service committee and personnel in the office. The bill did not receive a priority designation.


Revenue Committee

The Revenue Committee advanced LB1043 that would grant an exemption from documentary stamp taxes for deeds transferring property to 501c3 corporations without consideration. Such corporations could not be private foundations.


Judiciary Committee

Mobile homes would be considered abandoned vehicles if left on private property for more than 30 days after a local government sent a letter to each of the last registered owners under LB1044. A Judiciary Committee amendment would require posting notice on the mobile home. It would clarify that the bill would not apply to mobile or manufactured homed for which an affidavit of fixture has been recorded.


LB784 would revise language disqualifying persons with criminal offenses from serving on juries. The bill would instead disqualify only those persons who have been convicted of a felony offense.


Bills Advanced from General File

On Tuesday, senators advanced LB814, which would earmark existing taxes collected on the sale of motorboats and personal watercraft for deferred maintenance of Game and Parks facilities. LB841 was amended into the bill. It would transfer sales taxes collected on all-terrain and utility-type vehicles to the Game and Parks fund.  


Bills Debated on Select File

Senators advanced several measures from the second round of debate on Wednesday, including LB144, which allows certain candidates who lost in the primary due to a tiebreaker to write-in on the general election ballot. An amendment adopted on Select File would expand this process to 39 elected offices. As advanced from the first round of debate, the bill applied only to county, city, village, and school district elections.


LB661 would require the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Department of Motor Vehicles, to develop and implement an electronic voter registration process by July 1, 2015. Applicants with a valid Nebraska driver's license or state ID could use the process to register to vote or update their voter registration record. The Secretary of State would obtain an electronic copy of the applicant's signature from Department of Motor Vehicles for purposes of the voter registration. The Department would develop a process to electronically transmit voter registration information to county clerks and election commissioners. Upon receipt of the application for registration, the election commissioner or county clerk would send an acknowledgment of registration to the applicant indicating whether the application is proper or not. The bill also contains language to limit the release of digital signatures to law enforcement agencies or for electronic voter registration purposes.  



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