March 14, 2014                                                                              Legislative Report Archive

In This Issue


Snapshots of County Issues



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debateDebate Scheduled on Medicaid Expansion and Juvenile Issues

Debate on LB464, the bill to revise last year's juvenile justice bill, is scheduled for Tuesday morning, March 18. Senator Bob Krist has offered 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 has offered AM2164 on truancy issues. Among other provisions, the bill would replace the Truancy Intervention Task Force with a Council on Student Attendance that would include a county attorney. LB464 is Senator Ashford's priority bill. The Legislature convenes at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday and a handful of noncontroversial Select File bills will be addressed before debate on LB464 begins. The Legislature is in recess on Monday.


Debate on Medicaid expansion is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. LB887, the Wellness in Nebraska Act, would provide health care coverage to an additional 55,000 Nebraskans who have not previously qualified for Medicaid. Funding would be provided through an enhanced match of federal funds. The bill would result in greatly reduced general assistance medical costs for some counties. Four technical amendments, as well as the Health and Human Services Committee amendment, have been filed. Debate will be lengthy and it is anticipated that a cloture motion will be necessary to reach a vote on advancement. Late nights of debate will begin on Tuesday.


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amendsAmendments Increase as Long Days of Debate Begin

With adjournment scheduled in16 days and several controversial issues yet to be debated, committees and senators have been creating so-called Christmas tree bills by amending bills onto each other. Because the Nebraska Constitution (Art. III, sec. 14) limits bills to no more than one subject, the issue of germaneness is sometimes called into question. In part, the Legislature's rules define germane amendments as being in a natural and logical sequence to the subject matter of the original proposal. (Rule 7 section 3(d))


One bill that has been offered as an amendment to another bill is LB1043, a measure to eliminate documentary stamp taxes on transfers to 501c3 corporations that are not private foundations. It was offered as an amendment to LB867, which addresses municipal sales taxes.


Because amendments are sometimes offered without advance notice, NACO staff may call or email members of a particular affiliate group asking for immediate senator contact on an amendment that would impact counties.



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omniOmnibus Election Bill Advanced from First Round

On Friday, senators advanced an omnibus election bill, LB946, from General File. As introduced, the bill contained several distinct provisions. A committee amendment that was adopted before advancement would make revisions to the original bill and adds language from four other bills.


  • As it now stands, LB946 would use an official's salary on November 30 preceding the election as the basis for setting the candidate filing fee. Currently there is no date certain so election commissioners and county clerks sometimes have to contact candidates for additional fees after salaries are set.


  • Wages for persons appointed to the counting board in school district bond elections would be set at no less than the minimum wage.


  • Chief deputy election commissioners would be required to take the same oath as county officials. Currently no oath is specified.


  • Special elections for Class IV or V school districts could be held in conjunction with the primary or general election for a city of the primary or metropolitan class which is governed by a home rule charter. Existing statutes prohibit special elections in certain months unless held in conjunction with a statewide primary or general election.


  • Early voting ballots that are destroyed, spoiled, or lost and need to be replaced could be exchanged by delivering the ballot to the election commissioner or county clerk's office by 8 p.m., rather than noon, on the day of the election. The committee amendment would extend the noon deadline to 5 p.m. for special elections by mail.


  • In a special election by mail, the county clerk or election commissioner could chose not to mail a ballot to registered voters who appear to have moved and have failed to respond to a confirmation notice. Notice must be sent to such voters explaining how to get a ballot and setting out the applicable deadlines.


  • The list of registered voters who have returned their ballots during a special election by mail could be made public. Existing law prohibits such disclosure until the election has been certified by the canvassing board.


  • Overtime costs of permanent election employees could be included within the election costs charged to participating political subdivisions. Existing law includes compensation costs for only temporary election workers within the calculation.


The committee amendment addresses reporting thresholds for campaign contributions. It strikes language in the introduced version of the bill that would eliminate the prohibition against appointed election commissioners becoming candidates for office within six months after leaving office. This concept is expected to be the subject of an amendment on Select File.


The committee amendment pulls in language from LB833, which would clarify county surveyor election statutes. As amended and advanced as part of the omnibus bill, it would require all counties to hold an election in 2020 to determine whether the office should be filled on an elected or appointed basis. County boards in counties with an elected surveyor could opt out of the election and allow the issue of election or appointment to be presented to voters again pursuant to a petition or county board resolution.


Language from LB726 would change the number of members on Class II and Class III school boards.


LB743 would clarify when the second half of a term begins when an official is appointed to fill a vacancy.


Language from LB1084 would provide that the 45-day deadline to fill vacancies applies to cities.


The bill would take effect on January 1, 2015.



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snapSnapshots of County Issues

Bills Advanced by Committees

Two bills aimed at prison overcrowding and re-entry have been sent to General File with amendments by the Judiciary Committee.


The Judiciary Committee amendment to LB907, AM2376, would replace the introduced bill. A Nebraska Justice Reinvestment Task Force would be created to study and provide legislative solutions for overcrowding in the prison system. Members of the Task Force would include a variety of county members, such as a representative of the Sheriff's Association, County Attorney's Association, and NACO.


It is the intent of the amendment to appropriate additional money to the Office of Probation: $5 million to expand mental health services and $3.8 million for new reporting centers and expanded services. LB907 is a Judiciary Committee priority bill.


LB999, as originally introduced, would have created the Reentry Programming Board to support successful offender transition into the community. The Judiciary Committee amendment, AM2173, creates the Hastings Correctional Mental Health Facility at the former Hastings Regional Center. A hearing on the amendment has been scheduled for March 19 at noon in Room 1113 of the Capitol. LB999 is Senator Les Seiler's priority bill.


Another option to ease overcrowding is placement of inmates in county jails. LB 905, the deficit appropriations budget bill currently includes approximately $5 million over the remainder of this fiscal year and next fiscal year.  This appropriation would be utilized for county jail facilities to contract with and house Department of Correctional facilities inmates on a temporary basis.



Bills Advanced from General File

Senators advanced a nearly $8 billion budget package from the first round of debate this week. An amendment to LB905 was offered by Revenue Committee Chair Galen Hadley to add $20 million to the proposed new $25 million appropriation for the Property Tax Credit but it was not adopted. An amendment to remove $2.5 million in Capitol courtyard renovations and fountains also failed. The Appropriations Committee's budget recommendations are available here. The budget must be passed and sent to the governor by the 50th day, which is March 26.


A General Affairs Committee amendment to LB863 was divided into seven sections for first round debate. The first section (AM2297) contains LB855, a bill to revise cemetery statutes. Counties that have been maintaining an abandoned or neglected pioneer cemetery for at least five years would be allowed to transfer the management of the cemetery to a cemetery association. The county planning commission, if any, would review the proposed transfer and the county board would hold a public hearing before approving the transfer by resolution. Another section of the bill that advanced would prohibit the sale of nicotine vapor products to minors.


Military veterans who are 100 percent disabled due to a service-connected disability would receive a full homestead exemption, regardless of income, under LB1087. Unremarried widows and widowers would receive the same exemption. Due to concerns about the broadness of the exemption, amendments may be offered on Select File to create income limitations. Another homestead exemption bill, LB986, appears on Tuesday's agenda for Select File debate. It would broaden the tiers to add more benefits at higher levels of income and provide an exemption for persons with developmental disabilities. Another bill to provide benefits to veterans, LB75, was advanced from the Revenue Committee this week. The bill would allow veterans to choose either a 40 percent income tax exemption from military retirement benefits for seven years after separation from service or a 15 percent exemption starting at age 67.


Counties could see minimal revenue from increased fees charged to car rental customers under LB251. Existing law allows rental companies to charge 4.5 percent on each rental contract lasting less than 31 days to help cover the costs of motor vehicle taxes and fees paid in Nebraska. The bill would increase the amount to 5.75 percent. Collections in excess of taxes and fees due are returned to counties for distribution according to the regular motor vehicle formula of 22 percent to counties, 60 percent to schools, and 18 percent to cities and villages. If the tax district is not in a city, 40 percent is allocated to the county. In counties with a city of the metropolitan class, counties receive 18 percent and cities receive 22 percent.  


Senators debated, but did not advance, LB1092, which would allow the State of Nebraska to issue bonds for highway construction.  



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