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April 4, 2014                                                                              Legislative Report Archive
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Snapshots of County Issues
 

 

 

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fiveFive Legislative Days Remain

With five legislative days remaining, senators worked later into the evening this week. Several controversial bills were debated on General File and more debate is scheduled for Monday on bills to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation (LB485) and changing assault provisions (LB752). Debate is also expected to be lengthy on Select File bills dealing with highway construction bonds (LB1092) and water issues (LB1098). An amendment has been offered to LB1098 that would incorporate language from LB723 outlining the factors a county assessor must consider in the valuation of irrigated acres.

 

Because the debate will focus on a limited number of bills, no regular legislative newsletter will be published next week. The Legislature will be in recess from April 11 to 16. The next newsletter will be an end-of-session summary published after the session adjourns on April 17.

     

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budgetbilBudget Overrides Successful

On Tuesday senators restored $61 million of the $65 million vetoed by Governor Heineman from this year's budget revisions. The overridden vetoes include funding for replacement of the motor vehicle titling and registration system, Game and Parks Commission deferred maintenance of state parks, heating and air conditioning repairs for the State Capitol and courtyard fountains, staff within the State Auditor's office, and other revisions. Many of the new expenditures are for one-time expenses and do not represent ongoing new commitments.

  

As enacted, LB905 adds $25 million for property tax relief through the Property Tax Credit. It provides a $7.4 million appropriation in contingency funds to cover possible shortfalls in probation funding due to juvenile justice reforms enacted last year in LB561. It appropriates funds to contract with counties to house prison inmates on a temporary basis and states the intent to investigate whether leasing a former Lancaster County jail facility could be part of the plan to address prison overcrowding. LB999, a measure to examine the possibility of using part of the former Hastings Regional Center for a correctional behavioral health treatment center, is pending on Final Reading.

  

Overridden language in LB906 reinstated $1.1 million to the Water Sustainability Cash Fund.

 

Several amendments were offered to sustain the vetoes but none were adopted.

 

On Wednesday, senators took up a motion to override the veto of LB671, which would end the hunting season for mountain lions. The effort was not successful.

 

     

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taxbillsTax Bills Signed into Law

Governor Heineman signed numerous bills this week and vetoed others as discussed above. The following bills will affect counties:

 

  • LB1087 expands the homestead exemption program to exempt the taxable value of homesteads owned by veterans who have a one hundred percent service-connected disability and are not eligible for a total exemption under other provisions applicable to disabled veterans. Unremarried widows and widowers of such veterans would also be eligible for the exemption. The bill will take effect on January 1, 2015.

 

  • LB986 adjusts the tiers for other homestead exemptions to reflect inflationary factors and adds an exemption for persons with developmental disabilities.

 

  • LB987 adjusts individual income tax rates for inflation and provides an income tax exemption for military retirement.

 

  • LB946 revises numerous election provisions, including clarifying the election process for county surveyors. It designates the salary on November 30 of the year preceding the election as the basis for determining the candidate filing fee for the upcoming term. It takes effect on January 1, 2015.

 

  • LB661 requires the Secretary of State and Department of Motor Vehicles to develop an electronic voter registration system. Upon receipt of an application for registration, a county clerk or election commissioner must send an acknowledgment of registration to indicate whether the application is proper or not.

 

  • LB251 increases the fees charged by car rental companies to help cover the costs of motor vehicle taxes and fees paid in Nebraska. Under existing law, such fees collected in excess of motor vehicle taxes and fees are distributed to counties, cities, and schools under the regular motor vehicle distribution formula.

 

  • LB814 revises definitions and registration procedures related to all-terrain and utility-type vehicles. County treasurers will collect the sales and use taxes at the time of application for the certificate of title for such vehicles. For five years, sales and use taxes collected for these vehicles and personal watercraft will be used by the Game and Parks Commission for repairs at state parks. The bill becomes operative on October 1, 2014.

 

  • LB560 requires all employers to provide employees with an itemized statement listing their wages, deductions, and hours worked, if appropriate, on each payday. The statement would be delivered or made available to each employee by mail or electronically or provided at the employee's normal place of employment during employment hours.

 

  • LB901 creates the Nebraska Mental Health First Aid Training Act to help the public identify and understand the signs of mental illness or substance abuse. The training would be provided through the behavioral health regions. The regions will work with agencies and organizations including law enforcement agencies and local health departments to develop a program that offers grants to implement the Act in ways that are representative and inclusive of the economic and cultural diversity of the state.

 

  • LB983 brings Nebraska into compliance with new federal requirements for commercial motor vehicle drivers' licenses.

 

  • LB740 allows veterans who are registered to vote and demonstrate objective evidence of intent to be a Nebraska resident to be considered a resident student for purposes of enrollment in a public college or university.

 

  • LB867 revises distributions made under the Sports Arena Facility Financing Assistance Act. The bill includes language from LB1043 to eliminate documentary stamp taxes on transfers to 501c3 corporations that are not private foundations. In addition, purchases by historic automobile museums and sales of currency or bullion are exempted from sales tax.

 

  • LB132 requires parental consent for indoor tanning by persons under age 16.
 

      

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concalConsent Calendar Bills Advanced to Final Reading

Twenty-four bills appeared on Monday's Select File consent agenda. The following bills, which advanced to Final Reading, would impact counties:

 

  • LB792 would eliminate an outdated school report that county treasurers send to the State Treasurer.

  

  • LB816 would allow electronic forms to be used as proof of automobile liability insurance.

  

  • LB780 would eliminate the filing of a Form 521 with death certificates not related to transfer on death deeds. 

  

  • LB937 would change the number of county supervisors that constitutes a quorum from two-thirds to a majority of the members. 

  

  •  LB737 would reduce the residency requirement for veterans service officers from five years to one year and allow an exception if there are no applicants.

 

  • LB750 would require continuation statements to be filed in the Secretary of State's office for artisan's, thresher's, veterinarian's, and several types of agricultural liens that were initially filed prior to November 1, 2003.

 

  • LB1039 would allow commercial haulers of farm equipment an exemption from size, weight, and load requirements when moving equipment to for from the dealer's place of business. The dealer would provide a signed statement that indicating authority for the hauler to act on their behalf. The statement would be subject to inspection by any peace officer.

 

  • LB701 would allow an insurance company to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a salvage branded title when they are unable to obtain a properly endorsed title from the owner of a totaled vehicle.

 

  • LB828 would expand the use of audiovisual court appearances in criminal proceedings in county court.

 

  • LB930 would prohibit excavation within 25 feet of an underground natural gas transmission line unless a representative of the operator of the line is present at the planned excavation area.

 

  • LB1044 would classify mobile homes as abandoned if left on private property for more than 30 days after notice from a local government unit. Like other abandoned vehicles, mobile homes would be subject to sale, auction, or vesting of title with the governmental entity.

     

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snapSnapshots of County Issues

Amendments Offered to Final Reading Bills

Two bills will be returned from Final Reading next week for amendments that were offered on Thursday.  AM2776 to LB907 would revise the makeup of the Nebraska Justice Reinvestment Working Group that would study and provide potential solutions to prison overcrowding. The amendment would remove the NACO representative  and other local governments from the group. We have contacted Senator Brad Ashford's office to be sure that NACO remains a partner in the process.

 

AM2767 would insert a severability clause into LB191. Last week language providing for separate valuation of vacant lots (LB885) was amended into LB191, which would provide tax credits for historic properties. The amendment would protect the original provisions of LB191 should there be a constitutional problem with the bill.

 

Bills Advanced from General File

Increased funding for aerial fire suppression was amended into LB390 before advancement from first-round debate. Currently the Adjutant General may make expenditures of up to $10,000 without an emergency proclamation from the governor. The amendment would increase the amount to $25,000. As introduced, LB390 would remove the authority of the Governor to suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of firearms. Amendments would create an exception to the prohibition against possession of a firearm on school grounds for historical reenactments, hunter education programs, and honor guards.

 

Bills Advanced from Select File

New procedures would be enacted for persons registering to vote and voting early on the same day in the county clerk's or election commissioner's office under LB565. General File debate on LB565 started last week and continued on Monday, when it was advanced. Ballots would be treated like provisional ballots and kept separate for ten days. If the acknowledgment of registration was returned during that time as undeliverable for any reason other than clerical error, the ballot would be rejected. Senators discussed whether early voting ballots comply with the constitutional requirement to preserve secrecy in voting. Several years ago a third "secrecy" envelope was eliminated from the mail-in process. 

 

At the beginning of the week, LB464, a  juvenile justice bill, was pulled back from the Final Reading agenda for a specific amendment. AM2687 would transfer $450,000 from the state's General Fund to the State Court Administrator to help pay for proposed new duties related to court-connected prehearing conferences and other services for juveniles.  This budgeted amount  is currently within the Department of Health and Human Services' budget.  The amendment was a variation of LB1093 that was voted out of Committee.  It was a potential consent calendar bill; however, it had a monetary component to it.  The amendment  was adopted and the Legislature will consider the bill on Final Reading prior to the session's conclusion. 

 

The Legislature also amended LB464A on Select File.  The amendment (AM2709) removed additional money that would have been appropriated for community-based aid.  The stated purpose of doing so was to conform with available money in the State's budget.  Additionally, the amendment would correct appropriations language related to Problem Gambling.

 

 

Bills Passed by the Legislature

Among the bills passed by the Legislature this week are LB717, which would bring Nebraska into compliance with new federal regulations for real property appraisers and LB851. LB851contains language from LB681, which combines last year's bills on land banks and tax sales. Due to the timing of their passage, sections of statute that were amended in both bills could not be harmonized into a single law without separate legislation this year. 

 

     

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