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March 13, 2015                                                                      Legislative Report Archive 

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priorityPriority Bills Designated by Senators and Committees

Many of the issues that will be debated during the last half of the legislative session were determined this week as senators and committees selected priority bills. Each senator is entitled to designate one priority bill and most committees may designate two bills. In addition, the Speaker may choose 25 Speaker priority bills. Priority bills are generally debated before other bills except appropriations bills. A priority designation does not guarantee that a bill will come out of committee.

 

A full list of priority bills can be found on the Legislature's website. Bills of interest to counties and the senator or committee making the priority designation include:

 

Senator Priority Bills 

  • LB15 (Krist) Provide additional powers and duties for guardians ad litem. LB 15 appears on Monday's agenda for General File debate.
  • LB31 (Bloomfield) Eliminate motorcycle and moped helmet requirements
  • LB67 (Ebke) Provide for governmental unit bond priority
  • LB106 (Watermeier) Adopt the Livestock Operation Siting and Expansion Act and change powers of counties relating to zoning
  • LB113 (Larson) Provide a co-payment for correctional inmates' health care services
  • LB173 (Seiler) Change habitual criminal provisions
  • LB268 (Chambers) Change a penalty from death to life imprisonment without parole, eliminate a homicide report, and change provisions relating to murder in the first degree and restitution
  • LB350 (Brasch) Change valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land
  • LB414 (Harr) Provide a property tax exemption for fraternal benefit societies
  • LB498 (Hadley) Change sales and use tax provisions relating to all-terrain vehicles and utility-type vehicles
  • LB610 (Friesen) Change motor fuel excise taxes
  • LB649 (McCoy) Require all votes taken by public officials to be a public record as prescribed

   

Committee Priority Bills 

  • LB139 (Banking, Commerce and Insurance) Change and eliminate provisions relating to the Real Property Appraiser Act. LB139 appears on Monday's agenda for General File debate.
  • LB175 (Agriculture Committee) Adopt the Livestock Growth Act and change provisions of the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act
  • LB259 (Revenue) Adopt the Personal Property Tax Relief Act
  • LB265 (Judiciary) Change provisions relating to juveniles and child welfare
  • LB356 (Revenue) Change provisions relating to the assessment of certain rent-restricted housing projects. LB356 appears on Monday's agenda for General File debate.
  • LB468 (Nebraska Retirement Systems) Change benefit and contribution provisions relating to judges retirement
  • LB472 (Health and Human Services) Adopt the Medicaid Redesign Act
  • LB482 (Judiciary) Change provisions relating to juveniles
  • LB575 (Government, Military and Veterans Affairs) Change provisions relating to ballots for early voting, write-in candidates, and filling vacancies

 

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bridgeBridge Commission Bill Delayed for Further Discussion

County officials from across the state testified Monday on a proposal to create an 11-member commission to package bridge projects in an effort to create efficiencies. Transportation and Telecommunications Committee Chairman Jim Smith introduced LB609 and asked that the committee hold the bill this year until further work can be done on the issue. He said that proponents and opponents of the bill have a common focus and that good infrastructure is critical to Nebraska's economy.

 

At the same hearing, the committee took testimony on a bill introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell to illustrate possible mechanisms for funding bridges and roads. LB626 is not intended to go forward on its own, but rather is a shell bill containing a variety of taxes and fees that could be increased or expanded to generate funds.

 

LB610, a bill to increase gas taxes to provide road funding, was heard by the Revenue Committee last week and advanced to General File. Senator Curt Friesen has designated LB610 as his priority bill. County officials will receive more information about contacting senators when the bill is scheduled for floor debate.  

   

On Tuesday, county officials testified on LB652, a bill to revise the statewide structure for Next Generation 911. The Nebraska Public Service Commission would become the statewide governing authority and oversee the distribution of funds. Effective July 1, 2017, counties would lose the authority to impose a surcharge on landline phone service to help pay for 911. The bill will be held by the committee until Governor Ricketts appoints a new Chief Information Officer.

 

The committee also heard LB535 that would grant the Public Service Commission authority to prescribe the depth requirements for underground natural gas pipelines and major oil facilities that are located in two or more counties. The bill was introduced in response to a county considering the adoption of zoning regulations requiring pipelines to buried at a depth different than federal requirements.

 

The Judiciary Committee heard LB473, which would eliminate the power of eminent domain for pipelines. Neither committee has taken action on these bills.  

 

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revenueRevenue Committee Advances Property Tax Bills

The Revenue Committee began advancing pieces of a property tax relief package this week.

 

LB259, as introduced, would provide an exemption from the first $25,000 of taxable personal property. A committee amendment would exempt the first $15,000 of valuation in each county where a personal property tax return is filed. Personal property valued at $1,000 or less would not need to be reported. Revenue lost to counties would be reimbursed by the state. The bill would take effect on January 1, 2016. LB259 was selected as a Revenue Committee priority bill.

 

The committee failed to advance  LB350, which would have reduced agland valuation from 75 to 65 percent of actual value, and LB357, the Platte Institute's plan to reduce income tax rates and increase funding for the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund.

 

Other bills addressing levies and valuations were sent to the floor. LB356 would require assessors to use the income approach to value rent-restricted property. As introduced, the bill would create a committee to set a statewide capitalization rate based upon an Iowa formula. A Revenue Committee amendment removes the formula and would allow the committee to calculate a different cap rate for a county or group of counties if determined appropriate. Language that is currently in regulations would be added to statute to require the committee to use a band of investment technique or other generally accepted techniques to set the market derived cap rate. Language suspending tax collections when appeals are filed would be removed by the committee amendment. An amendment may be offered to clarify that expense and income data provided by investors must be at the actual amount, rather than an estimate. The bill has been selected as a Revenue Committee priority and is the last bill on Monday's agenda for first-round debate.

 

LB424 would extend the nameplate capacity tax to additional types of renewable energy sources. Currently only wind energy is taxed in this method. The bill would expand this to solar, biomass, and landfill gas energy sources.

 

LB325 would restore independent levy authority of 10.5 cents to fire districts. Since property tax reforms were passed in 1996, rural and suburban fire districts have been among the miscellaneous districts subject to levy allocation by county boards. The bill would allow levy authority if the fire district is in a county that had a levy of at least 40 cents in the previous year or the county did not allocate any levy authority to the district in the previous year. The bill was advanced without committee amendments.  


A bill to revise requirements for appraisers and persons performing mass assessment, LB139, was prioritized by the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee. As introduced, the bill would create a definition of employee that would limit the ability of counties to hire a part-time mass assessment appraiser who does not hold an appraiser's license. A committee amendment would strike the proposed definition, but still not provide an exemption from holding an appraiser's license for mass appraisal. Committee members have suggested an interim study to address this issue. LB139 appears on Monday's agenda for General File debate.

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hearingHearing Set on State Aid to Counties and Cities

Counties and cities would each receive $20 million in state aid for public infrastructure projects under LB633, which will be heard by the Appropriations Committee on March 18. The hearing will begin at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1003 of the State Capitol. Because the hearing room is small, an overflow room may be used to accommodate attendees.  

 

Four years ago, counties lost more than $9.5 million in state aid due to the state's fiscal crisis. LB633 would restore those losses. It is one of many proposals competing for an estimated $42 million of state revenue.    

County officials are encouraged to contact the committee in support of the bill.  


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 snahpshotsSnapshots of County Issues
Committee Hearings Held This Week.
Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee

Inmates' private health insurance plans would reimburse political subdivisions when the policy holder is in jail pending the disposition of charges. LB341, which was heard by the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee on Monday, would also prohibit counties from paying insurance premiums for inmates. Senators discussed the impact of Medicaid expansion on inmate medical costs.  

  

Bills Reported Out of Committee 
The Legislature's standing committees voted this week to advance a number of bills to the full body for debate. In addition to the bills noted elsewhere, below are some bills of interest to counties.

Judiciary Committee

LB482 would clarify the treatment of juveniles charged with status offenses, such as truancy. It would prohibit the use of restraints in juvenile court proceedings. LB482 has been designated as a Judiciary Committee priority bill.

 

LB347 would expand the jurisdiction of the Office of Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare to investigate juvenile detention, staff secure juvenile facilities, and other state agencies. A committee amendment would require courts and probation officers to provide confidential record information to the Inspector General's office and the Foster Care Review office.

LB188 would codify the judicial definition of "innocent third party" during a pursuit by law enforcement.

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee

LB649, as written, would revise public records statutes to state that all votes taken by public officials in the course of their public duties are considered public record. A committee amendment would replace the introduced bill with a requirement that each vote cast by a public official for a leadership position must be recorded and preserved. Leadership votes could be taken secretly as long as the person for whom the public official voted is recorded after the tally. The bill was prioritized by Senator Beau McCoy. It was introduced by Senator Bill Kintner to address concerns about elections for legislative leadership roles.

 

LB575 would clean up and implement best practices for elections.   Among other provisions, it clarifies language requiring vacancies in office to be filled within 45 days.

 

LB132 would require joint public agencies to follow the same bonding procedures as a participating public agency. A committee amendment would require voter approval before bonds could be issued. LB575 and LB132 were prioritized by the Government Committee.

 

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee

LB31, a bill to repeal the motorcycle helmet law, was sent to the floor by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. A committee amendment would apply the exemption from wearing a helmet to persons at least 21 years of age. Senator Dave Bloomfield prioritized the bill.

 

Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee

LB67 was advanced from the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee. It would provide that general obligation bonds and other government financings have a statutory lien on bond pledged revenue sources. It is intended to address the priority of bondholders should a governmental entity file bankruptcy. LB67 was prioritized by Senator Laura Ebke.  

 

Bills Advanced from Select File
Several bills were advanced from second-round debate on Thursday.

LB128 would repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act. The Act allows counties to develop a prairie dog management plan.

LB504 would give defense counsels more time to review pre-sentence investigation reports. The bill allows for the electronic transfer of information and provides for redacting the names and addresses of witnesses.
 
Bills Passed by the Legislature
Among the bills passed by the Legislature this week are LB23, which would modernize the Engineers and Architects Regulation Act by streamlining definitions and reflecting current licensing procedures, and LB146, which would provide for the disposition of unclaimed remains in a veterans cemetery.

      

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selectedSelected Hearings
Every bill introduced by the Legislature is the subject of a public hearing. Following is a schedule of bills that are of interest to counties.Note that bills not appearing on this list may be heard during the same hearing.  A complete list of hearings is available on the Legislature's website. Hearings on legislative bills will conclude on March 20.

 

Wednesday, March 18

Revenue Committee 

Room 1524 - 1:30 PM

  • LB587 (McCollister) Change the motor vehicle tax schedules
  • LB613 (Kintner) Provide duties for the Department of Revenue and change income tax rates and the distribution of sales and use tax revenue

 

Appropriations Committee

Room 1003, 1;30 p.m.

  • LB633 (Stinner) Appropriate funds for state aid to municipalities and counties

 

Thursday, March 19

Judiciary Committee

Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.

  • LB30 (McCoy) Prohibit disclosure of any applicant or permitholder information regarding firearms registration, possession, sale, or use as prescribed
  • LB14 (Krist) Create the offense of use of a facsimile firearm or nonfunctioning firearm to commit a felony
  • LB603 (Bloomfield) Provide for processing and certification of federal firearms forms as prescribed

 

Friday, March 20

Judiciary Committee

Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.

  • LB225 (Schnoor) Change provisions relating to unlawful possession of a firearm at a school
  • LB340 (Brasch) Provide signage requirements and duties for the Nebraska State Patrol under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act
  • LB635 (Garrett) Change where a permitholder may carry a concealed handgun under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act
  • LB638 (Garrett) Change permit expiration provisions for members of the armed forces or their spouses under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act

 

 

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