March 27, 2015                                                                      Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


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 gasGas Tax Debate Expected Early Next Week
County officials are encouraged to contact their senators as soon as possible in support of LB610, a bill to increase gas taxes to help fund roads and bridges. The bill is expected to appear on the Legislature's agenda for floor debate early next week.


The bill would increase the fixed portion of the motor fuel tax. The state's tax rate is currently 7.5 cents. Counties and cities divide 2.8 cents. The bill would increase the state's rate by a half-cent each year through 2019, to total 9.5 cents. The county and city share would be increased by one cent each year to a final rate of 6.8 cents in 2019. In FY15-16, counties and cities would share an estimated $4.2 million. The receipts would increase to $16.9 million in FY16-17, to $29.6 million in FY17-18, to $42.3 million in FY18-19, and to $50.8 million in FY19-20 and beyond.


The county and city share would go into the Highway Allocation Fund which is divided evenly between counties and cities. The county share is then distributed to individual counties based upon a formula that includes population, lineal feet of bridges, motor vehicle registrations, miles of county roads, and the value of farm products.


LB610 was introduced by Senator Jim Smith and prioritized by Senator Curt Friesen. It advanced from the Revenue Committee on a 5-2 vote. A complete list of senators and their contact information can be found on the Legislature's website.  



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livestockLivestock Siting Bill On Legislature's Agenda

LB106, the Livestock Operation Siting and Expansion Act, appeared on the Legislature's agenda for two days this week and is likely to be debated next week. A significant number of changes to the bill have been discussed since its introduction and six amendments have been offered on the floor, including a Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee amendment. The bill was introduced and prioritized by Senator Dan Watermeier.


As introduced, the bill would provide for the Department of Agriculture to develop a matrix for counties to use when determining whether to approve an application for a livestock operating siting permit. If the permit is denied, the applicant could appeal to a siting review board and eventually to the district court.


The committee amendment, AM521, was offered by the Government Committee when they reported the bill to the floor. It would clarify that the only county zoning authority modified by the bill is the specific authority to grant conditional use permits or special exceptions for siting of livestock permits. Other proposed revisions would provide for direct appeal of county siting decisions to the district court and allow counties to adopt higher thresholds than in the bill.


AM643 and AM698 are placeholder amendments that allow proponents to secure a strategic place in the que as amendments are offered. As is typical for this type of amendment, each would strike a particular section of the bill. AM698 is drafted to strike section 1 of the committee amendments and the AM643 would do the same to the bill as introduced.


AM997 will replace AM698 and would revise the committee amendment. It would clarify a number of issues, including the frequency with which the matrix would be reviewed.


AM1018 has been offered by Senator Mike Groene. The amendment would eliminate the siting review board and would instead allow the parties to enter into mediation or appeal directly to the district court. The amendment would clarify that the bill would not apply to counties that have not enacted zoning and would require an annual review of the matrix. The amendment is intended to address concerns about local control.


AM1034 has been offered by Senator Al Davis. It would state that the Act would only apply to counties electing to use the matrix developed by the Department of Agriculture. Counties could decide whether to use the Department's matrix, create their own matrix, or proceed without a matrix.


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correctJudiciary Committee Advances Corrections Bills 

Three bills to address prison overcrowding were sent to the floor from the Judiciary Committee this week. LB598 would codify the results of a special investigation of the Department of Corrections this summer relative to the use of segregation of inmates. A committee amendment would incorporate two bills containing other recommendations from the study. Concepts from LB592 would address inmate mental health evaluations and provide for independence of the Parole Board. Concepts from LB606 would adopt the Office of the Inspector General within the Ombudsman's office. LB598 was prioritized by the Legislative Performance Audit Committee.


LB173 would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and amend habitual criminal statutes. A committee amendment would incorporate the provisions of LB172 that address mandatory minimum sentences for Class IC and ID felonies. Senator Seiler prioritized LB173. 


LB605 does not yet appear on committee records as officially being reported out. As introduced, it would change classifications of penalties and use probation and other tools to reduce overcrowding. LB605 is a Speaker priority bill.  


In addition, the Legislature advanced LB265, LB482, and LB347 from General File. As introduced, LB265 would expand the scope of the Foster Care Review Office to include children in out-of-home placements. A committee amendment was adopted that contains concepts from LB25, which would extend the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and LB13, which would create a data system using money from the Community-based Juvenile Services Aid Fund. A further technical amendment was adopted before the bill advanced.


LB482 would require certain factors to exist before juveniles could be fingerprinted or placed in a juvenile detention facility for status offenses, such as truancy. County attorneys would be required to make reasonable efforts to refer juveniles to community-based resources. A Judiciary Committee amendment would outline the reasons restraints could be used on juveniles during court appearances.


LB347 would expand oversight authority for more of the state's juvenile justice system to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). A Judiciary Committee amendment would allow the OIG and Foster Care Review Office to access confidential records for use in investigations.


LB15, which revises reporting and training requirements for guardians ad litem, is the first bill scheduled for debate on Monday. The Legislature will convene at 10:00 a.m.



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 snahpshotsSnapshots of County Issues
Full Days of Debate Begin
Committee hearings wrapped up last week and senators began full days of debate this week. Senators continued a filibuster of LB31, a bill to repeal motorcycle helmet laws. After 8 hours of debate, a cloture vote was taken and failed. The bill was removed from the Legislature's agenda.

Select File
Senators advanced LB70 from Select File. The bill would require operators of certain touch-screen video games to prove that they are legal or pay a 10 percent occupation tax on the gross revenue derived from the machine.

Final Reading
LB128, a bill to real the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act, was pulled back from Final Reading on Friday for debate on two motions intended to kill the bill. The Act, which was adopted in 2012, allows counties to enact management plans when landowners complain about prairie dogs on neighboring land. The bill does not appear on Monday's agenda.


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