April 3, 2015                                                                      Legislative Report Archive 

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sitingLivestock Siting Bill Amended and Advanced

Counties would have another tool to help evaluate conditional use permits for livestock development under LB106 as advanced from the first round of debate on Wednesday. Senators spent parts of three days debating amendments and policy issues surrounding the role of county boards, county zoning administrators, an advisory committee, and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.


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


Debate was controversial and by some counts there were not enough votes to either advance or kill the bill. As part of the procedural maneuvering, motions were made to bracket and recommit LB106 to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee with the intent of further study in conjunction with the Agriculture Committee. Senator Mike Groene proposed an amendment, AM1018, to eliminate the siting board and resolve conflicts through mediation. Senator Al Davis offered an amendment, AM1034, to make the matrix optional. The amendments were withdrawn and the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee was defeated at the request of the committee when a compromise amendment was offered by Senator Watermeier and adopted by the body. The amendment, AM1099, replaces the original bill with provisions to require the Director of the Department of Agriculture to appoint a committee of up to 10 experts to develop an assessment matrix that counties could choose to use to help determine whether to approve or disapprove a conditional or special exception application. Representatives from county boards, county zoning administrators, livestock production agriculture, the University of Nebraska, and other experts would serve on the panel. Counties could choose to use the matrix in whole, in part, or not at all. The Department of Agriculture would not have oversight over counties' use of the matrix. County board authority over siting decisions and appeals procedures would continue as currently in statute.


Debate spanned a variety of policy issues including local control by counties and the pressures put on county boards to make zoning decisions without objective, scientific analysis, the impact of commercial farming and ranching, and the need for consistent zoning to encourage agriculture as economic development.


The amended bill advanced on a 34-3 vote.


Minor technical amendments may be offered on Select File. Senator Dave Bloomfield may offer an interim study resolution to continue further examination of livestock siting issues.

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gastaxGas Tax Increase Advances from General File

Senators took the first step toward $25 million in new funding for county roads and bridges when they advanced LB610 this week. On a 26-10 vote, senators advanced the bill to increase the fixed fuel tax distributed to the counties, cities, and the state. The increase would be phased in over four years.


The state currently collects 7.5 cents per gallon in motor fuel tax. 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 follow the existing fuel tax distribution formula. Along with a portion of motor vehicle sales taxes, fuel taxes are placed in the Highway Allocation Fund, which is then evenly divided between counties and cities. The overall county share is 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.


Because the bill faces opposition on Select File debate, county officials are strongly encouraged to contact their senators and express support of LB610. If your senator voted in favor of LB610, please thank him or her for supporting counties and encourage continued support of LB610. If your senator voted against LB610 or did not vote, explain your county's road and bridge needs and encourage him or her to support LB610. A list of senators and their contact information can be found here on the Legislature's website.


Senators voting in support of LB610:

Baker, Campbell, Coash, Crawford, Friesen, Gloor, Groene, K. Haar, Hadley, B. Harr, Hughes, Johnson, Kolowski, Kolterman, Kuehn, Lindstrom, McCollister, Morfeld, Nordquist, Pansing Brooks, Scheer, Schumacher, Selier, Smith, Stinner, Williams


Senators voting against LB610:

Bloomfield, Bolz, Brasch, Chambers, Garrett, Kintner, Larson, Murante, Sullivan, Watermeier


Senators Absent, Excused, or Not Voting:

Cook, Craighead, Davis, Ebke, Hansen, Hilkemann, Howard, Krist, McCoy, Mello, Riepe, Schilz, Schnoor



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correctJudiciary Committee Advances Corrections Bills 

LB605, a corrections bill based on recommendations made in a Council of State Governments study, was officially reported out of the Judiciary Committee this week. It is one of two priority bills that combine several key concepts from extensive research by the Judiciary Committee, the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigatory Committee (the LR424 committee) appointed by the Legislature last year, recommendations of the Council of State Governments (CSG), and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative working group. These recommendations developed following extensive research of the corrections systems in Nebraska and meetings with stakeholders.


LB605 received a priority bill designation by the Speaker. LB605, as amended by AM1010, is 110 pages that would implement many of the recommendations made by CSG and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative working group. Included within the amendment's provisions are changes to classifications of penalties, punishments, probation and parole provisions. In future years, over 100 additional probation officers would be added to assist in implementation of these changes, as well as increased court administration staff. A County Justice Reinvestment Grant program would be established to assist counties by providing grants to offset jail costs. The allocation of the grants would be pursuant to a formula developed by the Crime Commission and based on the total number per county of individuals incarcerated in jails and the total capacity of jails. The fund would be used exclusively to assist counties in the event their daily jail population increases within three years after the effective date of LB 605.


Also included within AM1010 are provisions from LB12 that would require the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Correctional Services to promulgate rules and regulations to ensure that enrollment in a medical assistance program is suspended, rather than terminated, when an enrolled individual becomes an inmate of a public institution. Not only would this provision potentially enable the individual to obtain services more quickly and efficiently but it may reduce the county's general assistance obligations in some instances.


LB598 is a priority bill of the Legislature's Performance Audit Review Committee. LB 598, as amended by AM928, would incorporate provisions of LB592 (Bolz) and LB606 (Mello) into LB598 (Schumacher). All three bills were introduced to implement the recommendations made by the LR424 committee. The LR424 committee recommendations included the Performance Audit Committee recommendations from its audit of the Department of Correctional Services. Such recommendations include but are not limited to changing and providing treatment and segregation of mentally ill inmates, revising Public Counsel provisions, and creating an Inspector General to investigate and make recommendations related to systematic reform and case-specific action.


The Judiciary Committee also reported the following bills out of committee:

  • LB390 would allow the use of hemp oil, also referred to as cannabidiol oil, to treat "intractable seizures". A committee amendment would narrow the uses and dispensation to a pilot study conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Senator Sue Crawford prioritized the bill. Senator Tommy Garrett's priority bill, LB643, that would allow the use of cannabis for medical treatment, was not advanced.
  • LB136 would prohibit the sale, possession, and use of flying lanterns. Proponents of the bill argue that they present a fire hazard. The bill was not prioritized.
  • LB289 would prevent cities and villages from enacting ordinances to prevent the carrying of concealed weapons. The bill was not prioritized.
  • LB30 would state that information contained by federal, state, county or local departments or agencies related to firearm registrations or permits is not considered a public record. The information would be available to all law enforcement agencies. The bill was not prioritized.



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 pdogsPrairie Dog Management Repeal Stalls

LB128, a bill to repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act, appeared on Thursday's Final Reading agenda but senators did not take a vote on advancement. The bill would eliminate county authority to develop a plan to manage prairie dogs on private property.


Senator Al Davis, who had been absent due to illness when the bill was debated on Select File, expressed his opposition to the bill on Final Reading. In an effort to fill the time necessary for a cloture vote, he filed a motion to bracket the bill until June 5, 2015. When the motion failed, he filed a motion to recommit the bill to the Agriculture Committee. When the recommit motion failed, he filed a motion to reconsider the motion to recommit the bill. The motion was successful. Senator Ernie Chambers, who introduced LB128, did not file a cloture motion to force a vote on the bill and time ran out for further debate.


Almost immediately afterward, Senator Chambers filed bracket motions on most of the bills that were scheduled to follow LB128 for Final Reading votes. Because the agenda indicated that bills with specific amendments would be passed over, debate moved to General File Speaker priority bills after advancing the two bills without bracket motions.  


The Final Reading bills appear on Tuesday's agenda without the notation to pass over bills with pending motions. Some of those bills include LB498, which would require dealers of ATVs and UTVs to collect sales taxes at the point of sale. County treasurers would collect sales taxes on private sales. The vehicles would have to be registered for an $8 fee.  


LB139, as originally written, would have limited the ability of counties to hire a part-time mass assessment appraiser who does not hold an appraiser's license. As amended and advanced, the bill imposes a one-year moratorium on enforcement actions against such individuals by the Real Estate Appraisal Board. An interim study will be conducted on the issue.


LB356 would require county assessors to use the income approach to value rent-restricted property. A committee would develop a capitalization rate using a band of investment technique or other generally accepted techniques.

LB627 would update the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act to clarify workplace protections for pregnant workers and prohibit discrimination against pregnant persons.



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 snahpshotsSnapshots of County Issues

Senator Galen Hadley reminded the body this week that much work remains to be done in the final third of the legislative session. With 22 priority bills still in committee and 60 on General File on the 56th day, senators would need to move an average of six bills per day, in addition to adopting the budget, to complete their work before the session ends on June 5. Debate this week was often contentious and procedural maneuvering sometimes upstaged substantive discussion.


Following a four-day weekend, the session will reconvene on Tuesday to take up Final Reading bills. Debate on a redesign of Medicaid in LB472 will begin on Wednesday afternoon. Bills on Select File will be on Thursday's agenda.


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