April 10, 2015                                                                      Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


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 fraternalExemption for Fraternal Benefit Societies Advanced

Fraternal benefit societies would be exempted from property taxes by LB414, which was advanced from General File this week. Senator Burke Harr, who introduced and prioritized the bill, characterized it as a measure to create clarity and address disparities in taxation of fraternal organizations within and between counties.    


One of the recipients of LB414's exemption would be the Woodmen of the World Insurance Society that has its headquarters in downtown Omaha. Last year it sought a tax exemption for the portion of the 30-story building that houses its operations. The request was denied and the matter was appealed to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC).


Senators discussed the differences between property owned by Woodmen and other organizations that sell insurance, such as Knights of Columbus. The lodges that serve as meeting places for the members of the latter organizations are generally exempt except for areas with alcohol sales or other proprietary functions. In contrast, the space in the Woodmen building is used for corporate operations and is currently not exempt.


At the Revenue Committee hearing on LB414, Woodmen and Omaha Chamber of Commerce representatives testified that other states began recruiting Woodmen when they learned that the exemption had been denied in Nebraska.  


Floor debate compared the economic benefit of keeping Woodmen's 550 jobs in Nebraska to the property taxes that could be generated on the property. Senators expressed concerns that other entities might request exemptions or threaten to leave the state unless tax breaks were given. Other debate focused on the merits of providing a tax exemption for charitable 501c8 entities compared to a property tax break for local property tax payers.


Motions to bracket and indefinitely postpone the bill failed. A floor amendment was offered by Senator Ernie Chambers to limit the exemption to charitable and benevolent institutions which have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The amendment was not adopted. The bill advanced from the first round of debate on a 29-14 vote.


Property taxes also became a part of the debate on a bill to provide tax exemptions for zoos. LB419, as introduced, would exempt the sales and purchases of any zoo or aquarium accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. An amendment by Senator Heath Mello, who introduced and prioritized the bill, was adopted to limit the exemption to memberships of accredited zoos operated by public agencies or nonprofit corporations primarily for educational, scientific, or tourism purposes. Some senators questioned the appropriateness of granting such an exemption when property tax relief had not been provided to other taxpayers during this session. Appropriations Committee members pointed out that the proposed state budget would add $60 million to the state's property tax credit fund. LB419 advanced from General File.


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medicaidMedicaid Bill Bracketed

After a Health and Human Services Committee amendment failed to be adopted, senators bracketed this year's Medicaid-related bill until June 5, 2015. Some senators viewed it as expansion of Medicaid, while others viewed it as a redesign with significant savings to the state in the long run. While the move does not outright kill LB472, the issue will be postponed for the remainder of this session. As introduced, LB472 would create the Medicaid Redesign Task Force and provide Medicaid coverage to newly-eligible adults. The committee amendment would have changed the membership of the committee to address constitutional concerns about the separation powers.


A supplementary article addressing Medicaid-related issues for county jail inmates will appear in the April 17, 2015 edition of NACO's E-Line.



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lateLate Nights of Debate Scheduled

Speaker Galen Hadley has released a list of potential dates for the Legislature to work into the evening hours during the remainder of the session. "Late nights" typically adjourn around 8:30 p.m. or later, but can continue until 11:59 p.m. He noted that many significant - and possibly lengthy - issues remain before the body, including adopting the state's budget, repealing the death penalty, increasing the gas tax, addressing workplace discrimination, increasing minimum wages, revising Learning Communities, allowing the use of medical marijuana, and reforming prisons.  


The list of late nights can be found on the Speaker's page on the Legislature's website.  


Monday, April 13 will be the 62nd day of the 90-day session. Monday's agenda calls for second round debate on three bills dealing with juvenile issues -- LB347, LB265, and LB482. LB347 would expand the jurisdiction of the Inspector General. LB265 would expand the scope of the Foster Care Review Office and would create a data system using money from the Community-based Juvenile Services Aid Fund. LB482 would promote the use of community-based resources for juveniles and limit the use of shackles in the courtroom.  


LB106, which would require the Department of Agriculture to develop a matrix that counties could use to help them determine whether to approve or disapprove a conditional use permit or special exception, appears further down the Select File agenda. It is accompanied by LB106A, a bill to appropriate $24,000 to the Department in FY15-16 to develop the matrix.


LB610, a bill to increase gas taxes to generate funding for roads and bridges, also appears on the agenda. Second round debate on LB610 is likely to occur mid-week.


The complete agenda is available here.   


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 snahpshotsSnapshots of County Issues

Bills Reported out of Committee

Tax sales investors who bid down their interest could seek a partition action on tax deeds when a tax sales certificate was purchased for less than 100 percent of the interest under LB230. The Revenue Committee reported the bill to the floor on a 6-2 vote with an amendment limiting the ascertained share payable to the investor to the amount paid for the certificate, including accrued interest, costs, and reasonable attorney's fees.


LB468, as introduced, would adjust retirement benefits for judges. A Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee amendment would incorporate concepts from LB602. It would assess a $6 fee on each participant in adult and traffic pre-trial diversion with the fee directed to the Judges Retirement Fund. The amendment would also redirect $2 from the civil, criminal, and probate case docket fees from the state General Fund to the Judges Retirement Fund. Beginning on July 1, 2017, the redirected fee would increase to $3.  


Bills Debated on General File

Senators voted to bracket a bill to treat votes of public officials as public records. A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment to LB649 would have created a process for preserving votes for leadership positions in public bodies as public records. The bill stemmed from efforts early in the session to make votes for legislative leadership public.


Senators advanced LB132 that would require joint public agencies to follow the same procedures as participating entities when issuing bonds. An amendment may be offered on Select File to specifically allow joint public agencies to refinance bonds at a better rate. 


Bills Passed on Final Reading

Bills that were delayed last week on Final Reading were addressed on April 7. Bills passed that would revise sales tax collections on ATVs and UTVs (LB498), create a one-year moratorium on actions against unlicensed mass appraisers by the Real Property Appraiser Board (LB139), and revise assessment procedures for rent-restricted housing (LB356). Other bills that passed would increase the amount schools could spend for construction or improvements before being required to go out for bids (LB341), allow petition circulators to be paid based upon the number of signatures collected (LB367), require the Department of Correctional Services to develop an annual strategic plan (LB33), and prohibit employment discrimination against pregnant persons (LB627).


Two bills on Final Reading were returned to Select File for an amendment. LB15 would require the Nebraska Supreme Court to place into rule standards for guardians ad litem for juveniles in juvenile court proceedings. Guardians could be compensated on a per-case basis or through a system of multi-case contracts. The amendment would make minor technical changes. LB245 would allow incarcerated individuals to request that a court reconsider evidence used in their trials. The amendment was requested by the governor and attorney general to extend the time limit for a motion for a new trial from three to five years. This extension and other revisions would give potentially innocent people additional access to the courts.

Bills Signed by Governor Ricketts
Minors who request emergency medical assistance for themselves or others in response to a possible alcohol overdose may be exempt from prosecution for minor in possession charges under LB439.The bill will take effect three calendar months after the session adjourns. 


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