April 17, 2015                                                                      Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


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gasGas Tax Increase Advances to Final Reading

Nebraska is one step closer to $75 million in new road and bridge funding. LB610 advanced from the second round of debate on Monday. The bill would increase motor vehicle fuel taxes by 1.5 cents each year for four years. When fully implemented, counties and cities would share $50 million and the state would receive $25 million.


The state currently collects 7.5 cents per gallon in motor fuel taxes. 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. In FY18-19 collections would total an estimated $50.8 million.


The county and city share would be placed in the Highway Allocation Fund along with a portion of motor vehicle sales tax receipts. The Fund is 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.


During Select File debate, an amendment (AM1158) was offered to limit the tax increase to counties and cities, with the proceeds designated for bridges and culverts only. Senator Mike Groene, the introducer, argued that counties, not the state, need more money for roads and discussed the options for using the proposed new dollars for matching funds. The amendment failed.


An amendment was offered by Senator John Murante (AM1120) to provide an income tax credit for motor vehicle fuels for persons with an income of less than $25,000 to offset the regressive nature of fuel taxes. It was determined not to be germane.


Senator Beau McCoy offered and withdrew an amendment (AM1118) to transfer $11 million from the state's cash reserves to the Highway Cash Fund. Counties do not receive funding from the Highway Cash Fund.


Although there were concerns that a cloture vote might be needed to end debate, the bill advanced on a 27-14 vote. If LB610 passes on Final Reading, Governor Pete Ricketts has said he will veto it. Thirty votes are needed to override a governor's veto.  


If you haven't already done so, please contact your senator and express support of LB610 and an override motion, if needed. 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.


Voting in favor of LB610 on Select File:

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


Voting against LB610 on Select File:

Bloomfield, Bolz, Brasch, Chambers, Craighead, Davis, Groene, Kintner, Krist, Larson, McCoy, Murante, Sullivan, Watermeier


Not voting on Select File:

Cook, Garrett, Hansen, Hilkemann, Mello, Riepe, Schilz, Schnoor


You may also want to consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper expressing your support for LB610.


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reformPrison Reform Bills Debated

LB605, a bill based on key recommendations from extensive research into corrections reform last summer, was amended and advanced from General File on Tuesday. Senators agreed to continue working with county attorneys and the Attorney General to try to reach a compromise on sentencing issues before Select File debate.


LB605, a Speaker priority bill, was introduced by Senator Health Mello to adopt recommendations made by the Council of State Governments (CSG), the Judiciary Committee, the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigatory Committee (the LR424 committee), and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative working group.


A Judiciary Committee amendment, AM1010, which replaced the bill, would change classifications of penalties, punishments, probation and parole provisions. In addition to increased court administration functions, it is projected that more than 100 additional probation officers would be needed to assist in the implementation of the proposed changes. A County Justice Reinvestment Grant program would be established to assist counties by providing grants to offset jail costs. The fund would be used exclusively to assist counties in the event their daily jail population increased within three years after the effective date of LB 605. The grants would be allocated pursuant to a formula developed by the Crime Commission and based on the total number of individuals incarcerated in jails per county and the total capacity of jails.


Other sections in AM1010 incorporate provisions from LB12 to 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. This would enable the inmate to obtain services more quickly and efficiently and could reduce some county general assistance obligations.For additional information on this issue, see the Legal Line within the NACO E-Line that will be published later today.  


A second amendment, AM1242, was adopted to change the classification of some offenses from a Class III felony to a Class IIA felony and revise minimum and maximum sentences. The amendment was based upon LB483, which was introduced by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks and reported out of the Judiciary Committee this week. The amendment would require that the minimum sentence limit imposed by the court can be not more than one-third of the maximum sentence limit.


The Legislature also advanced LB598 and LB173 from General File. LB598, as amended by AM928 and advanced, incorporates provisions of LB592 and LB606. All three bills were introduced to implement the recommendations made by the LR424 committee. Such recommendations included changing and providing treatment and segregation of mentally ill inmates, creating the Office of Inspector General of the Nebraska Correctional System, and increasing reporting requirements.


LB173 would revise habitual criminal statutes to apply only to violent offenses. It would incorporate provisions from LB172 to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for Class IC and ID felonies. LB173 was introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers and prioritized by Senator Les Seiler.


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zonmatZoning Matrix, Juvenile Bills Moved to Final Reading

Senators started debate on Monday by advancing a list of bills from Select File, the second round of debate. Among the bills advanced was LB106, a measure that would require the Department of Agriculture to develop an assessment matrix that could be used by county officials to determine whether to approve a conditional use permit. A panel of up to ten experts, including representation from county boards, county zoning administrators, livestock production agriculture, and the University of Nebraska, would annually review the matrix and recommend changes.


Three bills that advanced from Select File address juvenile justice issues. LB347 would expand the jurisdiction of the Inspector General. Existing law allows the Inspector General to investigate alleged misconduct by or through the Department of Health and Human Services. LB347 would expand that authority to include investigations into the Juvenile Services Division of the Office of Probation Administration, the Crime Commission, and juvenile detention and staff secure juvenile facilities.


LB265 would expand the scope of the Foster Care Review Office. In addition, it contains provisions from LB13 to create a data system using money from the Community-based Juvenile Services Aid Fund.

It also contains provisions from LB25 that clarify the juvenile court's jurisdiction over youth that have committed misdemeanors and persons categorized as young adults for purposes of continuing services or treatment.


LB482 would promote the use of community-based resources for juveniles and limit the use of shackles on juveniles in the courtroom.


LB641, which would give disabled persons operating a manual or motorized wheelchair on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk the same rights as a pedestrian, was also advanced from Select File. An amendment that was offered and withdrawn on General File has been offered again. The amendment would grant the same rights to bicycle riders and enact restrictions for bikes ridden on sidewalks.


A proposed constitutional amendment to revise term limits failed to advance. LR7CA, as amended, would have shifted from four-year terms to six-year terms.

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electElection Clean-Up Sent to the Floor

An election clean-up bill introduced on behalf of the Secretary of State, LB575, was advanced by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee this week. Among other provisions, it would clarify language requiring counties and other entities to fill vacancies within 45 days. The deadline for write-in affidavits would be changed from ten days prior to the election to the second Friday to address concerns in counting days. Early voting requests could be submitted by email.


A committee amendment would incorporate language from LB578, LB514, and LB319. Language taken from LB578 includes a number of concepts, such as increasing the minimum rate each political subdivision is charged for placing an issue on the ballot. LB514 would add an address confirmation option for certain persons who wish to register and vote early on the same day. LB319 would expand mail elections to allow candidates to be included on the ballot. LB575 is a Government Committee priority bill.



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 snahpshotsSnapshots of County Issues

Bills Reported out of Committee

Certain undocumented young people who came to the United States as children would be allowed to receive driver's licenses under LB623. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee advanced LB623 to the floor on a 5-2 vote. Senator John McCollister selected LB623 as his priority bill. 


Bills Signed by Governor Ricketts

The following bills of interest to counties were signed by Governor Pete Ricketts this week:

  • LB139 - Creates a one-year moratorium on actions against unlicensed mass appraisers by the Real Property Appraiser Board
  • LB356 - Revises assessment procedures for rent-restricted housing
  • LB367 - Allows petition circulators to be paid based upon the number of signatures collected
  • LB627 - Prohibits employment discrimination against pregnant persons
  • LB33 - Requires the Department of Correctional Services to develop an annual strategic plan


Bills Vetoed by Governor Ricketts

At the request of introducer Speaker Galen Hadley, Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed a bill to revise sales tax collections on all-terrain vehicles and utility-type vehicles. LB498 was introduced to require dealers to collect sales taxes on these vehicles and create a registration process. A structural flaw in the bill would have applied the registration requirements retroactively, rather than only prospectively. The bill will be revised and introduced next year. 



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