May 1, 2015                                                                 Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


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 budgetState Budget Advanced from First Round

Debate on the state's biennial budget started on Thursday when lawmakers advanced a seven-bill, $8.7 billion budget package from the first round of debate. The budget includes an additional $60 million per year for the Property Tax Credit, which is currently funded at $140 million. Additionally, funds would be appropriated to pay counties that contracted to hold inmates for the state Department of Corrections. Other provisions are detailed in the Appropriations Committee Biennial Budget Report, which is available on the Legislature's website. The budget bills are LB656, LB657, LB658, LB659, LB660, LB661, and LB662.


The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met on Thursday and increased revenue projections by $22 million over its February estimate. The Appropriations Committee will revisit the budget before Select File debate to look at options for the additional revenue.


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fratExemption for Fraternal Benefit Societies Advances

Fraternal benefit societies, such as Woodmen of the World, would receive an exemption from real property taxes under LB414, which advanced from the second round of debate on Wednesday. A cloture motion was needed to end debate and call for a vote to advance the bill. The cloture motion received 33 votes, exactly the number needed to halt debate, and the bill advanced on a 29-13 vote.


The bill would provide $1.2 million in real property tax exemptions for portions of the Woodmen building in downtown Omaha, as well as allowing exemptions for 31 other fraternal benefit societies, such as the Knights of Columbus. Woodmen sought an exemption from Douglas County, which was denied, and appealed to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC). The TERC appeal is pending.


During Select File debate, opponents argued that the bill should be held until the TERC appeal is decided. They questioned whether adopting legislation for this exemption would lead to other kinds of entities asking the Legislature for exemptions in future years. They contrasted the policy of granting a property tax exemption for an organization with the need to provide property tax relief for individuals.


Proponents discussed the 550 jobs that would be lost if Woodmen moved to another state due to the lack of an exemption. They argued that similar property is exempt in 92 other counties and that like property should be treated alike.


Senator Burke Harr, the introducer of LB414, requested an Attorney General's opinion, No. 15-005, to help answer questions about whether the bill would exempt all property owned by a fraternal benefit society from taxation, including areas not used for charitable purposes. The opinion concluded that any property owned by a fraternal benefit society not used for charitable purposes would be taxable. It declined to address whether fraternal benefit societies would be exempt from sales and use taxes. The opinion was published on page 1272 of the Legislature's daily journal.


Two amendments to more narrowly define the part of the property that would be exempted, AM1447 and AM1368, were offered and lost. Senator Mark Kolterman offered and later withdrew AM1071 to discuss reducing agland values from 75 percent to 65 percent of actual value. Senator Ernie Chambers offered a motion to bracket the bill until June 5, 2015.The motion failed.

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consentConsent Calendar Used to Move General File Bills

The Legislature used a consent calendar process to advance 36 bills from General File on Wednesday. In mid-March, senators were given an opportunity to recommend noncontroversial bills for the consent calendar. According to the Legislature's rules for consent calendar, if three members object to the consideration of a particular bill on the consent calendar, it is removed. Debate on each bill is allowed for 15 minutes, after which a vote is taken to advance the bill and any pending motions or amendments. Any amendment adopted, other than a standing committee amendment, which adds new subject matter to the bill results in the bill not being scheduled at the next stage of debate.


  • LB138 would name the Land Surveyors Regulation Act and add a code of practice to the rules and regulations of the Nebraska Board of Examiners for Land Surveyors. The code would govern the professional conduct of surveyors.


  • LB55 would give the Adjutant General flexibility to make expenditures of up to $25,000 for disasters or emergencies without an emergency proclamation by the Governor. Currently the funds are earmarked for aerial suppression for wildfire and hazardous materials response. A committee amendment was adopted to provide clarity to the role of the Adjutant General.


  • LB334 would repeal the Nebraska Workforce Investment Act due to enactment of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. The Nebraska Act is not in compliance with the federal law.


  • LB464 would eliminate requirements to include social security numbers and IRS taxpayer identification numbers on effective financing statements on farm products. The Secretary of State has developed a unique identifier system to prevent possible future disclosures in public records.


  • LB123 would require registered warrants to be paid in order of registration to particular funds. The bill was introduced in response to concerns about the payment of multiple warrants issued by sanitary and improvement districts.


  • LB277 would clarify that special assessments in sanitary and improvement districts survive the issuance of a tax deed. Legislation adopted in 2011 authorized the special assessments to survive the judicial foreclosure method of obtaining title after taxes are delinquent, but the tax deed sections were omitted at that time.


  • LB283 would give school districts and educational service units the same authority to make emergency expenditures, enter into contracts, and incur obligations as other local governments in emergency situations. An amendment was adopted to change references to obtaining a certificate as proof of the emergency to using a proclamation of the emergency.


  • LB375 would revise the Nebraska Real Estate License Act so that a broker's price opinion or comparative market analysis could be used for real property tax appeals.


  • LB570 would expand the ability to use golf cars in areas not adjacent to golf courses, subject to approval and regulation by counties and cities.


  • LB408, as introduced, would change the penalty for a corporation's delinquent property taxes from a felony to a misdemeanor if the tax amount is less than $1,000. County treasurers, who send the delinquency notice to corporate taxpayers, suggested that the penalty was unnecessary because tax sales encourage the payment of delinquent taxes. A committee amendment was adopted to outright repeal this section of statute (77-1726).


  • LB412 would revise C-BED (Community-Based Energy Development Act) laws to eliminate a requirement for a county board resolution in support of a wind energy project. Instead, only counties that have adopted zoning regulations requiring a planning commission, county board, or county commission approval for the C-BED project would have to pass a resolution in support. An amendment was adopted to allow zoning approval adopted by the county board to substitute for the resolution.


  • LB479 would strike language limiting military memorials on public lands or in public places to service related to the Civil, Spanish-American, World Wars, Korean, or Vietnam conflicts. Instead, counties, townships, cities, and villages could commemorate the service of members of the armed forces in any conflict.

  • LB424 would expand the nameplate capacity tax structure that is currently applied to wind energy to other renewable energy sources. The nameplate capacity tax is a substitute for the taxation of personal property.

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 snahpshotsSnapshots of County Issues
Schedule Change for Next Week
Senators began late nights of debate this week and worked until almost 10 p.m. on Wednesday. Starting on May 4, a revised schedule with a 20-minute "at ease" lunch break will be used for a one week trial as an alternative to late nights. The Legislature will tentatively adjourn by 7:00 p.m. during the trial period. Typically during full days of floor debate, a lunch recess is  scheduled from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. On the last working day of the week, senators usually work through lunch and adjourn mid-afternoon. The memos outlining the schedule for the final 16 days of the session are here on the Speaker's page.

Diversion Fees Proposed to Fund Judges Retirement
Lawmakers began first-round debate on a bill intended to create long-term sustainability for the judges retirement plan. LB468, as revised by a Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee amendment, would assess a $6 fee on participants in pre-trial diversion programs with the funds directed toward the Judges Retirement Fund. County attorneys would need to report existing pre-trial diversion programs and inform the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Board if new programs are established. In addition, fees would be redirected from civil, criminal, traffic and probate cases handled in county court. The bill would increase retirement contribution rates and decrease benefits for new judges. General File debate on LB468 will continue at 12:00 p.m. on Monday, May 4.

Joint Public Agency Bonding Advanced from Select File

Bonds issued by joint public agencies would have to follow the same requirements as the participating entities under LB132.The bill was introduced to increase transparency in the bonding process. An amendment was adopted to allow for refinancing of existing bonds as long as the final maturity date is not extended and there is no additional principal added to the refinancing. LB132 advanced from Select File on Wednesday.

Among the other bills advanced from Select File are LB264, which would allow military service and training to apply toward credentialing in health professions, and LB561, which would change election procedures for irrigation districts.


Bills Signed by Governor Ricketts

The following bills of interest to counties were signed by Governor Ricketts on Wednesday.  


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.  


LB245 would allow incarcerated individuals to request that a court reconsider DNA evidence used in their trials.


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. The bill outlines the reasons restraints could be used on juveniles during court appearances.


LB324 would authorize certain sanitary and improvement districts to regulate the same actions county boards can regulate by ordinance.


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