February 5, 2016                                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

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govpropRevenue Committee Hears Governor's Property Tax Bill
On Thursday the Revenue Committee heard more than six hours of testimony on Governor Pete Ricketts's property tax proposal, LB958. The bill would cap aggregated valuation growth at 3 percent, remove budget exceptions for interlocal agreements and capital improvements, restrict the use of unused budget authority, and eliminate the authority for governmental entities to use a townhall meeting to exceed levy authority.
County officials testified and wrote letters in opposition to give specific examples of how the bill would affect counties. Changes to unused budget authority provisions would limit counties' ability to undertake capital improvement or new construction projects in future years without issuing bonds, particularly in counties that are already at their limit of restricted funds.
County officials pointed out that although interlocal agreements have historically been encouraged to produce efficiencies, LB958 would remove financial incentives for increased cooperative efforts. As the result of losing lid exceptions, counties might not be able to continue offering the same level of services to residents, including services provided through interlocal agreements. In addition, the proposed valuation cap would be applied in the aggregate, so individual parcels would not see an automatic three percent reduction in value.
Representatives of cities, schools, fire districts, natural resources districts, and community colleges also testified in opposition to the bill.
The committee heard two other property tax relief proposals. LB717 would freeze property valuations as of January 1, 2016. The current three-year comparable sales history would be replaced with a five-year cycle that would drop 20 percent of sales with the lowest valuations. LB940 would also freeze values for three years or until the Legislature passed long-term property tax relief policies.
Two other property tax relief proposals initiated by Governor Ricketts have been scheduled for public hearings. LB959 will be heard by the Education Committee on February 9. It would control growth in the school funding formula by limiting school budget increases. LB960 would create a $150 million infrastructure bank to accelerate completion of the expressway system and provide matching funds to counties to repair deficient bridges.
carryoverCarryover Bills Advanced from First Round
General File carryover bills from 2015 were advanced through a consent calendar process and regular floor debate this week. Some of the bills that advanced to the second round of debate include:

LB311 was introduced last year on behalf of the Department of Motor Vehicles to reflect federal language on gross vehicle weights, revise CDL leaner's permit procedures, and require specific affirmation language on commercial driver's license and learner's permit applications. An amendment was offered by Senator Curt Friesen to incorporate language from LB785 that eliminates a requirement for driver licensing services to be provided in every county. Senators discussed how often driver's license examiners are available in small counties and how far residents would be willing to travel to obtain a license. The amendment was adopted and the bill advanced to Select File.
LB295, as revised by an Urban Affairs committee amendment, reflects a compromise between counties and cities. As introduced, LB295 would require county approval before a city could take enforcement action on ordinances, bylaws, rules, regulations, and resolutions within its extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction. The amendment would require cities of the first or second class and villages to give counties notice and an opportunity to comment when zoning ordinances are proposed. The city could take action after 30 days from the notice or when comments are received from the county, whichever is sooner.
LB400 would revise the timeline for candidates to file financial disclosures from April 1 to March 1 for the prior fiscal year. Under existing law, if a candidate files before January 1, he or she must file a C-1 financial statement for the prior year, then file a second statement for the next year by April 1. If the second filing deadline is not met, the candidate's name cannot appear on the ballot. However, due to the timing of election laws, it may be too late to remove the candidate's name from the ballot.
LB53 would allow vehicles not manufactured or equipped with a front license plate bracket to use a single license plate on the rear of the vehicle. A license decal would be issued with the plate and would be displayed on the driver's side of the windshield. The single plate and decal would be subject to an annual $100 fee that would be credited to the Highway Trust Fund.
LB695 clarifies procedures for returning ballots in sanitary and improvement district elections. During discussions about the information on return envelopes, there was some debate about adding a secrecy envelope to other ballots returned by mail. A bill to require secrecy envelopes was introduced last year and remains in committee.
LB775 is a technical bill requested by the Department of Revenue. It would change the factor used to calculate motor vehicle taxes from the year of acquisition to the year placed in service. It would also clarify that trailers and semitrailers are tangible personal property that is exempt from taxation.
transportationTransportation Committee Hears 911 Bills
A bill introduced by Transportation and Telecommunications Committee Chair Jim Smith would give the Public Service Commission (PSC) authority to begin moving toward an updated 911 system. LB938 would create the 911 Service System Act to direct the PSC to take the lead on coordination of 911 service on a statewide basis. Local governing bodies would continue to be responsible for dispatch and provision of emergency services. The new Act would cover basic 911, enhanced-911 service, enhanced wireless 911 service, next-generation 911 service, and other emerging technologies, networks, and systems. The PSC would appoint a state 911 director to administer the Act and develop the statewide plan in conjunction with the commission. The plan would include details about which costs would be paid by local governing bodies and which would be paid from surcharges. NACO facilitated meetings of stakeholders throughout the summer to work through issues presented in last year's legislation, LB652.
LB927 would allow 911 surcharges to be equalized throughout the state by eliminating separate provisions for Douglas County. Under existing law, all counties can charge fifty cents per month on each landline for installation, maintenance and operation of 911 service. All counties except those containing a city of the metropolitan class can charge an additional fifty cents per line per month. The bill would allow Douglas County to charge the full dollar. Likewise, the Public Service Commission can currently impose a wireless surcharge of up to fifty cents in counties containing a city of the metropolitan class and up to seventy cents in all other counties. Representatives from Douglas County, NACO, and the City of Omaha testified in support of LB927.
LB977 would define the term "implement of husbandry" to clarify the types of equipment that are exempt from statutory weight and size limits. Farm groups supported the bill as a means of creating efficiencies, particularly with equipment that may exceed posted limits even without carrying a load. County officials testified, as they had during legislative interim studies this summer, that counties work with farmers to strike a balance between ag interests and road maintenance. Some vehicles, such as manure trucks that would be exempted from weight limits by the bill, are more likely to cause damage to county roads than other types of equipment specified in LB977.
The Transportation Committee's public hearing on LB989 was rescheduled to February 9 at 9:00. LB989 would allow motor vehicle dealers to provide titling and registration services. The Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles would be charged with developing the method of electronic access by January 1, 2020.
On February 8, the committee will hear LB872, a bill introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Roads to allow the use of blue and amber flashing lights for the inspection, construction, repair or maintenance of highways, roads or streets. Existing law limits their use to the movement of snow.

snapSnapshots of County Issues
Committee Hearings
This week the Judiciary Committee heard LB780, a proposal to shift custody and responsibility for persons under emergency protective custody (EPC) to the state. The bill follows a 2015 interim study hearing, LR295, that arose from an examination of connections between the behavioral health system and the correctional system in 2014. Under LB780, law enforcement would notify the Department of Health and Human Services or behavioral health region when taking someone into custody for an EPC. The state would assume responsibility within for the person within one hour or less.

A related bill, LB985, will be heard by the Health and Human Services Committee on February 11. It would require reporting by regional behavioral health authorities of behavioral health needs, programs, and expenditures.

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard a proposal to add penalties when governmental entities fail to report interlocal or joint public agency agreements to the Auditor of Public Accounts. LB935, as introduced, would withhold $500 in state aid payments for each 30 days of delinquency. A suggested amendment would change the penalty to a daily fee. Existing law requires reporting of agreements by December 31 each year. Interlocal agreements are submitted electronically here.

Bills Advanced by Committees
Following are some of the bills that were reported to the floor by committees this week:
LB784 was introduced for NACO by Senator Curt Friesen to help counties access funding during the period between July 1 and the adoption of the budget on September 20. Counties are subject to the Nebraska Budget Act and the County Budget Act. Both Acts limit expenditures to a proportion of the budgeted amount during this period but the Nebraska Budget Act also allows the governing body to approve additional expenditures from the budgeted funds upon a showing of necessity. LB784 would add this language to the County Budget Act. The bill does not increase budgets or taxes but allows expenditures to be made at the most beneficial time for the county. For example, counties could use more budgeted road funds in July and August, which is the optimal time for road projects. Senator Friesen introduced the bill on behalf of NACO.
LB827 would increase the collection fee retained by county treasurers for collecting sanitary and improvement district (SID) funds. Last year the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that SIDs are considered municipal corporations subject to a one percent collection fee, rather than the two percent fee that had historically been charged. LB827 would reinstate the two percent collection fee. The fees help reimburse counties for the costs associated with collecting SID taxes.A proposed committee amendment would clarify that the collection fee applies to ad valorem taxes and special assessments.
LB807 would allow county boards in counties over 200,000 to waive quarterly reports by the county attorney on the number of criminal cases in the county. County boards in smaller counties can already waive the report.
General File Floor Debate
General file debate began on LB188, a bill that would codify the judicial definition of "innocent third party" in police chase pursuits. The bill would clarify that there are limited circumstances when a passenger in a fleeing vehicle should not be considered an innocent third party, including persuading the driver to engage in flight from law enforcement and engaging in illegal activity that would itself give rise to an arrest.
Debate is scheduled to continue on Monday after Select File bills. It is likely that a cloture motion will be needed to cease debate.

hrgschedCommittee Hearing Schedule for Next Week
Every bill introduced by the Legislature is the subject of a public hearing. Following is a schedule of bills that are of interest to counties.Note that bills not appearing on this list may be heard during the same hearing.  A complete list of hearings is available on the Legislature's website.
Monday, February 8
Business and Labor Committee
Room 2102, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB836 (Mello) Adopt the In the Line of Duty Compensation Act
  • LB821 (Larson) Adopt the Workplace Privacy Act
Executive Board
Room 2102, 12:00 p.m.
  • LR403 (Hansen) Provide the Executive Board of the Legislative Council appoint the Election Technology Committee as a special committee of the Legislature
  • LR413 (Watermeier) Create the Task Force on Behavioral and Mental Health
  • LR418 (Howard) Provide the Executive Board of the Legislative Council appoint a special committee to be known as the ACCESSNebraska Oversight Committee of the Legislature
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB872 (Murante) Change a provision relating to the use of blue and amber rotating or flashing lights
  • LB799 (Bolz) Include capital acquisition costs in the Nebraska Public Transportation Act's assistance program
  • LB973 (Smith) Change penalty, permit, and notice provisions relating to electric utility lines, poles, and structures

Tuesday, February 9 - NOTE: Due to the weather, hearings from February 2 were rescheduled to the morning of February 9.

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Room 1113, 9:00 a.m.
  • LB989 (Murante) Change provisions relating to motor vehicles
  • LB669 (Krist) Update certain federal references and change from a secondary to primary offense certain occupant protection system enforcement requirements
  • LB668 (Krist) Change certain federal references and provisions relating to provisional operator's permit restrictions, use of interactive wireless communication devices, and occupant protection system enforcement
  • LB768 (Garrett) Provide for Choose Life License Plates

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB994 (Davis) Change provisions under the Motor Vehicle Registration Act relating to financial responsibility as applied to nonresident owners

Education Committee
Room 1525, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB959 (Sullivan) Change and eliminate provisions relating to school funding, budgets, and levy authority
  • LB1063 (Sullivan) Change provisions relating to state aid to schools

Urban Affairs Committee
Room 1510, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB719 (Groene) Change provisions relating to undeveloped vacant land under the Community Development Law
  • LB1042 (Friesen) Change provisions relating to tax-increment financing
  • LR399CA (Davis) Constitutional amendment to require cities and villages to obtain voter approval before pledging taxes for the payment of indebtedness related to redevelopment projects
  • LR394CA (Hughes) Constitutional amendment to authorize taxing bodies to exclude their taxes from pledges made by cities to pay indebtedness on redevelopment projects 
Wednesday, February 10

Judiciary Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB984 (Schumacher) Change provisions relating to mandatory minimum sentencing and sentencing of habitual criminals
  • LB1106 (Garrett) Change civil forfeiture provisions as prescribed
  • LB1108 (Garrett) Require reporting to the Auditor of Public Accounts and the Legislature regarding civil forfeiture proceedings
  • LB980 (Morfeld) Change penalty provisions for certain violations relating to or committed by persons experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose
  • LB843 (Pansing Brooks) Change provisions relating to prostitution
  • LB1079 (Pansing Brooks) Redefine law enforcement agency and change provisions relating to law enforcement officer jurisdiction

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB912 (Smith) Change requirements for presentation of identification for purposes of voting
Health and Human Services Committee
Room 1510, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB1032 (McCollister) Adopt the Transitional Health Insurance Program and provide duties for the Department of Health and Human Services
Thursday, February 11
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB754 (Crawford) Create the Commission on Military and Veteran Affairs
  • LB1073 (Kolowski) Authorize the display of the Honor and Remember flag as prescribed
  • LB878 (Murante) Provide and change rulemaking duties relating to veterans homes and the Veterans' Homes Board
  • LB877 (Murante) Change a provision relating to review of proposed subdivision plats by certain county planning commissions
Friday, February 12 - Recess Day
Monday, February 15 - President's Day Holiday

Tuesday, February 16
Appropriations Committee
Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
  • Agency 27 Department of Roads
  • LB960 (Smith) Adopt the Transportation Innovation Act and provide transfers from the Cash Reserve Fund

Urban Affairs Committee
Room 1510, 1:30 pm.
  • LB806 (Mello) Adopt the Riverfront Development District Act

Wednesday, February 17
Natural Resources Committee
Room 1525, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB1070 (Haar) Change powers and duties of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to require liability insurance and restrict permits as prescribed
  • LB1082 (Schilz) Change provisions relating to the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and provide for a periodic well fluid analysis, report, and notice as prescribed
Thursday, February 18
Natural Resources Committee
Room 1525, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB711 (Hughes) Change provisions of the Noxious Weed Control Act and create the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force
Monday, February 22
Business and Labor Committee
Room 2102, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB1110 (Mello) Adopt the Nebraska Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
  • LB1044 (Ebke) Terminate the Commission of Industrial Relations
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB783 (Lindstrom) Provide for registration of public power district vehicles as prescribed
  • LB844 (Pansing Brooks) Provide for Breast Cancer Awareness Plates
Tuesday, February 23
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB688 (Bloomfield) Require all examinations and test of applicants under the Motor Vehicle Operator's License Act be in English
  • LB964 (Hilkemann) Change a veteran notation requirement on a motor vehicle operator's license or state identification card
  • LB1077 (Pansing Brooks) Change provisions under the Motor Vehicle Operator's License Act relating to operator's license revocation

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