February 12, 2016                                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

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inheritInheritance Tax Hearing Set for February 17
A bill that would reduce inheritance taxes collected by counties has been scheduled for hearing by the Legislature's Revenue Committee on Wednesday, February 17 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1524 of the State Capitol. LB936 would increase the exempt amounts for all classes of taxpayers and reduce the tax rate paid by extended family members and unrelated individuals.

For Class 1 beneficiaries (parents, siblings, grandparents), the exempt amount would increase from $40,000 to $100,000. The current tax rate of 1 percent would be retained.
For Class 2 beneficiaries (aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews), the exempt amount would increase from $15,000 to $100,000. The tax rate would drop from 13 percent to 1 percent.
For Class 3 beneficiaries (all other relatives and unrelated persons), the exempt amount would increase from $10,000 to $100,000. The tax rate would decrease from 18 percent to 1 percent.
Counties are asked to submit a letter or email to the Revenue Committee or attend the committee hearing to testify in opposition to LB936. The committee contact information is provided below. Please copy NACO on the correspondence because senators frequently mention contact from counties. If you plan to testify, please contact so that NACO can help coordinate the order of testifiers.  If you would like to watch the committee hearing, it will be livestreamed through the NET link on the Legislature's website.
Members of the Revenue Committee, district and email addresses:
Mike Gloor, Chair (35) --
Paul Schumacher, Vice Chair (22) --
Lydia Brasch (16) --
Al Davis (43) --
Burke Harr (8) --
Jim Scheer (19) --
Jim Smith (14) --
Kate Sullivan (41) --
Letters can be mailed to committee members at:
District Number State Capitol
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509-4604
The Revenue Committee will also hear three other bills on February 17. LB925 would allow for earlier applications for a treasurer's tax deed or judicial foreclosure on properties deemed vacant and abandoned. LB995 would replace special value with agricultural value. LB1037 would change the valuation of the first acre of land for home sites. These bills are addressed in greater detail below.
revenueRevenue Committee to Hear Valuation Bills
Next week the Revenue Committee will hear bills to change special valuation and valuation of the first acre of property for home sites, as well as a measure to require owners to report the value of exempt property. All hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1524 of the State Capitol.
On Wednesday, February 17, the committee will hear LB995, which would replace special value with agricultural value on agricultural and horticultural land. It would repeal an application and separate valuation process for property receiving special value.
LB1037 would change the valuation of the first acre of land for homesites so that the determination of whether a parcel of land is primarily used for agricultural or horticultural purposes is made without regard to the actual value or use of any buildings or enclosed structures on the parcel. The bill is intended to address differences in the valuation of non-agricultural land that is associated with agricultural land.
LB925 would shorten the period to apply for a treasurer's tax deed or judicial foreclosure for property deemed vacant and abandoned. Existing law requires application within 3 years after the tax sales certificate is issued. LB925 would set a two year deadline for property that is not legally occupied and deemed vacant and abandoned, as defined by local ordinance or, in the absence of an ordinance, by conditions or circumstances.
LB936 would increase exemption amounts and decrease tax rates on inheritance taxes. This bill is addressed in more detail in a separate article.
On Thursday, February 18, the committee will hear LB825 to require owners of tax-exempt property to report the estimated value every other year. If the owner fails to provide the information, the assessor would appraise the property at the owner's expense. The data would be reported to the Department of Revenue.
LB797, which was introduced by Senator Burke Harr on behalf of NACO, would clarify when interest charges begin to accrue when a homestead exemption has been rejected by the Tax Commissioner. Interest would not begin to accrue until 30 days after the county assessor receives approval from the county board to remove or reduce the rejected exemption from the tax rolls of the county.

The Revenue Committee sent several bills to the floor this week including LB725 which is intended to clarify when a Form 521 (Real Estate Transfer Statement) is required when an easement is filed. As introduced, it would define the types of utility easements that are exempt. A committee amendment would exempt all easements except conservation and preservation easements. The committee also advanced LB683, which would allow surviving spouses of veterans who remarry after the age of 57 to retain their current homestead exemption. This change would harmonize Nebraska statutes with federal law.

transportationTransportation Committee Hears Flashing Lights Bill
Vehicles operated by the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR), counties, and other local entities for the inspection, construction, repair or maintenance of highways, roads and streets could use blue and amber rotating or flashing lights under LB872 that was heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee this week.Under existing law, such lights can only be used for the movement of snow by NDOR and local entities or public utility vehicles. NACO and NDOR testified in support of the measure, citing increased safety and visibility. Because the use of such lights is optional, there would be no additional cost to counties.

Among the other bills heard by the committee are LB799, which was introduced as a recommendation of the Aging Nebraskans Task Force. It would revise the distribution formula for grants to public transit operators so that capital acquisitions would be considered as a factor. An amendment offered by the introducer, Senator Kate Bolz, would strike facilities from the definition of capital improvements. There was no opposition to the bill.
LB989, as introduced, contains technical revisions proposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as new concepts including implementation of an electronic dealer services system to issue titles by 2020. A proposed amendment would scale down the proposal and remove the dealer titling provisions. It would change the number of prepaid applications needed for specialty license plates from 500 to 250 and allow the department to develop electronic renewal processes for commercial drivers' licenses.
The committee reported that LB671, a bill to repeal the Build Nebraska Act, was indefinitely postponed. The Act directs a portion of sales tax revenue to counties through the Highway Allocation Fund. In FY14-15, counties and cities received a combined $11.1 million.
LB639, a bill giving authority to NDOR to issue permits for advertising signs placed along highways and for the control of vegetation that is in the vicinity of advertising signs, was reported to General File with a committee amendment. The amendment would replace the bill. It would require NDOR to create a vegetation control program and establish a procedure to issue permits to third parties for a nominal fee for vegetation control around advertising signs.
Governor Ricketts's road bill, LB960, will be heard by the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, February 16. The bill would create a transportation infrastructure bank that could be used, in part, to help counties repair and replace deficient bridges. Senator Lydia Brasch has prioritized LB960.
innocentInnocent Third Party Bill Advances from First Round
Senators resumed General File debate this week on LB188, a bill that would codify the judicial definition of "innocent third party" in police chase pursuits. The bill was introduced by Senator Dan Watermeier in response to recent Nebraska Supreme Court cases finding governmental entities liable in police chases.
The bill as introduced 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.   A committee amendment replaced the reference to engaging in an illegal activity to engaging in conduct chargeable as or amounting to a felony. Senator Watermeier has offered a Select File amendment to add the word "immediately" prior to the phrase "entering the vehicle". An amendment by Senator Ernie Chambers that would require law enforcement personnel to notify a superior officer of the identity of the passenger prior to pursuit was discussed on General File and remains pending. Senator Chambers opposes the bill.
Debate concluded following a 37-5 cloture vote and a subsequent motion to advance.
snapSnapshots of County Issues
Preliminary Appropriations Report Released
Appropriations Committee Chair Heath Mello announced the release of the preliminary 2015 Appropriations Committee report on Monday. The report shows a $110 million projected shortfall. The report will serve as the basis for discussion during subsequent public hearings with state agencies. The projections incorporate the October 2015 revenue forecasts from the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board. The board will meet on February 26 to review the forecasts. The final budget must be placed on General File for debate by the 40th day of a short session. This year the 40th day is March 9.
Priority Bill Designation Deadline
Senators wishing to designate a priority bill have until February 18 to request the designation of a speaker priority bill and until February 19 to designate senator and committee priority bills. A current list of priority bills is available on the Legislature's website.
Committee Hearings Held This Week
Education Committee
The Education Committee heard the school funding portion of Governor Pete Ricketts's property tax relief package on Tuesday. LB959 would control budget growth and limit unused budget authority, as well as making adjustments to the needs stabilization factor in TEEOSA, the school aid formula. The committee also heard LB1063, which would revise TEEOSA factors. County clerks would be responsible for calculating the student support aid reduction to the maximum property tax levy. The committee has not taken action on either bill.
Executive Board
LR403 would provide for the Legislature's Executive Board to appoint an Election Technology Committee as a special committee of the Legislature. The committee would examine the cost of replacing election equipment and various payment scenarios. A second proposal on election costs, LB1107, would create the Nebraska Election System Initiative. It would also examine polling sites, early voting, online voting, and other alternatives. The Secretary of State and county election officials would serve on the committee. LB1107 has not been scheduled for hearing by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
The committee also took testimony on resolutions to create task forces on behavioral and mental health (LR413) and oversight of the ACCESSNebraska program (LR418).
Business and Labor Committee
Families of law enforcement officers, correctional officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty would be provided a one-time death benefit of $50,000 under LB836. Payments would be made through the state claims process. The committee has not reported action on the bill.
Urban Affairs Committee
The Urban Affairs Committee took testimony on several bills related to tax increment financing (TIF) and community redevelopment. LB1042 was introduced to provide another layer of oversight into the TIF process by requiring county boards to sign off on the plans. The bill also proposes changing the way valuations are reported for the school state aid formula. Most testifiers spoke in opposition to LB1042, arguing that county boards and other taxing entities already receive notice of TIF projects. Many of the same testifiers spoke on LB719, which was intended to clarify that TIF could not be used for the development of land that is currently undeveloped, recently annexed, or that lies outside of city limits. Much of the testimony focused on whether development would occur absent TIF incentives.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
The Secretary of State testified in support of a limited voter ID bill on Wednesday. LB912 would require voters who fail to return an address confirmation postcard mailed pursuant to a national change of address form to provide two forms of identification in order to receive a ballot. Voters unable to provide appropriate documentation could vote provisionally. The bill was introduced to help election officials clean up voter rolls. Members of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee discussed the potential for fraud by "phantom registrations" of voters who have not returned confirmation cards but cannot be removed from voter rolls for an extended period. 
Judiciary Committee
Two bills to revise civil forfeiture laws were heard by the Judiciary Committee this week. LB1106 would tie forfeiture to a criminal conviction, rather than taking place as a separate civil proceeding. LB1108 would require law enforcement agencies to provide detailed reports on each forfeiture case. Both bills were introduced by Sarpy County Senator Tommy Garrett and remain in committee.
The committee advanced LB894 which, as introduced, would entitle minors in juvenile court to be represented by a public defender. A committee amendment would incorporate elements from several bills - LB675, LB709, LB845, and LB893.
Health and Human Services Committee
Expanded health care coverage would be provided to low income Nebraskans under LB1032. The bill would create the Transitional Health Insurance Program (T-HIP) as an alternative means of providing health insurance to individuals who fall into a coverage gap in which they are ineligible for traditional Medicaid coverage but have incomes making them ineligible for Health Insurance Marketplace subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Although the approach is different than in prior years, the bill is sometimes referred to as "Medicaid expansion." Senators heard more than five hours of testimony on the bill but took no action.

Bills Advanced from Second Round Debate
A bill to allow county treasurers to return to a two percent collection fee for funds collected on behalf of sanitary and improvement districts (SIDs) was amended onto LB131 on Monday. The bill was originally introduced as LB827. LB131, which would prohibit SIDs from spending certain assets if an annexation is proposed, was advanced from Select File as amended.

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.

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

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB851 (McCollister) Change the Taxpayer Transparency Act
  • LB694 (Crawford) Change provisions relating to exempt contracts under the Taxpayer Transparency Act
  • LB992 (Ebke) Provide a restriction on installment contracts for the purchase of real or personal property by political subdivisions

Judiciary Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB1098 (Morfeld) Increase legal services fees as prescribed
  • LB670 (Krist)Require a hearing prior to release for persons taken into custody for mental health reasons
  • LB847 (Pansing Brooks)Change provisions relating to juries
  • LB1010 (Williams) Change provisions relating to juvenile court petitions

Revenue Committee
Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB925 (Harr) Change provisions relating to issuing a treasurer's tax deed and bringing a tax lien foreclosure action as prescribed
  • LB936 (Ebke) Change inheritance tax rates and exemption amounts
  • LB995 (Davis) Repeal provisions relating to the special valuation of agricultural land and provide for the agricultural value of agricultural land
  • LB1037 (Brasch) Change property tax provisions relating to agricultural land and horticultural land
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

Judiciary Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB1000 (Mello) Require certain law enforcement agencies to adopt policies on the use of body-worn cameras, provide that recordings from such cameras are not public records, and prohibit certain conduct involving such recordings
  • LB1097 (Morfeld)Change provisions relating to sexual assault forensic testing
  • LB1054 (Hilkemann) Change provisions relating to the DNA Identification Information Act
  • LB920 (Pansing Brooks) Add members to the Nebraska Police Standards Advisory Council
  • LB839 (Chambers) Require background checks and other requirements for persons purchasing certain types of tactical gear

Revenue Committee
Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB797 (Harr) Change provisions relating to the accrual of interest on denied and reduced homestead exemptions
  • LB825 (Davis) Provide reporting requirements for tax-exempt property
  • LR390CA (Davis) Constitutional amendment requiring community colleges funding by sales and income taxes and not property taxes
  • LB1104 (Larson) Provide for tax incentives, intent provisions, and revenue-sharing agreements relating to Native Americans
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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