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February 19, 2016                                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

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inheritRevenue Committee Hears Inheritance Tax Bill
County officials testified in person and sent letters and emails to the Revenue Committee this week to express opposition to LB936, a bill that would adjust inheritance tax exemption amounts and tax rates. Senator Laura Ebke introduced the bill in response to concerns that some beneficiaries might have to obtain a mortgage on the property or sell part of the estate in order to pay inheritance taxes. In addition, high inheritance tax rates for Class 3 beneficiaries might punish people for leaving property to beneficiaries who were good to them but were not related.

County officials highlighted some of the ways counties use inheritance taxes, including balancing budgets and reducing levies, paying for unfunded state mandates, funding general assistance and social programs, updating jails and providing medical care to inmates, and building and repairing roads and bridges, particularly after natural disasters.
 
LB936 proposes the following adjustments to inheritance taxes:
  • 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.
 
The Revenue Committee has not taken action on the bill and it has not be designated as a senator or committee priority.
 
 
appropAppropriations Committee Hears Road Funding Bill
A major roads proposal from Governor Pete Ricketts was heard by the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. LB960 would use $150 million of the state's cash reserves to create a transportation infrastructure bank that would be replenished with gas tax revenue and federal funds. The largest part of the infrastructure bank would be dedicated to the accelerated state highway capital improvement program for expressways and federally designated high priority corridors.
 
The county bridge matching program would allow counties to bundle several similar bridges into a contract overseen by the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR). Participation by counties would be voluntary and a local match would be required. The Department would have the guidelines for the program in place by October 1, 2016. It would terminate on June 30, 2019.
 
The bill would also allow the Department to use the construction manager/general contractor and design-build methods of construction. NDOR Director Kyle Schneweis stressed that design-build would not be used on county bridges.

Senator Lydia Brasch has selected LB960 as her priority bill. NACO supports LB960. It remains in committee.

The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee has also prioritized a road bill. LB977 would exempt certain implements of husbandry from weight and load limits when operated on Nebraska's highways. An amendment, AM1895, has been filed that would prohibit implements of husbandry from crossing any bridge or culvert in which the vehicle axle, axle groupings, or gross weight exceeds established weight limits. The bill remains in committee. 

 
 
 govsGovernor's Property Tax Proposals Prioritized
In an effort to provide property tax relief to Nebraskans, the Revenue and Education committees designated as priorities proposals offered on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts. LB958, as introduced, would revise unused budget authority in county budgets and cap statewide agland valuations at three percent. LB959 would control budget and levy growth for school districts, educational service units, and community colleges. Both bills remain in committee and committee amendments are expected if the bills advance.The full list of senator and committee priority bills can be found here.

A road funding bill, LB960, that was introduced on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts, has been prioritized by Senator Lydia Brasch. See the article above for details.
 
Another bill aimed at reducing property taxes, LB717, has been prioritized by Senator Mike Groene. LB717 would move to a five year history for determining comparable sales, rather than the existing three year schedule. The lowest 20 percent of sales would be removed from the calculation. Valuations would be frozen at the 2015 level. The bill remains in the Revenue Committee.

Senator Bill Kintner also prioritized an agland bill. 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.LB1037 was heard by the Revenue Committee on Wednesday.

 
 
senpriSenators and Committees Designate Priority Bills
Friday marked the deadline for senators and committees to designate their priority bills for the session. Each senator is allowed to select an individual priority bill for expedited treatment on the agenda and committees can generally select two bills. In addition to bills addressed elsewhere, following are some of the priority bills of interest to counties shown by bill number, prioritizer, introducer, and one-line description. The complete list is available here.

In addition to senator and committee priorities, the Speaker can select 25 priorities. Speaker priorities will be announced next week.

  • LB683 (Craighead/Craighead) Change provisions relating to homestead exemptions for surviving spouses

 

  • LB717 (Groene/Groene) Change provisions relating to the assessment and valuation of real property

 

  • LB754 (Crawford/Crawford) Create the Commission on Military and Veteran Affairs

 

  • LB919 (Williams/Williams) Change provisions relating to problem solving court programs

 

  • LB934 (Coash/Coash) Change provisions relating to the Office of the Public Guardian

 

  • LB960 (Brasch/Smith) Adopt the Transportation Innovation Act and provide transfers from the Cash Reserve Fund

 

  • LB1037 (Kintner/Brasch) Change property tax provisions relating to agricultural land and horticultural land

 

  • LB704 (Urban Affairs Committee/Urban Affairs Committee) Change building code provisions applicable to political subdivisions

 

  • LB894 (Judiciary Committee/Pansing Brooks) Change provisions relating to appointment of counsel in juvenile cases

 

  • LB910 (Judiciary Committee/Bolz) Change provisions relating to parole administration

 

  • LB938 (Transportation and Telecommunications Committee/Smith) Adopt the 911 Service System Act and transfer funds from the Enhanced Wireless 911 Fund to the 911 Service System Fund. Please note: There is the potential for another amendment and another public hearing on the amendment. 

 

  • LB958 (Revenue Committee/Gloor) Change provisions relating to budgets, the valuation of agricultural land, and levy limitations

 

  • LB959 (Education Committee/Sullivan) Change and eliminate provisions relating to school funding, budgets, and levy authority

 

  • LB977 (Transportation and Telecommunications Committee/Smith) Change provisions relating to implements of husbandry on highways

 

  • LB1110 (Business and Labor Committee/Mello) Adopt the Nebraska Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act



 
 
snapSnapshots of County Issues
Daily Legislative Activities
February 22 marks the 30th day of the 2016 legislative session. During the first 30 days, senators introduced bills, heard testimony at committee hearings, and debated carryover bills. During the remaining 30 days, senator will hold two more weeks of committee hearings and move to full days of debate beginning March 7. Most of the debate will focus on senator, committee, and speaker priority bills.

This week senators debated a proposed constitutional amendment, LR26CA. As introduced by Senator Tyson Larson, the proposal would have allowed persons who reach the federal voting age of 18 to be elected or appointed to serve as Nebraska's Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or in the Nebraska Legislature. A cloture motion was unsuccessful and debate ended without voting on advancement of the measure.

Debate began on a second proposal by Senator Larson, LB970. The bill would legalize fantasy sports, allow nonprofit groups to use lotteries and raffles based on the timing of naturally occurring weather events, and permit keno players to use debit and credit cards. A filibuster on the bill will continue when the Legislature reconvenes on Monday.

Riparian Weed Control Funding Bill Heard
A Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force would be recreated to help administer a $2 million appropriation for weed management in the state's waterways under LB711. The Natural Resources Committee heard LB711, which was introduced by Senator Dan Hughes, on Thursday. Beginning in FY09-10, the Legislature appropriated $2 million annually for the management of riparian invasive species but the funding ran out. New funding is needed to assure that the benefits from the earlier management efforts are not lost. Noxious weed control officials and NACO spoke in support of the bill.

General File Consent Calendar
Senators used a consent calendar process to advance bills from the first round of debate this week.Some of the bills that were placed on Select File include:

  • LB729 would amend the Real Property Appraiser Act to allow county assessors to retain the services of unlicensed persons to assist in appraisal. Because many counties cannot afford to have a certified appraiser on staff, various contractual arrangements have been made for those services. All of the work performed by such individuals would be under the oversight of the county assessor. The bill would also repeal last year's moratorium on enforcement actions against mass appraisers by the Real Property Appraisal Board.
 
  • LB718 would clarify that applications for waivers of college tuition and fees by dependents of veterans do not have to be filed with the state by a county veterans service officer or recognized veterans' organization. Instead, the forms would be submitted directly to the Director of Veterans Affairs. Local officials could assist in the process but would not be required to do so.
 
  • LB776 is a technical bill from the Department of Revenue. Among other things it would eliminate annual medical recertification for homestead exemption applicants who are certified as totally disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Bills Passed by the Legislature
 
On Thursday the Legislature passed the following bills of interest to counties:

  • 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.
 
  • LB131 would return fees retained by county treasurers for collecting taxes and special assessments from sanitary and improvement districts (SIDs) to a two percent rate. A Nebraska Supreme Court determined that existing statutory language limited collections to one percent. The concept was originally introduced as LB827. Original provisions of LB131 would prohibit SIDs from spending assets that were used by the municipality to determine the feasibility of the annexation.
 
  • 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.
 
  • LB699 would clarify membership on land bank boards, including adding a member of the governing body of the creating municipality as a non-voting member.
 
  • LB876 would allow all public bodies to record votes using an electronic voting device. Existing provisions of the Open Meetings Act list the public bodies that can use such devices, including counties, municipalities, learning communities, joint public agencies and others.
 
  • LB136 would prohibit the sale, possession, and use of flying lanterns. Because the bill carries an emergency clause, it would take effect upon the governor's signature.
 
  • LB474 would create specialty Mountain lion Conservation license plates.

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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 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

Wednesday, February 24
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507, 1:30 pm.
  • LB1107 (Garrett) Create the Nebraska Election System Initiative

Health and Human Services Committee
Room 1510, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB750 (Lindstrom) Change Uniform Credentialing Act provisions relating to confidentiality and prohibit retaliation as prescribed
  • LB952 (Watermeier) Require availability of emergency medical services and change membership of the Board of Emergency Medical Services
  • LB998 (Schumacher) Provide for emergency community crisis centers and change provisions relating to emergency protective custody

Judiciary Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB965 (Cook) Provide for expungement of records for persons charged with or found guilty of a crime because of stolen identity or mistaken identity
  • LB793 (Watermeier) Change provisions and penalties relating to implements for escape and contraband and certain assaults
  • LB1055 (Chambers) Open grand jury proceedings to the public as prescribed and change procedures in cases of death during apprehension by law enforcement officers or while in custody
  • LB1056 (Chambers) Adopt the Patient Choice at End of Life Act
     
Revenue Committee
Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB913 (Smith) Adopt the Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act
  • LB1014 (Stinner) Change provisions relating to levy limitations and budget limitations for public airports

Thursday, February 25
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB1078 (Pansing Brooks) Provide and change certain conflict of interest statement requirements under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act
  • LB1024 (Larson) Change a provision of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act relating to an interest in a government contract
  • LB1057  (Murante) Change provisions of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act
     
Revenue Committee
Room 1524, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB1031 (Hansen) Change the levy authority of railroad transportation safety districts
  • LB1095 (Kintner) Require employer identification numbers and the use of the federal immigration verification system

Friday, February 26 - Recess Day

Wednesday, March 2
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Room 1507, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB779 (Schumacher) Change provisions relating to the partisan status of certain political subdivision offices
     
Judiciary Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB707 (Coash) Increase the number of judges of the separate juvenile court
  • LB848 (Pansing Brooks) Change provisions relating to courts
  • LR398CA (Bloomfield) Constitutional amendment to provide for election of judges and eliminate the merit plan for selection of judges

Thursday, March 3
Judiciary Committee
Room 1113, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB769 (Garrett) Change provisions relating to firearms
  • LB681 (Schnoor) Change certain violation and penalty provisions under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act
  • LB1090 (Hansen) Require notification of law enforcement by the Nebraska State Patrol of denials of handgun certificates as prescribed
  • LB815 (Stinner) Change provisions relating to petitions for removal of a person's firearms-related disabilities or disqualifications
  • LB971 (Gloor) Change provisions relating to restoration of seized firearms

 
 
Nebraska high school seniors who are the children, stepchildren, or under the legal guardianship of county officials or employees are encouraged to apply for one of twelve $1,000.00 NACO scholarships.  Additional information and the application form can be found on the front page of the NACO website.  The scholarship application deadline is March 1, 2016. 
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