March 4, 2016                                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

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revenueRevenue Committee Considers Property Tax Proposals
The Revenue Committee continues to work out the details of a property tax relief package based on LB958, which was introduced by Senator Mike Gloor at the request of Governor Pete Ricketts and prioritized by the committee. As introduced, the bill would cap aggregate statewide values of agricultural and horticultural property at 3 percent and remove restricted funds exceptions for capital improvements and interlocal agreements. Other provisions would limit how much unused budget authority could be carried forward and eliminate the ability of governmental units to hold townhall meetings to exceed levy limits.

It has been reported that the committee is considering using a five year history of sales, rather than a three year period, as a measure of real property valuation. Extending the sales history could prevent sharp increases and decreases in valuations but could also reduce the amount of property tax revenues available to schools. A five year sales history was proposed by Senator Mike Groene in LB717 but his bill also went on to exclude the lowest 20 percent of sales and lock in 2016 values at 2015 rates.
A priority bill on agricultural home site valuations that was advanced to the floor this week has not been part of the discussion on the  property tax relief package. LB1037 was introduced by Senator Lydia Brasch and prioritized by Senator Bill Kintner. It 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.
Although it has not been officially reported to the floor, the committee has developed an omnibus bill with a fiscal impact of $2 million in the first year and $5.3 million in the second year. Some of the bills included in the package would create a sales tax exemption for purchases by county ag societies (LB542) and tax credits for employers who make student loan payments for their employees (LB685).
The committee will continue to work on LB958 next week.
overwOverweight Load Exemption Bill Reported to Floor
On Wednesday the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee advanced a bill that would exempt implements of husbandry, specifically including manure spreaders, from weight limits on roads. A proposed committee amendment would prohibit overweight implements of husbandry from crossing any bridge or culvert if the vehicle axle, axle groupings, or gross weight exceeds posted weight limits.
At the committee hearing on LB977 and during interim study hearings this summer, county officials testified that in some counties, legally loaded manure spreaders have already damaged roads. Without weight limits, the damage will be significantly worse and road closures could be necessary. Farmers and livestock producers who use the roads to get to fields and their products to market will be hindered. Property taxes could be increased to fund road repairs.
County officials are encouraged to contact their senators to share their experiences with road damage from manure spreaders and express opposition to subsection (3)(f) of the committee amendment, AM2318 to LB977.
The committee amendment also includes parts of six other bills:

  • LB799 (Bolz)- Amend provisions of the Nebraska Transportation Act
  • LB989 (Murante)- Change provisions of law related to the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • LB918 (Murante)- Allocate 1% of the motor vehicle tax to the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • LB946 (Smith)- Change provisions related to the Motor Vehicle Industry Licensing Act
  • LB996 (Friesen)- Change provisions related to the Motor Vehicle Industry Licensing Act
  • LB884 (Pansing-Brooks) Create the Breast Cancer Awareness specialty license plate
comflrCommittees Advance Bills to the Floor
Committees advanced numerous bills to the floor this week. Some of the bills of interest to counties are described below.

Judiciary Committee
LB1055, a bill to add openness to the grand jury process, was reported as advanced by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday. A committee amendment would rewrite the bill to add prosecutorial duties for county attorneys and allow the release of grand jury reports in cases of death in custody. A transcript, including exhibits, would be prepared at court expense when a grand jury is called because a person died while being apprehended or while in the custody of a law enforcement officer or detention personnel. LB1055 was introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers and has not been designated as a priority bill.

LB673, as revised by committee amendments, would allow county boards to create a county guardian ad litem division. Appointments would be made from the division unless there is a conflict of interest. The county board would set reasonable hourly rates for services, subject to review of the itemized billing statement by the court. Under existing law, the court fixes reasonable fees. The bill has not been prioritized.

By eliminating an affidavit requirement, LB1010 would allow county attorneys to file juvenile court petitions electronically. It did not receive a priority designation.

The Judiciary Committee indefinitely postponed LB890, a bill to require civil plaintiffs in lawsuits involving motor vehicle collisions with livestock to prove specific acts of negligence by the defendant livestock owner.

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
Following a Monday rehearing on issues presented by telecommunications providers, the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee sent a 911 bill to the floor. LB938 would designate the Nebraska Public Service Commission as the oversight authority for developing a statewide next generation 911 system.

Natural Resources Committee
LB1082 would change the policy and purpose of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's permitting practices to emphasize responsible development and protection of Nebraska's residents. The bill, with the proposed committee amendment, would require counties, cities, villages, and natural resources districts to be given notice and copies of Class II commercial underground injection well permit applications. LB1082 was introduced by Senator Ken Schilz and prioritized by Senator John Stinner. It was placed on General File by the Natural Resources Committee.

Revenue Committee
In addition to bills discussed elsewhere, the Revenue Committee reported out LB886, which would provide an income tax credit for emergency responders. The bill was introduced and prioritized by Senator Al Davis.

Agriculture Committee
LR378CA, the "right to farm" proposed constitutional amendment, failed to advance on an initial vote from the Agriculture Committee. However, after the committee agreed to an amendment, the measure advanced to General File. If passed by the Legislature, it would appear on the November 2016 general election ballot.
Under the proposal, the Legislature would be prohibited from passing any law that abridges the right of citizens to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest. The committee amendment would add additional clarification about when the constitutional amendment would not be construed to modify other laws. For example,it would not apply to laws applicable to waters of the state to beneficial use, ordinances adopted by political subdivisions on or before December 31, 2015.

passedBills Passed This Week
Senators sent 22 bills to Governor Ricketts on Friday. Some bills of interest to counties include: 

Mass Appraisal
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 Nebraska appraiser on staff, various contractual arrangements have been made for those services. Under the bill 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. Senator Jerry Johnson introduced LB729 on behalf of counties. 
Motor Vehicles
LB53 would allow one license plate to be issued for apportionable vehicles, buses, dealer, minitrucks, motorcycles, trailers, truck-trailers, and certain special interest vehicles. Beginning January 1, 2017, if a passenger car is not manufactured to be equipped with a license plate bracket on the front, a single plate would be issued. In addition to the single plate, a license decal would be displayed on the driver's side of the windshield. An additional annual nonrefundable charge of $100 would be required and earmarked for the Highway Trust Fund.
LB311 would eliminate a requirement for driver licensing services to be provided in every county. This language was originally introduced in LB785. Other provisions of the bill were introduced at the request of the Department of Motor Vehicles to reflect federal language on gross vehicle weights, revise CDL learner's permit procedures, and require specific affirmation language on commercial driver's license and learner's permit applications. 
License plates on farm trucks and trailers in Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties would become alphanumeric under LB811. When legislation was adopted in 1999 to change these three counties from the county number system to an alphanumeric system, farm trucks and trailers were not included and remained on the county number system. The change would allow these counties to share plates, thereby reducing waste and eliminating confusion among other numbered plate types.
LB929 would incorporate federal regulations into Nebraska's motor vehicle laws.
Zoning Jurisdiction
LB295 would require county approval before a city of the first or second class or village could take enforcement action on ordinances, bylaws, rules, regulations, and resolutions within its extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction. The municipality would have 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. The bill would not apply to cities or villages in counties over 100,000 or if the city and county have a joint planning commission or joint planning department.
LB864 would allow cities of the first or second class and villages to request additional extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction (ETJ) from the county. Currently, if the territory requested is within one-half mile of another city's or village's ETJ, the county cannot approve a request for the additional ETJ. The bill would permit the transfer if the other city or village adopts a resolution in support of the request.
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.
LB734 would allow non-resident members of the Nebraska National Guard to receive in-state tuition rates at state postsecondary institutions.
LB753 would add re-employment protections for persons who are employed in Nebraska but are members of the National Guard in another state and are called to duty by that state.
LB954 would clearly grant the Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare access to juvenile records for purposes of investigations being conducted by that office. The office is charged with providing legislative oversight, ensuring accountability, and identifying systemic issues within Nebraska's child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The Inspector General would submit a request to the probation administrator for access to the records of juvenile probation officers related to a specific case. The bill carries an emergency clause and would take effect upon the Governor's signature.
LB807 would allow county attorney in counties of all sizes to waive quarterly reports to the county board of the criminal cases pending, appealed, and disposed of during the last quarter. Under existing law, counties under 200,000 could waive the report.
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.

snapSnapshots of County Issues
Daily Legislative Activities
As hearings wrapped up this week, committees met in executive session and many reported bills to the floor for debate by the body. Full days of debate begin on Monday.
The Appropriations Committee continues its work to develop the second half of the biennial budget. The budget bills must be placed on General File by March 9, the 40th day of the session. Among other decisions, the committee has tentatively earmarked $50 million from the state's cash reserve for a transportation infrastructure bank, as well as providing funding to reduce prison overcrowding and a levee improvement project near Offutt Air Force Base. The infrastructure bank is part of LB960, which was introduced on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts.
A final consent calendar is planned for later in the session to take action on noncontroversial bills that were not prioritized. Bills must be on General File by March 10 and the principal introducer must submit a request letter to the Speaker by March 11.

Government Committee Hears Nonpartisan County Election Bill
County officials would be elected in nonpartisan races unless a political party's county convention had a two percent turnout under LB779. The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard the bill on Wednesday, their final day of hearings. The bill is not prioritized and not likely to advance.

Problem-Solving Court Expansion Advanced to Second Round
Problem-solving drug court concepts could be expanded into special courts for veterans, mental health, driving under the influence, reentry, and other areas by LB919, which was advanced from General File this week. Currently drug courts are used to rehabilitate offenders by requiring participants to appear in court regularly, hold jobs, attend addiction meetings, or other criteria. The new courts would implement similar accountability requirements for offenders. Senators discussed how a veteran's court could use an offender's military background to help him or her overcome addition or other challenges that have led to involvement the judicial system. LB919 was introduced and prioritized by Senator Matt Williams. A related bill, LB915, that would have created a veterans' treatment court pilot project, will remain in committee.

Legislative Task Forces Created
Special task forces to study elections,behavioral and mental health, and the system to access the Department of Health and Human Services were enacted this week. LR403 creates the Election Technology Committee to study the longevity of existing election technology and the feasibility of updating or replacing it. Seven members of the legislature will be appointed by the Executive Board to serve on the committee.

LR413 creates the Task Force on Behavioral and Mental Health to examine the adequacy and needs of services in communities, jails, hospitals, and other service areas.
LR418 creates the ACCESSNebraska Oversight Committee as a follow-up to the special investigative committees created in 2014 and 2015.

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