March 11, 2016                                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


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roadActions Pending on Road Bills
Implements of Husbandry on County Roads
Senators gave first-round approval to LB977, a bill that would exempt implements of husbandry, specifically including manure spreaders, from weight limits on roads. A committee amendment was adopted to prohibit overweight implements of husbandry from crossing any bridge or culvert if the vehicle axle, axle groupings, or gross weight exceeds posted weight limits. It also includes concepts from six other bills heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
NACO and county officials opposed the manure spreader exemption in LB977 at the committee hearing and through individual contact with senators. During debate, several senators said that they had heard from their county officials that overweight manure spreaders have already caused damage to county roads and the problem would be worsened under the bill. They discussed the balance between ag equipment that sometimes exceeds weight limits before it is loaded and road repairs that costs taxpayers, including the ag producers, property tax dollars.
Senator Jim Smith had filed an amendment, AM2478, that would strike the exemption for manure spreaders and self-propelled equipment designed and used to carry animal manure. He withdrew the amendment and refiled it on Select File due to the commitment of NACO and ag groups to continue to work on language that protects county infrastructure but gives flexibility to livestock operators.
The other bills incorporated into LB977 through the committee amendment include LB799 that would allow public transit grant funds to be used for capital acquisitions, such as the purchase of new shuttle vans. The bill was recommended by the Aging Nebraska Task Force. LB989 would make technical changes recommended by the Department of Motor Vehicles, including reducing the number of prepaid applications needed for specialty organizational license plates. LB918 would shift one percent of motor vehicle tax proceeds to the Vehicle Title and Registration Replacement and Maintenance Cash Fund. The funds would be used to help replace the aging vehicle titling and registration system. LB946 would change requirements for the Nebraska Motor Vehicle Industry Licensing Board. LB996 would clean up antitrust provisions under the Motor Vehicle Industry Licensing Act. LB844 would provide for Breast Cancer Awareness license plates. LB872 would allow, but not require, the Department of Roads and road maintenance vehicles operated by political subdivisions to use blue and amber rotating or flashing lights for road work.
Transportation Infrastructure Bank - LB960
Debate is expected to begin on Tuesday on LB960, the Transportation Innovation Act. An Appropriations Committee amendment would create three new programs funded by a $50 million transfer from the state's cash reserves and more than $400 million of additional revenue generated from last year's gas tax increase. The funds would be placed in an infrastructure bank. The bill originally called for up to $150 million each from the gas tax and cash reserves.
Up to $40 million would be made available through the County Bridge Match Program to promote innovative solutions and provide additional funding to accelerate the repair and replacement of deficient bridges in the county road system. The Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) would develop the program, including participation criteria and matching fund requirements, in conjunction with a statewide association representing county officials. Participation by counties would be voluntary. The program would terminate on June 20, 2023.
The Accelerated State Highway Capital Improvement Program would provide funding for construction of the expressway system and federally designated high priority corridors and needs-driven capacity improvements across the state.
The third piece of the Act is the Economic Opportunity Program within the Department of Economic Development. Up to $20 million would be used to finance transportation improvements to attract and support new business and business expansions by connecting them to the transportation network, increasing jobs, and revitalizing rural areas. NDOR would develop the plan in conjunction with statewide associations representing municipal and county officials, economic developers, and the Department of Economic Development. The program, as well as the expressway funding, would terminate on June 30, 2033.
The committee amendment would also give NDOR authority for alternative methods of contracting for public projects, such as design-build or construction manager-general contractor contracts.
LB960 was introduced at the request of Governor Pete Ricketts and prioritized by Senator Lydia Brasch. The other two property tax relief bills Governor Ricketts requested, LB958 and LB959, remain in the Revenue and Education committees respectively. Both committees continue to meet in executive sessions to work on alternatives. Some of the ideas have included using a five year average to value property taxes and directing tax credits toward owners of agland.

 juvcounJuvenile Counsel Bill Advanced from First Round
A package of juvenile justice bills were amended onto LB894 and advanced from General File on Tuesday. As introduced, LB894 would require counsel to be appointed for juveniles after a juvenile petition is filed but before the juvenile appears before the court. The costs for additional public defender services for juveniles would vary among counties. Other provisions of the bill prohibit juveniles under age 14 from waiving their right to counsel.
The committee amendment, AM1962, would combine provisions originally introduced as LB709, LB845, and LB893. Language from LB709 would replace the classification in current law of juvenile programs and facilities that are considered secure detention and nonsecure detention with a new classification of detention and alternatives to detention. This provision would also establish additional court review of the use of these programs and facilities. Provisions from LB845 would create documentation and reporting requirements related to the use of room confinement of juveniles. Language from LB893 would create a minimum age of 11 years in juvenile court delinquency and status offense cases. AM1962 would add an effective date of July 1, 2017 for this change.
The committee amendment originally contained provisions from LB675 but they were removed on a motion by LB675's introducer, Senator Bob Krist. LB675 would prohibit juveniles age 12 and under from being placed in secure detention. Senator Krist withdrew the motion because other appropriate placement alternatives do not exist in many communities. He plans to reintroduce the issue next year.
Other judicial bills advanced from General File include a measure to divert $2 of the district court docket fee from the state's General Fund to the Judges Retirement Fund. LB803 would amend a section that was missed in last year's bill to supplement the judge retirement fund.
LB1009 would ban the sale of "lookalike" drugs such as "K2". Rather than stating a specific chemical compound, the bill would create a Class IV felony for the display, marketing or sale of such drugs. They are often sold in deceptive packaging that purporting to legally have the same effects as a controlled substance.
Bills advanced from Select File to expand the use of problem solving courts to veterans, mental health, and other categories. Like existing drug courts, the courts established under LB919 would hold low-level offenders accountable through requirements to hold jobs, attend counseling or meetings, and other criteria. LB710 would expand the definition of hazing.
 genfileBills Reported to General File
With a Thursday, March 10 deadline for bills to be on General File in order to be considered for the session's final consent calendar, committees advanced a number of bills without priority designations to the floor.

Health and Human Services Committee
LB952, as introduced, would require counties to be responsible for ensuring that emergency medical services are available to residents of the county and change membership on the Board of Emergency Medical Services. A Health and Human Services Committee amendment would strike the section of the bill requiring new county services.
LB1032, which is sometimes informally called this year's Medicaid expansion bill, was advanced by the Health and Human Services Committee on a 4-3 vote. As introduced, the bill would create the Transitional Health Insurance Program Act to provide health coverage for persons who are ineligible for traditional Medicaid coverage but have incomes that preclude receiving health insurance marketplace subsidies. A committee amendment would sunset the program after three years and appropriate $63 million from the Health Care Cash Fund for the state's match. LB1032 is a Health and Human Services priority bill.

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee sent LR35 to the floor for a second time on March 7. The resolution, which was prioritized by Senator Laura Ebke, was introduced and advanced to General File last year. On February 22, the bill was recommitted to the committee following first round debate. If approved by at least two-thirds of the states, the resolution would require a constitution of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
LR381 would ratify the 27th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibits a change to the compensation for members of Congress from taking effect until the beginning of the next Congress.
LB874 is an omnibus election bill that began as a bill about filling vacancies on school boards. A committee amendment would add provisions from LB787, LB741, LB682 and LB879. LB787 would allow voters to voluntarily photograph their ballot after it is marked and reveal the photograph. These "ballot selfies" are often posted on social media. Provisions from LB741 would allow the display of yard signs on private property within 200 feet of a polling place or building designated as a place for voters to cast ballots, subject to local ordinance. The property could not be under common ownership with the property on which the polling place or building is located. LB682 moves the deadline for a voter to request a ballot by mail and moves the earliest date to send mail ballots. LB879 harmonizes signature requirements for placing a candidate's name on a partisan ballot at the general election. LB874 is a Government Committee priority bill.
LB935 would impose a penalty on governing bodies that fail to provide the State Auditor with requested information regarding interlocal and joint public agency agreements. As introduced, $500 would be withheld from the next state aid payment to a noncompliant governmental entity who is 30 days past the December 31 deadline to submit the information. A committee amendment would change the reporting date to August 1 and change the penalty to $20 daily, up to a maximum of $2,000 per delinquency. LB935 is a Government Committee priority bill.
LB1073 would adopt the Honor and Remember flag as an official symbol of the state representing Nebraska's commitment to honor and remember the lives of service members who were lost.

Judiciary Committee
LB847 would update jury terminology to reflect modern practices. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced the bill on NACO's behalf to define terms and procedures, including distinguishing between the one-step and two-step methods of jury selection. A committee amendment would remove a proposed increase in an age-related exemption from jury service from 65 to 70 and reinstate summary jury language.
A second bill introduced by Senator Pansing Brooks at NACO's request to modernize court procedures remains in committee. LB848 would harmonize terminology and reflect the use of JUSTICE, the statewide electronic case management system.
LB1094, Senator Seiler's priority bill, is a clean-up bill from last year's LB605 that addressed prison overcrowding.
LB1106 would address civil forfeiture provisions. The committee amendment incorporates language from LB1108 that would require law enforcement agencies to provide a written report of forfeitures to the Auditor of Public Accounts. It is a speaker priority bill.

Natural Resources Committee
A Natural Resources Committee amendment to LB1038 would include concepts from a NACO bill to provide funding for noxious weed management in the state's waterways. Senator Dan Hughes introduced LB711 at NACO's request to recreate a Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force to assist with implementation. In FY09-10, the Legislature  appropriated $2 million annually for the management of riparian invasive species but the funding ran out. The committee amendment would provide for a $1 million annual appropriation for the project. New funding is needed to assure that the benefits from the earlier management efforts are not lost. Other sections of the committee amendment address hydropower and its impacts. LB1038 is a Natural Resources Committee priority bill that was introduced to convert the Nebraska Public Power District's water rights to multiple uses by natural resources districts and the Game and Parks Commission in the Niobrara basin.
The committee indefinitely postponed LB961 that would have eliminated the Game and Parks Commission's authority to establish a hunting season for mountain lions.

Agriculture Committee
After two votes, the Agriculture Committee sent a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to farm to the floor. LR378CA would prohibit the Legislature from further restricting farming and ranching practices in the state without a compelling state interest. A committee amendment would limit the effect of the constitutional language to ordinances adopted on or before December 31, 2015. Because most county zoning is done through resolutions, rather than ordinances, counties seeking to change their zoning or unzoned counties wanting to adopt agricultural zoning would have to show a compelling state interest to do so.

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
LB732 would expand eligibility for Military Honor license plates to persons who served or are serving in the Reserves, effective January 1, 2017.
LB783, as introduced, would allow permanent license plates to be issued for vehicles owned by public power districts with an annual gross revenue of at least $250 million. The plates would be issued in the county in which the public power district is headquartered. A committee amendment would reduce the public power revenue requirement to $40 million and remove a requirement for annual validation decals.
LB768 would create Choose Life license plates. The bill was selected as a Speaker priority bill and in addition to the introducer and two co-sponsors, more than 30 senators have added their names to the bill. Senator Ernie Chambers has filed an amendment to add "and Freedom of Choice" to the plates.

Revenue Committee
LB756, as revised by the proposed committee amendment, would extend the termination date for the Long-Term Care Savings Plan. LB756 is a Speaker priority bill.
LB913 would exempt out-of-state businesses from income and certain sales taxes when they conduct operations in Nebraska as part of a declared state disaster or emergency.
LB1014 would clarify levy limit statutes for county airport authorities. A committee amendment would specify that property taxes levied for airport bonds are not included within their 3.5 cent levy cap.

Business and Labor Committee
LB1110 would enact the Nebraska Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. A committee amendment would incorporate LB1029, the Sector Partnership Program Act. As advanced, the bill outlines guiding principles for the state's workforce investment system. LB1110 is a Business and Labor Committee priority bill.
The committee indefinitely postponed a long list of bills including LB836 to create the Line of Duty Compensation Act and LB1044 to terminate the Commission on Industrial Relations.
signedBills Signed by Governor Ricketts
Governor Pete Ricketts this week signed numerous bills with an impact on counties.
LB729 amends 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. The bill provides that all of the work performed by such individuals will be under the oversight of the county assessor. The bill also repeals 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.
LB1035 updates terminology related to the central filing system and master lien list maintained by the Secretary of State.
LB864 allows 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 permits the transfer if the other city or village adopts a resolution in support of the request.
License plates on farm trucks and trailers in Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties will 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 in LB811 will allow these counties to share plates, thereby reducing waste and eliminating confusion among other numbered plate types.
LB929 incorporates federal regulations into Nebraska's motor vehicle laws.
LB807 allows county attorneys 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, only counties under 200,000 can waive the report.
LB776 is a technical bill from the Department of Revenue. Among other things it eliminates annual medical recertification for homestead exemption applicants who are certified as totally disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
LB753 adds 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.
LB734 allows non-resident members of the Nebraska National Guard to receive in-state tuition rates at state postsecondary institutions.
LB718 clarifies 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 will be submitted directly to the Director of Veterans Affairs. Local officials can assist in the process but will not be required to do so.

snapSnapshots of County Issues
Daily Legislative Activities
Public hearings on introduced bills concluded last week and senators moved to full days of debate this week. Beginning on March 10, the Legislature will work through the lunch hour on the last day of the work week and adjourn early to mid-afternoon. Beginning on March 15, the body will begin "late nights" of debate on selected days. On those days, they will take a 20 minute recess around noon and continue to work until 7 p.m.
After several hours of General File debate on Monday, Senator Rick Kolowski moved to bracket his priority bill that would allow natural resources district to issue general obligation bonds for non-revenue producing projects. The bill, LB344, will be bracketed until April 20, effectively ending debate during this session.
A second bill that was thought to be headed for a cloture vote advanced from General File on Tuesday after only a few hours of debate. LB1109 would change the hiring process for candidates for the positions of President and Chancellors of the University of Nebraska. Under existing law, job application materials for four finalists are considered public records. Proponents argued that some qualified candidates might not apply because they don't want their job search to become public. As advanced, the Board of Regents would provide public notice of a preliminary candidate 30 days before voting on whether to hire the candidate.
On Thursday, senators spent much of the morning on LB745, a bill to change Game and Parks Commission fee and permit provisions. The filibuster led by Senator Ernie Chambers will continue when the Legislature reconvenes on Tuesday, March 15.
State Budget Debate Set for Tuesday
Bills outlining the second half of the biennial budget were reported to the floor on Wednesday, the 40th day of the session. Debate on the bills will begin on Tuesday. LB956 provides for deficit appropriations for state operations, aid and construction programs. LB957 would make transfers between various funds. A separate appropriations bill, LB960, would provide funding for an infrastructure bank (see article on road issues). Detailed information is available in the Appropriations Committee Budget Recommendations issued this week.
According to the Legislature's rules, the appropriations bills must be passed by the 50th day of a 60-day session. March 29 is the 50th day.

Bills Advanced from General File
First round debate on senator, committee, and speaker priority bills continued this week. Among the bills advanced from General File are measures to create a commission on military and veterans affairs (LB754) and grant more oversight to the Inspector General for the Department of Correctional Services (LB910).

In addition, LB1082 would require counties, cities, villages, and natural resources districts to be given notice and copies of Class II commercial underground injection well permit applications. The bill was introduced in response to concerns last year about fracking and the regulatory authority of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Bills Advanced from Select File
Several bills of interest to counties were advanced from Select File, the second round of debate, on Monday.
LB683 would align Nebraska's homestead exemption criteria with eligibility for federal veterans benefits. The bill would allow surviving spouses of veterans who remarry before age 57 to retain their current homestead exemption status. Senator Joni Craighead introduced and prioritized LB683.
LB704 would clarify that counties and cities must keep a copy of their local building or construction code available for use and examination by the public as long as the code is in effect. An amendment from Senator Sue Crawford was adopted incorporate provisions from LB705 that clean up statutes related to cities of the first class. The bill was prioritized by the Urban Affairs Committee.

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