March 25, 2016                                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


on Facebook

proptaxRevenue Committee Hears Revised Tax Relief Bill
Owners of agricultural and horticultural land would receive increased property tax credits under an amendment to LB958 that was the subject of a special Revenue Committee hearing on Thursday. The hearing was needed because the tax credit concept was not a part of the bill as originally introduced. Revenue Committee Chair Mike Gloor offered the amendment, AM2617. The committee met in executive session immediately after the hearing to advance the bill with the amendment to General File. Debate is scheduled for Thursday, March 31.
Testifiers suggested that more work is needed in the future to relieve the pressure on property tax payers and urged Revenue Committee members to look at school funding, business incentives, and other methods for valuing agland for possible solutions.
A second piece of LB958 would tighten community college budgets by limiting increases in unused budget authority to three percent. Community colleges testified in opposition to this part of the amendment.

Debate on LB959, a property tax relief proposal aimed at schools, is planned for Wednesday.

Another property tax proposal, LB1037, appears on the Legislature's agenda on Tuesday. 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. LB1037 was introduced by Senator Lydia Brasch and prioritized by Senator Bill Kintner. An amendment may be offered to require proof of farm income in order to be eligible for ag valuation.  
riparianRiparian Weed Management Bill Advances
One million dollars would be appropriated for the control of phragmites and other invasive species in waterways under a Natural Resources Committee amendment to LB1038. The concept was originally introduced in LB711 by Senator Dan Hughes at NACO's request. In 2007, the Legislature appropriated $2 million to control invasive vegetation and additional grant funds were provided through the Nebraska Environmental Trust and other partners. These funds were leveraged into over $18 million spent on riparian weed management in 2007-2014. This funding was instrumental in treating invasive species and increasing flow conveyance, wildlife habitat, and water available for human consumption. The bill would provide funding to continue that work. It would reinstate the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force to help oversee the process.
As introduced, LB1038 would allow the owner of a hydropower facility to transfer ownership of a water appropriation to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and a natural resource district or districts. The bill is the result of a 2014 Nebraska Supreme Court decision limiting farmers' water rights on the Niobrara River. Following the lawsuit, the parties reached an agreement that the Nebraska Public Power District would shut down its hydropower plant at Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River and the Game and Parks Commission and a coalition of natural resources districts would take over the water rights for recreation, conservation, and continued irrigation. Legislative authority was needed to implement the agreement. The committee amendment would fine-tune the proposed statutes authorizing the agreement as well as incorporating LB711.
Two other amendments were adopted before the bill moved to second round debate. AM2675, offered by Senator Al Davis, is based on LB1019 and would revise procedures for the Niobrara Council. AM2688, by Senator Tommy Garrett, is based on a Transportation and Telecommunications Committee amendment to LB639. As amended onto LB1038, the Department of Roads must create a vegetation control program and establish a procedure that will allow for the issuance of permits to third parties for cutting or trimming vegetation that obstructs or obscures lawfully placed advertising signs or devices.
juvcounselJuvenile Counsel Bill Advances With Amendments
LB894, a comprehensive juvenile justice-related bill, advanced from Select File to Final Reading on Tuesday. Considerable debate focused upon original provisions of the bill that would require the appointment of an attorney in juvenile cases. 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. Some county representatives expressed concern that costs would be significant, while others indicated that court efficiencies would be realized thus costs could be reduced. Other provisions of the bill prohibit juveniles under age 14 from waiving their right to counsel.

During Select File debate, AM2700 was adopted to maintain the status quo for attorney appointments in counties with populations of less than 150,000. For counties with populations of 150,000 or more, when any juvenile court petition is filed alleging jurisdiction of a juvenile, counsel would be appointed for the juvenile. The court would be required to inform the juvenile and his or her parent or guardian of the juvenile's right to counsel at county expense if they are unable to afford counsel. If the juvenile or his or her parent or guardian desires to have counsel appointed for the juvenile, or the parent or guardian of such juvenile cannot be located, and the court ascertains that none of the persons are able to afford an attorney, the court would be required to appoint an attorney to represent the juvenile for all proceedings before the juvenile court. If an attorney is appointed to represent the juvenile and the court later determines that the juvenile's parent is able to afford an attorney, the court would order the parent or juvenile to pay for services of the attorney. If the parent willfully refuses to pay, he or she could be committed for contempt.
LB894 also contains provisions from several bills were included within a committee amendment adopted on General File. 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 and would add an effective date of July 1, 2017 for this change.
A separate bill addressing housing of adult inmates, LB910, was also debated on Tuesday but did not advance from Select File because a cloture motion was unsuccessful and debate ended. As introduced, the bill would make changes to the role of the Inspector General of the Nebraska Correctional System and add details to the Office of Parole Administration's transition from the Department of Corrections. In response to an amendment adopted on General File to lift the ban on convicted drug offenders receiving food stamps, an amendment was offered during Select File debate to require periodic drug testing or treatment for felons convicted of possession or use of a controlled substance in order to be eligible for food stamps. The amendment and a motion to reconsider the vote failed. Another amendment was offered that would allow inmates held more than 90 days in restrictive housing to seek a review of the placement decision. Time ran out and the cloture motion was offered before a vote was taken on the amendment.

Because some of the original concepts in LB894 need to pass this year, senators pulled the Inspector General and Parole Administration language from LB894 and amended it into LB1094 on Wednesday. The amended language would also require additional reporting on inmates with mental and behavioral health needs who are placed in solitary confinement.  As introduced, LB1094 was categorized as a clean-up of last year's LB605 on prison overcrowding.It is intended to address unintended consequences, oversights, and inconsistent penalties created in LB605. An interim study resolution, LR527, has been offered to continue the examination of sentencing reform, especially mandatory minimum sentences.

On Monday senators debated and advanced another bill that had been heard by the Judiciary Committee. LB843 would provide immunity from prosecution for prostitution for victims of human trafficking. An amendment was adopted that would allow a person who is charged with prostitution to file a motion to dismiss the charges if he or she is a victim of human trafficking. LB843 was introduced and prioritized by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks. It advanced to Final Reading.
The Judiciary Committee reported that LB1000 has been voted to General File. As introduced by Senator Heath Mello, the bill would regulate the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement agencies. The committee amendment would incorporate provisions from LB846 about policies for law enforcement agencies regarding eyewitness identification of suspects and LB1055 that would change the procedures for grand jury proceedings in cases involving an in-custody death. The bill is a speaker priority and appears near the end of Tuesday's agenda.
 selfiesBallot Selfies Bill Advances from First Round
A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment to LB874 to allow ballot selfies generated concerns about privacy during General File debate this week. Senator Paul Schumacher and others questioned whether alternatives could be used by persons who want to post pictures of their marked ballot on social media that would protect themselves and other voters while maintaining First Amendment rights. The language allowing voters to voluntarily photograph their ballot after it is marked and reveal the photograph was introduced as LB787 and became part of the committee amendment to LB874. Other bills included in the amendment 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 (LB741). Language from LB682 would move the deadline for a voter to request a ballot by mail and moves the earliest date to send mail ballots. LB879 would harmonize signature requirements for placing a candidate's name on a partisan ballot through a petition process at the general election. The committee amendment was adopted and the bill advanced to Select File. LB874 is a Government Committee priority bill.
Senators advanced a number of other priority bills from General File this week. They include the following:
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 that 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. A section of the committee amendment taken from LB1099 would change the expense reimbursement process for state employees from an itemization method to a per diem basis. LB935 is a Government Committee priority bill.
LB742 would update references to population thresholds that primarily affect Lancaster County. It is estimated that Lancaster County will exceed 300,000 in the 2020 census. The bill is not intended to change county practices but to adjust references that trigger automatic changes in county structure or operation.
LB465 would adopt the Electronic Notary Public Act. The bill is modeled after North Carolina language that sets out a registration process with the Secretary of State for persons who wish to electronically notarize documents. LB465 and LB742 appear on the Legislature's agenda for debate after 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
LB1110 would adopt the Nebraska Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to reflect new federal legislation adopted last summer.
LB774, as introduced, would grant a sales and use tax exemption to nonprofit substance abuse treatment centers. The Revenue Committee prioritized LB774 and used it as the basis for an omnibus tax measure. As advanced to Select File, some of the new provisions would clarify airport bonding authority (LB1014) and grant sales tax exemptions for county agricultural societies (LB542) and purchases by museums (LB1015).
selectBills Advanced from Select File by Consent Calendar
Senators advanced 56 bills from the second round of debate through a consent calendar process this week.Some of the bills that affect counties are listed below.
Counties could have more access to funds during the period between July 1 and the adoption of the budget on September 20 under LB784. The bill would harmonize conflicting sections in 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 Curt Friesen introduced the bill on behalf of NACO.

A bill to exempt utility easements from requirements to file a real estate transfer statement (Form 521), was also advanced from Select File. Senator Paul Schumacher introduced LB725 to clear up questions about when the forms are needed. A committee amendment was adopted on General File that rewrote the bill to exempt all easements from filing requirements except certain conservation and preservation easements.
LB731 would update the Nebraska Real Property Appraiser Act to comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) and federal licensing requirements.
LB814 would remove the mileage requirement from school driving permit applications for residents living outside of a city of the metropolitan, primary or first class. Existing law requires applicants to live at least 1.5 miles from the school attended.
LB875 would require county planning and public works departments to review planned unit developments located on property outside of the corporate boundaries of a second class city or village before approval of the development is approved. This requirement would apply to cities or villages of the second class that are located in whole or part within the boundaries of a county with a population between 100,000 and 200,000 that has adopted a comprehensive development plan and is enforcing subdivision regulations.
LB881 would expand the use of energy financing contracts for participating governmental units. Such contracts provide for cost recovery through utility and operation and maintenance savings.
LB877 as advanced would require materials on proposed subdivisions plats or public streets or improvements that are filed with a municipality to also be provided to the county planning commission if the plat lies within the extraterritorial jurisdiction being exercised by the municipality. The commission could officially comment on the appropriateness of the design and improvements proposed in the plat. The bill would apply to counties between 100,000 and 250,000.
LB1010 would remove the requirement for an affidavit when a petition is filed in juvenile court. Instead, the written petition would need to be signed by the county attorney. The change would allow direct e-filing of an original document without having it notarized or sworn by a clerk of the court.
LB783, as amended on General File, would allow permanent public power district license plates to be issued for public power districts with a gross annual revenue of at least $40 million, as determined by the Nebraska Power Review Board. The plates would be issued by the county in which the district is headquartered.

LB952, as introduced, would require counties to ensure that emergency medical services are available to county residents and revise the number of members on the Board of Emergency Medical Services. A committee amendment was adopted that eliminated the proposed new county responsibility. As advanced, the bill would require three emergency responders to serve on the board.
finalBills Passed on Final Reading
After adopting the state budget, senators spent most of Thursday morning passing bills on Final Reading. Selected bills of interest to counties include:
LB704 makes clarifying and harmonizing changes to building code statutes for counties and municipalities. For example, the bill would require counties and cities that adopt building, construction, plumbing, electrical or other codes to keep at least one copy of the code for use and examination by the public prior to the adoption of the code and as long as the standard code is in effect. Existing law only requires the code to be on file until its adoption. On Select File an amendment was adopted to incorporate the language of LB705 that updates multiple statutes for cities of the first class.

LB83 would amend Nebraska's Equal Pay Act to apply to all employers with two or more employees. Existing law sets the number of employees at 15. The Act prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of sex.
LB710 would redefine the offense of hazing to apply to students of high school age and younger.
LB906 would authorize a 30 percent tuition waiver for law enforcement officers who pursue studies leading to a degree that relates to a career in law enforcement from an associate or baccalaureate degree program from a Nebraska community college, state college, or state university. An officer would have to maintain satisfactory performance with his or her law enforcement agency as verified by a superior officer in the agency. An officer would have to work for more than 100 hours per year and be authorized to make arrests.
LB1009 would create a penalty for the sale of lookalike drugs, such a K2, that are portrayed as producing effects similar to those of a controlled substance.
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.
LB1109 would exempt the University of Nebraska from public records laws when hiring for upper level positions like president and chancellor. Rather than making job application materials from the top four finalists public, notice of a priority candidate would be given 30 days prior to the meeting to vote on the hiring.
snapSnapshots of County Issues
Daily Legislative Activities
Senators began the week by advancing this year's budget bills, LB956 and LB957, from Select File and ended the week by passing the bills on Final Reading. The budget bills contain a $27 million appropriation for prison reform and $13.7 million for levee improvements near Offutt Air Force Base, as well as regular spending adjustments for the second half of the biennium. The Appropriations Committee's budget recommendations are available here. The state's budget status is updated each day to show the impact of pending bills.
The budget recommendation also contains a $50 million appropriation for the Transportation Infrastructure Fund in LB960. Another $400 million would be added to the fund from the state's gas tax and used to help finish the expressway system and assist counties in replacing deficient bridges. Up to $20 million could be used for the Economic Opportunity Program for transportation improvements to attract and support new business and business expansion in the state. LB960 advanced from Select File on a voice vote on Monday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday senators used a consent calendar to advance bills from Select File before taking up senator and committee priority bills. Senators also spent several hours on Wednesday debating LB586 that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill was bracketed until April 20, 2016, which effectively ends debate for the rest of the session.
On Wednesday night senators began debate on a proposed constitutional amendment, LR378CA, guaranteeing the right to farm in Nebraska. On Thursday morning Senator John Kuehn, the introducer, asked for unanimous consent to bracket the bill until April 20.
Next week senators will take up the Transitional Health Insurance Program Act, LB1032, on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, debate will begin on the education funding bill introduced on behalf of Governor Ricketts (LB959) and a learning community funding bill, LB1067. First round debate on LB958, a property tax relief bill, will begin on Thursday.
Because 33 priority bills remain on General File and 15 remain on Select File, Speaker Galen Hadley announced that evening debate may be extended up to one hour on scheduled late nights. When senators return on Tuesday, ten legislative days remain. Bills on General File must be advanced by April 6, the 56th day, or earlier in order to have enough time to pass through the final two rounds of debate and be signed or vetoed by the governor prior to adjournment. The session will adjourn sine die on April 20.

Implements of Husbandry Bill Advances from Select File
Implements of husbandry, including manure spreaders and other equipment, would be allowed on county roads except bridges or culverts with posted weight limits or roads subject to statutory weight limits pursuant to LB977 as advanced from Select File this week. An amendment was adopted that would expand the time frame for existing county authority to regulate the operation of vehicles or impose weight limits on county roads. Currently Neb.Rev.Stat. sec. 60-681 authorizes counties to impose such limits on certain roads for 90 days per calendar year by resolution or ordinance. The amendment would extend that authority to 180 days. The amendment also includes technical language to revise county ordinance statutes to include the language from 60-681.
The bill also contains language from several other bills, including a measure to shift one percent of motor vehicle tax proceeds to a fund to help replace the aging motor vehicle titling and registration system. Other new language 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.
NextGen 911 Plan Advanced from General File
A plan for next-generation 911 is one step closer in a bill that advanced from first round debate this week. As advanced to Select File with a Transportation and Telecommunications Committee amendment, LB938 would place coordination of the statewide plan with the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC would appoint a state 911 director to manage the department within the Commission. The PSC and state 911 director would develop a plan for a 911 service system and hold two public hearings on the plan. The plan would include, at minimum, the costs associated with the implementation and estimated ongoing operation and maintenance of the 911 service system, including which costs that are to be paid from funds collected by the state and which costs would be the obligation of local governing bodies. The plan would also contain a recommendation of the number of public safety answering points that should be maintained in the state that are capable of next-generation 911 service. LB938 is a Transportation and Telecommunications Committee priority bill.

 Return to top
Nebraska Association of County Officials
1335 H Street | Lincoln, NE 68508 | 402-434-5660
Join Our Mailing List