April 1, 2016                                                                        Legislative Report Archive 

In This Issue


on Facebook

Two property tax relief proposals introduced on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts met mixed responses this week before both bills advanced to the second round of debate.
LB958, as amended and advanced to Select File, would provide $20 million in property tax credits to agricultural property owners. Debate began with a Revenue Committee proposal for $30 million in credits and a three percent cap on unused budget authority for community colleges that was the subject of a public hearing on March 24. The question was divided so that the tax credit and community college issues could be addressed separately. The community college portion is expected to be removed on Select File.  
Going into the debate, some senators were concerned that a rural-urban split might derail the bill - and property tax relief for agland owners - for this year. Senators agreed that agland values have increased dramatically in recent years but disagreed on whether the proposal would provide meaningful relief. Some senators suggested that other methods of taxation, including taxing based on income, freezing valuation, and reducing income tax rates, should be considered to provide relief to owners of other types of property as well.
After six hours of discussion on several amendments, a cloture motion was offered to end debate and the bill advanced as amended on a 39-2 vote.
The school funding part of the property tax relief package, LB959, was debated on March 27 and advanced to Select File. By eliminating the part of the school funding formula that takes away state aid when school levies reach 95 cents, LB959 would allow more schools to qualify for state aid. The price tag is estimated to be $8.5 million.
LB1067 was also debated on March 27. It would eliminate the common levy for Omaha's Learning Community. Members of the Learning community share a levy to help allocate resources to address achievement gaps in the community. Senators debated the amount of transition aid for districts financially harmed by removing the common levy and overcame a bracket motion before advancing the bill to Select File. Further amendments are expected during the second round of debate.
A separate bill to revise the valuation of the first acre of farm sites and home sites was bracketed on Tuesday after it became clear that there were not enough votes for overcome a filibuster. LB1037 was intended to address differences in the valuation of non-agricultural land associated with agland by valuing land associated with farm sites and home sites at their agland value. According to data provided by the Property Assessment Division of the Nebraska Department of Revenue, the average value of farm home sites ranges from $337 in Hooker County to $56,074 in Sarpy County.
As a follow-up to the property tax discussion, three interim studies have been introduced to examine the property tax structure in Nebraska. LR593 will examine the structure, compliance, and administration of real and personal property taxes. LR600 will examine alternatives for valuing agricultural land for property tax purposes. LR604 will examine inconsistencies in the practices utilized by county assessors in determining agricultural land value.    
nextgenRiparian Weed Funding, NextGen 911 Bills Advance
Local weed control authorities, weed management entities, and natural resource districts would have access to $1 million in state funding to help control of phragmites and other invasive species in waterways under LB1038. 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 funding in LB1038 would help to continue that work. The bill would reinstate the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force to help oversee the process. Other provisions of the bill address a water rights agreement between the Nebraska Public Power District and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission regarding the Spencer Dam, revise procedures for the Niobrara Council, and create a permitting procedure through the Department of Roads for trimming vegetation that obstructs advertising signs. LB1038 was advanced from Select File today.
Another bill advanced from Select File would place coordination of the plan for next-generation 911 under the oversight of the Public Service Commission (PSC). LB938 would require the PSC to 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.
Several other bills that impact counties were also advanced from Select File this week. LB874 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. Other provisions of LB874 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. Other sections of the bill address dates to mail ballots and procedures to petition on to the general election ballot.
LB1110 would adopt the Nebraska Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to reflect new federal legislation adopted last summer.
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. If the reports are not submitted by August 1, a $20 per day penalty, up to $2,000 per delinquency, would apply.
LB1098 would increase the Legal Aid and Services Fund charged in court filings from $5.25 to $6.25. The Fund is administered through the Commission on Public Advocacy to provide grants for providers of civil legal services for low income Nebraskans.
LB1000 would require the Crime Commission to develop model policies on the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement agencies. Agencies would have to either adopt the model policies or develop their own. Law enforcement agencies would also be required to adopt written policies on eyewitness suspect identifications. The bill would open grand jury proceedings for deaths occurring during apprehension or while in the custody of a law enforcement officer or detention personnel. If the grand jury reports a no true bill, the grand jury report, the no true bill, and a transcript would be available for public review.
finalBills Passed on Final Reading
Senators sent a long list of bills to the Governor's desk on Thursday and Friday. Many of the bills had been advanced through the first two stages of debate by a consent calendar. The following bills are of interest to counties.
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.
LB725 would eliminate filings of real estate transfer statements (Form 521) on all easements except certain conservation and preservation easements.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. LB742 was advanced from Select File and Tuesday and passed on Friday.
LB894 would require the appointment of an attorney in juvenile cases in counties over 150,000. It would replace secure detention and nonsecure detention classifications and establish additional court review of juvenile programs and facilities. Additional reporting would be required for the use of room confinement for juveniles.

 govsignsGovernor Signs Budget Bills
Governor Pete Ricketts signed this year's budget bills, LB956 and LB957, and 24 other measures on March 30. Although he expressed concerns about several items, including an additional $1 million for community colleges and increased funding to replace lost federal funds for scholarships, he did not issue any vetoes.  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.

Governor Ricketts signed the following bills without additional messages:
LB1082 requires notice and copies of Class II commercial underground injection well permit applications to be given to counties, cities, villages, and natural resources districts. The bill was introduced in response to concerns last year about fracking and the regulatory authority of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
LB83 amends 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.
LB704 clarifies and harmonizes building code statutes for counties and municipalities. For example, the bill requires 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.
LB710 redefines the offense of hazing to apply to students of high school age and younger.
LB906 authorizes 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. To be eligible, an officer would have to maintain satisfactory performance with his or her law enforcement agency, work for more than 100 hours per year, and be authorized to make arrests.
LB1009 creates a penalty for the sale of lookalike drugs, such a K2, that are portrayed as producing effects similar to those of a controlled substance.
LB1109 exempts 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 will be given 30 days prior to the meeting to vote on the hiring.
interim Interim Study Resolutions Offered
Property valuation, election deadlines, mandatory minimum sentencing, and other topics of interest to counties will be examined during interim studies this summer. Study resolutions are prioritized by the chairperson of the committee to which they are referred. Public hearings are held throughout the summer on selected studies. A complete list of interim studies is  here.

Some of the studies of interest to counties not mentioned elsewhere in this report follow.  

General Interest 
LR439 (Crawford) Interim study to examine the use of tax-increment financing by municipalities for residential development
LR490 (Crawford) Interim study to examine the enforcement of state and local building codes
LR498 (Johnson) Interim study to examine the Nebraska Right to Farm Act
LR509 (Mello) Interim study to examine the funding history, programs, and services offered by the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Nebraska
LR512 (Business and Labor Committee) Interim study to examine the Commission of Industrial Relations
LR519 (Smith) Interim study to examine whether the One-Call Notification System Act should be updated
LR597 (Murante) Interim study to examine financing mechanisms available to various political subdivisions to issue bonds or assume future payment obligations without a direct vote of taxpayers
LR504 (Murante) Interim study to examine the numerous deadlines involved in the election process
LR530 (Howard) Interim study to examine the voting processes and procedures available for citizens who are hospitalized or who reside in nursing homes or extended care facilities
Justice/Law Enforcement/Courts
LR513 (Howard) Interim study to examine workforce issues within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems
LR527 (Schumacher) Interim study to examine possible legislative reforms to Nebraska's mandatory minimum sentencing laws
LR550 (Schumacher) Interim study to examine the feasibility of creating a common data collection site for county jail information necessary to receive funding under the County Justice Reinvestment Grant Program
LR551 (Krist) Interim study to explore and assess the use of congregate care in Nebraska for youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems
LR560 (Krist) Interim study to examine the origins and utility of using court fees as a source of funding in Nebraska
LR561 (Krist) Interim study to examine the effectiveness, economic stability, and long-term viability of the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney and the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Geneva
LR576 (Pansing Brooks) Interim study to examine children's access to legal counsel in juvenile proceedings across the state of Nebraska

LR584 (Morfeld) Interim study to examine the possibility of providing direct and statewide funding for legal representation in order to provide more equitable access to civil justice in Nebraska
Property Tax
LR555 (Lindstrom) Interim study to examine the process and procedures used in appeals before the Tax Equalization and Review Commission
LR588 (Harr) Interim study to determine best practices in drafting tax legislation and determining the fiscal impact of tax policies
LR593 (Gloor) Interim study to examine the structure, compliance, and administration of real and personal property taxes
LR600 (Johnson) Interim study to examine alternatives for valuing agricultural land for property tax purposes
LR604 (Davis) Interim study to examine inconsistencies in the practices utilized by county assessors in determining agricultural land value

snapSnapshots of County Issues
Daily Legislative Activities
Property tax relief and Medicaid expansion were expected to be the controversial topics this week. However, after less than two hours of debate on Tuesday, this year's Medicaid expansion bill was bracketed until April 20, 2016, effectively ending debate on LB1032 for the session. LB1032 was introduced by Senator John McCollister to create the Transitional Health Insurance Program Act to provide health coverage to 97,000 low income Nebraskans.

First round debate on property tax bills was spread over three days and additional amendments are anticipated on second round debate.

Debate was lengthy on several other bills. LB821 would prohibit public and private employers from requiring or requesting the passwords for personal internet accounts from employees or adding the employer to friend lists. A filibuster ended after Senator Ernie Chambers agreed to accept an amendment with clarifying language. 

Debate on LB1103 ended with a failed cloture motion after six hours of debate. The bill would have required the Department of Health and Human Services to assist in collecting data to aid enforcement of Medicaid "claw back" provisions.

On Monday debate is scheduled on General File speaker priority bills before moving to more controversial bills on winner-take-all presidential elections (LB10), Game and Parks Commission fees (LB745), and medical marijuana (LB643)   

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