Nebraska Legislature passed budget laws last week. Governor Ricketts has five days (excluding Sunday) to decide whether to sign the legislation. The governor has the power to veto certain items on household bills without rejecting the entire bill. Once the household bills have been passed, other legislation using general funds or reducing revenue for the general fund, as well as any other tax expense bills, can be read in the final reading.
LB2, introduced by Senator Tom Briese, would lower the valuation of agricultural land for educational bonds from 75% to 50% of its true value. As introduced, LB2 would have reduced the agricultural land to 30% of its real value for school bond issuance, but the Revenue Committee changes changed it to 50% of its real value. The committee’s amendments also included the provisions of LB79, as amended, which proposed that the property tax credit fund be increased by 3% each year. However, the 3% annual increase in the Property Tax Credit Fund has been removed in order to get enough support to further develop the bill.
The purpose of LB2 is to more evenly balance the responsibility for paying for new school buildings between agricultural landowners and those who live in the city or own businesses. Currently, rural landowners in rural areas can represent a small percentage of voters in a school bond election. However, they may be paying off most of the debt. Legislators debated LB2 for more than 5 hours last week before the bill was approved in the first round. 38 senators voted yes, 3 voted no and 8 did not vote on the further development of the bill.
Another property tax measure was also discussed by the legislature last week. LB 408 suggested limiting the property tax application for a political subdivision to no more than 3% compared to the previous year. The 3% increase would not apply to property taxes used on debt securities or property taxes collected from real growth. The 3% cap would go under after 2027.
After eight hours of debate on LB408, a cloture motion was filed by the sponsor of the bill. Cloture motions require 33 votes to break the debate, allowing a vote on how the bill will move forward. The cloture proposal was unsuccessful and fell four votes back. Political subdivisions such as schools, cities and counties rejected this bill. The governor proposed a similar cap but wanted it in the Constitution rather than the law, which would have been more difficult to change if needed.
Property taxes are the main concern I hear from constituents. Legislators increased the real estate tax credit fund, and last year we passed a new income tax credit program based on the level of property taxes paid to school districts. Although lawmakers allocate approximately $ 700 million annually for property tax relief, it has not resolved Nebraskan’s property tax burden. So I supported LB408.
One day after a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd, legislators approved LB51 39-0 in the first round. LB51 would require all law enforcement agencies to be accredited by January 1, 2023. It would require agencies to adopt guidelines on the use of force and would increase annual training requirements for law enforcement officers. Chokeholds would be generally forbidden. Law enforcement agencies must adopt guidelines that require an officer to intervene if they believe another officer is using excessive force.
As introduced, the need for further training would have increased from 24 hours to 40 hours. The committee’s amendments reduce the requirement to 32 hours, which will be introduced gradually. In addition, the 10-hour limit for online training will be lifted. The Crime Commission would need to create a database of law enforcement officers who have had their certification revoked or who have been convicted of a serious crime. The Reserve Officer Program is being replaced with Conditional Training Officers who are able to carry a firearm, wear a badge, and after completing certain training and under the direct supervision of a training officer, interact with the public while waiting for the next basic class. Prior to the second phase of the debate, the bill sponsor has committed to working with rural senators who have raised concerns about some of the bill’s provisions. My support for this action depends on whether these concerns are adequately addressed.
At the beginning of the last few weeks of this legislature, the senators started working in the evenings to finish our work. Legislators will begin discussing tax and spending measures in the next two weeks. I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts on these measures. I can be reached at 40, PO Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email is [email protected] and my phone number is (402) 471-2801.