LB 1290 (1994)
March 9, 1994
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Mr. Clerk. While the Legislature is in session and capable of transacting business, I propose to sign and do hereby sign LR 328, LR 329, LR 327, LR 326, LR 325 and LR 324. We move now to General File and LB 1290.
CLERK: Madam President, LB 1290 was a bill introduced by Senator Warner. (Read title.) The bill was referred to the Education Committee for public hearing. It has been discussed on February 23 and again on February 28. Amendments to the bill have been adopted. There is a motion to bracket the bill until March 2. 1 do have an amendment pending.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Senator Warner, would you be willing to give the body a brief overview of 1290 to let us know where we are?
SENATOR WARNER: Madam President, members of the Legislature,
1290, as you recall, initially was introduced to change the effective date for the implementation of the provisions of the state aid to LB 1059, delayed the impact for one year, has since been modified with an amendment that Senator Wickersham designed. It sets up a better process. It does not exist in the existing law for the provisions of... that were in LB 1059 and I guess maybe that's sufficient.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Warner. Mr. Clerk.
CLERK: Madam President, Senator Withem had an amendment printed on page 1053. Senator, I believe this is the one you want to withdraw.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Is that correct, Senator Withem?
SPEAKER WITHEM: I'm sure it is. Senator Chambers had me interrupted, but I'm sure whatever that whatever it said was correct. If it means I'm withdrawing the originally filed amendment and offering the one that was handwritten and carried up there, that's what I would like to do.
CLERK: Senator Withem would move to amend the bill. (The Withem amendment, FA423, appears on page 1072 of the Legislative Journal.)
SPEAKER WITHEM: Yes, Madam President and members of the body, the amendment that is up there right now is substantively the same as the amendment I had printed in the Journal. Just in last minute review to make sure it was all technically drafted in a proper fashion or properly drafted in a technical fashion, we discovered some problems with it, so what is up there now is a way of fulfilling the original intent of what we had published in the Journal. The issue before us in 14:90 now is one of whether or not the adjustment factor in the state aid formula will go into effect this year or whether we'll delay it yet one more year. I have become more and more convinced the more and more I learn about it that not only is it the right thing to do because delay just begets another delay, but I'm also convinced more so than I was when we debated this a couple of weeks ago, started to debate this a couple weeks ago, that what we have now available to go into effect is a pretty good product compared to where we have been, compared to what we'll have if we don't do a delay and, frankly, compared to what other states have done when they... when they started on this process. On the other hand,
when we debated this bill before Senator Wickersham did offer an excellent amendment, an excellent to provide more definitions of what we're trying to accomplish, a process for school districts to make their case if they think there's been a problem with the adjustment factors that have come up, and something, frankly, I don't think is needed anymore but does add more comfort to the statutes and that is that a suit to delay the ... or to enjoin the distribution of state aid would not be possible. So what my amendment does is it takes the amended bill, leaves Senator Wickersham's amendment in place, makes it clear that 1995 will be the first year that we go through the processes that his amendment called for, but that by April 1 of 1994 this year we begin the process of the adjustment factor and using that to distribute the state aid money. I distributed some information. Senator Warner distributed some information. Senator Warner and I have a disagreement on, I think, how we get to the same place and maybe he will agree or disagree with that assertion, but I don't think what he and 1 have is a fundamental disagreement as to whether or not there should be an adjustment factor. I think what Senator Warner's argument has been, and I don't want to make it for him, but I have interpreted it to be that we would be better off waiting another year and if we're going to- start this process, doing it with better numbers in place, not that he doesn't want to do this ultimately. My argument has been that you don't get to a destination unless you start toward that destination, that if we continue to... thank you, Senator Chambers, I know that there are occasionally some very profound things said on the floor of the Legislature and I'm glad that... I'm glad you're paying attention. I appreciate that very much. But that what we have done with this adjustment factor is analogous, I think, to people that are planning a trip, they're going to take a vacation and they're always going to do that but there's always something that comes in the way that they have to do something else first and they never get started on that trip. Remember, the LB 1059 adjustment factor has already been delayed twice. The last time it was delayed there was very strong statements made by Senator Hall, then the Chair of t he Retirement... the Revenue Committee, that the distribution, at least as far as he was concerned, would not be delayed again, that the Department of Revenue needed to get ready. "East wee k, a number of us that have an interest in this issue met with people, staff people from the Department of Revenue, and inquired as to what they had done to... to get the adjustment factors out. Keep in mind those numbers are now out. the last time we debated this I don't know as we had... I guess we just
had them on our table but we didn't really know what they meant or how they were abolished. The point I would make in response to some of the arguments that have been made on this adjustment factor is as follows. Number one, people argue that the numbers you have available are not good. Senator Warner passed out a memo this morning explaining some of the problems in the numbers as they exist, that they're based on countywide data, but they are not based on individual school district data. I would argue that the numbers are much better than I thought they were. They, admittedly, are based on countywide data but they have been extrapolated down to school districts and we do, in fact, have that... that number. Secondly, there's an argument that. the numbers are so bad that we'll have a court case. The staff attorney for the Department of Revenue represented to us last week that she does not see that as a problem, that these numbers complied with the statute and the statute indicates that we must use the best available assessment practices. These numbers are based on '92 valuations and they are the best that was available to the department at that time. They used those numbers and they have created adjustment factors by school district. Further on this whole problem of a court case coming up, a number of other things to consider in that, even if there is a court challenge, the likely remedy would not be to halt distribution of state aid, as was represented here earlier, but the likely remedy would be that adjustments would be made in next year's distribution of state aid. That's the avenue that is available now when mistakes are made, and if it's a mistake or if it's a problem caused by legal action as... and we're right in the middle of one of those right now, impact aid. Because of impact aid not being treated as an accountable receipt, I based on federal government determination, we're seeing some adjustments in state aid being made. They're painful. Frankly, for school districts affected they're probably more painful and more significant than these numbers here. A third concern, and Senator Monen again has distributed numbers based on a second printout that was arrived at in the department, and, again, I would take some exception to a representation that those numbers show specifically what will happen to state aid. We do not know what will happen to state aid because it is next year's... last year's state aid has already been distributed. Those numbers indicate what would have happened had last year's distribution been done under those same... same procedures. We don't know what's going to happen to state aid and nobody can represent to you what will happen because the numbers have now gone to the Department of Education. They're one of dozens of factors the
Department of Education will use, amass together, and next summer come up with the numbers of what state aid school districts will receive. There's a concern that these are large sums of money that are being distributed. When I prepared my handout it was at home last night and I hope these numbers are right. But, as I recall, we're looking at approximately $8 million of state aid that will be distri ... redistributed, lots of money, admittedly, but that's around 2 percent of the entirety of state aid money that's being distributed. That's not a huge shift that's taking place. Further, if you look at the entire cost of operating schools, it's less than one-tenth of one percent, right around two-thirds of one percent is all that we're talking about. Finally, if you're going to delay, there needs to be a rationale for that delay, and if the rationale is that if we delay one more year, we will have moved from an imperfect system, based on 1992 data, to a situation of 1993 where it will be much,. much, much better.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SPEAKER WITHEM: That just factually isn't the case, at least that's not my understanding. Because the 1993 numbers are in. For 1993, they did, in fact, use a school district as a... as a basis of calculation but they really only have enough data in about 15 percent of the school districts for next year. We do need to appropriate money and I support that appropriation but that appropriation to do sample assessments and all the other things necessary, in my opinion, really won't begin to affect things for two or three years down the road. So a one-year delay will not substantially improve the data that we have available to us. Frankly, the only reason I see for delay is if you look at a school district and you don't like the numbers that you receive but that's not going to get better for future years, we're still going to have problems where there's going to be... any time you redistribute state aid, even 1 or 2 percent of it, you're going to be looking at numbers that look pretty big.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Time.
SPEAKER WITHEM: I don't think there's a need to delay so I would urge you to support my amendment.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Withem. The Chair recognized Senator Warner. 10158 March 0, 1994
SENATOR WARNER: Madam President, members of the Legislature, I would rise to oppose the motion to delay. At some point, by the way, Senator Withem, it's not a question at this point, but I would appreciate understanding why we're doing April 1 as opposed to March 1 for '94, which it's immaterial, but I'm curious. There are...you had a handout from both Senator Withem and myself and, as he has pointed out, interesting enough, many of the same at least issues are addressed in both memos with probably significantly different...different conclusions. There aren't a whole lot of new arguments that I would make. The important thing, from my viewpoint, is that the way it's proposed to be done this year with the numbers that have are distributed, they simply do not comply with the law. it's fairly simple. And any way you look at it, it is not district by district numbers. They're using countywide adjustment figures and I suspect maybe... I don't know if Senator Wickersham will comment, not only that, but the law very specifically refers to tax valuation as opposed to the concept that's in Senator Wickersham's amendment and I think that, in itself, is probably flawed. Again, they talk about the best available assessment practices, what... the department was there, I sat in the same. meeting and their argument for the attorney for the department was... or comment, I should say, was to the effect that this ... well, this was the only information they had. it's doubtful to me that that necessarily would stand up because it still simply is not in compliance with what is required. And I've had at least one experience in this body where I had legislation enacted that was dependent upon. some specific information, that when it came time to implement the law which had been enacted that information was not available as prescribed and it simply made the act inoperable. And I fail to see the fact that it... they did the best with what they had even though it's all wrong, will justify the court or even for the legislative policy to go ahead and distribute the money on that kind of an adjustment. A comment was made that we're not...have a lot at stake, only $8 million, I won't argue with that although I've sat here, as some of the rest of you, and heard some rather long, extended arguments on a much smaller amount of money on distributing state aid, such as the hold harmless clause that was in existing law. We've had the issue of transportation which might be a larger one, the ability to use current enrollment as opposed to two years old enrollment for unusual growth, those were very small amounts too. But they resulted in long and serious arguments. The reason for delay, I don't know that you will ever get to the place where you will
have perfect figures but I would not consider what we have as being imperfect. I would consider them flawed and it's a significant difference between having flawed figures that are not consistent. The reason for delay, of course, is to provide more opportunity, along with the resources if that's enacted.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SENATOR WARNER: We can't, for the state, the Department of Revenue to go back and reconstruct those sales for 1993 by school district which, in my opinion, could be done and could be ascertained and those figures would be much, much more likely to follow. The other point in what time... and I'll have to talk again, I would like to have you look at page 2 of my handout, happens to use Dawson County. But it's an issue I kept bringing up time and time again why school district figures are significant. And in this case you will notice that it only refers to residential property. And if you look at the communities that are in Dawson County, you use the countywide ratio, then look at what the sales assessment ratio was for different towns. These are not necessarily... some of these are a different school district, this is not' a school district figure, this is a town figure, but the significant point is that the sales assessment ratios in some of those communities are...
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Time.
SENATOR WARNER: ... significantly higher.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Warner. The Chair recognize Senator Wickersham.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: I would yield my time to Senator Warner so he can continue and have some continuity in his remarks.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Senator Warner.
SENATOR WARNER: Thank you, Senator Wickersham. Just briefly, there is a significant difference in those sales assessment ratios. To use Cozad and Lexington, you can see a significant difference and what becomes even more important is that when you look at the composition of those school districts, 50 percent of the property in Cozad is residential property, 41 percent of the property in Lexington is... is residential, and a combination of both residential and commercial property which, essentially, is
the value in the town because ag value is not a significant either. It becomes a rather significant factor when those adjustments are made and... and you use a uniform adjustment figure for the whole county when it's not appropriate for those two towns which are, in fact, in different... in different school districts. From my viewpoint, if it's going to be done, it ought to be done right. It' ought to be done with the information that can be attained and avoid the what I still believe can be a potential problem if we do riot delay for one... for one additional year in order to put the whole thing into place in a more effective way. Thank you, Senator Wickersham. Return what time is left to you.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Senator Wickersham.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Thank you, Madam President. We're in a somewhat unusual position with the amendment that Senator Withem has offered. He says `--hat the amendment that was adopted for 1290, putting some equity and fairness into the process, clearly defining the standards that we are supposed to achieve is a good amendment. In fact, I think he said an excellent amendment which gave me a great deal of gratification because I value his opinion, but I'm curious, why is it so good a year from now? And why should we attempt to use flawed values this year without the benefit of the process or the guidance that we would have for next year? Aren't we then really acknowledging our own failures and compounding those failures by submitting an inequitable circumstance to school districts across the State of Nebraska and leaving it to them, potentially, to resolve the questions that we left unanswered on this floor in the courts? Now I think there are a couple of reasons why a school district could get to court. Senator Warner mentioned one, clearly, the values that we have are based on countywide assessment ratios. They're not based on school district assessment ratios. They may not, in fact, reflect the best assessment practices possible and I expect there will be some discussion of that, and I'm not really suggesting one way or the other. I'm saying that that's an issue that can be litigated. And, finally, I think there is what is to me the clearest reason why the numbers that have been promulgated by the Department of Revenue cannot be implemented and that is simply the bald language of the existing statute. And you remember a couple of days ago Senator Withem and I had a very brief exchange about that.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: And if you read the language, you ... without any presumption, about what the legislative intent was, if you simply read the language with a blank mind, I think you will come to the same result, because the language says that the Department of Revenue has to promulgate adjustment factors so that values, taxable value, as required by law in the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, is used for state aid. For the year 1992, that is the value that is being used for assessment or was used for assessment across this State of Nebraska. It was approved by the State Board of Equalization. They were adopted by local boards of equalization. Those are the values that were required by law in the Constitution of the State of Nebraska. No one has challenged them. No one has had them overturned in a court.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Time.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: How could there be different values?
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Wickersham. The Chair recognizes Senator Moore.
SENATOR MOORE: Madam President and members, Senator Warner, if Senator Warner would yield to a question.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Senator Warner.
SENATOR MOORE: Senator Warner, you have stated that by delaying for a year then we could comply by the law a year from now. My question to you is, since a year from now we'll be using '92 data, all of the school districts that do not have sales you still cannot comply with the year ... with the law a year from now. Am I incorrect when I say that, you would still have a problem a year from now?
SENATOR WARNER: I ...
SENATOR MOORE: Even if with the half... even if we appropriated a half a million dollars, that's for another year, by waiting a year we could go back and get sales by school district but we still would not have good, hard data by school district. Correct or incorrect? And on my time answer that briefly, if you would, please.
SENATOR WARNER: Well, in that case, I think we would have better hard data. Is that short and sweet?
SENATOR MOORE: That is short and sweet but we would disagree. I submit to the members of the Legislature that if you do not go ahead with this proposal this year, the argument a year from now is going to be the same one, the same exact argument. And so if you delay, you really have to delay two years to get to Quivera, so to speak, where everything is wonderful, because a year from now you're going to have the same problem. You may go back and a year from now even if we appropriate a half a million dollars, which I am now convinced is probably a good thing to do, in 1995 this Legislature will be sitting here and saying, now wait a second, we don't have good enough data. We still do not have appraisals in '92, we're still wrong, it is still not a perfect world, we still must delay. And so if you really want to delay, you ought to vote for a bill to delay it two years because it's going to take you that long for the data to catch up with the distribution formula and make a difference. And so buying a year to get you some better data does not make a perfect ... does not make it good enough. A year from now, any school district we think is going to lose is going to use the same exact argument they're using today. Do don't buy into that. if you're going to delay, you honestly ought to delay it in two years. My attitude is this, and I finally have become... reached a comfort level that the right thing for this body to do is to appropriate the money to improve the data in years to come. if you appropriate the money this year, it actually will not... actually we'll have better data for the '96- 97 distribution cycle. But we might as well start doing it now. In the meantime, the question you have to ask yourself is, which is the worse wrong, taking what you know, knowing the data we have, it has shown very clearly where there are some problems and adjustments need to be made, to ignore that data for what might be wrong? Or do you recognize that data, know that, as a rule, it's fairly reliable? One thing you have to understand is legally does it stand up? Yes, I think it does. It is the best available data. It does work. And so you have the question. Do you want to ignore what you know for what might be, or recognize the wrongs that exist and start biting the bullet and taking some action, in the meantime sending a very clear message that if county boards, school districts, business communities want to try and play games with valuations to affect state institution formulas, they will not win. They will not win because this body is sending a strong message saying, we have
the data, we're going to correct the wrongs and we're going to move ahead and we're not going to be sitting here shaking in our boots on what might be. Is the data perfect? No. Absolutely not. It's not a perfect ten, but it's probably in the seven, eight category. And you're not going to get a perfect ten until '96-97 or beyond. And so, unless you want to wait until well into the nineties to start correcting a problem,...
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SENATOR MOORE: ...you need to jump off the cliff right now or you're always going to have an excuse. And if you buy into that argument, those that don't do their job, those that recognize that by tweaking the valuations, by rolling back valuations that brings us state aid dollars we'll be rewarded, what you're going to have in the meantime is you're going to have lots and lots of games being played in the next few years on valuations, it's that simple. If you want to wait a few years, that's fine, I think it's wrong. We know there's a problem. We have the data to prove it and unless, you know, because of what might be, we're going to ignore that, you're making a big mistake. I think we have enough information, we know there's a problem, it's time for us to recognize it, jump off the cliff, make the decision and send a very clear message that no matter what you do if you do not value your real estate properly, you are not going to be rewarded from the state aid formula. That is a very important message that I think needs to be sent. I think adoption of the Withem amendment, 1290, pass it, it will send that message and in the years to come we'll improve on it and 'we will finally get to the perfect...
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Time.
SENATOR MOORE: ... ten. We don't have to wait that long though.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Moore. The Chair recognizes Senator Monen.
SENATOR MONEN: Thank you, Madam President. I understand that this is the Withem amendment. Is that correct?
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Yes, Senator.
SENATOR MONEN: All right, well, Senator Warner, you asked... said to Senator Withem you were going to ask him
sometime why we didn't talk about ... why we changed this from April to... to April from March and I think the answer is', am I wrong, we beat ... we beat the amendment as it included a March date on February 23, 1994. Am I right or wrong in that? Senator Withem, would you mind responding?
SPEAKER WITHEM: I would just simply like to say freshmen senators are not supposed to be able to figure those thing out quite that easily, that quickly.
SENATOR MONEN: Oh, all right. Well, I catch onto the wiles and the scheming that goes on here. I think that the answer is that we don't have figures that are certified by the Department of Revenue and that's what the law requires, that these numbers be certified and they can't be certified because they've told us that they... they just aren't available. They've told us that the valuations by district aren't available, that they're going to have to... and that they'll be available next year. I don't think there's any reason why we suppose that it's not going to be... it can't be done in a year. I don't know whether it will be or not but I think it can be. And, therefore, I think we should wait until the Department of Revenue who, incidentally, I attended this meeting at the Department of Revenue and I was prepared to be cynical about their attitude and effort and so forth, but, right or wrong, I came away with the impression that they had done everything they could with the resources and material and the manpower they had and that everyone was agreed now that they would be furnished with the necessary resources to do a correct job so that the figures would... accurate figures would be available to us next year. But they're not available now. If you look at the definition of certified, it should be... it would recite that there would be a certificate there that the Department of Revenue endorse the... or-authoritatively or guaranteed or attested to the quality and qualifications or fitness or validity of the numbers. They just can't do it. They acknowledge that they aren't there. For whatever reason in the past, the numbers aren't available, they're not there. So I think, as we did on February 23, this amendment should be defeated. Thank you.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator. The Chair recognizes Senator Withem.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Yes, Madam President, and members of the body, I'm happy I follow Senator Monen. I hope people were listening
to Senator Monen because I think the point he is making is perhaps the center of the misunderstanding. And I hope you were listening to him because he was dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong. When this bill was introduced there was a percepti on that the Department of Revenue could not comply with the letter of the law this year and that there may need to be a ... there may need to be a delay. And, at that time, and I think may be Senator Moore hit on this a little bit, where he talked about his comfort level, at that time because I was livid at t he department for having ignored a statute for all these many years and then coming forward and say they couldn't comply, I was responding to the delay on maybe more of an emotional level than an intellectual level. But, as time has gone on, the Department of Revenue has, in fact, complied with the letter of the la w. Senator Wickersham says they haven't. Senator Wickersham is not the attorney for the Department of Revenue. The attorney for the Department of Revenue represented to us in a meeting in t he office of the commissioner of ... of the tax commissioner last week that those numbers are in compliance with the law and further indicated that... that, in her opinion, they would stand a legal challenge. Senator Monen, we have those numbers by school district, we do. You were wrong in saying that we don't have those numbers by school district. They are there. They were placed on senators' desks a week ago Friday. They do exist. We can carry forward with the law and it will be defendable. The issue, the valid issue that's being debated at this particular point is do those numbers represent a perfect readjustment? And the answer to that is, obviously, no, they do not. We are a long way in Nebraska from a perfect readjustment and we won't get there until we really get to the root of t he problem and that is we have an assessment practice and a system of sanctions and rewards that reward those that don't comp ly with the statute and sanction those that do. Lancaster County, for instance, this year went through a very painful reevaluation process, brought up a lot of their... their valuations. When we get to the point of ... of using the 1993 data for adjustment purposes and if we don't have an. adjustment factor, Lancast er County is going to get nailed. Lancaster County will be on the other side years down the road. Lancaster County is punish ed this year because they hadn't ... because for the 1992 year they hadn't kept their data, their numbers current. Now that they are current, they will be hammered if we don't have a readjustment. The numbers are in. I think al so Senator... Senator Warner's argument really does catch us in a logical gap and Senator Moore hit on that. The numbers a re
either good enough now to go ahead, and I believe they are, based on what the administration has told me, and that's who we rely upon and they're the ones that are going to be in problems if they get challenged, and they say they're good enough. So I'm prepared not to ... not to delay. On the other hand, if we wait, we're going to have to wait a long time because it's going to take... and Senators Wehrbein and Vrtiska and I were visiting about this, for those school districts out there- that do not have enough sales...
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SPEAKER WITHEM: ... to make an adjustment factor, to have a sales assessment ratio, we're going to have to do something else. We're going to have to hire people and we're going to have to send them out there and they're going to have to do on-site sample evaluations. And that's going to take some time and that data is not going to be available a year from now. What will improve a year from now will be that those school districts that had sales are having those sales reported now by school district, but that's only 15 percent of the school districts. Admittedly, that's a higher percentage- of students than 15 percent but it's only 15 percent of the school districts, according to the information I received. So the numbers are, in fact, available. There is no logical reason to do the delay, but if you are going to buy into the argument that we ought not to do the adjustment then you shouldn't pass 1290 in its current form because you really do need to delay much longer than it is. Again, would urge you to support the amendment.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Withem. The Chair recognizes Senator Warner.
SENATOR WARNER: Madam President, members of the Legislature, this is probably one of these issues that I guess you either go with your premonition or who do you want to...who do you want to believe probably has the better position. I am not aware of the Department of Revenue taking the position that the current numbers are in compliance with the law. What I am aware is that they said, which was quoted in here, that it was the best available assessment practice that was available. But the law very specifically says it shall be done by school district by school district. The law does not say that you will use countywide averages and then apply that countywide average to
school districts, all school districts in the county. It simply does riot state that. And I would be amazed that the competent attorney at the Department of Revenue would attempt to argue otherwise, although I have been amazed before. But the ... not by her, from her but from others, let me hasten to add. My concern is that the intracounty is not there and it simply isn't. You can demonstrate it in every place and time. We used an example, sent out, for the simple reason there happens to be a couple of school districts involved here that are very similar in which they had a very small amount of... of agricultural land that they had substantially about the same amount of commercial and residential property and in significant numbers that... that using a uniform adjustment level results in inequitable treatment between taxpayers, and that's the issue. I believe that there will be better numbers next year with additional resources and the time, using '93 figures, which is what they will be using next time. There will be identification of school districts. Yes, there will be some school districts that may not have sales and that's why there are appraisers included in the provision for the additional funds to make some on-site appraisals, if necessary, in some school districts. But I believe that greater equity is going to be acquired by the...by the one-year delay and I think it's going to be significantly different insofar as the ability to be able to comply. So' I would urge that you vote down this proposed amendment and advance the bill and then see what additional information she may want or know or need and we can reargue it on Select File.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator. The Chair recognizes Senator Wickersham.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Senator Moore, if you would yield for just a moment.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Senator Moore.
SENATOR MOORE: Yes.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Senator Moore, I believe in your remarks you indicated some apprehension about using the 1993 values. You thought they weren't going to be any better than the 1992 values and that if we delayed a year, we would have the same old problem. Is that a proper characterization?
SENATOR MOORE: You will have better data but you will not have
good enough if what you want...
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Okay.
SENATOR MOORE: ... is appraised valuations by school district. You will still have a problem a year from now.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Okay. If we were...
SENATOR MOORE: Not as big a one but you'll still have a problem.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: If we were able to use 1994 data, do you think that would make a difference?
SENATOR MOORE: Only if you spend more money to have appraisers to go out and make an appraisal on school districts that had no sales.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: And there is a bill to appropriate a half a million dollars to the Department of Revenue that could be used for that purpose?
SENATOR MOORE: Well, there's three 'different bills that could be used.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Okay.
SENATOR MOORE: The bill that actually does that never advanced from committee.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: But there is a possibility that they will receive an additional half million dollars and could use it fur those purposes?
SENATOR MOORE: Yes. And I'm... I, myself, will be supportive of that.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Okay. So if we change the state aid formula so that for next year we could use the 1994 values, we might, in fact, wind up using values that were appropriate?
SENATOR MOORE: I don't... I don't think you could do that, if you could, yes. It's my understanding you could not do that.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Last year there was an amendment prepared for LB 94 which I understand would have had that effect. We would have stopped using year old data and gone to. the prior year's data so as we were calculating '95 aid we would have used '94 values. I think we've been advised that it is possible to do that. So I take it, by your remarks, then you would be supportive of an amendment to LB 1290 incorporating those provisions and they're in AM1259 to LB 94 and enabling us to, hopefully, use the 1994 values. And then would it be appropriate to have a delay?
SENATOR MOORE: No.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: But would you support incorporating the amendment from LB 94 so that we used '94 values to calculate state aid in 1995?
SENATOR MOORE: I would be supportive of getting better data, implementing that into the state aid formula as soon as possible. But I am not will...I don't think you need to wait, you know, I don't think you need to wait till you got Bo Derek walking in as a perfect ten to do it. I think you can do it right now.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: All right. Well, Senator Moore, I would be delighted to see Bo Derek again. It's been a long time since I saw that movie. But... and I don't think the passage of time has dimmed my memory of that, but I'm... excuse me, no. But I agree with you that we will never have perfect numbers to use for state aid purposes, nor, of course, do I believe that we will ever have perfect numbers to, use for regular assessment practices. Those are desirable objectives. I think that all of us realistically would have to admit that they will never be perfect numbers. They will never be numbers that are not subject to question or by challenge by someone on some basis. But I do believe that by delaying one year we will have better data and in addition we will have a better process for the development of that data and that makes it worthwhile to wait. Senator Withem characterized comments by an attorney for the Department of Revenue. I did not happen to be there to hear those remarks so I can't necessarily dispute his characterization. And while I don't wish to question the 'Legal ability of the person noted....
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: ... the legal profession, as I'm sure you're all aware, part of the business is that you have those kinds of disagreements about interpretation of fact and law and that, in fact, you are entitled and, in fact, required to advance the interests of your client, in this case the Department of Revenue, if you believe there is any basis at all, not whether you think it can ultimately prevail but whether you think there is any basis at all for taking that position. So even though that attorney may have said that, it may not have been, if you asked carefully, a very strong opinion or one that even that attorney thought had a substantial chance of prevailing. in a court. But it may have been an opinion that there was some legal basis in fact or in law for defending that position, and that's what that attorney was required to represent, only that there was some basis,...
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Time.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: ... not that it was necessarily a substantial basis or one that would prevail.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Wickersham. Senator Withem.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Yes, Madam President, and members of the body, I had offered this amendment as an attempt to salvage what I thought was the good policy of the Wickersham amendment without having to enact the... the what I consider to be the bad policy of delaying this amendment one more year. There appears to be no interest on the part of the supporters of the bill to do that, so I think my strategic position now will be one of simply arguing against the advancement of LB 1290 as opposed to trying to make what I considered a bad bill better. I will just urge people to oppose what I consider to be a bad bill: For that reason, I would like to withdraw that amendment at this point.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Withem. The amendment is withdrawn. We return now to a discussion of LB ... Mr. Clerk.
CLERK: Madam President, I have another amendment. Senator Moore would move to amend the bill.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Senator Moore.
SENATOR MOORE: Well, this amendment, and I'm going to pull this amendment, to tell you the truth, and the reason is that this amendment would simply delay it till '96, because I'm convinced that if you delay the bill this year, you will be right back in the same situation next year. Any school district that is of the opinion they're going to lose money will have as strong an argument 12 months from now as they do right now. And so if you want to advance the bill for one year, you really ought to be advancing it for two years. That's really what you're going to do because you're going to have exactly the same arguments 12 months from now as you do right now. Obviously, I'm of the opinion we should not delay. I'm of the opinion we can work to improve the data and we do not have to wait until it's a perfect world to start changing how we distribute the money, because, by waiting, I've said it a million times, you penalize those that do their job and reward those that don't. If that's the message you want to send to the counties or to anybody, go ahead. This amendment I think is actually, if you're going to vote... if you're going to advance this bill today, the introducers really ought to put my... adopt my amendment as well and move it to two years, because a year from now we're going to have exactly the same arguments, exactly the sate holes, exactly the same problems. But I, too, I guess we need to finally send a message to the supporters of the bill that, no, we're not going to delay .this and then maybe at that point in time we can start at least making 1290 or some other bill a bill that will ... take the good idea that Senator Wickersham has and implement it into law this year. At this moment in time I will withdraw the amendment and strongly encourage the body to vote not to advance LB 1290 instead of making the decision that, no, we're not going to delay, we're not going to wait and we're going to reward those that do their job instead of penalizing those that do their job.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Moore. Is there any discussion on the Moore amendment? It is withdrawn. We are back to discussion on LB 1290. Senator Warner.
SENATOR WARNER: Madam President and members of the Legislature, I would urge that you vote to advance the bill and not follow the suggestion of leaving it here because the issue is too important. I may misunderstand Senator Moore's point, but from ... my perception is that if you're not going to advance this bill, if you're not going to provide these additional people, if you're not going to provide the provisions that Senator Wickersham's amendment did, then you're doing the exact
opposite, the exact opposite of Senator Moore's position and that is you're rewarding those who have done a bad job, penalizing those who did right. It's just the reverse of what he said. Now I know I'm swimming up hill because people have looked at numbers and you probably have perceptions that you win or lose. That's not the issue. The issue is, is it right? Are you treating taxpayers in the state fairly, using a flawed system for distributing aid when you know it could be done better and you know that it could be done more effectively? And I don't agree that it's going to take forever to get there. The fact is you have nothing now that complies with the law and, in my opinion, there could be a great deal available by next year. They started in November of '93 of having the 521 forms that report sales identified by school district. If we provide the time and resources, which I don't know, at one time there was opposition to doing that, I gather now there is support, but it will provide the opportunity and the time for the Department of Revenue to go back and reconstruct '93, as well as '92 sales by school districts. It will provide them time to do some appraisals of property where those no sales existed in various school districts. And I believe it will give a number that can be very well substantiated, certainly it can be substantiated that they will reflect school districts number because there's no way under the sun you can make that argument at this point. So I would urge that the last thing you do is let the bill drop to the bottom of General File of the priority bills but rather advance the bill. It cannot be enacted, obviously, without 25 votes, but you may not want to delay it as long as you will potentially be delaying it if you drop it to General File. So I would urge that the bill be advanced as you continue to study the issue and seek those whose advice that you may wish to seek ,as to who has the correct legal argument or the one which you feel the greatest weight should be because, obviously, you're getting almost directly opposite conclusions from some of us from the same set of facts. But I believe as firmly in mine as Senator Moore believes in his, but you ought to take the time to advance the bill and find out and verify for yourself what is the better public policy. And my position is "the better public policy, the one that has the greatest likelihood of treating citizens across this state with some level of equity is to provide those time and resources a delay of one year in order to make a distribution that at least comes much closer to complying with the 'Law where we now have ...
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One Minute.
SENATOR WARNER: ... a statute and an implementation of that statute that simply does not comply with what the provisions of that law is.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator. The Chair recognizes Senator Withem.
SPEAKER WITHEM: Yes, Madam President and members of the body, I rise to oppose the advancement of LB 1290. Just in reference to the shadow of the argument that was within Senator Warner's remarks that we ought to advance this bill, when in doubt advance the bill and then take time to look at it. I guess I would point out to you that this is the third time that we have opened debate -,n LB 1290 and I would argue that probably you're decision ought to be made today. If you're comfortable that a delay is the best approach, then you ought to vote for the delay. If you're comfortable that a delay is not the right approach, then you ought to vote against. And I know it's probably frustrating, it's probably many of you are feeling the same position that I feel when the attorneys stand and argue attorney type of stuff here on the floor-that... that you aren't really sure when you see different people arguing different points of view with similar training and similar... from similar factual backgrounds you don't really know where to go. And you probably ... many of you probably feel that same way because you have, you know, Senator Warner here who is the individual that created the first state aid to education program, general state aid to education program a number of years ago, arguing one position, and then Senator Moore and I who are the chief sponsors of LB 1059 arguing... arguing the other position. I would point out though Senator Warner did make some reference to people looking at the numbers and making their determination based on that. I agree with him that you ought not to be doing. I would point out to people that I have looked at the tentative printouts of the modeling that has taken place by the Department of Education, keep in mind that's not necessarily an accurate reflection of what will happen to next year's state aid if we don't delay this, that's what would have happened had you taken one year's set of numbers and applied a different year's set of assessments to that. But under those, the two school districts that I represent, each lose about a third of a million dollars. And I'm willing to stand on the floor even with those numbers out there indicating that I think the best public policy for the state is to not delay implementation of the bill. I
did ... we. were caught in one of these, yes, she did, no, she didn't arguments on the representation of the administration and the Department of Revenue. I've asked Mr. Nowka from the Governor's office to be available in the Rotunda for people who may want to get his impression of the meeting. As I understand his explanation to me was that I was correct, that the attorney for the Department of Revenue has indicated that these numbers comply with the statute, that they do represent the best available assessment practices and that they would be defendable in a 'court of law. I guess, you could further argue on that what would be the basis of the dispute beings we don't have any... any court imposed definition of what is fair distribution of state aid. Last summer, they threw out a case where we were attempting, not we, but some taxpayers were attempting to get the court to determine whether there is a legitimate judicially arrived upon standard for distributing state aid and they threw it out. We don't have that to test against.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SPEAKER WITHEM: I just really believe the time to make the decision is now and 'I have... and I, like Senator Moore, I've moved down the continuum of being kind of a knee jerk reaction opposed to 1290 because of... I was upset that the Department of Revenue had not moved more quickly to implement it, to moving to evolving to a position where I now feel comfortable that the Department of Revenue has complied with the law, consistent with what is available to them, and that we ought to be moving ahead. Further, I don't think that what we stand ... we will have some better data next year but it is not going to be significantly different to the point where what we have now is bad and what we have next year is good. It will just be moving us along that continuum and I would argue we won't move far along that continuum if we don't start movement. So I think we ought to move ahead and by ... and what that means is not advancing LB 1290.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Withem. Senator Schimek, your light is next.
SENATOR SCHIMEK: Yes, Madam President and members of the body, I just have a couple of quick questions. The first one, I guess, I would ask of Senator Withem because I'm not sure I know the ... know whether if Senator Warner's bill does not advance today, does it fall to the bottom of all of the priority bills
or just to the bottom of the senators' priority bills?
SPEAKER WITHEM: I would have to reread the rules. My gut reaction is it would fall to the bottom of senator priority bills. I think the second time it fails to advance it would drop to the ... it would lose its priority status and drop to the bottom of all bills and that's my recollection of the rules and...
SENATOR SCHIMEK: Well, if... if you take a look at the rules and find out if it's different, would you let us know? Because, not that that should be a big consideration on whether we advance the bill or not but it may be some consideration for some people. I guess, I rise because I'm probably like many other people on this floor, I'm not on the Education Committee so I'm not sure I totally understand how state aid works, neither does anybody on Education. Okay. (Laughter.) And I'm not on Revenue so I just... I guess need more of a comfort level. Senator Moore mentioned he had a comfort level, maybe he's ... he's been around longer and he knows how all those processes work better than I do. I'm trying to envision for myself if we accept Senator Warner's premise, I understand that the bill, the price tag for that is about a half million dollars. If we accept Senator Withem's premise, I don't know what the price tag on that is, but I would guess that it might be similar, still be about half a million probably. 1 guess my question is, are we ever going to get to the point where we can stop talking about state aid to education? And how does this process work? How do we know when we get to the end of it that we have good valuations? I ... I'm particularly concerned about this because we have done this process in Lancaster County and we maybe are going to suffer because we did what we were supposed to do when we were supposed to do it. So I'm curious, and, Senator Warner, maybe you could help me as to what happens? How do we know that we get a good process? And once we get the figures this time, will it just be a matter then of a statewide update or are we going to get into these same kind of tangles later on down the line? Is somebody going to go into... is somebody going to go into Logan County, for instance, and if they haven't had any sales there in the last year or so, somebody is going to value that...a piece of that land in that county that somehow matches a piece of land in another county , and then everything in that county will be reappraised on the basis of that one piece of land in that county? Or can you give us a little idea of how this is going to work?
SENATOR WARNER: Thank you, Senator Schimek. Actually, there's probably a parallel process that's ongoing here, both of which are related. Fundamentally, what the state does, what Department of Revenue does on behalf of the State Board of Equalization of equalizing values is the fundamental thing that is done and...
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SENATOR WARNER: ... the additional funds that are going to be provided in some fashion is going to end up assisting with that practice on a countywide basis. The other thing that happens in 12SO or what's at stake in 1290 is to further refine those countywide numbers so that they are applicable by school district and essentially what you're going to get from that is better intracounty equalization of values. From my viewpoint, the long-term benefit, and it's a fairly short-term long-term benefit of combining both the provisions of LB 1059 and the responsibilities of the state Board of Equalization and the Department of Revenue is we're going to have better valuations and more uniform valuations. What's a key and is different between equalization and distribution of state aid, there's a significance in the distribution of state aid if you're assessed at less, even though you're equalized between counties, but if you're assessed at 100 percent or 80 percent of its ag land or how close you are.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Time. Thank you, Senator Warner. The Chair recognizes Senator Bohlke.
SENATOR BOHLKE: Yes, Madam President, members, Senator Schimek, maybe I can give you a little bit of a view from someone that's being a little similar in that I wasn't here when LB 1059 was enacted and first came into this discussion this summer or this fall, I guess, at a meeting, I remember, with Senator Moore and Senator Withem, and I was present , and, at that time, recognized that some people were livid and I said to them that I probably thought that acting out of emotion was not the best way to go about writing laws and reacting. And because of the possible flawed... of the flawed numbers, I supported LB 1290. After our meeting last week, I came away with, I guess, I would call it diminished enthusiasm, and this is the problem that I'm struggling with. We are now at March 9 and so by the time we would pass this bill and give them the money and hire the
assessors and the number of school districts that have not had a sale, just working through the process of how this would work in a year's time, other than the new forms that they're working on, I'm not sure that we really will have accomplished or have that many improved numbers in order to balance delaying for a year. And that's something that I will certainly listen a little further to Senator Warner. And I'm nut sure if anyone has asked the Department of Revenue. I think I asked the Department of Revenue during the hearing that if in a year's time that they were certain that they could come forward and have completed the reassessment, and I would have to go back and check, I think Mr. Balka said, yes, they would. But as we discussed the process in that last meeting and realizing having to go out very often and physically doing an assessment on those school districts where there haven't been a sale ... has not been a sale or even trying to compare school districts that are somewhat similar, I think, is going to be a very lengthy process and given that I believe they operate January to January, we're March now, they still haven't hired the people, we haven't given them the money, just how it all really would work I'm less convinced that we should delay. And so I haven't made up my mind but I'm leaning toward not supporting LB 1290 and I will listen to Senator Warner's response to my concerns as to what we ... what we really will accomplish. And, with that, Senator Bernard-Stevens has asked for the balance of my time and I yield that balance to him.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Senator Bernard-Stevens.
SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS: Thank you, Senator Bohlke. Madam President and members of the body, Senator Schimek, just to respond to your question on the financing portion of it. Senator Warner had a bill in front of the Appropriations Committee that did not advance from committee that would have appropriated $500,000 and that would be what the department would need to hire appraisers to go out in some of those areas. The only reason it didn't advance out of committee is because the committee ... we have three options that are available to us, even on the floor, if this bill ... if this bill would advance, obviously, on the A bill the monies would be put... the 500,000 would be put so that they can adequately get the better numbers in those areas that those sales have taken place. Senator Moore will be offering, I'm sure, if this bill does not advance, there will be an amendment offered to LB 991 which will be the appropriations bill which will be 500,000 to the
department... $500,000 to the department so they may carry out what needs to be done to get the numbers. And there's even another option on LB 1.275 if we needed to, but Senator Moore...
PRESIDENT ROBAK: One minute.
SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS: ... will be taking care. of that, at least the money aspect of it, if this bill would not advance in the budget bill so that there would be the monies so that they would be able to go out, hire the appraisers to get the job done. So that would happen regardless of what happens to this measure at this point. I just wanted to clarify that for the record. Thank you, Senator Bohlke, for allowing me to do that.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator. The Chair recognizes Senator Moore.
SENATOR MOORE: Madam President and members, actually I guess it's my preference to put the money in the budget bill because of 1290 in its present form I don't want to advance. And so, given that, I would just as soon take care of it there and I think it's the best place to take care of it there. I think it's the best place to take care of it. I think we'll all probably agree on that because I think both sides of the issue have now finally come to the agreement that putting more money into getting better data down the road is probably the wise thing to do. And I ... 1290, by itself, you could put ... you could put an amendment on it but it, by itself, does not need an A bill, so that's the preferred way of doing it. But I think the important thing for you all to understand is this is crunch time on the issue. Now is the time we need to make the decision, do you want to delay or not delay. And the record will show that up until today I had always kept my options open, only because I was never convinced of what the right thing to do was. And it wasn't the numbers, I had no desire and I still have not... I honestly have not looked at the numbers and to this day I cannot give you any idea how my own legislative district comes out on this issue. That's one pleasure of running for a statewide campaign, I guess you don't look at that anymore. But ... but the fact is it's not the numbers that I'm interested in. The question I always had, are the numbers defendable? Are the numbers defendable? If you look at the text of 1290 itself, the old statute, what does it say? The last line on pages 12, on line 12 and 13, establishment of the adjustment factors shall be based on the best available assessment practices. Now, what
was available? What they gave us was available. That's what was available. That's the defense of the Department of Revenue. That's what it's my understanding to be. I can live with that. I mean, a year from now you'll have more ... you'll have more available, you'll have better data. Two years from now, if you put in the half million dollars, you'll have even better data. But regardless of whether it's 60 or 100 percent of accuracy, it will be the best available data and that is the defense that the Department of Revenue has convinced me they will take if we do not delay, and after, finally, I...now, you know, when we first initially started debating LB 1290 1 was saying let's wait and find out if the numbers are defendable. I, by reading the statute, encouraging everybody to read that statute in 1290, talked with the Department of Revenue, the entity in charge of defending it, they had convinced me it's defendable. So having discovered that for myself, I now am finally ready for crunch time and I am ready to cast a vote not to advance LB 1290. 1 know Senator Warner says, well, if you advance it, you can still make a decision later. Well, I think it's time to make the decision. I went out and did the research and I am very comfortable that the right thing for this body to do is to not advance LB 1290, send a very clear message that we are going to adjust those who do not accurately value their land in the State of Nebraska and also send a message to those that have not done all they could to be accurate, you are not going to benefit from the state aid formula by doing that. And, once again, if you want to delay it this year, you're willing to wait two years to get it where it's defendable, I guess. And so I would argue if you're going to vote for 1290, you better not be ready to vote for a one-year delay, you better be ready to vote for at least a two-year delay. Crunch time is now. I think the wise course for this body is to say, no, let's don't delay, we are going to stand firm, we are going to adjust valuations and those that don't do their job will not be rewarded. I urge the body very strongly to vote against the advancement of LB 1290.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Moore. The Chair recognizes Senator Monen.
SENATOR MONEN: Thank you, Madam President. Senator Withem said that I was wrong, wrong, wrong, that the numbers were available. Look, I wasn't here when Section 79-3809 was adopted, but it contains four words that are pertinent, stand by themselves. Valuation of each district, valuation of each district. There isn't a contention here by anyone that there's been any
valuation of each district. That's what the statute requires. It isn't even a... I would be satisfied if somebody, the Department of Revenue or someone said, well, this is an approximation, this is as close as we can get. There wasn't any effort. There was never a process gone through that would attempt a valuation of each district. That's what the statute requires, anything else fails. Now if we want to change it and say, well, that's too difficult, it's too costly, it can't be done, then let's change the statute and say, we'll just take across the county valuations, or valuations for tax purposes. Let's follow the law and to do that I think it is crunch time and let's advance 1290. Thank you.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Monen. The Chair recognizes Senator Bernard-Stevens. We move to Senator Vrtiska, your light is next.
SENATOR VRTISKA: thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Madam President. Senator Schimek, I think your comfort level rises and falls with whether you win or lose. That seems to be the issue. I would just like to ask Senator Withem a question, if I could. Senator Withem, I'm concerned about... and I guess also Senator Moore, when we're talking about delay, in fact, delay if we do nothing isn't that, in fact, an incentive for those who have not done anything, to continue not to do anything if they're, in fact,...
SPEAKER WITHEM: I would argue just the opposite. I would argue just the opposite, that those school districts that... or counties and school districts that have assessors that have not revalued properly property and have abnormally low valuations, under the current formula they get rewarded because they have a lower number to plug into the formula by which the minimum ... not ... yeah, I think it's minimum effort rate is calculated by. Those counties that have done the reassessments have a higher number to plug in and that higher number then leads to less state aid on the other end of the formula. So a delay rewards the districts that have not kept their valuations higher and an implementation of what is here on a countywide basis, at least, does not reward those school districts that have not done what they're ... those assessors that have not done what they were supposed to do.
SENATOR VRTISKA: Well, I misstated what I meant. I meant exactly what you're saying. If, in fact, they have not done
their job then they're going to be rewarded because, obviously, they're going to plug into a figure that's going to be lower and as a result they're going to be...
SPEAKER WITHEM: That's exactly right. I misinterpreted your question.
SENATOR VRTISKA: Well,...
SPEAKER WITHEM: I think you and I are on the same level of understanding, I guess.
SENATOR VRTISKA: But we do understand that's exactly the issue and that's why it's important that... that at some time and I don't know whether this is the right time or not, but based on the statute it's supposed to be done and if it were, you know, in the real world ... we're living in a real world and it doesn't happen, but in the fantasy world everybody was equal, everything. would be...we would all be feeling like we have been treated fair. This way there's never going to be a time probably when everybody is going to feel that we're going to be fair but we can certainly get closer than we are. Correct?
SPEAKER WITHEM: That's my sense, yes.
SENATOR VRTISKA: Thank you.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Vrtiska. The Chair recognizes Senator Engel.
SENATOR ENGEL: Madam President, members, just as a- point of information, I 'was not here either when LB 1059 was adopted. However, after 1290 was brought up, I contacted all the school districts in my district and they all were not in favor of 1290. After we received the information from the Department of Revenue, I sent that information to them also in case they wanted to change their mind. And, as of this morning, they still are not in favor of 1290. They have done their job and although they realize they might be penalized at this time, they do not... they are nut in favor of 1290. Thank you.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Engel. The Chair recognizes Senator Jones.
SENATOR JONES: Madam President, members of this body, I rise in
opposition of 1290. 1 got ... my county up there has really got a good example, I think, in Cherry County the valuation is $320 an acre for 3(G)(1) land and when that valuation went up to that figure, well, they got less state aid. So the... I would like to go ahead and see it implemented so that the state aid can be across the state like it should be, so any counties that haven't implemented or revalued their property would be less and they would get more state aid, so it just does the opposite of what you think. So I sure hope you would support opposing this bill. Thank you.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Jones. There is no further discussion on LB 1290. Senator Warner, would you like to close on the bill?
SENATOR WARNER: Madam President, I would ask for a call of the house and as soon as I can start my closing, I will start it while people are coming.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: There has been a request for a call of the house. All those in favor vote aye. All those opposed vote nay. Please record.
CLERK: 15 ayes, 0 nays to go under call.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: The house is under call. Will all unauthorized personnel leave the floor. Will all senators please return to their chairs. Senator Warner.
SENATOR WARNER: Madam President, members of the Legislature, as the issue has developed, or the discussion, rather, I guess it's boiled down now to no matter how bad the information might be, it ought to be implemented this year. Whether it complies with the law or not, it ought to be implemented this year. I still firmly believe that what has been provided by the Department of Revenue simply does not comply with what the statute requires. I believe that with the additional revenue or rather the additional appropriation, assuming that's going to happen, that by next year there can be a significant difference. I believe that the law can be complied with at that point with at least school district numbers as opposed to what we have now. I think if you don't act now that you're going to find significant injustices within counties, between school districts, because the data is certainly there to indicate that the sales assessment ratios between residential or other property, for
that matter, is not uniform. within the county and the end result is a significant reduction. At some point along the line, I'm not sure where I'll do it, on what bill, it's immaterial in a sense, I certainly would use 1290 if it did advance, but roughly I suspect at some point I'll offer a sales tax increase for additional state aid to schools in the amount of about a quarter of a cent, which will be about 30 million, which as a result of that will ... it will mean about 97 percent of the students in those school districts that would be losing the aid will not. And if 1290 doesn't advance, why at some point I'll have to attempt to make that effort. And the reason I wouldn't go any higher than that is I'm still convinced that there ... we're going to need additional revenue two years from now for state purposes and I don't want to get too high with the sales tax adjustment at this point, making it impossible for revenue next year. But I would urge that you vote to advance the bill, that you don't throw away your options today, that you begin to ask others if they think... and there's a key word upon this issue of whether the current approach is defensible or can be defended, there's another word that you ought to want to use which is can it be successfully defended. And that's where I think it is weak. But I doubt, on the face of it, Senator Monen certainly has read the law to you, it's pretty, pretty direct, pretty simple, says it will be done by school district by school district and that simply is not what we have. It's very plain. It's the best they have but that doesn't make any difference, it doesn't comply. And I would be hesitant if I would throw away an opportunity to address that issue during this session because we may well be back doing it. So I would urge that you vote yes to advance the bill and keep this issue before the Legislature and before your constituents because, basically, we're talking about greater equity throughout the state once all this is implemented. Without it, you just perpetuate inequity.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: Thank you, Senator Warner. We are waiting for Senators Avery, Lindsay and Chambers. Senator Chambers. The question before the body is, shall LB 1290 advance to E & R Initial? All those in favor vote aye. All those opposed vote nay. Please record.
CLERK: (Roll call vote taken. See page 1072 of the Legislative Journal.) 25 ayes, 19 nays on the advancement of LB 1290.
PRESIDENT ROBAK: LB 1290 advances. Return now to LB 984. Are there any... oh, the call is raised. And, Mr. Clerk, do you