Debate Transcripts

LB 194 (1999)

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March 3, 1999


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  The motion before the body is the advancement of LB 839A.  All those in favor say aye.  Those opposed say nay.  It advances.  LB 194.


CLERK:  Mr. President, with respect to 194, Senator, I do have E & R amendments, first of all.  (See E & R amendment, AM7057, on page 624 of the Legislative Journal.)




SENATOR SMITH:  Mr. Speaker, I'd move we adopt the E & R amendments to LB 194.


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  The question before the body is the adoption of the E & R amendments.  All those in favor say aye.  Those opposed say nay.  They are adopted.


CLERK:  Senator Schimek, I now have an amendment from you, Senator, but I have a note, this is AM0460.  I have a note that you want to withdraw 460, Senator.


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  It is withdrawn.




SENATOR SCHIMEK:  (Microphone not activated immediately.) actually like to substitute a later amendment for that one, and that's 641.


CLERK:  I do...  I do have 641, Senator.


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  Senator Schimek, I'm going to treat that as a request for unanimous consent from you to substitute the amendment.  Any objection?  No objection.  Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Senator Schimek, I now have AM0641 in front of me, Senator.  (See Schimek amendment, AM0641, on pages 820-821 of the Legislative Journal.)




SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  Senator Schimek, you're recognized to open on your amendment.


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Thank you, Mr. President, members of the body.  You should have a copy of 641 on your desk.  And this is the product of quite a bit of work.  We have worked with some of the folks over at NACO to come up with this solution.  I don't know if you remember our discussion earlier on 194, but the problem that I tried to identify for you on General File was that people are having problems when they do not realize their taxes are delinquent.  And sometimes that interest can run 8 or 12 months or more, and they don't even know their taxes are delinquent.  It frequently happens when somebody's mortgage is paid off during maybe the first half of the year.  But since we discussed this on General File, and since it got discussion in some of the major newspapers in this state, I have been receiving letters from people who have had exactly those problems.  I have laid one of those letters on your desk, and he is an attorney in Omaha who had the same thing happen to him that happened to me.  And he says, I'm embarrassed to admit I did not know the law in this area, given the fact that I'm an attorney.  And he wonders how many other people have trouble finding out that they're actually delinquent.  Some of the other letters I've got, that I have received have been more lengthy, gone into more detail, particularly about the publication issue.  But I'll tell you all that I am trying to solve here today with this amendment is a




provision that when the tax notice goes out, at the end of the year, regarding next.  year's taxes, that there will either be a notice on a brightly colored piece of paper that tells people that their taxes for the prior year are delinquent, interest is accruing, and they should contact the county treasurer's office immediately, either that, or there should be a statement on the tax statement itself in a clearly defined space, or they send out a separate notice.  And I think this is a reasonable accomplishment.  It still won't do away with all the interest payments, because they become due August 1st, you don't get this until December, so you've already paid about four months of interest by that time.  But it keeps it from going.  In some cases it will also alert people, if they call their treasurer's office immediately, that their house or their property is going to be sold.  I've had letters from people whose house or properties were sold, and they didn't even know it.  So that ...  Senator Beutler.  Okay.  Well, Senator Beutler, I hope that you will enter into the discussion.  But that is ...  that is what I have heard, and I have a four-page letter here from a fellow in Omaha, who was living out of state, it was ...  his mother had been put in a nursing home, or she had died, and this property, he never received any kind of a notice, and the next thing he knew, it had been sold.  But regardless of that, whether you agree with me on that issue or not, Senator Beutler, I hope you can agree that people whose taxes are delinquent should know so, and this is a relatively easy thing to accomplish on the part of the county treasurers.  So, with that, I would ask for your approval of this amendment.


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  Before we begin debate on the amendment, Senator Byars is proud to announce he has the following guests visiting the Legislature this morning, there are 13 members of the Beatrice Chamber of Commerce.  They're in the north balcony.  Would you please stand and be recognized by your Legislature.  Also, Senator Wehrbein and Senator Raikes announce they have the following guests visiting the Legislature this morning--there are 50 fourth graders from Eagle Elementary, in Eagle, Nebraska, with their teachers (introduced teachers).  They're also in the north balcony.  Would you please stand and be welcomed by your Legislature.  Thank you for being with us.  Senator Crosby.


SENATOR CROSBY:  Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Speaker.  Senator




Schimek, I just want a quick question about your amendment.  The...




SENATOR CROSBY:  ...county officials, the treasurers, has anyone objected?  Because I think this is fairly simple, it would go with our tax ...  our regular tax notice, right?  And they have that pulled out, they have a separate list.  They don't have to sit at the computer and try to pull them out?


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  No, that part is easy, I think, Senator Crosby.


SENATOR CROSBY:  Yeah, so I was thinking of expense...


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  The only expense...


SENATOR CROSBY:  ...  to the treasurer's office.


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  The only expense, additional expense they will have is in putting this little colored notice together, which should not cost anything, really, just on brightly colored paper.




SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Or, or let me go on...


SENATOR CROSBY:  (Laugh.) Someone might come along and say, yes, that costs, because we have to copy it, you have to run the copies.


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Well, but we're talking pennies.


SENATOR CROSBY:  So how many are we talking about, normally, do you have any idea?




SENATOR CROSBY:  There was quite a few in the paper.




SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Yeah, I can't tell you.


SENATOR CROSBY:  So it would be all those.




SENATOR CROSBY:  Yeah, okay.


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  But, but,...




SENATOR SCHIMEK:  ...let me tell you that I worked with ...  the person, the treasurer that I worked with most closely on this was the Buffalo County Treasurer...




SENATOR SCHIMEK:  ...  and Jack Mills.  And...




SENATOR SCHIMEK:  ...  their response was that they are very well compensated with the interest on this kind of thing.


SENATOR CROSBY:  I just thought, yeah, I thought they should make that clear....




SENATOR CROSBY:  ...  so the treasurer can't come back and say they weren't...


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Now, I need to add one more caveat to that,...


SENATOR CROSBY:  ...  I would hope they wouldn't come back...


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  ...  besides that colored notice, in some cases where the county treasurers don't have an envelope enclosure, they will have to send out a separate notice.


SENATOR CROSBY:  Oh, some of them send it out on a card?  Real






SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Well, no, they have...  I've seen them, they're those kind of forms where you have to tear off the front to see the inside.


SENATOR CROSBY:  Oh, right, right.  I know, um-huh.


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  And so they may have to have a separate mailer.




SENATOR SCHIMEK:  But it's a one-time thing, once a year.


SENATOR CROSBY:  But you have ...  yeah, okay.  Thank you.




SENATOR BYARS:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I think ....  Senator Schimek, will you yield to a question, please.




SENATOR BYARS:  As near as I can see in the amendment, just having a brief time to review it, I think I'm very supportive, and I think you're doing exactly the right thing.  I would want to commend you.  But I want to make absolutely certain, for those of us that have been concerned about eliminating the publication portion of that statute, that that's not happening, correct?


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  No, this has nothing to do with publication at all.  And in fact, when I first brought my first bill, it had nothing to do with publication.


SENATOR BYARS:  Okay, thank you, Senator Schimek.  I rise to support Senator Schimek's amendment.  I think it's going to help those people who have been at risk and in jeopardy of not being clear on what the law states as far as their taxes are concerned.  And it's still going to allow the county treasurers to place notification within their official newspapers in order




to put some pressure on those people who are ignoring paying their taxes.  So I rise in support, Senator Schimek, and commend you for bringing this amendment.




SENATOR BEUTLER:  Senator Kristensen, members of the Legislature, part of my concern on this probably derives from my ignorance of statewide practices.  And I wanted to ask Senator Schimek, if I may, a couple of questions with regard to practices in the state...


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  I'll try, Senator Beutler.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  ...  on this matter.  I believe in Lancaster County, Senator, that the tax statements do show delinquent years' taxes, when they are...when they have not been paid, as well as current years taxes.  Is that not correct?


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  As I recall, and I think I have one of those in my file folder, I think it's a little tiny line, down at the bottom, in little, tiny print that says "back taxes are due".  It's not noticeable, it's not something ....  you know, when you look at your tax return, what do you look at?  You look at the amount owing, and that's all you look at.  It doesn't say on that form that you have such and such taxes in such and such amount due from the past year; it doesn't say that at all.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  The ...  the statement of "back taxes are owing", is that ...  do all the other county treasurers do the same thing?


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Well, I think they have a variety of methods of trying to address this issue, and some actually send out notice to their delinquencies, a separate notice.  Some don't do anything, but...




SENATOR SCHIMEK:  ...  usually, they have a little line of some kind on there that really isn't very noticeable.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  When you say that it needs to be in a clearly




defined space, your mind would that require, for example, Lancaster County to do something different from what they are doing now?


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  I'll have to go back and look at the form, Senator Beutler, if you'll allow me to do that.  I think I have one in my folder.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  It would have to contain the attention information then, that taxes are delinquent....




SENATOR BEUTLER:  ...  that interest is accruing, and please contact the office?


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Right, um-huh.  And if they don't have ...  they may not have space on it; I can't tell you that off the top of my head.  If they don't, then they will have to mail to that delinquent taxpayer a notice saying that they are.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  Maybe this additional work doesn't require all that much effort.  But I do know that there are roughly in the neighborhood of 4,000 delinquent taxes, and that's because developers often hold lots for several years.  There will be a lot of properties in foreclosure, for a variety of reasons there's least in Lancaster County, and I'm sure it would be more true in Douglas and somewhat true in all the other counties, there are a large number of properties that are delinquent, even in good times.  And so I guess I just have some question as to whether sending out several thousand delinquency notices in a more elaborate form is truly inexpensive.  Perhaps it is, but ...  but it seems to me that a large percentage of those that would be sent out are going to be sent out to people who already know they're delinquent, developers, for example, might have 100 lots and they sell 10 one year, and have 90 that will sit there delinquent for a period of time.


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  I think that is an accurate supposition, Senator.  In fact, in visiting with Jean Sidwell, she said as much, that a great many of them just aren't paying their taxes.




But what we're trying to capture here is some kind of mechanism for those who truly don't know that their taxes haven't been paid.  And I think that it's only common courtesy, and really I think a lot of our state treasurers feel that it is a common courtesy as well, and some of them do it already.  And they do make a lot of money off of this interest, I mean a lot of that money comes ...  comes to them through this.




SENATOR BEUTLER:  Do you -think if you just had the one line that could easily be attached to a tax statement, it might not require an additional form or changing of a form would be adequate, if you just said "taxes for prior year are delinquent"?


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  I don't think that would be good enough.  And we have, as I say, we have worked....  I had another amendment up here that was more elaborate.  And we sat down and worked with the ...  with NACO on this, and it seemed to be satisfactory to both sides.  Now, you ...  that doesn't mean you won't hear from any treasurers, because this was worked out within the last couple of days.






SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  Senator Vrtiska.  Senator Vrtiska waives off.  Senator Schimek, you're recognized to close on your amendment.


SENATOR SCHIMEK:  Yes, thank you, Mr. President, members of the body.  Senator Beutler, if I could just try to address your questions a little bit more.  I don't think that we're talking about an onerous expense here.  The main thing would be the postage, probably, in this notice.  And if there are 4,000, 1 guess, that translates into about $1,200, if it has to be a separate mailing.  And it wouldn't, in a lot of cases, have to be a separate mailing.  But when you're talking about the interest that is accruing over all these months, and the taxpayer doesn't even know it's accruing, I think it's just




common courtesy to let them know.  And I think it's one of the things that would make government more palatable to the people that are paying the taxes.  So, with that, I would simply ask for the adoption of this amendment, which will make it clear, once a year, to the delinquent taxpayer that their taxpayer ...  that their taxes are due, and that they should call the county treasurer's office immediately.  Thank you.


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  You've heard the closing.  The question before the body is the adoption of the Schimek amendment to LB 194.  All those in favor vote aye; all those opposed vote nay.  Have you all voted who care to?  Record.


CLERK:  25 ayes, 3 nays, Mr. President, on the adoption of Senator Schimek's amendment.


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  The amendment is adopted.  It is eleven o'clock, and at this point in time, we will proceed to the motion to place LB 845 on General File notwithstanding the actions of the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee, Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Mr. President, if I may, some items for the record.


SPEAKER KRISTENSEN:  Items for the record first.