Session Review: Transportation and Telecommunications

Senators expanded license plate options and addressed call spoofing and a number of infrastructure concerns this year.

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee chairperson Sen. Curt Friesen

Licensing and administration

LB138, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, authorizes the state Department of Motor Vehicles to create several specialty license plates including designs honoring people who have served in the armed forces in Iran, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf War, the Vietnam War and the Global War on Terror.

It also creates a “Support Our Troops” plate available to those who have not served, but would like to show support for the armed forces. The application fee for a personalized message Support Our Troops plate will be $70.

There is a $5 fee for any of the bill’s specialty alphanumeric plates and a $40 fee for a personalized message plate. The alphanumeric fee and $30 of the personalized message fee will be dedicated to the Veterans Employment Program Fund. The remaining portion of the personalized message fee will be credited to the DMV cash fund.

The specialty plates will be available Jan. 1, 2021.

The bill includes provisions of LB696, introduced by Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman, which substitute Army National Guard and Air National Guard license plates for the current National Guard Military Honor plates.

Provisions of LB697, also introduced by Bostelman, eliminate application and renewal fees for Purple Heart, ex-POW, Pearl Harbor Survivor and Disabled American Veteran license plates effective Jan. 1, 2021.

Similarly, there will be no application fee for a Gold Star personalized message license plate, however a $5 renewal fee still will apply. The license plate will be considered permanent as long as the vehicle to which it is attached remains registered by the applicant.

Finally, the bill includes provisions of LB626, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, which direct the state Department of Veterans Affairs to create a job search website specifically for veterans. The website will be funded through revenue raised by sales of the Support Our Troops license plates.

The bill passed on a 48-0 vote.

LB356, sponsored by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer and passed 49-0, redistributes certain specialty license plate fees. It reclassifies Sammy’s Superheroes license plates from an organizational to a specialty plate and dedicates 75 percent of the application and renewal fees for personalized message plates and all of the fees for alphanumeric plates to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for pediatric cancer research. The remaining 25 percent of the personalized message plate fees will be credited to the state DMV cash fund.

Sixty percent of all application and renewal fees for standard message plates, Husker Spirit plates and organizational plates will be credited to the state DMV cash fund. The remaining 40 percent will be credited to the Highway Trust Fund.

LB356 also adds a $5 fee for a Breast Cancer Awareness alphanumeric plate and establishes a standard $50 application fee for both the special interest motor vehicle and one-plate plus sticker program.

The state DMV is authorized to discontinue specialty license plates every year that standard license plates are reissued, or every six years, if no more than 250 plates are issued for two consecutive years. New license plates next will be issued in 2023.

Gold Star, Purple Heart, Ex-POW, Pearl Harbor Survivor and Disabled American Veteran license plates are exempt from the discontinuance provision.

Finally, the measure includes provisions from several additional bills, including:
• LB128, introduced by Venango Sen. Dan Hughes, which authorizes bighorn sheep and sandhill crane license plates;
• LB215, introduced by Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, which authorizes a prostate cancer awareness license plate; and
• LB691, introduced by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, which authorizes an ornate box turtle specialty license plate.

Application for and distribution of specialty license plates created under LB356 will begin Jan. 1, 2021.

Lawmakers also approved changes to a record retention law for transporter plates.

LB699, introduced by Bostelman and passed 45-0, decreases the retention period from six to three years for transporter plate applicants to keep records associated with the transport of a motor vehicle.

Telecommunications

The expansion of high-speed wireless service throughout the state was the focus of several bills approved this session by lawmakers.

Under LB184, introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, a political subdivision or authority may require wireless providers to apply for and obtain permits to collocate, or attach, small wireless facilities to wireless structures and utility poles and to install, modify or replace a utility pole associated with a small wireless facility in the public right of way.

The facilities are short-range cellular nodes needed to support fifth-generation wireless technology, or 5G, in high-traffic areas.

The application fee to collocate small wireless facilities on an existing or replacement authority pole may not exceed $500 for up to five small wireless facilities on the same application and $100 for each additional small wireless facility on the same application. The rate to collocate a small wireless facility on an authority pole may be no more than $20 per pole, per year.

Senators voted 44-0 to pass LB184.

Friesen also introduced LB268, passed 48-0, which allows a customer who currently is not receiving high-speed broadband services to switch to a neighboring company in a different local exchange to receive such services.

LB693, sponsored by Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran and passed 49-0, targets telemarketing companies that use caller ID to make it appear as though phone calls are from a trusted number—a process known as “spoofing.”

It prohibits any person from selling or renting a phone number to an out-of-state entity unless the telephone number is listed publicly and can be verified by a telecommunications provider.

The bill also prohibits any person working in connection with a telecommunications service or internet-enabled voice service from causing a caller ID service to knowingly provide misleading or inaccurate information with the intent to defraud, harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.

The provisions of LB693 do not apply to authorized law enforcement activity or a court order that authorizes caller ID manipulation. The Nebraska Public Service Commission is authorized to impose administrative penalties on violators, not to exceed $2,000.

The state attorney general can investigate violations of the bill under the Consumer Protection Act. These violations do not give cause to any private civil action. Local telecommunications companies are exempt from the bill’s provisions as long as they are acting in accordance with federal law.

A bill that would require municipalities to seek voter approval before levying additional taxes on wireless services failed to advance from general file.

LB550, as introduced by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas, would require a municipality to secure voter approval before imposing any local tax or fee on wireless services.

As introduced, the bill would make additional changes to taxes and fees imposed on wireless services, including eliminating the prepaid wireless surcharge, lowering the enhanced wireless 911 surcharge and exempting wireless service from a surcharge used to fund the state’s telecommunications relay system.

After three hours of debate, the Legislature moved on to the next item on the agenda before voting on LB550 or any of the pending amendments. Per a practice implemented by Speaker Jim Scheer, the sponsor of a bill that is facing a potential filibuster must demonstrate sufficient support for a cloture motion before the measure will be scheduled for additional debate.

The bill remains on general file.

Infrastructure

Lawmakers approved a plan allowing the Nebraska Department of Transportation to complete roads projects more efficiently.

LB82, introduced by Friesen, authorizes NDOT to apply for pre-approval to use practical road design standards that might not meet all current statutory design standards, but that provide significant benefits to users at a reasonable cost.

The bill allows the department, counties or municipalities to apply for programmatic pre-approvals, which apply to an entire category of roads projects that are materially similar.

LB82 also allows each county and municipality to electronically certify completion of one-year and six-year road improvement plans required annually by state law, rather than submitting hard copies of both plans to the Nebraska Board of Public Roads Classifications and Standards.

The bill passed on a 46-0 vote.

LB616, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers and passed 48-0, exempts highway construction projects with a payment schedule exceeding the date of completion from paying contractor interest.

LB462, introduced by Friesen, allows the Nebraska One-Call Service board of directors to review locator training materials and propose best practices.

The board is required to assess the effectiveness of enforcement programs and actions, as well as the board’s damage prevention and public awareness programs. A report of its findings will be submitted to the governor and Legislature no later than Dec. 1, 2021, and biennially after that.

LB462 also requires the state attorney general to submit a report annually to the Legislature, state fire marshal and One-Call board of directors detailing the number of complaints filed and prosecuted each year under the One-Call Notification System Act.

The bill passed on a 46-0 vote.

Rules of the road

LB698, sponsored by Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman, requires commercial motor vehicle operators to ensure all cargo is secured adequately to prevent it from falling off of the vehicle. The structures, systems, parts and components used to secure the cargo must be in proper working order with no damaged or weakened components.

The bill passed on a 44-0 vote and took effect immediately.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers could be held liable for accidents under a bill advanced by the committee.

LB142, as originally introduced by Lincoln Sen. Suzanne Geist, would update legal definitions to mirror those adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers in 2018. It also would establish legal liability for autonomous vehicle accidents.

The bill was placed on general file but was not scheduled for debate this session.

Also advanced to general file but not debated was LB378, introduced by Blair Sen. Ben Hansen, which would remove a current state law requiring all motorcycle or moped riders to wear a protective helmet. Instead the bill would give riders 21 and older the option not to wear a helmet, but would require that eye protection be used.

Other measures

Lawmakers approved a bill that provides grant funding to a statewide health and human services referral program.

LB641, introduced by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, transfers $300,000 annually from the Nebraska Health Care Cash fund for the next two years to the 211 Information and Referral Network. The grant will be used to create a website to educate users about and connect them with available services. The grant also can be used to provide 24/7 service through telephone and online access.

LB641 also expands the reach of 211 services to include disaster and emergency response. The bill passed on a 41-0 vote.

LB611, introduced by Plymouth Sen. Tom Brandt, would require a crew of at least two people on each train or light engine used in the movement of freight. The Nebraska Public Service Commission would enforce the two-person requirement, directing any collected fines for distribution to counties for use by public school districts.

LB611 remains in committee.

Bookmark and Share
Share