Bill to change secretary of state administrative fees debated

A measure that would change a number of business administrative fees collected by the Nebraska secretary of state’s office stalled during general file debate March 11.

Sen. John Stinner
Sen. John Stinner

LB910, sponsored by Gering Sen. John Stinner, would consolidate cash funds administered by, and restructure fees assessed by, the secretary of state’s office. The bill would create the Secretary of State Cash Fund by transferring the balances of the existing Administration Cash Fund, Corporation Cash Fund, Nebraska Collection Agency Fund, Secretary of State Administration Cash Fund and the Uniform Commercial Code Cash Fund on July 1, 2021.

Stinner said that some of the fees under these categories have not changed in 20 years.

He said the bill would shift the business administration functions of the secretary of state’s office to more of a user fee model. The changes are projected to lower the office’s general fund appropriation by $300,000 per year going forward, he said.

The bill would result in net cash fund revenues of approximately $163,000 per year, Stinner said, which the office would use for technology improvements aimed at promoting international trade.

“By reducing [the office’s] reliance on general funds, you are releasing those dollars back into the budget for property tax relief,“ Stinner said.

Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood supported the bill, saying the changes were thoughtfully considered by the secretary of state’s office.

“They limited these increases to inflation and they did a lot of work on analyzing how many years had it been since [fees] were increased,” he said. “I think they were very fair about that.”

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld questioned the wisdom of increasing approximately 67 fees at one time.

“Normally, in the past … we’ve taken fee increases in a much more incremental approach,” Morfeld said. “What I see here are 67 tax increases.”

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln also raised concerns, saying many people who are starting businesses have difficulty paying the filing fees. In addition, she said, most bills that authorize fee increases spell out the specific purpose for which the revenue will be used and provisions to remove the increase when that purpose has been fulfilled.

“We have had pitched battles to raise one fee by $1” Pansing Brooks said. “This is a lot of money for people.”

After three hours of debate, senators moved on to the next item on the agenda without taking any action on LB910. 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.

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