Nebraska will ring in 2013 on Tuesday with new laws that will increase county filing fees for mortgages, offer tax breaks for new data centers and allow golf cars to drive on roads near courses
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska will ring in 2013 on Tuesday with new laws that will increase county filing fees for mortgages, offer tax breaks for new data centers and allow golf cars to drive on roads near courses.
The measures are among 10 Nebraska state laws that will go into effect on Jan. 1.
The new year will usher in an increase in county filing fees for mortgages, deeds, wills and other property documents. Some of the increased revenue will help register-of-deed offices post more public documents online, while the rest will go to county general funds. The law ends in 2018, a requirement that lawmakers added to force officials to show that they had used the money as intended and justify continuing the higher fees.
The fees will increase for the first time in 28 years, said Roger Keetle, a legislative aide for state Sen. John Wightman, of Lexington, who sponsored the bill.
"It's a long overdue increase" for counties, Keetle said, because years of inflation have eroded the value of the fees and placed more pressure on counties' general funds.
Counties will charge a $10 fee for the first page of a filing and $6 for each subsequent page, up from the current $5-per-page charge on most documents. The law also will repeal a 50-cent indexing fee for lots that are recorded. Of the $10 fee charged on the first page, $2.50 will go into the register's technology upgrade fund. For every page that costs $5, the fund will collect 50 cents.
Lawmakers in previous years had resisted the proposal, but the measure gained support this year because it dedicates part of the money for technology upgrades in recorder offices. The money previously funneled into county general funds, allowing county officials to use it however they wanted.
"We're going to do our absolute best to make sure the money is spent the way it's intended," said Scotts Bluff County register of deeds Jean Bauer. "We know that legislators are going to be watching us."
Bauer said she plans to use the revenue to make more property records available to the public online.
She said clerks in her office still record financial transactions by hand, and all of the county's property records are stored on paper in one of six filing cabinets. Some date back as far back as the late 1800s, and members of the public who want to examine property records must visit the office in person.
The fees will generate an estimated $300,000 a year for the Douglas County Register of Deeds, and administrators say they want to use it to post older property records on a county website. Records that were filed before 1993 are not available online, said Douglas County Register of Deeds Diane Battiato.
Another law will allow special-interest motor vehicles in Nebraska to sport only one license plate. The law is aimed at specialty or classic cars that aren't intended for regular travel. The law was supported by the Nebraska Corvette Association and other car-collector groups.
A third new tax incentive law sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Abbie Cornett is designed to attract data centers to Nebraska and encourage expansions, including one by internet search engine Yahoo! in LaVista, an Omaha suburb. The law offers property and sales-tax exemptions to firms in Nebraska.
Lawmakers and Gov. Dave Heineman also passed a law this year that will allow motorists to drive golf cars on roads that run adjacent and contiguous to golf courses, if the local county or city government approves. To use the golf cars on roads, operators must have a driver's license and liability insurance.
The bill's sponsor, Bancroft Sen. Lydia Brasch, told a legislative panel in January that she introduced the bill after she was approached by constituents in the towns of Oakland and Tekamah.
Kevin Brenneis, the owner of the Northridge Country Club in Tekamah, told lawmakers that golf cars on city streets became an issue after the city annexed part of the club's golf course. Once the subdivision land was annexed, several roads that ran through the course became city streets.
"Now that they've annexed us, we would like to be able to continue our operations they were before," he testified in a January hearing.
Grant Schulte can be reached at http://twitter.com/grantschulte
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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