The legislative pace is quickening, writes NFIB/Nebraska State Director Bob Hallstrom in his latest report from Lincoln.
Just over a third of the 2014 legislative session has been completed, as individual senators and committees have begun the process of designating their priority bills.
With time for floor debate expected to be at a premium, senators are rushing to advance bills from committee and designating their priority bills in hopes that they will appear on the agenda before the inevitable log jam of bills occurs later in the session.
Each senator may select one priority bill, while each committee may choose two. Speaker Greg Adams may designate up to 25 priority measures. He has designated February 20 as the deadline to make priority bill designations.
Workers’ Compensation Legislation
For the legislative week beginning February 10, NFIB will be testifying in support of the following bills in the Business and Labor Committee:
First Injury Reports—Sen. Rick Kolowski (Omaha) has introduced Legislative Bill 731, which would make first injury reports relating to their workplace injuries confidential, unless the employee waived confidentiality to allow the report to be made available for public inspection.
Lump Sum Settlements—Introduced by Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh (Omaha), Legislative Bill 951 would clarify that a lump sum settlement that is not required to be submitted for approval by the Compensation Court shall be final and conclusive unless procured by fraud. The measure would also require amounts to be paid by the employer to the employee pursuant to the release to be paid within 30 days of filing the release with the Compensation Court, with a 50 percent penalty to be added if not made within the 30-day time period. Finally, the bill would require the Court to enter an order dismissing the action with prejudice upon the employer making payment as required in the release.
Under current law, a lump sum settlement may become final without court approval provided the employee is represented by counsel. The law requires a release to be filed with the Compensation Court which is signed and verified by the employee and the employee’s attorney. The release constitutes a full and complete discharge from further liability for the employer on account of the injury, including future medical, surgical, or hospital expenses, unless such expenses are specifically excluded from the release.
LB 951 is designed to address issues raised by the Nebraska Supreme Court in the case of Holdsworth v. Greenwood Farmers Co-Op, in which it was determined that the waiting time penalty and attorney fees do not apply to lump sum settlements for which court approval is not required.
NFIB will also be presenting testimony in opposition to the following workers’ compensation measures.
Death Benefits—Sen. Norm Wallman (Lincoln) has introduced Legislative Bill 793, which would base death benefits for dependents of a retired worker dying as a result of an occupational disease or latent and progressive injury or disease upon the wages earned when the retired worker was last employed by the employer found liable for the occupational disease or latent or progressive injury or disease. The bill would also establish a conclusive presumption that a retired worker who died as a result of an occupational disease or latent and progressive injury or disease suffered a loss of access to the labor market and suffered diminution of employability or impairment of earning capacity.
Exclusive Remedy—Sen. Tanya Cook (Omaha) is the sponsor of Legislative Bill 961, which would waive workers’ compensation as the exclusive remedy if an employer is guilty of willful negligence. The bill would also deem a finding by the Nebraska Worker’ Compensation Court that an employee has been injured by reason of the willful negligence of the employer to be determinative and binding on the parties in any subsequent action for damages at law.
Tax Reform Legislation
NFIB will testify in support of Legislative Bill 1097, before the Revenue Committee on February 13. Introduced by Sen. Burke Harr (Omaha) LB 1097 would phase in reductions in individual income tax rates over a four year period. Under the measure, the current four tax bracket rates of 2.46 percent, 3.51 percent, 5.01 percent and 6.84 percent would be reduced to three brackets with tax rates for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2017 set at 2.30 percent, 4.75 percent and 5.9 percent. The legislation would also phase in reductions in the corporate income tax rates from their current levels of 5.58 percent on the first $100,000 of taxable income and 7.81 percent on taxable income in excess of $100,000 to a rate of 3.5 percent on the first $100,000 and 5.9 percent on all taxable income in excess of $100,000 for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2017. LB 1097 has been designated as an individual senator priority bill by Senator Jim Smith (Papillion).
Labor Legislation Update
During the week of February 3-7, NFIB testified in opposition to the following measures that would adversely impact small businesses.
Minimum Wage—Sen. Jeremy Nordquist (Omaha) has introduced Legislative Bill 943, which would increase the state’s minimum wage:
- from $7.25 an hour to $7.65 an hour in 2015
- to $8.35 an hour in 2016
- and to $9.00 an hour in 2017.
Members of the Business and Labor Committee need to be called and sent an email immediately to express your opposition to an increase in the state’s minimum wage.
Listing Of Employee Salaries And Job Titles—Introduced by Sen. Tanya Cook (Omaha), Legislative Bill 1085 would require Nebraska employers with 50 or more employees to annually make available to all of their employees and the Equal Opportunity Commission a listing of employee salaries, including job titles, gender, age, and years of service with the listing to be made available without any name or other information that would make an employee readily identifiable.
Previous 2014 Legislative Reports
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