Measure dead for the year but could re-surface in 2018. NFIB testifies on four other workers’ comp. measures
NFIB/Nebraska State Director Bob Hallstrom’s report from Lincoln for the legislative week ending March 10
The Legislature has reached the mid-point of its 2017 session. Individual senator and committee priority bills have been designated and Speaker Jim Scheer will announce his priority bill selections March 13. The balance of the session will feature adoption of the state’s budget and processing priority bills.
Workers’ Compensation Bill ‘Bracketed’
Earlier this week, the Legislature conducted first-round debate on Legislative Bill 181, a bill opposed by NFIB that would require an employer to provide reimbursement to an employee for a reasonable fee associated with a subsequent report and examination by a physician selected by the employee in any case in which a physician selected by the employer or its workers’ compensation insurer renders medical findings on the medical condition of the employee, which are disputed by the employee.
During floor debate on LB 181, opponents of the bill argued that the legislation was not needed as employees already have adequate protections under the law and that the legislation would simply add additional expense for employers. Supporters of the bill, likely sensing they did not have enough votes to advance the legislation from General File, made a motion to “bracket” the bill until January 10, 2018, which was approved by the Legislature. Bracketing the bill in this fashion ensures that it will not be considered again this session, but could resurface in 2018.
NFIB put out an Action Alert to its membership, encouraging opposition to LB 181. Twenty-six senators were contacted by NFIB members, truly making a difference on this issue.
The Business and Labor Committee conducted public hearings this week on a number of workers’ compensation bills. NFIB State Director Bob Hallstrom presented testimony on each of these measures.
Legislative Bill 147 – Nebraska Workers’ Compensation – Waiting Time Penalties: Sen. Matt Hansen (Lincoln) has introduced LB 147, which would eliminate additional payments for waiting time if:
- the employer or his or her workers’ compensation insurer has conducted a reasonable investigation into whether benefits were owed to the employee
- the results of the reasonable investigation were the actual basis relied upon to deny, delay payment of, or terminate benefits
- the basis for the denial, delay of payment, or termination of benefits has been conveyed to the employee contemporaneously with such denial, delay or termination.
The measure would also only allow compensation, once commenced, to be terminated when the employee has returned to work or upon 30 days’ notice from the employer or the workers’ compensation insurer to the employee stating the reason for the termination and advising the employee of the right to file a claim with the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. (NFIB Position-Oppose)
Legislative Bill 319 – Workers’ Compensation – Confidentiality of First Injury Reports: Sen. Steve Halloran (Hastings) is the sponsor of LB 319, which would make first injury reports relating to workplace injuries confidential unless the employee waives confidentiality to allow the report to be made available for public inspection. (NFIB Position-Support)
Legislative Bill 408 – Workers’ Compensation – Evidenced-Based Drug Formulary: This legislation, introduced by Sen. John Lowe, Sr. (Kearney), would establish an evidence-based drug formulary consisting of Schedule II, III, IV and V prescription drugs in connection with workers’ compensation claims with a date of injury on or after January 1, 2018.
Overprescribing of opioids is an epidemic which brings about delays in the ability of employees to return to work as a result of addiction and dependencies resulting from over-utilization of pain killers. (NFIB Position-Support)
Legislative Bill 609 – Medical Fee Schedule – Outpatient Hospital and Ambulatory Surgical Centers: Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (Elkhorn) has introduced LB 609, which would establish a “Medicare-Plus” medical fee schedule for ambulatory surgical centers and outpatient hospital services similar to the system that applies for inpatient hospital and inpatient hospital trauma services.
Currently, ambulatory surgical centers and outpatient hospital services reimbursement in workers’ compensation cases is based upon “billed charges” less a percentage discount. A recent Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) study reflects that medical fee schedules utilizing billed charges less a discount for ambulatory surgical centers and outpatient hospital services is not effective in controlling costs. (NFIB Position-Support)
In other action before legislative committees, NFIB weighed in on the following issues.
Farm Machinery Repair
Legislative Bill 67 – Fair Repair Act: Introduced by Sen. Lydia Brasch (Bancroft), LB 67 would allow individuals and independent repair persons to perform repairs on farm machinery and other business machinery and equipment. The bill would require manufacturers to make diagnostic, service, and technical software available to individuals and independent repair persons on reasonable terms. (NFIB Position-Support)
Personal Property Tax
Legislative Bill 570 – Personal Property Tax Exemption: Sen. Curt Friesen (Henderson) has introduced LB 570), which would, beginning January 1, 2019, exempt all tangible personal property from the property tax. (NFIB Position-Support)
The Week Ahead
On March 13, NFIB will present testimony in opposition to each of the following measures before the Business and Labor Committee.
Legislative Bill 420 – Fair Chance Hiring Act/Ban the Box: Introduced by Sen. John McCollister (Omaha), LB 420 would prohibit public and private employers and employment agencies from asking an applicant to disclose, orally or in writing, information concerning the applicant’s criminal record or history, including any inquiries on any employment application, until the employer or employment agency has determined the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications. The bill would apply to employers with 15 or more employees.
Legislative Bill 473 – Mandated Employee Rest Periods: Sen. Lynne Walz (Fremont) is the sponsor of a measure that would require employers employing six or more individuals to allow employees a rest period of at least 15 minutes during each four hours worked, in additional to the regularly scheduled lunch period for the employees.
Priority Bill Designations
The following bills of interest to small business have been designated as priority bills, which will enhance their likelihood of being considered as the session progresses.
- Legislative Bill 337 – Senator Lindstrom – Income Tax Relief
- Legislative Bill 338 – Senator Brasch – Property Tax Relief
- Legislative Bill 203 – Business and Labor Committee – Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Small Business Day at the Capitol
NFIB/Nebraska will co-sponsor Small Business Day in Lincoln at the State Capitol April 12.
NFIB’s co-sponsors are the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Independent Business Association and Nebraskans for Workers’ Compensation Equity and Fairness.
Small Business Day gives NFIB members an opportunity to network with other small business owners. Gov. Pete Ricketts will speak to the group, followed by legislative briefings by state senators.
Details on the time and location of Small Business Day at the Capitol will be released soon.
Previous Reports and Related News Releases
[Tile photo of Sen. Steve Halloran courtesy of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature]