Senator acknowledges receiving calls from many small business owners in his district
Nebraska State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from Lincoln on the legislative and political week ending February 12.
The Legislature adjourned on Thursday for a long, four–day weekend. When lawmakers return to action next Tuesday, they will conduct the first half-day of floor debate on bills that have advanced from committee to General File.
NFIB appeared before multiple committees during the past week to present testimony on the following bills:
Business and Labor Committee
- Legislative Bill 171 – Unemployment Insurance: Sen. Matt Hansen (Lincoln) has introduced LB 171 which would allow for an increase in an individual’s weekly benefit amount of 5 percent for each dependent:
- a child under the age of 19 years
- a child who is a full-time student under the age of 26 years and who is financially dependent upon the individual
- a child of any age who is medically certified as disabled and depended upon the individual) of the individual up to a maximum increase of 15 percent. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
- Legislative Bill 258 – The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act: Introduced by Sen. Tony Vargas (Omaha), LB 258 would allow employees to accrue a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick time accrued in a calendar year. Under the measure, employees would be entitled to use accrued paid sick time beginning on the 60th calendar day following commencement of employment. Paid sick leave would be authorized for
- an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- an employee’s need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- an employee’s need for preventative medical care
- care of a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- care of a family member who needs preventative medical care
- absence necessary due to domestic abuse, domestic assault, sexual assault, or stalking. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
- Legislative Bill 290 – Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act: LB 290, introduced by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (Omaha), would establish a statewide paid family medical leave insurance program similar to Nebraska’s unemployment insurance system and managed by the state Department of Labor, applicable to all employers subject to the Employment Security Act (one or more employees), with self-employed individuals eligible to participate. Funding would be provided for the program through a payroll tax of up to 1 percent of payroll as determined by the Commissioner of Labor.
LB 290 would allow 12 weeks or 60 workdays of paid leave if taken intermittently and would base the paid leave upon 90 percent of an individual’s average weekly wage that is at or below 50 percent of the state average weekly wage and 50 percent of the individual’s average weekly wage that is above 50 percent of the state average weekly wage, not to exceed 66 percent of the state average weekly wage.
The bill would also require employers to pay all other benefits that are due to the employee that would have been paid in the absence of leave, as well as all other benefits offered to the employee (vacation, sick leave, etc.) and would require employers to allow employees to return to their jobs after exercising their right to family medical leave. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
NOTE: During the Committee hearing on LB 290, Sen. Steve Halloran (Hastings), commented on the number of emails he had received from small business owners in opposition to LB 290. Thanks to the many NFIB members who responded to the Action Alert to express their opposition to the paid family medical leave measure.
- Legislative Bill 79 – Property Tax Credit Act: Sen. Tom Briese (Albion) is the sponsor of LB 79 which would provide for a minimum amount of relief under the Property Tax Credit Act of $275 million through 2023 and for tax year 2024 and each year thereafter, the minimum amount of relief shall be the minimum amount from the prior tax year increased by the allowable growth percentage provided under law. (NFIB Position – Support)
- Legislative Bill 644 – Property Tax Request Act: Under LB 644, introduced by Sen. Ben Hansen (Blair), political subdivisions would be required to explain how much a property taxpayer’s bill would increase if the proposed tax increase were approved and hold a hearing on these tax increases after 6 p.m. to allow citizens to better participate in the process. The measure would require political subdivisions (counties, cities, villages, school districts, learning communities, sanitary and improvement districts, Natural Resources Districts, educational service units, and community colleges) to comply with certain notice and hearing requirements prior to setting the property tax request an amount that exceeds the property tax request for the prior year, accounting for allowable growth (growth and assessed value of property from the prior assessment year to the current assessment year) resulting from (1) annexation of property; or (2) development of property. (NFIB Position – Support)
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
- Legislative Bill 388 – Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act: Introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen (Henderson), LB 388 would appropriate $20 million annually, beginning with fiscal year 2021-22, to facilitate and fund the development of broadband networks in unserved and underserved areas. The bill would create grants to be used for development costs for a qualifying project and require matching funds from political subdivisions making application for a grant, equal to 50 percent of the total development costs. (NFIB Position – Support)
- Legislative Bill 455 – Broadband Pole Attachment Act: Introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen (Henderson), LB 455 would require electric utilities to:
- charge rates and fees for attachments to utility poles by communications service providers that are just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory regardless of the services furnished
- make the electric utility’s easements available to a communications suit service provider and, where necessary, obtain expansions of such easements to accommodate the communications service providers attachments on a nondiscriminatory and competitively neutral basis
- establish terms and conditions for attachments to utility poles by any communication service provider that are nondiscriminatory, competitively neutral, commercially reasonable, and consistent with federal laws and regulations
- if consistent with the National Capital and Electrical Safety Code, rearrange, expand, replace, or otherwise reengineer any utility pole upon the request of the communications service provider if necessary to accommodate the communications service provider’s new attachment. (NFIB Position – Support)
- Legislative Bill 139 – COVID-19 Liability Protection Act: Senator Briese has also introduced a measure (LB 139) which would prevent a person from bringing or maintaining a civil action seeking recovery for any injuries or damages sustained from exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19 unless the plaintiff can prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the civil action relates to a minimum medical condition (a diagnosis of COVID-19 that requires inpatient hospitalization or results in death) resulting from gross negligence or willful misconduct. The bill would also prohibit a civil action seeking recovery for any injuries or damages sustained from exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19 from being brought or maintained if the act or omission alleged violated duty of care was prevented by, in substantial compliance with, or consistent with any federal or state statute, regulation, or order or public health guidance related to COVID-19 that was applicable to the person or activity an issue at the time of the alleged exposure or potential exposure. The bill does not affect the rights or limits under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act. (NFIB Position – Support)
- Legislative Bill 310 – Inheritance Tax Exemptions: Sen. Robert Clements (Elmwood) has introduced LB 310, which would increase, commencing January 1, 2022, the inheritance tax exemption for immediate family members from $40,000 to $150,000 and would reduce the rate of taxation beginning on January 1, 2023, from 1 percent to .75 percent and on January 1, 2024, and every year thereafter, to .50 percent The bill would also, commencing on January 1, 2024, increase the exempt amount to $160,000 and increase the exempt amount by $5,000 for each subsequent calendar year. Commencing January 1, 2022, the bill would decrease the inheritance tax exemption for uncles, aunts, nieces or nephews, from 13 percent to 11 percent and increase the exemption amount from $15,000 to $60,000; beginning January 1, 2023, the rate of taxation would be reduced to 9 percent and the exemption amount increased to $62,500, and beginning January 1, 2024, the rate of taxation would be decreased to 6 percent and the exemption amount increased to $65,000 and increased by $2,500 each calendar year thereafter. Finally, commencing January 1, 2022, the bill would decrease the rate of taxation for all other persons from 18 percent to 15 percent and increase the exempt amount from $10,000 to $40,000; beginning on January 1, 2023, would decrease the rate of taxation to 12 percent and increase the exempt amount to $42,500; and beginning on January 1, 2024, and each year thereafter, decrease the rate of taxation to 9 percent with the exempt amount to be increased to $45,000, and increased by $2,500 each year thereafter. (NFIB Position – Support)
Previous Reports and Related News Releases
- January 15—The Legislative Bill Mill Starts Turning