Small business also ready to oppose modification of Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act
State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from Lincoln on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending January 31
With 16 days of the 2020 Legislative Session completed, the body continues to engage in floor debate on bills carried over from the 2019 Legislative Session. Committee hearings are in full swing and will continue for approximately the next 30 days.
NFIB Committee Hearing Activity
The Business and Labor and Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committees conducted public hearings this week on the following bills of interest to NFIB:
Legislative Bill 846 – Workers’ Compensation – “Waiting Time”
Introduced by Sen. Dan Quick (Grand Island), LB 846 would reduce the workers’ compensation “waiting time” period from seven to three calendar days and the time period to allow compensation to be paid from the date disability began from six weeks to two weeks.
NFIB State Director Bob Hallstrom presented testimony in opposition to the bill noting that employers will be negatively impacted by a reduced “waiting period” since it will minimize the claims that only involve payment of medical benefits, which will have an adverse impact on the cost of providing workers’ compensation coverage for employees.
Hallstrom also noted that the bill would reduce the period of time in which an employer has to make solid “return-to-work” decisions, which will result in many more claims that will include liability for indemnity benefits, driving up the employer’s “Experience Modifier Calculation” and increasing employers’ workers’ compensation costs.
With Nebraska being an “experience rating adjustment” state, all WC claims that are “medical only” and which include no “indemnity” (lost wages) payments are discounted by 70 percent as they impact an employer’s “Experience Modifier Calculation.” As a result, employers can be rewarded for getting injured employees back to work quickly, with applicable, work-related restrictions as directed by the treating physician. Reducing the “waiting period” from seven to three days, minimizes the ability of the employer to benefit from these provisions. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 857 – State Agency Rule and Regulation Review
NFIB State Director Bob Hallstrom also submitted testimony to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee in support of LB 857, a bill introduced by Sen. John Lowe (Kearney). The bill would require each state agency to review the rules and regulations adopted by the state agency on a designated schedule and provide a report electronically to the clerk of the Legislature including the statutory authorization for the rules and regulations and an assessment of whether the rules and regulations are accomplishing the statutory purposes or need revision. (NFIB Position – Support)
NFIB will be actively engaged with the Business and Labor Committee on Monday, February 3, in presenting testimony in opposition to each of the following bills.
Legislative Bill 915 – Minimum Wage Tipped Employees
Sen. Megan Hunt (Omaha) has introduced legislation that would increase the state minimum wage for “tipped” employees from the current rate of $2.13 per hour to $3.60 on January 1, 2021, and to $4.50 on January 1, 2022. The bill would also require the summary of the Wage and Hour Act posted by employers to include a summary of the minimum wage amounts in effect under the Act.
Legislative Bill 1016 – Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act
Sen. Matt Hansen (Lincoln) has introduced LB 1016 which would prohibit retaliation and discrimination for employees who file suit or participate in a proceeding under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act. The bill would also modify damages to allow appropriate relief and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs (current law allows the full amount of the judgment and all cost of the suit and an amount for attorney’s fees). Also, the measure would allow citations issued under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act to be admissible in court—and make citations available to the public upon request.
Legislative Bill 1060 – Nebraska For Employment Practices Act
Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (Omaha) has introduced LB 1060 which would define race under the Fair Employment Practices Act to include race, ancestry, color, ethnic group identification, and ethnic background, inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles (braids, locks, and twists).
Workers’ Compensation Bills Scheduled for Hearing
The Business and Labor Committee has scheduled the following workers’ compensation bills of interest to NFIB for hearing on February 10:
Legislative Bill 1101 – Workers’ Compensation – Multiple Member Injuries
Sen. Steve Halloran (Hastings) has introduced legislation (LB 1101), which would clarify existing law regarding the ability of an employee to receive benefits for loss or loss of use of more than one hand, arm, foot, leg, eye, or ear, or any combination thereof, based upon the employee’s loss of earning capacity, if the loss or loss of use results in at least a 30 percent loss of earning capacity (loss or loss of use of multiple parts of the same hand, arm, foot, or leg would not be eligible for a determination of benefits based upon the employee’s loss of earning capacity and loss of use means permanent loss of function). (NFIB Position – Support)
Legislative Bill 1103 – Workers’ Compensation – Lump-Sum Settlement Approval or Release
Sen. Matt Hansen (Lincoln) is the sponsor of LB 1103, which would clarify that a release of a lump-sum settlement for indemnity benefits only, that is not required to be submitted for approval by the Compensation Court, need not contain allegations regarding eligibility for Medicare if the employee’s right to receive future medical, surgical, and hospital services is specifically excluded from the settlement. (NFIB Position – Support)
Small Business Day at the Capitol
NFIB/Nebraska will co-sponsor a Small Business Day at the Capitol on March 10, in Lincoln.
NFIB’s co-sponsors are the:
- Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce
- Lincoln Chamber of Commerce
- Lincoln Independent Business Association
- 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 is expected to speak, and there will be a legislative briefing by state senators.
Details on the time and location of Small Business Day at the Capitol will be released soon. Check www.NFIB.com/NE for the latest information.
Previous Reports and News Releases
- January 20 News Release—Employers Already Beating Nebraska Senators to the Punch
- January 17 Report—New Bills Introduced, Hearings to Commence
- January 15 News Release—Comment on Today’s State-of-the-State Address
- January 10 Report—2020 Nebraska Legislative Session Commences