2020 Nebraska Legislative Session Commences

Date: January 10, 2020

New bills added to 480 ones carried over from 2019 make for a very busy 60 days

State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from Lincoln on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending January 10.

The gavel fell at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 8, marking the beginning of the second session of the 106th Legislature.

The first two days of the short, 60-day session, consisted primarily of bill introductions, with 163 new bills dropped into the hopper. Combined with nearly 480 bills carried over from the 2019 Legislative Session, lawmakers will face a healthy slate of issues once again this session.

Bill introductions will continue during the first 10 legislative days, with General File debate of bills carried over from the 2019 session to commence on January 13. Committee hearings will begin January 21 and run through the end of February. Gov. Pete Ricketts will present his State of the State Address on January 15.

The 2020 Legislative Session will be the last for Sens. Sara Howard (Omaha), Rick Kolowski (Omaha), Ernie Chambers (Omaha), Sue Crawford (Bellevue), Kate Bolz (Lincoln), and Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer (Norfolk) due to term limits, the constitutional provision limiting senators to serving two consecutive four-year terms in office.

Major issues expected to be addressed this session, include property tax, economic development incentives and corrections reform.

Carryover Legislation

All legislation that was not adopted or indefinitely postponed last session was carried over for further consideration during the 2020 legislative session. Among the issues supported by NFIB carried over from the 2019 session, are the following:

Legislative Bill 19 – Workers’ Compensation – Confidentiality of First Injury Reports

Introduced by Sen. Tom Briese (Albion), LB 19 would require workers’ compensation first reports of injury to be withheld from the public with certain designated exceptions.

The bill is designed to curb the avalanche of solicitations, which injured employees receive from attorneys once the “report of first injury” is filed with the Workers’ Compensation Court. While LB 19 would limit the disclosure of first reports of injury to the general public, it does provide exceptions for the Workers’ Compensation Court to release the reports to employees mentioned in the report or the employee’s attorney, to the employer that is a party to the report or its attorney or authorized agent, or in connection with a state or federal investigation or examination or for use by the state or federal government to compile statistical information.

LB 487 – Workers’ Compensation – Evidence-Based Drug Formulary

Sen. Andrew La Grone (Gretna) has introduced legislation that 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, 2020. Over-prescribing 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. 

Each of these measures are currently held in the Business and Labor Committee.

The following bills, which are opposed by NFIB, are on General File or are stalled in committee, but could receive further consideration this session:

LB 305 – Paid Sick Leave

LB 305, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford (Bellevue), which is on General File, would create a new state leave mandate for employers with four or more employees to provide employees with access to paid sick and safe leave. Under the bill, employees would accrue a minimum of one hour paid sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked, with employers required to allow employees to accrue up to 40 hours of leave in a calendar year based on hours worked. Sick and safe leave could be used for reasons relating to domestic violence, stalking, or domestic abuse.

LB 311 – Paid Family Medical Leave

Senator Crawford is also the sponsor of LB 311, which would create a new state mandate on businesses and provide nearly all employees in Nebraska with paid family medical leave for events such as:

  • care for a new child after birth
  • adoption
  • foster care placement
  • leave during a serious illness
  • pregnancy
  • care for a family member with a serious health condition.

The bill would create a paid family medical leave insurance program, funded solely by employers and based on 1 percent of the gross payroll, to provide partial wage replacement for eligible workers to care for themselves or family members. Available leave would vary between six and 12 weeks during any calendar year. The bill was prioritized by Sen. Michaela Cavanaugh (Omaha), and is on General File.

LB 408 – Workers’ Compensation – Death Benefits

Sen. Dan Quick (Grand Island) is the sponsor of legislation (LB 408) that would provide, upon the death of an employee, if there is no spouse, child, or other dependent entitled to benefits, that $25,000 is to be paid to the personal representative of the estate of the decedent.

LB 448 – Workers’ Compensation – Burial Benefits

Introduced by Sen. Mike McDonnell (Omaha), LB 448 would revise the manner in which an employer’s responsibility for burial expenses is determined. As originally introduced, the burial expense would have been set at 14 times the state’s average weekly wage. An amendment proposed by the Business and Labor Committee would set the burial expense at 12 times the state’s average weekly wage, to be automatically adjusted annually.

LB 526 – Workers’ Compensation – Temporary Disability

Also introduced by Senator McDonnell, LB 526 would provide that temporary disability shall continue until the later of (a) any permanent disability, as measured by permanent impairment for a scheduled member injury, has been determined or, in the event of a claim payable under loss of earning capacity, until a loss of earning capacity evaluation has been issued or (b) 30 days after the employee has been given notice of termination of temporary disability benefits. Upon termination of temporary disability benefits, the employer would be required to provide copies of all evidence relied upon in making the determination to cease benefit payments and if evidence from outside of the treating physician has been relied upon, the employee shall be entitled to seek a medical finding by an independent medical examiner to be paid for by the employer, with such independent medical examiner to be chosen by the employee.

LB 526 would effectively allow an employee to be working full-time once temporary disability benefits are ceased but continue to receive temporary disability benefits for a period of 30 days, while earning full wages.”

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, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the 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. Governor 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.

Opening of the 2020 legislative session photo courtesy of Unicameral Update, The Nebraska Legislature’s official news source since 1977.

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