Committee hearings commence. NFIB testifies in support of property tax relief measure.
State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from the State Capitol on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending January 24.
The past week saw the commencement of committee hearings and expiration of the time period for new bill introductions. Lawmakers introduced a total of 481 new bills this session. The Legislature continues to conduct floor debate on pending measures in the morning sessions, with committee hearings occupying the afternoon sessions.
The following bills of interest to NFIB have been referred to the Business and Labor Committee and will be the subject of public hearings on Monday, January 27.
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 Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 963 – Workers’ Compensation – Mental/Mental Injuries
Introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer (Gordon), LB 963 would modify the standards for recovery of workers’ compensation benefits for “mental–mental” injuries to first responders and front-line state employees. The bill would allow a first responder to establish prima facie evidence of a mental injury or mental illness if:
- the first responder has undergone a mental health examination upon entry into service as a first responder or subsequent to such entry and before the onset of the mental injury or mental illness and the examination did not reveal the mental injury or mental illness for which the first responder seeks compensation
- testimony or an affidavit from a mental health professional is presented stating the first responder suffers from a mental injury or mental illness
- prior to the employment conditions which cause the mental injury or mental illness, the first responder had participated in resilience training and updated the training at least annually thereafter.
The legislation would require the Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse a first responder for the cost of annual resilience training not reimbursed by the first responder’s employer. (NFIB Position – Watch)
Paid Sick Leave Bill Fails to Advance
The Legislature continued first-round debate on Legislative Bill 305, a bill introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford (Bellevue), that 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, sexual assault, or stalking.
During consideration of LB 305, a procedural motion to cease debate and vote on a pending amendment was defeated on the following vote of 18-25, with a vote “against” supportive of the NFIB position:
FOR: Senators Blood, Bolz, Cavanaugh, Chambers, Crawford, DeBoer, M. Hansen, Howard, Hunt, Lathrop, McCollister, McDonnell, Morfeld, Pansing Brooks, Quick, Vargas, Walz and Wishart.
AGAINST: Albrecht, Arch, Bostelman, Brandt, Brewer, Briese, Clements, Dorn, Erdman, Friesen, Geist, Gragert, Groene, Halloran, B. Hansen, Hilgers, Hilkemann, Hughes, Lindstrom, Lowe, Moser, Murman, Sheer, Slama and Stinner.
PRESENT AND NOT VOTING: Kolterman, La Grone, Linehan and Williams
EXCUSED AND NOT VOTING: Kolowski and Wayne
With the passage of three hours of the General File debate, LB 305 has been removed from the agenda and will not appear unless supporters are able to show sufficient support (33 votes) to allow the bill to be rescheduled for further consideration. Many thanks to Sens. Robert Clements (Elmwood), Mike Groene (North Platte), Ben Hansen (Blair), Mike Hilgers (Lincoln), Steve Halloran (Hastings), John Lowe (Kearney) and Mike Moser (Columbus) for leading the charge in opposition to LB 305. (NFIB Position – Opposed)
Property Tax Relief Bill Heard
The Revenue Committee conducted a public hearing on LB 974, the property tax relief bill, on Wednesday, January 22. Introduced by the Revenue Committee, LB 974 would use excess state tax revenue to increase state aid to K–12 schools, and gradually lower the tax valuation of property for paying school taxes. Under the bill, “Foundation Aid” would be provided to each school district in the state, beginning with $695 per student in the first year and increasing to $2,265 per student by the third year. The bill would provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction in property taxes for every dollar of new state aid to schools.
NFIB State Director Bob Hallstrom testified on LB 974, expressing support for the concepts contained within the bill and acknowledging the desire of small-business owners to obtain meaningful property tax relief, and expressing support for the fact that the legislation does not contain any new or expanded taxes or repeal of existing tax exemptions.
The Revenue Committee has yet to take any action on LB 974.
New Bills Introduced
Legislative Bill 1016 – Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act
Sen. Matt Hansen (Lincoln) has introduced LB 1016 which would prohibit retaliation and discrimination on 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 1101 – Workers’ Compensation – Multiple Member Injuries
Sen. Steve Halloran (Hastings) has introduced 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).
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
Sen. Tony Vargas (Omaha) has introduced each of the following bills, which would amend the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act:
Legislative Bill 1126 – Workers’ Compensation – Attorney Fees Penalties and Interests
LB 1126 would provide that no attorney’s fee, penalty, or interest shall be awarded or assessed if a reasonable controversy existed at the time of a delinquent payment (after 30 days’ notice of disability or 30 days from entry of final order) or a refusal to pay compensation or medical payments subject to Neb.Rev.Stat. §48-120. The bill would allow an award of attorney fees for a failure to authorize or provide assurance of payment for treatment pursuant to Neb.Rev.Stat. §48-120 if there is no reasonable controversy regarding treatment within 30 days of the request for authorization or assurance of payment. The bill would also authorize, in the court’s discretion, assessment of a penalty not to exceed $500 per day for each day that authorization is delayed without reasonable controversy. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 1127 – Workers’ Compensation – Contempt Powers
Under LB 1127, the Compensation Court or any judge thereof would be authorized to issue contempt orders in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure. (NFIB Position – Watch)
Legislative Bill 1128 – Workers’ Compensation
LB 1128 would exempt from the provisions regarding release of claims, any claim against a workers’ compensation insurer or its agents for bad faith denial of workers’ compensation benefits. The bill would deem bad faith denial of workers’ compensation benefits to occur if the insurer or its agent denied benefits or authorization of benefits without a reasonable basis at the time of the denial, and the insurer or its agent knew or should have known that there was no reasonable basis for denial, or if the insurer engages in any acts or practices described in Neb.Rev.Stat. §48-146.02 (2) (failure to comply with an obligation under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act). The legislation would also create a five-year statute of limitations for any claim of bad faith denial of workers’ compensation benefits. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 1129 – Workers’ Compensation
Under LB 1129, contractors or subcontractors would be included as employees under the Workers’ Compensation Act in cases in which a contract is let to a contractor or subcontractor for work ordinarily done by employees without requiring the contractor or subcontractor to procure workers’ compensation coverage. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
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
[Photo of Revenue Committee listening to testimony on LB 974, the property tax relief measure, courtesy of Unicameral Update, The Nebraska Legislature’s official news source since 1977.]