Paid sick leave measure debated on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature
State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from the State Capitol on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending January 17.
As of Thursday, January 16, the seventh day of the 2020 Legislative Session, a total of 312 bills and seven proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced. Committee hearings will begin Tuesday, January 21, and continue through the latter part of February. Floor debate on bills “carried over” from the last session began on January 13 and will continue during morning sessions of floor debate by the Legislature.
Other key dates in the 2020 Legislative Session, include:
- January 23 – Last day to introduce bills
- February 19 – Deadline for requests on Speaker priorities
- February 21 – Deadline for designation of Committee and Senator priorities
- February 24 – Speaker announces his priority bills
- March 3 – Full-day floor debate begins
- April 23 – Sine die adjournment (tentative)
Governor’s State-of-the-State Address—Spending Restraint and Property Tax Relief
Gov. Pete Ricketts presented the annual State-of-the-State address on Wednesday, January 15, outlining his priorities for the session as “property tax reform, flood relief, retention of veterans in the state and workforce and business expansion.”
The governor has proposed to increase property tax relief by over $500 million during the next three years. The governor has also provided funding in his proposed budget for flood relief and increased pay for corrections officers, as well as funding over the next three years for scholarships for students studying in high-need, better-paying fields, such as math, engineering, healthcare and information technology. The governor’s proposed budget would restrict growth in state government to 2.9 percent and he has also encouraged restraint in spending by local governments.
Paid Sick Leave Bill Debated on the Floor
The Legislature began 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 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 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.
Debate on LB 305 will continue when the legislature convenes on Tuesday, January 21. NFIB is opposing LB 305.
Military Retirement Tax Bill Advances
Lawmakers have given first-round approval to Legislative Bill 153, which would grant a 50 percent state income tax break for military retirees. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer (Gordon) and designated as a priority bill last session by Sen. John Lowe (Kearney), would apply to veterans who are receiving a pension, by providing a 50 percent state income tax exemption for military retirement benefits. The bill is expected to have a $12 million fiscal impact.
Revenue Committee Property Tax Relief Bill
The Revenue Committee has introduced Legislative Bill 974 to change taxation and school funding provisions. The legislation 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.
- For tax years prior to tax year 2020, agricultural land would be valued at 75 percent of its actual value
- For tax year 2020, 65 percent of its actual value for purposes of taxes levied by school districts and 75 percent of its actual value for purposes of taxes levied by any other political subdivision
- For tax year 2021 and each year thereafter, 55 percent of its actual value for purposes of taxes levied by school districts and 75 percent of its actual value for purposes of taxes levied by any other political subdivision.
All other real property (commercial and residential),
- for tax year 2020, would be valued at 95 percent of its actual value for purposes of taxes levied by school districts and at its actual value for purposes of taxes levied by any other political subdivision;
- for tax year 2021, 90 percent of its actual value for purposes of taxes levied by school districts.
The legislation would provide “foundation aid” 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.
LB 974 has been scheduled for hearing before the Revenue Committee on January 22.
Workers’ Compensation Hearings Scheduled
The following bills of interest to NFIB have been referred to the Judiciary Committee and will receive public hearings on January 28.
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 will appear in opposition to LB 846, which will reduce the number of claims that are “medical only” and have a negative impact on employers’ experience mods. Once “indemnity benefits,” including lost wages, are paid, the employer loses the opportunity for “medical only” status on that claim. Reducing the period of time in which an employer has to make solid “return–to–work” decisions, will result in many more claims that will include liability for indemnity benefits, drive-up experience mod’s and increase employers’ workers’ compensation costs.
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
- and, 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.
Other Bills of Interest
Legislative Bill 806 – Taxation – Income Tax
Sen. Justin Wayne (Omaha) has introduced LB 806, which would exempt social security benefits and retirement benefits from state income taxation.
Legislative Bill 810 – Sales and Use Tax
Introduced by Sen. John McCollister (Omaha), LB 810 would impose the sales and use tax on bottled water, candy and soft drinks and direct proceeds to the credit of the Nebraska Healthcare Cash Fund.
Legislative Bill 819 – Income Taxation
Senator Brewer is the sponsor of LB 819 that would allow a percentage of the benefits received under the federal Social Security Act, which are included in the taxpayer’s federal adjusted gross income, to be exempted from state income taxation
Legislative Bill 857 – State Agency Rule and Regulation Review
Legislation introduced by Sen. John Lowe (Kearney) 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.
Legislative Bill 861 – Prohibition of Local Regulation of Reusable Containers
Sen. Dan Hughes (Venango) has introduced LB 861, which would prohibit a county, municipality, or agency from adopting, enforcing, or otherwise administering an ordinance or resolution that prohibits the use of or that set standards, fees, or requirements, regarding the sale, use, or marketing of consumer merchandise and containers.
Legislative Bill 891 – Taxation – Income Tax
Senator Hilgers is the sponsor of LB 891, which would, for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, allow an individual to take a nonrefundable credit (credit equal to 6.84 percent of the amount of overtime pay included in the individual’s reported wages) against state income tax, if the individual reported wages for the taxable year include overtime pay (compensation paid for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a given workweek and paid at a rate equal to at least one and one–half times individuals regular rate of pay).
Legislative Bill 892 – Taxation – Income Tax
Senator Hilgers has also introduced LB 892 which would increase individual income tax brackets so that the top rate of 6.84% would not apply until income for a single individual reaches $50,000 (married file jointly $100,000 – was 29,000 and 58,000) for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, with the tax brackets to be adjusted for inflation each year thereafter.
Legislative Bill 905 – Fee on Reusable Containers
Introduced by Sen. Wendy DeBoer (Bennington), LB 905 would, beginning January 1, 2021, provide for a fee (five cents per single-use checkout bag) on single-use checkout bags (plastic bag with a thickness of less than four mils that is provided by a store to a customer at the point-of-sale) and for a program to distribute reusable checkout bags.
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 $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 926 – Employee Classification Act
The Business and Labor Committee has introduced a bill that would authorize the commissioner of the Department of Labor to issue citations to a contractor when an investigation reveals that the contractor has violated the Employee Classification Act. The legislation would authorize administrative penalties of not more than $500 per misclassified individual for the first offense and not more than $5,000 per misclassified individual for each second or subsequent offense. A contractor would have the ability to contest the citation or penalty within 15 days after the date the citation or penalty was issued.
Legislative Bill 930 – Property Tax Credit Act
Introduced by Sen. Tom Briese (Albion), LB 930 would require, for tax year 2020 and each tax year thereafter, that the Property Tax Credit Act provide a minimum of $275 million in property tax relief.
Legislative Bill 946 – Taxation – Sales Tax on Services
Senator Briese has also introduced LB 946 that would reduce the state sales tax rate from 5.5 cents to 4 cents and subject all services, including those used by businesses, to the state sales tax.
Legislative Bill 987 – Taxation Sales and Use Tax
Introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks (Lincoln), LB 987 would impose a sales and use tax on dating and escort services. The bill would direct all proceeds on transactions occurring on or after October 1, 2020, to be credited to the human trafficking victim assistance fund
Legislative Bill 989 – Taxation Sales and Use Tax
Introduced by Senator Wayne, LB 989 would impose the sales and use tax on digital advertisements (an advertising message delivered over the Internet that markets or promotes a particular good, service, or political candidate or message)
Small Business Day at the Capitol
NFIB/Nebraska will co-sponsor a Small Business Day at the Capitol on March 10, in Lincoln. Other 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. 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.
Previous Reports and News Releases
- January 15 News Release—Comment on Today’s State-of-the-State Address
- January 10 Report—2020 Nebraska Legislative Session Commences