Fair employment measure fraught with potential lawsuits, testifies NFIB
NFIB/Nebraska State Director Bob Hallstrom’s weekly report from the State Capitol for the legislative week ending February 10.
The first step toward addressing the state’s $900 million budget shortfall is almost complete, as the legislature has advanced Legislative Bill 22 ($137 million in budget cuts) to Final Reading. Lawmakers continue to grapple over revisions to the “filibuster” rule and were still debating adoption of the permanent rules as the week drew to a close.
Earlier this week, lawmakers voted to adopt an amendment to the rules that would increase the burden on the minority to sustain a filibuster while reducing the number of votes required to enact a cloture motion to end debate on a bill. The filibuster change would allow 30 of the 49 senators to end a filibuster, unless at least 17 votes were cast in opposition to ending debate. The current rule requires the vote of 33 senators to end a filibuster and 17 senators, whether they vote no, are absent, or do not vote, prevail in defeating a cloture motion.
Business and Labor Committee Actions
The Business and Labor Committee has advanced the following two bills, one supported and one opposed by NFIB, for consideration by the full Legislature.
Legislative Bill 203 – Unemployment Insurance: Introduced by Sen. John Kuehn (Heartwell), LB 203 would revise the requirements for individuals receiving unemployment benefits who voluntarily leave a job without good cause. Such an individual would not be eligible for unemployment benefits until he or she has earned four times his or her weekly benefit amount in insured work and has separated from the most recent subsequent employment under non-disqualifying conditions. The bill would address habitual abusers of the unemployment insurance program and is estimated to save employers between $2.75 million and $7.5 million annually. (NFIB Position – Support)
Legislative Bill 181 – Workers Compensation – Independent Medical Examinations: Introduced by Sen. Dan Quick (Grand Island), LB 181 would require an employer to provide reimbursement to an employee for a reasonable fee associated with a subsequent report and examination by a physician selected by the employee along with reasonably necessary transportation expenses incurred for the examination in any case in which a physician selected by the employer or its workers’ compensation insurer renders medical findings on the medical condition of the employee, if the employee disputes the medical findings of the physician selected by the employer or its workers’ compensation carrier. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
LB 181 was advanced from committee on the following vote: For: Sens. Chambers, Crawford, Hansen, and Howard; Against: Sens. Albrecht, Halloran, Lowe
NFIB was active during the past week, submitting testimony before various committees on the following issues of interest to small business:
Paid Family Leave
Legislative Bill 305 – Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance Act: Introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford (Bellevue), LB 305 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. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 372 – Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act: Introduced by Senator Crawford, the measure would expand the Nebraska fair employment practices act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of family care responsibilities (providing direct and ongoing care for a person’s spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent or a child or parent of such person’s spouse). (NFIB Position – Oppose)
In opposing LB 372, State Director Hallstrom noted that “the definition of family care responsibilities under the bill is extremely vague and will dramatically increase the amount of frivolous litigation.”
State Income Tax
Legislative Bill 337 – Income Taxation: Introduced by Sen. Jim Smith (Papillion), on behalf of Gov. Pete Ricketts, LB 337 would provide for reductions in the top individual income tax rate bracket beginning in 2021 and continuing through 2027, which would reduce the rate from 6.84 percent to 5.99 percent. The bill would condition rate reductions upon the expected rate of growth in net General Fund receipts as determined by the Tax Rate Review Committee with reductions to be deferred or voided if the rate of growth does not exceed 3.5 percent, with such deferral to remain in place until the expected rate of growth exceeds 4.2 percent for the upcoming fiscal year. (NFIB Position – Support)
In expressing support for LB 337, NFIB State Director Bob Hallstrom stated that “the vast majority of small businesses operate on a ‘pass-through’ tax basis and that reducing the top individual income tax rates, as proposed under LB 337, will allow these businesses to reinvest the savings back into their businesses and their communities.”
Previous Reports and Related News Releases
February 3 Report—Governor’s Tax Relief Bill Coming Up For First Hearing
January 30 News Release—Comment on Governor’s Press Conference, Today
January 27 Report—NFIB Fighting Habitual Abusers of Unemployment Insurance
January 20 Report—Bill Introduction Period Expires in Nebraska Legislature
January 13 Report—Bill Introductions Less Than Normal in Nebraska Legislature
January 12 News Release—Comment on Today’s State-of-the-State Address
January 6 Report—Nebraska Legislature Opens for Business