Approval of lump-sum settlements has three advantages
State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from Lincoln on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending March 2
Lawmakers adjourned Thursday morning for a long, four-day weekend. While progress on priority bills has been slow, with the body having commenced full-day sessions of floor debate, it is anticipated that lawmakers will begin to pick up the pace prior to turning their attention to the state budget in the coming weeks.
Workers’ Compensation Lump-Sum Settlement
It is anticipated that Legislative Bill 953, which has been designated as a priority bill by the Business and Labor Committee, may be scheduled for General File debate in the upcoming week.
Introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht (Thurston), LB 953 would address issues relating to the approval of lump-sum settlements by the Workers’ Compensation Court. The bill would establish a conclusive presumption that the lump-sum settlement is made in conformity with the compensation schedule and for the best interests of the employee or his or her dependents under all of the circumstances, if the employee’s attorney affirms these facts in the application for an order approving the settlement.
The conclusive presumption would apply to cases in which:
- the employee is eligible for Medicare, is a Medicare beneficiary or has a reasonable expectation of becoming eligible for Medicare within 30 months of executing the settlement
- medical, surgical, or hospital services provided to the employee are not paid by the employer, or any person other than Medicaid, who has made any payment to the supplier of medical, surgical, or hospital services provided to the employee, is not reimbursed by the employer.
NFIB is supporting passage of LB 953 for three reasons.
- If both parties to a settlement are represented by an attorney, the Compensation Court should not second guess that advice or interfere with the parties’ desire to compromise a case on an agreed-upon basis.
- LB 953 will minimize the length of time between when the employer and employee agree to a settlement and when the employee receives the settlement proceeds.
- LB 953 reduces the risk of employers incurring additional liability for future medical expenses related to the payment of expenses related to a disputed condition or injury.
Workers’ Compensation Confidentiality
The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee has advanced Legislative Bill 1015 to General File on the following vote of 6-2:
Ayes: Senators Brewer, Briese, Hilgers, Lowe, Murante and Thibodeau
Nays: Senators Blood and Wayne
Introduced by Sen. Tom Briese (Albion), and designated as a Committee priority bill by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, LB 1015 would prohibit access to first reports of injury which reveal the identity of the employee who is the subject of the report.
The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board increased its estimate regarding how much the state will collect in taxes for the current fiscal year and next by a total of $55 million, compared with its forecast last October.
The forecast increased approximately $25 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year, with those funds automatically flowing into the “rainy-day fund” at the end of the fiscal year. The projections suggest the state could collect approximately $30 million more in 2018-19 than previously estimated.
Based on predictions of an improved forecast, the Appropriations Committee had previously indicated that it would recommend that the University of Nebraska, and state and community colleges, incur a 1 percent cut in the 2018-19 fiscal year, rather than the 4 percent cut proposed by Gov. Pete Ricketts in his state budget.
NFIB presented testimony in opposition to each of the following bills at public hearings during the past week:
Legislative Bill 1021 – Sales Tax on Agricultural Services: Introduced by Sen. Paul Schumacher (Columbus), the legislation would repeal a series of sales and use taxes related to agriculture, including:
- semen and insemination services
- feed, water, veterinary medicines, and agricultural chemicals used in caring for animal life, the products of which ordinarily constitute food for human consumption
- agricultural chemicals for use in commercial agriculture and oxygen for use in aquaculture
- mineral oil applied to grain as dust suppressant
- repair or replacement parts for agricultural machinery and equipment used in commercial agriculture
- depreciable repairs or parts for agriculture machinery or equipment.
Legislative Bill 1088 – Income and Sales Tax: Introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne (Omaha), LB 1088 would adopt:
- the Remote Seller’s Sales Tax Collection Act
- revise the school state aid formula
- repeal the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund
- repeal a series of sales tax exemptions
- increase the state sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent.
Legislative Bill 1134 – Nebraska Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act: LB 1134, introduced by Sen. Tony Vargas (Omaha), would require advance notification of large-scale employment loss, similar to requirements of federal law. The bill would require written notice to employees and government officials to be given at least 60 days prior to an order for a “mass layoff, worksite closing, or a transfer of operations” taking effect. The measure would also apply to employers with 25 or more employees.
Small Business Day at the Capitol
NFIB/Nebraska will co-sponsor a Small Business Day at the Capitol on March 13, 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.
Previous Reports and News Releases
[Tile photo courtesy of Unicameral Update, The Nebraska Legislature’s official news source since 1977.]