Senators Given Grim Nebraska Revenue Forecast

Date: March 03, 2017

NFIB readies testimony on workers’ compensation measures

NFIB/Nebraska State Director Bob Hallstrom’s report from Lincoln for the legislative week ending March 3

After processing a number of bills early in the week, lawmakers bogged down on a “Choose Life” specialty license plate bill (Legislative Bill 46). After invoking “cloture” on Wednesday morning, following a four-and-one-half-hour filibuster, senators ran into yet another filibuster on the accompanying appropriations bill to cap off the week’s activities.

Grim Forecasting Board Report

Earlier this week, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board issued its latest estimates indicating that the state will collect much less revenue than previously expected for the next two-year budget cycle, covering state spending for the 2017-2019 biennium.

Prior to the most recent advisory board release, the state was estimated to be $134.7 million short of the required minimum cash reserve. This week’s revised forecast added $152.9 million to the shortfall, which now totals $287.6 million, based on current state spending. The Appropriations Committee is conducting agency hearings over the next few weeks and will no doubt go back to the drawing board to tighten up the state budget.

Committee Activity

NFIB testified in opposition to the following bills that were heard by the Business and Labor Committee February 27.

Legislative Bill 354 – Wage Disclosure Act: Introduced by Sen. Rick Kolowiski (Omaha), LB 354 would prohibit an employer (private employer with four or more employees) from:

  • screening job applicants based on their current or prior wages, including any requirement that a job applicant’s current or prior wage satisfy minimum or maximum criteria
  • requesting or requiring as a condition of being interviewed, or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment, that a job applicant disclose his or her current or prior wages
  • seeking information regarding a job applicant’s current or prior wages from the current or former employer of the job applicant, except that an employer may confirm a job applicant’s wages if the job applicant provides written authorization to do so and the confirmation is done after the employer has made an offer of employment to the job applicant.

The bill would establish a Class IV misdemeanor penalty for violations of the Wage Disclosure Act.

Legislative Bill 211 – Minimum Wage Tipped Employees: Sen. Matt Hansen (Lincoln) has introduced a measure that would increase the state minimum wage for tipped employees from the current rate of $2.13 per hour to $3.60 on August 1, 2017 and to $4.50 on January 1, 2018. 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.

Upcoming Committee Hearings

March 6 is “workers’ compensation day” before the Business and Labor Committee. NFIB will present testimony on the following bills:

Legislative Bill 147 – Nebraska Workers Compensation – Waiting Time Penalties: Senator Hansen has introduced LB 147, which would eliminate additional payments for waiting time:

  • if the employer or his or her workers’ compensation insurer has conducted a reasonable investigation into whether benefits were owed to the employee
  • the results of the reasonable investigation were the actual basis relied upon to deny, delay payment of, or terminate benefits
  • and the basis for the denial, delay of payment, or termination of benefits has been conveyed to the employee contemporaneously with such denial, delay or termination.

The measure would also only allow compensation, once commenced, to be terminated when the employee has returned to work or upon 30 days’ notice from the employer or the workers’ compensation insurer to the employee stating the reason for the termination and advising the employee of the right to file a claim with the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. (NFIB Position-Oppose)

Legislative Bill 319 – Workers Compensation – Confidentiality of First Injury Reports:  Sen. Steve Halloran (Hastings), is the sponsor of LB 319, which would make first injury reports relating to workplace injuries confidential, unless the employee waives confidentiality to allow the report to be made available for public inspection. (NFIB Position-Support)

Legislative Bill 408 – Workers’ Compensation – Evidenced-Based Drug Formulary: Sen. John Lowe, Sr. (Kearney) 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, 2018. Over-prescribing of opioids is an epidemic which brings about delays in the ability of employees to return to work because of addiction and dependencies resulting from over-utilization of pain killers. (NFIB Position-Support)

Legislative Bill 609 – Medical Fee Schedule – Outpatient Hospital and Ambulatory Surgical Centers: Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (Elkhorn) has introduced LB 609, that would establish a “Medicare-Plus” medical fee schedule for ambulatory surgical centers and outpatient hospital services similar to the system that applies for inpatient hospital and inpatient hospital trauma services. Currently, ambulatory surgical centers and outpatient hospital services reimbursement in workers’ compensation cases is based upon “billed charges” less a percentage discount. A recent Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) study reflects that medical fee schedules utilizing billed charges less a discount for ambulatory surgical centers and outpatient hospital services is not effective in controlling costs. (NFIB Position-Support)

Small Business Day at the Capitol

NFIB/Nebraska will co-sponsor the Small Business Day in Lincoln at the State Capitol on April 12.

NFIB’s co-sponsors are the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, 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. Gov. Pete Ricketts will speak to the group, followed by legislative briefings by state senators.

Details on the time and location of Small Business Day at the Capitol will be released soon.

Previous Reports and Related News Releases

February 24 Report—Nebraska Legislature Designates its Priority Bills

February 17 Report—Legislators Propose Expanding Sales Tax to Sales

February 10 Report—NFIB-Backed Unemployment Bill Advances

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

[Tile photo of Sen. Rick Kolowski courtesy of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature website.]

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