Nebraska Legislature at midpoint of session. Full-day floor debate to commence February 27
State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from Lincoln on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending February 23
The 2018 session reached its midpoint February 21, and the focus for the balance of the session has been narrowed with the designation of individual senator, committee, and Speaker priority bills.
February 27 marks the final day for public hearings. Lawmakers will commence full-day floor debate sessions on that day.
Workers’ Compensation Bills Given Priority Status
Each of the following bills, supported by NFIB, have been designated as priority bills, significantly enhancing the likelihood that they will be debated on the floor of the Legislature this session.
Legislative Bill 953 – Workers’ Compensation – Approval of Lump Sum Settlements: The Business and Labor Committee has advanced LB 953 to General File on a vote of 7-0 and selected the bill as one of its two committee priorities. 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 (a) 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; or (b) 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.
Legislative Bill 1015 – Workers’ Compensation – Confidentiality of WC First Injury Reports: The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee has designated LB 1015 as a committee priority bill. Introduced by Sen. Tom Briese (Albion), LB 1015 would prohibit access to first reports of injury which reveal the identity of the employee who is the subject of the report. While the bill remains in committee, it is expected to be reported to the floor of the Legislature in the near future.
Legislative Bill 957 – Workers’ Compensation – Electronic Payment of Benefits: The Business and Labor Committee also has advanced LB 957 to General File, which has been designated as a Speaker priority bill. Introduced by Sen. John Lowe (Kearney), LB 957 would authorize, upon agreement of an employer or insurer and an employee entitled to compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Act, payments to be made by electronic means (direct deposit, prepaid card, or similar electronic payment system).
The Revenue Committee heard the following two bills this week that are opposed by NFIB:
Legislative Bill 1022 – Irrigation Tax Act: Introduced by Sen. Paul Schumacher (Columbus), LB 1022 would impose a tax upon the use of water to irrigate agricultural land in an amount equal to one cent for every 10 gallons of water pumped from a covered water well (any water well used to irrigate agricultural land and capable of producing at least 5,000 gallons of water per day). The bill would also disregard, for purposes of determining agricultural land tax valuation for land that is irrigated, the added value associated with such irrigation. Revenues from the irrigation tax would be directed to the school aid fund to provide payments to school districts that do not receive equalization aid under the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunity Support Act.
Legislative Bill 1075 – Real Estate Transfer Tax: Introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen (Henderson), LB 1075 would impose a fee on the grantor executing a deed upon the transfer of a beneficial interest in or legal title to real estate equal to 1 percent of the value of the real estate (full actual consideration paid for the transfer, including the amount of any lien or liens assumed or, in the case of a gift, or any deed (every instrument in writing by which any real estate or an interest therein is created, aliened, mortgaged, or assigned) with nominal consideration or without stated consideration, the current market value of the property transferred.
NFIB will be presenting testimony in opposition to the following bills at public hearings next week:
Legislative Bill 1021 – Sales Tax on Agricultural Services: Introduced by Senator 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.
The Revenue Committee will hear LB 1021 February 27.
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 prohibit an employer from ordering a “mass layoff, worksite closing, or a transfer of operations” unless a written notice to employees and government officials is given at least 60 days prior to the order taking effect. The measure would also apply to employers with 25 or more employees, including part-time employees. The Business and Labor Committee will hear LB 1134 February 26.
Other Bills of Interest
Legislative Bill 757 – Data Security Breach Act/Credit Report Protection Act: The Legislature gave final approval to LB 757 February 23. The measure would eliminate the ability of a consumer reporting agency to charge a fee for placing or removing a security freeze or for placing, temporarily lifting, or removing a security freeze for a protected consumer. The bill would also require any individual or commercial entity that conducts business in Nebraska and owns, licenses, or maintains data including personal information about a resident in Nebraska to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices to protect the personal information when the individual or commercial entity disposes of the personal information.
The bill would also require an individual or commercial entity disclosing personal information about a Nebraska resident to a non-affiliated third party service provider to require, by contract, that the third party implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices that a) are appropriate to the nature of the personal information disclosed to the non-affiliated third party; and b) are reasonably designed to help protect the personal information from unauthorized access, acquisition, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.
On Select File, the Legislature adopted an amendment submitted by Sen. Adam Morfeld, and supported by NFIB, which clarifies that the “reasonable security practices and procedures” to be maintained by a small business for the protection of personal information, takes into consideration the nature and size of, and resources available to the business and its operations.
Legislative Bill 1090 – Income Taxation: The Revenue Committee has advanced LB 1090 to General File and has designated the bill as a committee priority. Introduced by Sen. Jim Smith (Papillion), LB 1090 would make adjustments to state tax laws in order to neutralize effects resulting from federal tax reform. The measure would:
- retain the personal exemption credit against Nebraska income taxes
- increase the Nebraska standard deduction
- continue indexing the standard deduction, personal exemption, and tax brackets based on the Consumer Price Index.
It is estimated that an additional $220 million will flow into the state’s coffers as a result of federal tax reform. The cash “windfall” results from elimination of personal and dependency exemptions for federal tax purposes, along with other changes in the federal tax code to which Nebraska’s tax system is connected. (NFIB Position – Support)
Priority Bills of Interest
- Legislative Bill 496 – Senator Williams: Define and redefine terms under the Community Development Law
- Legislative Bill 738 – Senator Lindstrom: Change revenue and taxation provisions relating to an adjustment to income for social security benefits
- Legislative Bill 757 – Senator Morfeld: Change provisions of the Credit Report Protection Act and the Financial Data Protection and Consumer Notification of Data Security Breach Act of 2006
- Legislative Bill 829 – Senator Erdman: Adopt the Property Tax Relief Act
- Legislative Bill 947 – Senator Smith: Adopt the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act, change income tax rates, and eliminate certain exemptions and credits
- Legislative Bill 1058 – Senator Halloran: Adopt the Faithful Delegate to Federal Article V Convention Act
- Legislative Bill 1084 – Senator Briese: Adopt the Property Tax Request Limitation Act, provide sunset dates for certain tax exemptions and incentives, and change other revenue and taxation provisions
Small Business Day at the Capitol
NFIB/Nebraska will co-sponsor a Small Business Day at the Capitol 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. 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
Tile photo courtesy of Unicameral Update, “The Nebraska Legislature’s official news source since 1977.”