Two Workers’ Compensation Bills Make it to Final Reading

Date: March 06, 2020

Property tax relief, economic development still unaddressed

State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from Lincoln on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending March 6

With less than five weeks remaining in the 2020 Legislative Session, the major issues of the session (property tax relief and economic development incentives) have yet to be addressed. In addition, of the 105 bills designated as priorities by senators, committees and the Speaker of the Legislature, only 41 have advanced beyond the first round of debate, with 29 priority bills yet to be advanced from Committee.

Workers’ Compensation Bills Advance to Final Reading

During floor debate on Friday morning, lawmakers amended and advanced the following bills to Final Reading

Legislative Bill 963 – Workers’ Compensation – Mental/Mental Injuries

Introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer (Gordon), and designated as a priority bill by Sen. Mike McDonnell (Omaha), 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
  • 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 also 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.

Prior to advancing LB 963, amendments were adopted to place a “sunset” of January 1, 2027 on the bill, which will provide for termination of the law as of that date, unless the Legislature elects to reenact and extend its provisions.

In addition, an amendment incorporating a revised version of LB 448 was adopted.

Legislative Bill 448 – Workers’ Compensation – Burial Benefits

Introduced by Sen. Mike McDonnell (Omaha), LB 448 would revise the manner in which an employer’s responsibility for burial expenses is determined. As originally introduced, the burial expense would have been set at 14 times the state’s average weekly wage. Prior to advancing to Select File, a Committee amendment was adopted establishing the maximum burial benefit based upon 12 times the state’s average weekly wage.

As amended during Select File debate, the maximum burial benefit would be increased from $10,000 to $11,000 and subject to adjustment based on future changes to the Consumer Price Index, rather than increases in the state’s average weekly wage. The adjustments, which would begin in 2023, would be capped at 2.75 percent per annum and increased by at least 1 percent per annum.

Economic Forecasting Board Increases Revenue Projections

The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board voted to increase revenue projections during a meeting held late last week. The Board serves in an advisory role in forecasting General Fund receipts that are utilized by the Legislature to prepare the state’s budget. The Board raised revenue projections for the current fiscal year and fiscal year 2020–21 based on an anticipated $70 million increase in sales and use tax receipts and a $45 million increase in corporate income tax receipts in fiscal year 2019–20.

Total projected revenue receipts for fiscal year 2019–20 were increased by $115 million, with the projected total revenue receipts for fiscal year 2020–21 increased by $25 million. The favorable action by the Board strengthens the ability to provide funding for significant property tax relief if lawmakers can break the current impasse on this issue (LB 974).

Previous Reports and News Releases

Photo courtesy of Unicameral Update, The Nebraska Legislature’s official news source since 1977.

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