Nebraska Legislature Designates Its Priority Bills

Date: February 24, 2017

NFIB to fight attempt to handicap an employer's right to know certain job-applicant information

NFIB/Nebraska State Director Bob Hallstrom’s report from Lincoln for the legislative week ending February 24

Lawmakers’ attention has turned to designating their priority bills for the session. The initial committee priority bills were considered during floor debate February 24. 

Designating bills as “priorities” is significant, as these bills will soon be placed ahead of all others for purposes of floor debate. Under the rules of the Legislature, each senator may select one priority bill, committees may select two bills that have been heard by the committee, and the speaker of the Legislature may designate up to 25 bills. 

Unemployment Insurance Bill Makes Priority Cut

One of the initial bills designated as a priority bill by the Business and Labor Committee is supported by NFIB. Legislative Bill 203, introduced by Sen. John Kuehn (Heartwell), would revise the requirements for individuals receiving unemployment benefits who voluntarily leave a job without good cause by providing that such an individual would not be eligible for unemployment benefits until they have earned four times their 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. LB 203 was advanced to Select File during floor debate Friday morning.

Workers’ Compensation Bill Opposed by NFIB

Sen. Dan Quick (Grand Island) has designated Legislative Bill 181 as his individual priority bill. Opposed by NFIB, 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.

LB 181 could appear on the legislative agenda for floor debate in the next few days. NFIB opposes the measure because:

  • Employers would incur additional expense in an area of the law that already provides adequate remedies and protections for injured workers. An injured worker may select his or her own family physician at the time of injury –the employer should not be required to pay for a second opinion.
  • Under current law, when there are conflicting opinions between two or more physicians on behalf of the injured employee and the employer/insurer, the employee can request that the Workers’ Compensation Court appoint an independent physician (independent medical examiner) to evaluate the employee, at the employer’s cost. The existing process should be adequate to allow disputes to be resolved without creating an additional layer of employee directed physician involvement, at the employer’s expense.
  • The fiscal note for LB 181 estimates that the state of Nebraska will incur annual expenses of approximately $780,000 if LB 181 is adopted. The bill would also be costly for private employers. 

Revenue Committee Testimony

NFIB submitted testimony to the Revenue Committee on the following bills during the past week:

Legislative Bill 249 – Property Tax Exemptions: Sen. Burke Harr (Omaha) has introduced a measure (LB 249), which would exempt personal property that is equipment usable for construction, agriculture, or manufacturing from the property tax. (NFIB Position — Support)

Legislative Bill 312 – Sales Tax on Services – Property Tax Relief: Sen. Tom Briese (Albion) is the sponsor of LB 312, which would subject the following items to a sales tax on services:

  • cleaning of tangible personal property
  • storage and moving services
  • investment advice
  • personal care services, including hair care, massages, nail services, spa services, and tattoo services
  • maintenance, painting, repair, and interior decoration services for single-family housing limousine, taxi and other transportation services
  • travel agents and tour operators
  • lawncare, gardening and landscaping services
  • parking lot services
  • swimming pool cleaning and maintenance services
  • dating and escort services
  • instruction in music, dance, golf, and other recreational activities
  • custom meat slaughtering services
  • legal services, excluding legal services performed in the furtherance of a for-profit business enterprise
  • accounting services, excluding accounting services performed in the furtherance of a for-profit enterprise
  • real estate services relating to the sale of single-family housing
  • architectural services for single-family housing
  • tele-floral delivery services
  • labor of a contractor for any major additional, remodeling, restoration, repair or renovation of owner-occupied residential housing.

The measure would also impose a sales tax on soda, candy, and bottled water. Any net increase in tax revenue resulting from the increased sales tax on services will be credited to the Excess Revenue Property Tax Credit Fund to provide a property tax credit to owners of real property. (NFIB Position — Oppose)

Legislative Bill 563 – Taxation – Sales Tax on Services/Elimination of Certain Sales and Use Tax Exemptions: Introduced by Sen. John McCollister (Omaha), LB 563 would impose a sales tax on services, including:

  • newspapers
  • laundromats
  • tele-floral deliveries
  • sale of Nebraska lottery tickets
  • maintenance and repair services
  • personal care services
  • lawn care and gardening services
  • storage and moving services
  • taxi, limousine and other transportation services
  • coin-operated machines used for dry-cleaning or other laundry services
  • weight loss services
  • bail bonding series
  • wedding planning services
  • shoe shine services
  • social escort services
  • personal instruction services
  • parking services and docking fees
  • investment advice
  • interior design services
  • custom meat slaughtering
  • cutting and wrapping
  • hunting or fishing guide services
  • swimming pool cleaning and maintenance services
  • debt counseling services
  • tax return preparation services.

(NFIB Position — Oppose)

NFIB To Fight Limiting an Employer’s Right to Know

NFIB will testify before the Business and Labor Committee February 27 in opposition to Legislative Bill 354. Introduced by Senator 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 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.

Initial State Budget Unveiled

The Appropriations Committee has released its initial 2017-19 budget and began agency hearings this past week. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board will meet February 24 to revise the General Fund tax receipts estimates and revenue forecasts for the next two years, which may impact the projected revenue shortfall of $900 million.

The Appropriations Committee proposal currently calls for $76 million more in General Fund spending than the $8.9 billion state budget originally proposed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, This is a 1.3 percent increase in spending over the next two years.

Highlights of the Appropriations Committee proposal, include:

  • significant increases in spending for state aid to schools ($60.4 million), Medicaid ($45 million), state employees’ salaries and health insurance ($31.7 million), and Corrections staffing, programs, and equipment ($23.4 million)
  • the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund would receive $221 million each year from the General Fund (currently receives $264 million annually)
  • the state’s cash reserve would maintain a balance of $573.8 million in 2017-18 and $566.6 million in 2018-19. The governor has recommended leaving $503 million in the first year and $510.6 million in the second year.

Previous Reports and Related News Releases

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. Dan Quick courtesy of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature website.]

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