Bill would rescind previously passed Article V effort to balance federal budget
State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from Lincoln on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending February 9
Lawmakers adjourned for a long weekend, Thursday, as legislative activity slowed down during the past week with debate on a number of controversial priority bills. When lawmakers return Monday, they will continue to process priority bills. The deadline for designating individual senator and committee priority bills is February 20, with Speaker Jim Scheer to announce his 25 priority measures February 21. Each senator may designate one priority bill and committees may select two bills.
Workers’ Compensation First Injury Reports
The Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee will conduct a public hearing on Legislative Bill 1015, February 14. LB 1015, introduced by Sen. Tom Briese (Albion), would prohibit access to first reports of injury which reveal the identity of the employee who is the subject of the report.
NFIB is calling on its members to support passage of the measure for the following reasons:
- By excluding workers’ compensation first injury reports from designation as a “public record,” Nebraska will join a vast majority of states that provide confidential treatment to such reports.
- LB 1015 would curb the avalanche of solicitations, which injured employees receive from attorneys once the report of first injury is filed with the Workers’ Compensation Court.
- Injured employees have adequate access to information regarding potential legal representation for their claims and do not need to have their privacy invaded in this fashion.
- Many work-related injuries are handled between the injured employee and his or her employer or insurance carrier without the need for litigation or legal intervention. Solicitations by lawyers produce unnecessary conflicts and unnecessary litigation, thereby reducing the number of benefits that ultimately go to the employee and increasing the cost of the workers’ compensation system.
The members of the committee, their email addresses, and telephone numbers are at the end of this report.
NFIB Testifies on Workers’ Compensation, Income Tax Bills
NFIB State Director Bob Hallstrom presented testimony before a number of legislative Committees during the past week on the following measures.
Legislative Bill 952 – Workers’ Compensation – Restrictions on Multiple Dismissals of Actions: Introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht (Thurston), LB 952 would restrict the ability of an employee to dismiss an action against the same defendant in the Compensation Court that is based upon the same cause of action after having previously dismissed the action, unless otherwise allowed by the Compensation Court in the “interests of justice.” (NFIB Position – Support)
Legislative Bill 953 – Workers’ Compensation – Approval of Lump Sum Settlements: Also introduced on behalf of NWCEF by Senator Albrecht, 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. (NFIB Position – Support)
Legislative Bill 928 – Workers’ Compensation – Death and Burial Benefits: LB 928, introduced by Sen. Mike McDonnell (Omaha), would revise the manner in which an employer’s responsibility for burial expenses is determined. Currently set at $10,000, the burial expense would be increased to 14 times the state’s average weekly wage (approximately $10,600) and be automatically adjusted annually thereafter. The legislation would also establish a $25,000 “death benefit” in cases involving the death of an employee resulting from a workplace accident who has no spouse, child, or other dependent entitled to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The automatically escalating burial benefit and proposed “death benefit” under LB 928 will result in increased costs for employers. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 957 – Workers’ Compensation – Electronic Payment of Benefits: LB 957, introduced by Sen. John Lowe (Kearney), 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). (NFIB Position – Support)
Legislative Bill 1090 – Income Taxation: Sen. Jim Smith (Papillion) has introduced LB 1090, which would make adjustments to state tax laws in order to neutralize effects resulting from federal tax reform. The measure would (a) retain the personal exemption credit against Nebraska income taxes; (b) Increase the Nebraska standard deduction; and (c) 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)
Legislative Bill 1058 – Faithful Delegate to Federal Article V Convention Act: Introduced by Sen. Steve Halloran (Hastings), LB 1058 would allow the Legislature to select a delegation of citizens to represent the state before an Article V convention. The act would ensure that Nebraska’s delegates to any future convention are held accountable and only allowed to discuss and vote on the amendments or amendments authorized by the Nebraska Legislature. All Nebraska delegates would be required to swear (under oath) to abide by the strict limits placed on them at the convention. The bill’s provisions serve to limit the possibility of rogue delegates by including the ability for a delegate to be disqualified and the possibility that a vote by a delegate could be declared to be invalid. (NFIB Position – Support)
Legislative Bill 726 – Mandated Benefits: Introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne (Omaha), LB 726 would require insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization procedures for any insurance plan that provides coverage for pregnancy-related procedures. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
NFIB will be presenting testimony in the upcoming week on a series of bills that would be detrimental to small business.
Legislative Bill 843 – Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act: Introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks (Lincoln), LB 843 would prohibit an employer from requiring non-disclosure of wages as a condition of employment and prevent an employer from requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document purporting to deny an employee the right to disclose the employee’s wages. The measure would also prohibit an employer from taking any adverse employment action against an employee for disclosing an employee’s own wage or discussing another employee’s wage that have been disclosed voluntarily. Finally, the bill would establish a cause of action under the Nebraska Wage and Payment and Collection Act for violations by an employer with the employee entitled to receive reinstatement, back pay, restoration of lost service credit, money damages, and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 844 – Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act: Introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford (Bellevue), LB 844 would allow employees to accrue a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick time accrued in a calendar year. Under the measure, employees would be entitled to use accrued paid sick time beginning on the 60th calendar day following commencement of employment. Paid sick leave would be authorized for:
- an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- an employee’s need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- an employee’s need for preventative medical care
- care of a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- care of a family member who needs preventative medical care
- absence necessary due to domestic assault, sexual assault, or stalking.
(NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 916 – Nebraska Wage Payment Collection Act/Wage and Hour Act: Sen. Matt Hansen (Lincoln) has introduced LB 916 that would prohibit an employer from retaliating or discriminating against an employee or applicant for employment because the employee or applicant (a) files a compliant under either the Wage and Hour Act or the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act; or (b) testifies, assists, or participates in an investigation, proceeding, or action concerning a violation of either Act. The legislation would also authorize the court to grant such legal or equitable relief as it deems appropriate to effectuate the purposes of the Wage and Hour Act, including temporary or permanent injunctive relief and general and special damages. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Bill 1014 – Prohibition on Employee Wage Disclosure: Senator Pansing Brooks has also introduced LB 1014, which would prohibit an employer from requiring non-disclosure of wages as a condition of employment and prevent an employer from requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document purporting to deny an employee the right to disclose the employees’ wages. The measure would prohibit an employer from taking any adverse employment action against an employee for disclosing an employee’s own wages or discussing another employee’s wages that have been disclosed voluntarily. The bill would also establish a cause of action under the Nebraska Wage and Payment and Collection Act for violations by an employer with the employee entitled to receive reinstatement, back pay, restoration of loss service credit, money damages, and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
The measure would also require employers to provide for equal pay for comparable worth and grant employers an affirmative defense to liability for pay discrimination violations, if the employer has conducted a self-evaluation of its pay practices and can demonstrate that good progress is being made toward eliminating wage differentials for comparable worth based on sex. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
Legislative Resolution 277 -Rescind Constitutional Convention Resolutions: LR 277, Introduce by Sen. Paul Schumacher (Columbus), would rescind all resolutions previously adopted by the Legislature calling for a constitutional convention under Article V of the Constitution of United States. This would include the call for a constitution convention to adopt a Balance Budget Amendment. (NFIB Position – Oppose)
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. Governor 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.
Members of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
- John Murante (District 49), Chairman, [email protected], (402) 471-2725
- Carol Blood (District 3), [email protected], (402) 471-2627
- Tom Brewer (District 43), [email protected], (402) 471-2628
- Tom Briese (District 41), [email protected], (402) 471-2631
- Mike Hilgers (District 21), [email protected], (402) 471-2673
- John Lowe (District 37), [email protected], (402) 471-2726
- Theresa Thibodeau (District 6), [email protected], (402) 471-2714
- Justin Wayne (District 13), [email protected], (402) 471-2727
Previous Reports and News Releases
[Tile photo courtesy of Unicameral Update, “The Nebraska Legislature’s official news source since 1977.”]