Unemployment insurance reform highlights accomplishments for small business
The 2017 half of the 105th Nebraska Unicameral Legislature adjourned May 23 with some important victories for small business. With the help of its members, NFIB:
Won Unemployment Insurance Reform
Unemployment insurance is a major cost of doing business for Nebraska employers, who in 2015 paid more than $107 million in unemployment insurance taxes, not including federal unemployment taxes. Like workers’ compensation, the unemployment insurance program is fully funded by employers.
Legislative Bill 203 reforms Nebraska’s unemployment insurance system by bringing it more in line with national standards by implementing requalification provisions. Under LB 203, unemployment insurance applicants who quit their most recent employment without good cause will be ineligible for additional unemployment insurance benefits until they have returned to insured work and have earned at least four times their weekly benefit amount.
Nebraska had been one of only three states that did not require re-qualification for benefits after individuals voluntarily quit a job without good cause. The bill is expected to save an estimated $3.7 million in 2018 and nearly $5 million in 2019.
Preserved Entry-Level Wage Opportunities For Nebraska’s Young
Legislative Bill 211 would increase the state minimum wage for tipped employees from $2.13 per hour to $3.60 per hour in August of 2017 and then to $4.50 per hour in January of 2018. NFIB expressed opposition to the bill, citing the fact that the minimum wage established under the proposed bill would exceed that which exists under federal law.
Protected Paid Leave Agreements Between Employer and Employee
Legislative Bill 305 would establish a statewide paid family medical leave insurance program similar to Nebraska’s unemployment insurance system and have it administered by the state Department of Labor. The bill also would require employers to pay all other benefits that are due to the employee that would be paid in the absence of leave, as well as all other benefits offered to the employee (vacation, sick leave, etc.) and would require employers to allow employees to return to their jobs after exercising their right to family medical leave.
Stalled Ban-The-Box Bill
Under Legislative Bill 420, employers with 15 or more employees would be prohibited from asking an applicant to disclose, orally or in writing, information concerning the applicant’s criminal record or history, including any inquiries on any employment application, until the employer or employment agency has determined the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications.
Defeated Costly Workers’ Compensation Proposal
Legislative Bill 181 proposed changes in Nebraska workers’ compensation law that would have most certainly increased the costs of workers’ compensation claims for small employers. Under the bill’s provisions, if a physician selected by the employer renders medical findings about an employee, and the employee disagrees with those findings, the employee is entitled to a subsequent examination from a physician of his or her own choosing at the expense of the employer. Although the legislation was advanced from the Business and Labor Committee, lack of support when the bill was considered on General File resulted in a motion to “bracket” or delay further consideration of the bill until January 10, 2018.
Many thanks to the NFIB members who responded to the NFIB “Action Alert” by contacting members of the Legislature to express their opposition to the measure.
Stopped Sales Tax on Services
NFIB opposed two separate measures that would have imposed a sales tax on a significant number of services that are currently exempt from taxation. Each of these measures (Legislative Bill 312 and Legislative Bill 563) remains stalled in the Revenue Committee.
[Tile photo courtesy of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature]