NFIB/Nebraska State Director Bob Hallstrom reports from the State Capitol on the legislative week ending March 4, 2016
While the pace of the Legislature picked up slightly during the past week, with only 23 days remaining in the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers face a daunting task with 21 senator priority bills awaiting first round debate and 13 senator priority bills still held in committee. When the Legislature reconvenes on Monday, they will commence full-day sessions of floor debate.
Economic Board Raises Projections
Nebraska lawmakers will have more money than expected for their priorities in this year’s legislative session, based on new state revenue projections approved last Friday.
The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board has predicted that the state will collect nearly $9 billion during the current two-year budget cycle. The revised projections will give lawmakers about $14.1 million for additional legislation this year, compared to the roughly $1.4 million available prior to the revised estimates being approved. The action will also boost the state’s emergency cash reserve fund by $17 million.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Heath Mello (Omaha) has indicated that spending priorities with the increased funding could include a veterans-court pilot project, levee repairs around Offutt Air Force Base, prisons and a state-financed “infrastructure bank” that would speed up work on road and bridge projects. Gov. Pete Ricketts has suggested that the updated forecast supports his proposal to provide property tax relief for agricultural land owners (Legislative Bill 958).
Wage-Disclosure Bill Advances
Legislative Bill 83 – Equal Pay Act, introduced and designated as a priority bill by Sen. Tanya Cook (Omaha), in its original form, would have prohibited 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 have prohibited 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. Finally, the bill would have established 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 attorneys’ fees.
In a positive move, prior to advancing LB 83 to Select File, the legislature adopted an amendment that would replace the original bill with provisions that conform the state Equal Pay Act to those contained within the federal Equal Pay Act by making the state law applicable to any employer with two or more employees. With adoption of the Committee amendments, the basis for the NFIB opposition to the bill has been removed.
Direct Primary Care Bill on Agenda
Legislative Bill 817 – Direct Primary Care Agreements: Action is expected early next week on LB 817. Introduced by Sen. Merv Riepe (Ralston), the measure would allow small businesses to contract with a primary care physician and pay a manageable monthly fee to provide primary care services to employees. These contracts would be supplemented with a “wrap-around” insurance policy that provides catastrophic coverage for employees who have major medical emergencies. The legislation should result in cost savings for small business that would otherwise go toward more costly traditional health insurance policies. (NFIB Position – Support)
Past Reports and Related Stories
(Tile photo: Sen. Tanya Cook, courtesy of the Nebraska Unicameral Information Office)