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After months and months of sometimes contentious debate, the Legislature has finally advanced legislation that makes substantial changes to the Commission on Industrial Relations. LB 397 is on track to be passed in the last few days remaining in this year’s session and go to the Governor for approval.
Early on in the process, I did not support the bill as proposed by a majority of my colleagues on the Business and Labor Committee, of which I am a member. I believe this to be one of the most important issues facing Nebraska and had assured my constituents that I would not support any legislation that did not represent significant, meaningful and comprehensive reform. Long hours of negotiations between senators, the governor’s office and business and labor interests resulted in amendments to LB 397 that finally embodies real change and is a major improvement to Nebraska’s unique system for resolving public employee contract disputes.
Over 43,000 Nebraskans are public employees and take part in the collective bargaining process. Our state law, however, prohibits unions from striking and instead sends labor disputes to a five-judge panel to decide such issues. Recent CIR decisions have resulted in large, unforeseeable financial obligations for local governments and made it clear that the current process was not working as intended, particularly in an unpredictable economy.
This has been an issue that has caused much turmoil and great division in other states across the nation. Though at times discussions became heated, in our state, all sides continued to work together toward a seemingly impossible resolution. I have a newfound respect for our legislative process and I am proud at the way Nebraskans – our public and private employees, our business owners and our local governmental officials – tackled this issue with respectful and thoughtful resolve.
A copy of LB 397 can be found on the Legislature’s website http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/.