Last week an opinion piece appeared in one of the papers in our district saying I had “flip-flopped and become a vocal advocate for doing away with the current eight –year term limits”. They went on to say that, the Legislature was trying to undo what the people had done. This individual, Nick Tomboulides from a group with offices in Washington D.C., and somewhere in Florida, obviously does not understand the process in Nebraska. We debated LR7CA, a resolution brought by Senator Paul Schumacher of Columbus, which would have extended the amount of time a senator could serve to two six-year terms instead of two four-year terms. We did move the bill to Select File to get the language correct, but no further.
LB610, brought by Senator Jim Smith of Papillion, which would increase the gas tax 6 cents over the next four years passed “Select” and has now advanced to Final Reading, the final stage before being sent to Governor Ricketts. I discussed this bill a couple of weeks ago; I hope the Governor will veto the bill if it does indeed pass. Nebraskans do not need or want a tax increase!
This week the Legislature spent a lot of time discussing minimum wage. Last November the people of Nebraska voted to increase the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour on January 1, 2015 and then to $9.00 an hour on January 1, 2016. Our current minimum wage law does provide for a few exemptions. People compensated by way of gratuities (waitresses, waiters, bellhops and porters) are paid the minimum wage of two dollars and thirteen cents per hour, plus all of the gratuities given to them. The sum of the wages plus the gratuities must equal or exceed the minimum wage rate. Additionally, student-learners who are part of a vocational training program can be paid at a rate of at least seventy-five percent of the minimum wage. Current law also provides for a training wage. The training wage is for an employee younger that twenty years of age and not a seasonal or migrant worker and it is at least seventy-five percent of the federal minimum wage for ninety days from the hiring date. The employer may pay such new employee the training wage rate for an additional ninety- day period if the employee is participating in on-the-job training, which 1) requires technical, personal, or other skills necessary for employment and 2) is approved by the Commissioner of Labor. No more than one-fourth of the total hours paid by the employer shall be at the training wage rate.
Senator Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha brought LB494, which would have increased the minimum wage for gratuity workers from the current $2.13 an hour to $2.35 in August and then $2.64 next year. It was argued that would be keeping it on pace with the overall minimum wage that was increased by the voters last fall. I did not support this bill and it failed to get the votes necessary to advance.
The second bill we discussed regarding minimum wages was LB599, brought by Senator Laura Ebke of Crete, which would lower the minimum wage for workers under 18 who are enrolled in school. The Business and Labor Committee advanced this bill to the full Legislature with an amendment. The original bill would have rolled back the minimum wage for these young workers to $7.25 an hour, the committee amendment that was adopted will keep the minimum wage for the youngsters at $8.00 an hour even thru 2016. This bill was brought at the request of the grocery industry and I support it. There is no reason in my mind why teenagers, who are limited, by law, from doing many of the jobs a twenty year-old can, should receive the same pay. While there may be a few concerns that need to be addressed yet, which we can do on Select File, I think that LB599 will be advanced and sent to Governor Ricketts.