On Friday, the Unicameral took up LB 203, which was the Business & Labor Committee’s first priority bill. As chair of the committee, I am able to pick two bills which I feel are important enough to jump ahead of other bills to be heard by the full legislature.
Introduced by Sen. John Kuehn of Hastings, this bill changes the requirements for receiving unemployment benefits for individuals who voluntarily leave a job without good cause. It would require an individual who does so to earn four times their weekly benefit amount to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Nebraska now joins 47 other states with a requalification requirement.
During bill debate, I introduced an amendment to include two other bills which advanced from my committee unanimously that are related to unemployment. My amendment added LBs 273 and 301 to LB 203. LB 273 was introduced by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings and allows the Department of Labor to round down in unemployment calculations for the minimum earnings requirement. My bill, LB 301, allows the Department of Labor to notify claimants of unemployment electronically, if they elect that method. Unemployment claimants will have the power to choose to receive notifications either electronically or by postal mail under this bill.
The amendment was successful and the overall bill passed 39-0. With such a limited amount of time left in the session, combining legislation which has no opposition is one method to keep the body moving forward.
Another bill I supported earlier this week was LB 62, introduced by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk. This bill repeals a nearly 100 year-old statute that prohibits teachers from wearing religious garb in the classroom. This law was originally passed in 1919 at the urging of anti-Catholic interest groups. Thirty-five other states passed similar prohibitions and since, thirty-four have since repealed their ban. Only Nebraska’s and Pennsylvania’s ban remain in effect.
Speaker Scheer’s bill simply removes these archaic statutes and says that the State of Nebraska does not discriminate against people simply because of the clothes they wear or their religious beliefs. These individuals are professionals and fully capable of wearing garb that expresses their First Amendment rights while remaining religiously neutral in the classroom.
The bill had overwhelming support in the first round of voting, and now must be voted on two more times before going to Governor Ricketts for his signature.
We also passed LB 19, a bill originally introduced last year by then-Sen. Nicole Fox of Omaha and reintroduced by Sen. Kolterman. This bill will allow licenses acupuncturists to treat patients without a referral from a doctor or chiropractor. It also requires acupuncturists to refer patients to the appropriate medical practitioner for any problem outside their training and abilities to treat.
It was one of the few bills last year which had a priority designation – which usually guarantees a bill at least has a chance to be heard by the full legislature – but was not able to be brought up because the Unicameral ran out of time. This time around, however, the bill should have a quick resolution.
Lastly, I wanted to congratulate the Pender Flames on winning two state titles from the 10th annual Nebraska State High School Cheer and Dance Championships in Grand Island last week. Good job, girls!