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As we are hitting crunch time at the Legislature, with four days left, we have been busy working to address all 2018 priority bills. My priority bill, LB 1040 – Provide for commemorative certificates of nonviable birth, successfully passed Select File Friday with a 33-3 vote. I am thankful for my fellow senators voting to give grieving mothers and families recognition for their pregnancy losses.
On Tuesday, April 3, the Legislature debated LB 947, Adopt the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act, change income tax rates, and eliminate certain exemptions and credits, which was introduced by Senator Smith on behalf of Governor Ricketts. This is one of three bills introduced to address property tax relief this year, in addition to one from last session. LB 947 is the Revenue Committee’s compromise for property tax relief and I have confidence in their judgments on the subject. As a farmer this bill is not perfect and it is hard for all of us to swallow, but I am optimistic that we are on the right track and hope we can build on tax reform in the future. I am dedicated to fighting for tax relief and coming to a compromise that benefits all Nebraskans.
On Wednesday, Business and Labor’s priority bill LB 791, (Ebke) Change Nebraska State Patrol employees’ bargaining rights, was heard on the floor. LB 791 makes changes to the State Employees Collective Bargaining Act regarding the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) to eliminate certain conflicts of interest and to provide for accountability and transparency in NSP investigations. Specifically, LB 791 removes NSP sergeants from the collective bargaining unit and places them in the supervisors unit. LB 791 also removes disciplinary and investigative procedures of the NSP from the scope of collective bargaining. My staff and I have been working diligently to craft an amendment that addresses involved parties’ concerns. On Monday we hope to bring the bill with amendments back to the floor for a healthy debate and hope to advance it to Select File.
Wednesday we also debated my bill LB 953, Change provisions under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act and the Employee Classification Act, which was also chosen as a Business and Labor priority bill. LB 953 requires the Workers’ Compensation Court to approve a lump-sum settlement in cases in which the employee at the time of settlement is eligible for Medicare or has a reasonable expectation of becoming eligible for Medicare within 30 months. A lump-sum settlement may also be approved if medical expenses incurred for treatment of the injury will not be fully paid as part of the settlement, if the employee’s attorney affirms that the settlement is in conformity with the compensation schedule, and for the best interests of the employee or his or her dependents. LB 953 also addresses a recent Workers’ Compensation Court’s decision regarding the enforceability of late payment penalties. Business and Labor’s amendment AM 1779 addresses concerns brought by the Nebraska Medical Association and Nebraska Hospital Association and was adopted onto the bill. I allowed Senator Vargas to amend his bill, LB 784 Change the Employee Classification Act to prohibit contractors with unpaid fines from contracting with the state or political subdivisions, through AM 2762 on to LB 953. LB 784 passed out of Business and Labor Committee with a 7/0 vote and is intended to strengthen existing Nebraska law that imposes penalties on contractors and employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors. Additionally, under 784, contractors or employers with unpaid fines for violating the Employee Classification Act would be barred from entering into contracts with the state or any other political subdivision until the fines are paid. LB 953, as amended, advanced to Select File with a 29/1 vote. Senator Schumacher, the sole “no” vote will be offering a friendly amendment Monday to address his concerns, I am confident this amendment and LB 953 will advance to Final Reading easily.
During debate on Friday of LB 1103, (Friesen) Provide a minimum amount of state aid for each school district, Senator Briese attempted to amend his property tax relief bill, LB 1084 Adopt the Property Tax Request Limitation Act, provide sunset dates for certain tax exemptions and incentives, and change other revenue and taxation provisions, to be included in LB 1103. This brought another long and passionate debate to the floor about property taxes and the dire need to do something to address the skyrocketing costs that are being forced on to land and homeowners. While I support LB 947 over LB 1084, I appreciate senators continuing to bring a discussion to the table about property taxes.
On Friday, Speaker Scheer spoke on the floor about his dissatisfaction with the Legislature’s inability to reach a compromise on tax relief this session. He mandated that the senators who had brought property tax reform packages and had been involved in crafting the legislation, Senator Smith, Senator Briese, Senator Groene, Senator Harr, Senator Friesen, and Senator Erdman, meet Friday evening and throughout the weekend to work on a compromise for property tax relief. I admire Speaker Scheer for taking initiative in working towards a property tax solution. It was evident that the senators involved could not come to a collective solution and it does not look like a tax relief bill will advance this year unfortunately.
Live coverage of the full session of the Unicameral is also available at www.netnebraska.org/capitol
I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716, email me at email@example.com or to write me at:
Senator Joni Albrecht
State Capitol, Room 2010
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604
I take into consideration every letter, email, and phone call my office receives when I consider legislation. I truly value your input and suggestions on the issues before the Legislature. It is of great importance that I hear from you in order to do my job.
I look forward to hearing from you!