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The legislative session is over halfway through and I have seen the Legislature begin to work together on issues important to Nebraskans. We passed the permanent rules, which was important so we could move on to more pressing issues. I have found it very interesting to watch and participate in floor debate. There have been a few bills that you may have an opinion on, but after hearing debate begin to wonder if it may or may not be the best thing for everyone. We have been able to get a lot of good work done on the floor in the last couple of weeks and with committee hearings being over, we have moved on to full-day debate. I have signed on as co-sponsor for nine bills, am included on five committee bills, and have five of my own.
My priority bill for this year was LB181 which was a workers compensation bill. It would allow for a second opinion examination paid for by the employer only if the first examination was done by a doctor chosen by the employer. In current law an employee can go to their own physician when injured on the job and the employer is obligated to inform them of this right. The reason this law is important is because there is nothing in the current law to hold the employer accountable if they do not notify the employee of their right to seek an exam or treatment from their own physician on an initial visit.
This law would not create more expense to an employer if the employee goes to their own physician and would help the employee feel more at ease by being treated by someone they know. I decided to bracket LB181 until next year so I would have time to work with employers on some of the issues they have. This bill is important as it will create a more equitable system that will benefit both the employer and employee.
There have been several bills introduced and debated on the floor since my last article and I feel that we have been able to make significant progress. There have also been a few bills that have had some opposition and have taken several hours to debate.
One of those bills is LB335, which proposes to eliminate the rate changes for child care providers in 2017. I oppose this bill because I believe it will have an adverse effect on working families by reducing the subsidies for children needing child care who are below the poverty level. This could have consequences for parents who must make the choice of whether they can afford to work a job that pays them less than the cost of child care. We want people to stay employed and better their situation instead of pushing them back on to welfare. There are no easy solutions as we need to reduce the budget deficit for the state and yet still provide programs and services to those in need.
LB632 is the bill that I have received the most emails and phone calls about so far. This bill would affect the craft brewers and change the way they way do business and may prevent them from expanding. We have not met in executive session to move this bill out of committee and I’m not sure when that will happen. I cannot support this bill as it is currently written and although I have not seen them yet, I hear there are amendments.
LB72 is another bill I am opposed to and it could be an issue for employees as well as citizens of a community or municipality. The bill proposes to place bond holders to be paid first in the event a community or municipality files for bankruptcy. This would place bond holders over citizens who rely on city services as well as employee wages, benefits and pensions.
Although it has never happened, under current law it would be decided by a judge on how the process would be carried out and who and how much would be received. My suggestion was that if there needs to be an order, that we place services first, employees second and bond holders third. The bill has not passed first reading at this time, but has had a few hours of floor debate so far.
As we move into the final 30 days of this session, we will continue to debate the various priority bills. Several of these measures promise lengthy debate. We will also have extended debate on our state budget. We are required to pass a balanced budget and this year is going to be difficult due to the large shortfall we are facing. Tough choices will have to be made on what programs and services will be cut, reduced, or spared. April 24 is the day the budget will be due to us, but I suspect it may come out a few days earlier so we have some time to look at the numbers.
At this time I intend to have a wrap-up article prepared at the end of the session to highlight what we have accomplished. I also want to schedule a few meet and greet coffee get-togethers. In the meantime, please feel free to continue to contact my office on issues that are of concern to you. Also, go to my website at news.legislature.ne.gov/dist35/ or see me on Facebook.
Sen. Dan Quick of Grand Island represents District 35 in the Nebraska Legislature. Contact him online at news.legislature.ne.gov/dst35/