Business and Labor

Business and labor package clears first round

A bill containing a variety of business and labor measures advanced from general file April 20 after a successful cloture motion.

Sen. Steve Halloran
Sen. Steve Halloran

LB191, as originally introduced by Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran, would have made certain workers’ compensation injury reports confidential for 60 days from the date of filing.

The bill was gutted by a Business and Labor Committee amendment on general file in order to replace it with provisions of a variety of measures heard by the committee, including LB249. Sponsored by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, the provisions would add the extension of sewer or water service as an eligible activity under the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act.

Briese said the lack of housing in rural Nebraska is “choking off” economic development and that the Rural Workforce Housing Act has been a proven tool for expanding workforce housing in the past.

“[LB249] is intended to make the program work more efficiently to better address the needs of participants and the changes proposed to the program in this legislation have been informed by the housing developers and stakeholders in the housing arena,” Briese said.

Sumner Sen. Teresa Ibach agreed. One of the biggest issues facing the state is the lack of workforce housing, she said, and the provisions of LB249 would help to eliminate financial barriers facing housing projects.

“By enacting LB249, we will be able to double the program’s [ability] to allow high-capacity developers to accelerate production of workforce housing,” Ibach said.

Also included were provisions of LB267, sponsored by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, which would prioritize resources such as personal protective equipment, vaccines and medical treatment for critical infrastructure utility workers during a civil defense emergency.

Brewer said the measure would enable a coordinated response to protect essential workers in an emergency.

“These critical energy workers support and preserve the infrastructure operation centers critical to maintain the backbone of our society,” he said. “By prioritizing their health and safety … we ensure continuous distribution of energy and utilities to Nebraska’s rural and urban communities.”

The committee amendment also included provisions of five other bills:
•LB427, sponsored by Ralston Sen. Merv Riepe, which would amend the Nebraska Contractor Registration Act to no longer require out-of-state contractors to pay a one-time $25 registration fee or submit a $25 fee for each contract they receive of at least $10,000;
•LB460, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, which would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse first responders for mental health examination costs related to mental health injuries that are not reimbursed by their employer and require that rates be established by the Critical Incident Stress Management program;
•LB639, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, which would change notice requirements on proposed workers’ compensation regulations and eliminate certain other hearing and summons requirements;
•LB666, also sponsored by Riepe, which would amend the state Employment Security Law to allow employers to choose their preferred method of document delivery and extend the deadline for employers to submit voluntary contributions to the state Department of Labor from Jan. 10 to Feb. 28 each year; and
•LB671, sponsored by Blair Sen. Ben Hansen, which would allow the Nebraska Training and Support Cash Fund to be used for employee retention for Nebraska businesses.

Riepe, chairperson of the committee, said the amendment contains closely related, noncontroversial bills that address business and labor issues throughout the state.

Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh offered a series of procedural motions to extend debate on LB191, none of which were adopted.

After eight hours of discussion, Halloran offered a motion to invoke cloture, which ceases debate and forces a vote on the bill and any pending amendments. The motion was adopted 45-0.

Lawmakers then voted 45-0 to adopt the Business and Labor Committee amendment and advanced LB191 to the second round of debate on a 45-0 vote.

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