Extension of workers’ compensation mental injury provisions advanced

After two days of discussion on several motions, lawmakers voted Feb. 19 to cease debate and give second-round approval to a bill that would repeal a sunset provision on workers’ compensation for some mental injuries.

LB21, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, would repeal the June 30, 2014, sunset provision that was included in a bill passed in 2010. That measure allows first responders to receive workers’ compensation benefits for mental injuries.

Prior to passage of that legislation, mental injuries could be claimed only if accompanied by a corresponding physical injury.

If passed, LB21 would take effect on June 20, 2014.

Lathrop said the sunset provision was placed in the original bill in order to give lawmakers time to examine the impact of the change in benefits before making the change permanent.

During select file debate Feb. 14, Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh filed a motion to bracket the bill until April 15. Lautenbaugh said the motion would give the Business and Labor Committee time to have a public hearing on a bill he had introduced that contained similar, but more expansive, provisions.

“This is the only tool I have and the only way to give voice to the things that are routinely in my bills,” he said.

The motion failed on a 7-31 vote.

When debate resumed Feb. 19, Lautenbaugh offered and later withdrew a motion to recommit LB21 to the Business and Labor Committee.

Lathrop offered a cloture motion during debate on a Lautenbaugh amendment that would have changed an interest rate assessed against an employer on a final award when an attorney’s fee is allowed. A successful motion for cloture ceases debate and forces a vote on all pending action on a bill.

Following adoption of the cloture motion on a 36-10 vote, senators voted 13-33 against the Lautenbaugh amendment and 47-1 to advance LB21 to final reading.

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