Leave spend-down requirement discussed

The Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee heard testimony Feb. 20 on a bill that would eliminate a provision in state law relating to leave time for certain Nebraska police officers.

LB321, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, would eliminate a provision requiring that all credits for unused annual or sick leave or other similar credits be spent down by a disabled police officer employed by a city of the first class in order to receive temporary disability salary or disability pension.

Crawford said officers place themselves in harm’s way to protect the public and should not be penalized if they sustain disabling injuries.

“Disability is not vacation or personal time,” she said, “Police officers should not have to sacrifice that time.”

Bryan Waugh of the La Vista Fraternal Order of Police testified in support of the bill, saying the change would allow injured officers to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits without having to drain their leave time first.

“They simply want to get back to work and they want to maintain that leave time that has accrued to them,” Waugh said.

Matt Lathrop, representing the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys, also supported the bill. He said it is unfair to ask injured police officers to surrender leave time if firefighters and others are not also required to do so.

“In any other industry in Nebraska, that is not a requirement,” he said.

Lynn Rex of the League of Nebraska Municipalities testified in opposition to the bill. Rex said she does not believe that police officers would abuse disability leave; nevertheless, she said, public policy should not create an incentive for its use.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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