Legislative Report Week 4:

Hope you were able to enjoy our 100th Annual Meeting last night. I know I did. It was great to see so many people!

Friday marked the 17th day of the 90 day session. With 739 new bills introduced this session – in addition to multiple resolutions and constitutional amendments – Nebraska lawmakers are now holding afternoon committee hearings and deciding which proposals merit further consideration by the full Legislature. Most bills have been sent to one of the Legislature’s 14 standing committees.

With the exception of a few technical bills or bills that have been withdrawn, all measures will receive a public hearing by March 28. The Revenue Committee, for example, will hold hearings on more than 100 proposals this session.

Full-day floor debate will start on April 2. By March 19, committees and individual senators will have selected their priority bills. Speaker Jim Scheer, who may select up to 25 priority bills, will announce his priorities March 20.

State Chamber Voices Employer Concerns On Medical Marijuana

Last Friday, January 25, the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee held a hearing on LB110 by Lincoln Senator Anna Wishart to allow for the use of cannabis – or “medical marijuana” – in treating or alleviating symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions. The Nebraska Chamber currently maintains a neutral on LB110, but has formerly expressed to the Judiciary Committee the organization’s serious concerns about the bill. The State Chamber’s policy councils met this week to discuss the Chamber’s formal position on LB110. A recommendation from the councils will go before the Nebraska Chamber’s Board of Directors on February 7.

In a letter from Nebraska Chamber President Bryan Slone to the Judiciary Committee, Slone said LB110 “potentially introduces a very wide avenue to possess and use a hallucinogenic drug with the resulting changes in sensory perception and impaired motor skills within the workforce.” He said enactment of LB110 as introduced would raise many new employer/employee and workforce issues and related costs for businesses.

Under LB110, employers would likely face new potential liabilities related to impaired employees or injuries. Slone urged lawmakers to take appropriate steps to protect employers, including making certain that employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s use or possession of medical cannabis or related impairment.

The State Chamber president also said no employee using or possessing medical cannabis should be able to sue an employer for refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, retaliating or otherwise taking an adverse employment action related to medical cannabis use. According to Slone, employers should be able to continue to be allowed to drug test for cannabis use as permitted under current law, and maintain drug-free workplace programs, including those affecting business-related, off-site activities.

Slone added that LB110 “should not interfere with or override current law or administrative requirements of the Federal Department of Transportation, or state law restrictions on drug use in the workplace – including employee alcohol and drug testing laws and regulations. This includes OSHA obligations for employers to take steps to protect employees from certain hazards.”

Employers are currently limited from making health-related inquiries under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Nebraska Chamber believes LB110 must provide the ability for employers to know when employees are using medical cannabis.

Slone noted the Chamber’s appreciation for Senator Wishart’s continued willingness to address these concerns, and he pointed to statutes in other states that have addressed employer concerns regarding the use of medical marijuana.

No immediate committee action was taken on LB110.

The following are the key 2019 dates for Nebraska lawmakers this session:

● March 14 - Deadline for speaker priority bill requests.

● March 19 - Deadline for committee & senator priority bill designations.

● March 20 - Speaker priority bills announced.

● March 28 - Deadline to complete bill hearings.

● April 2 - Full-day floor debate begins.

● May 2 - Budget bills must be on General File.

● May 22 - Budget bills must be passed.

● June 6 - Sine die adjournment.

Reminder: The Chamber will be hosting a morning “Legislative Report” with Senator Lowe on February 18th at 8 am.

Have a great week!

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