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Advocacy Committee

Link to the Legislature website: www.nebraskalegislature.gov

 

Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association 

2021 End-of-Session Legislative Report

 

It was a productive year of public policy work for the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association. The Nebraska Legislature thanked health care partners for their excellent work protecting the good life over the last year with several wins for NEMSA. The Legislature passed NEMSA-supported legislation to provide liability protection for EMS providers, establish compensation for first responders killed in the line of duty, and to ease credentialing for EMS providers moving to Nebraska from another state.

 

SESSION OVERVIEW

The first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature adjourned sine die on May 27, 2021, ending the scheduled 90-day session six legislative days early. During the session 684 bills were introduced, and 200 bills were passed (3 by veto override). Unless otherwise noted below, new laws will become effective August 27, 2021. 

 

A special session is expected in September and will be focused solely on addressing redistricting Legislative and other districts based on the 2020 Census data.

 

The second session of 107th Legislature will convene on January 5, 2022. There are 60 scheduled legislative days in the second year of the biennial session.

 

BILLS OF INTEREST

This year the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association tracked 28 bills and took a position on 10 bills. Below are some of the bills that NEMSA followed. Click here for the full chart.

 

Bills That Passed

LB139 (Briese) Adopt the COVID-19 Liability Act and the Health Care Crisis Protocol Act (Support)

  • Creates the Health Care Crisis Protocol for the State of Nebraska published by the Nebraska Medical Emergency Operations Center on May 10, 2021. Allows the health care crisis protocol to be activated only in extraordinary circumstances when the level of demand for medical services and resources exceeds the available resources to deliver the generally accepted standard of care, and crisis operations will be in effect for a sustained period. States the protocol does not change or alter the existing standard for malpractice or professional negligence. Requires each hospital have the health care crisis protocol available for inspection by the public. Prior to passage of LB139, Nebraska did not have any statutory recognition of a health care crisis protocol.
  • The bill also creates the COVID-19 Liability Act to provide for a civil action for injuries or damages from exposure to COVID-19 only if the act or omission alleged to violate a duty of care is not in substantial compliance with federal public health guidance (defined as that from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Medicare, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) applicable to the person, place, or activity at issue at the time of the alleged exposure or potential exposure.
  • LB139 became effective May 25, 2021. 

 

LB247 (Pansing Brooks) Create the Mental Health Crisis Hotline Task Force 

  • Establishes a task force charged with creating an implementation plan for the 988 crisis hotline established by the federal government in 2020. 
  • Senators appointed to the task force are: Lincoln Senator Elliot Bostar; Plymouth Senator Tom Brandt; Omaha Senator Jen Day; Henderson Senator Curt Friesen; and Lincoln Senator Patty Pansing Brooks.
  • The task force became effective May 24, 2021, and will terminate on December 31, 2022.

 

LB255 (Hansen, M.) Adopt the In the Line of Duty Compensation Act (Support)

  • Starting January 1, 2022, if a public safety officer (including a member of an EMS ambulance squad) is killed in the line of duty, compensation shall be paid in one of the following ways: to a prior designated person, in accordance with the first responder’s will, to surviving spouse, to surviving children, to surviving parents, or to surviving siblings. To receive the compensation, a claim must be filed with the Risk Manager within one year of the death. Compensation shall be $50,000 (indexed for inflation). Public Safety Officer includes a firefighter; a law enforcement officer; or member of an emergency medical services ambulance squad, excluding any employee of a private, for-profit ambulance service.

 

LB390 (Murman, at the request of the Governor) Provide for credentials based on reciprocity and change requirements for credentials under the Uniform Credentialing Act 

  • LB390 allows certain individuals credentialed in another state to apply for an expedited credential in Nebraska. 
  • Eligible credential holders include EMS providers, PAs, nurses, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, psychologists, dialysis technicians, licensed medical nutrition therapists, medical radiographers, perfusionists, surgical first assistants, and acupuncturists.
  • LB390 authorizes the state Department of Health and Human Services to determine the necessary credentialing level of an applicant with the recommendation of the appropriate professional advisory board. An applicant receiving a reciprocal license under the bill is required to establish residency in Nebraska within 180 days of obtaining the license.

 

LB432 (Revenue Committee) Firefighter Cancer Benefits Act (part of Revenue tax package)

  • Contains several tax-related measures, including:
  • LB299 (McDonnell) Adopt the Firefighter Cancer Benefits Act and provide an income tax exemption for such benefits.  The bill was amended to remove the mandate on airport authorities, cities, villages or nonprofit corporations who may elect to provide such benefits. Makes firefighters, both paid and volunteer, eligible for cancer insurance benefits if the following criteria are met: 1. Pass a physical examination which fails to reveal any evidence of cancer, and 2. Serve at least 12 consecutive months as a firefighter at any station within Nebraska. The benefits would be provided and maintained by the paid fire department of a municipality, rural or suburban fire protection district, airport authority, city, village, or nonprofit corporation of which such firefighter serves. Benefits include: 1. Diagnosis of severe cancer as defined in the bill ($25,000); 2. Diagnosis of less severe cancer as defined in the bill ($6,250); 3. Total disability monthly benefits for a maximum of 36 months ($1,500 per month); and 4. Death benefit payable to beneficiaries of firefighter or estate of firefighter if no beneficiary named ($50,000). Funds received by a firefighter as insurance payments for cancer benefits would not be subject to Nebraska income tax.
  • The cancer insurance benefits and other provisions of the Act begin January 1, 2022.

 

LB476 (Blood) Change provisions relating to the Stroke System of Care Act

  • Requires the Department of Health and Human Services to maintain a statewide stroke data registry and requires stroke centers to report data consistent with national guidelines. 
  • Encourages the sharing of information and data among other health care providers, including EMS providers, caring for stroke patients. 

 

LB664 (Groene) Change distributions from the Mutual Finance Assistance Fund

  • Updates the Mutual Finance Assistance disbursement formula to more adequately reflect the needs of the fire districts as populations decline but needed fire protection services have increased. The $10 per capita disbursement will stay intact, but LB664 will add a $10,000 payment for each fire district in a Mutual Finance Organization. The intent is to disperse all of the Mutual Assistance Funds to rural fire districts. 

 

Bills Held Over

Legislation not passed or killed in the 2021 session will carry over into the 2022 session and be eligible for further consideration.

 

LB215 (Hughes) Change 911 service surcharge provisions (Support)

  • As introduced, LB215 would have equalized the 911 surcharge ceilings for Douglas County. Under current law, every Nebraska county, with the exception of Douglas County, is able to impose a 911 surcharge of up to $1 on landline service users and up to 70 cents on wireless service users. In both categories, Douglas County is currently limited to a 50-cent surcharge.
  • While LB215 was advanced from committee and debated on the floor, it did not receive enough votes to advance this year. 

                                            

LB238 (McDonnell) Change provisions of the Ground Emergency Medical Transport Act (Support)

  • Senator McDonnell has been working to increase Medicaid reimbursement for emergency ground transportation, and despite passing similar proposals in the last several years, DHHS has found ways to pay lower managed care reimbursement rates, rather than the higher fee-for-service rates. Senator McDonnell introduced LB238 to try again to raise reimbursements, and NEMSA submitted a letter in support of the bill.

 

LB303 (Hansen, M.) Provide a budget limitation exception as prescribed (Support)

  • NEMSA submitted written testimony in support of Senator Hansen’s bill that was introduced at the request of the City of Lincoln in order to address its growing population and public safety needs. The bill would allow cities to exempt public safety expenses, including funds for emergency services, from the 2.5% budget growth limitation. The City of Lincoln, League of Nebraska Municipalities and the Nebraska Association of County Officials all testified that cities need the flexibility to be able to add an additional public safety expenditures.

 

LB420 (Pahls) Change provisions relating to presumptions regarding causes of death or disability of firefighters and firefighter-paramedics

  • Senator Pahls introduced LB420 to change provisions relating to presumptions regarding causes of death or disability of firefighters and firefighter-paramedics. LB420 would establish a rebuttable presumption that firefighters who suffer death or disability as a result of cancer, hypertension or heart or respiratory defect or disease, did so as a result of their work for the purposes of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act. This rebuttable presumption already exists for other post-employment benefits. Senator Pahls introduced LB420 at the request of the Omaha Professional Firefighters Association in order to acknowledge the health risks firefighters encounter in their work by giving certain cancer claims the status of a rebuttable presumption.

 

LB581 (Hansen, B.) Change motorcycle, moped, and autocycle helmet provisions (Oppose)

  • NEMSA again joined a large coalition of stakeholders in successfully opposing the helmet law repeal. LB581 proposes to make persons above the age of 21 exempt from having to wear a helmet on a motorcycle. The bill failed to advance from the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

 

LB663 (Geist) Require the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice to create a mental health indicator in a criminal justice information system to alert emergency dispatch operators

  • LB663 would require the creation of a mental and behavioral health indicator within the Nebraska Criminal Justice Information System to provide a tool to law enforcement and protect individuals who are in a mental or behavioral health crisis.
  • The Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, Lancaster County Community Corrections, and the Omaha Police Department testified in support of the bill, saying it would provide law enforcement more information and another tool to best address situations involving someone suffering from a mental health crisis.

 

Bills Killed

Disappointingly, two bills supported by NEMSA were indefinitely postponed this session. These will need to be reintroduced in 2022 and have new hearings in order to advance next year.

 

LB239 (Hilkemann) Change provisions relating to the use of handheld wireless communication devices under the Nebraska Rules of the Road (Support)

  • LB239 proposed to change provisions relating to the use of handheld wireless communication devices under the Nebraska Rules of the Road and would ban handheld wireless devices while driving. NEMSA joined the Nebraska chapter of the National Safety Council, the Nebraska Insurance Federation, and the Nebraska State Volunteer Firefighters Association in supporting the bill.  
  • The Transportation & Telecommunications Committee voted 5-3 to indefinitely postpone the bill. 

 

LB240 (Hilkemann) Require use of occupant protection systems for each vehicle occupant (Support)

  • NEMSA again joined the Nebraska chapter of the National Safety Council and Robert Bell of the Nebraska Insurance Federation in support of LB240, which would require the use of occupant protection systems for each vehicle occupant. 
  • The Transportation Committee voted 6-2 to indefinitely postpone the bill.  

 

INTERIM:

Senators introduce legislative resolutions to study topics over the interim. The level of activity on interim studies varies widely. No action may be taken; Senators may convene formal hearings or less formal round-table discussions; or staff may do research and write a report. The condensed timeframe for this interim due to the special session on redistricting will impact the interim study process. We have flagged the resolutions below of potential interest to NEMSA and will keep you apprised of any activity:

 

  • LR178 (Wishart) Interim study to solicit input from Nebraskans regarding funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

 

  • LR179 (Cavanaugh, M.) Interim study to examine funding mechanisms in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

 

  • LR191 (McCollister) Interim study to examine the effect of universal recognition of occupational licenses on populations frequently negatively impacted by occupational licensing in the state

 

We welcome the opportunity to work on these and other issues with you over the interim. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us anytime:

 

Katie Zulkoski – katie@zulkoskiweber.com – 402.405.3676

Michelle Weber – michelle@zulkoskiweber.com – 402.984.5009

Joselyn Luedtke – joselyn@zulkoskiweber.com – 402.429.4895

 

We are honored to work on behalf of the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association, and we appreciate any questions or feedback you have on the 2021 legislative session.



Cheers,

Katie, Michelle, and Joselyn

Michelle Weber

Zulkoski | Weber

725 South 14th Street

Lincoln, Nebraska 68508

o: 402-975-2195

c: 402-984-5009

www.zulkoskiweber.com

Lobbyist Firm

Zulkoski Weber LLC | 725 South 14th StreetLincoln, NE 68508

Katie Zulkoski
Katie@zulkoskiweber.com

Michelle Weber
Michelle@zulkoskiweber.com

 

Nebraska Emergency
Medical Services Association

PO Box 102  \\  Ord, NE 68862
Contact us at info@nemsa.org

© 2021 Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association (NEMSA)