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EMS News

News from Lincoln!


Governor Signs Budget Adjustments—Volunteer EMS Training Dollars Included
It was an eventful second-to-last week of session at the Nebraska Legislature. On Thursday Governor Ricketts signed the budget adjustment bills (LB1008 and LB1009), welcome news to lawmakers concerned about potential line-item vetoes. Despite the four-month pandemic-induced break in the session, the signed budget package looked much the same as it had emerged from the Appropriations Committee in early March. The package will result in 3% average annual spending growth for the two-year period ending June 30 and leaves $388 million in the rainy day fund.

The budget adjustments include Senator Walz’s LB1102 to increase funding for volunteer EMS training, a provision supported by NEMSA. It adds an additional $250,000 in annual funding to the $292,000 already allocated for Program 514 to reimburse volunteer emergency medical care providers for tuition and fees for training, provided the applicant successfully passes the examination in the first two attempts.

NEMSA-Supported EMS Changes Advanced
A bill supported by NEMSA to allow emergency medical service providers to restock prescription medications from local hospital pharmacies was advanced this week. Senator Bruce Bostelman, sponsor of the bill, said current law allows for the transfer of prescription drugs between holders of a pharmacy license, health care practitioners, and hospitals to alleviate a temporary shortage. LB1002 would add EMS providers to that list. Bostelman said EMS providers currently must purchase and restock the medications used in treatment and transport only from wholesale drug distributors, which are not local, require minimum purchases and do not always have the necessary medications on hand. The bill will be a big step in assisting our state emergency medical service providers with the financial and logistical issues they currently face, he said.

A Health and Human Services Committee amendment added provisions of additional bills, including LB893, also introduced by Bostelman and supported by NEMSA. It would add community care paramedic and critical care paramedic practices as EMS providers. The amendment would direct the state Board of Emergency Services to provide education and licensure requirements for the positions. Bostelman said the two new licensure classifications are necessary for public safety.

Senator Sue Crawford spoke in support of the bill and the amendment, saying EMS is essential to the state’s health care network. Our EMS providers are a critical part of health care access—even more critical in our rural communities, she said.

The bill was given second-round approval on Tuesday by voice vote.

Resilience Training; PTSD Injury Claims for First Responders Advanced
Senators advanced a bill supported by NEMSA meant to address the mental health strain experienced by emergency first responders. LB963, sponsored by Senator Tom Brewer, would provide first responders with opportunities to receive resilience training to help prevent or mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill would allow first responders to establish a presumptive case of PTSD from cumulative injury or stress caused by conditions of employment as a personal injury for workers’ compensation purposes.

To establish such a case, the first responder must show that he or she: underwent a mental health examination before the onset of the mental injury or illness, obtained testimony from a qualifying mental health professional that he or she suffers from a mental injury or illness, and participated in resilience training prior to the onset of the mental injury or illness and annually thereafter.

The Department of Health and Human Services would reimburse first responders for resilience training if their employers do not. Under the bill as amended, only state-licensed practicing physicians, psychologists and mental health practitioners would be qualified to render an official PTSD diagnosis.

Nonprofit Raffle Act Bill Advanced
The Legislature gave second-round approval to LB1056, a General Affairs package that includes multiple provisions. Of interest to NEMSA, it includes amended language of LB980, introduced by Senator Tom Brandt, which would extend a special permit to conduct a lottery or raffle under the Nebraska Lottery and Raffle Act from three months to one year. It also would allow raffle tickets to be sold online and to be purchased with a debit card. Senator Brandt said the legislation would help nonprofits struggling to raise money during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tax Compromise Bill Given Strong First-Round Approval
Finally, the biggest news of the week was that the “Super Seven” revealed their compromise proposal to provide property tax relief, update business tax incentives, and commit funding for the Med Center project. It was advanced by the Revenue Committee as an amendment to LB1107 and given first-round approval on Wednesday by a vote of 43-2-4 present not voting.

The tax relief portion of the bill sets a minimum of $275 million in annual funding for the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund—the current main mechanism of property tax relief that redirects state income and sales tax collections to reduce local property tax bills. The bill establishes additional property tax relief via a new income tax relief program based on the amount of school district property taxes paid in the prior year.

Revenue Committee Chair Lou Ann Linehan described the agreement as “fragile” but lawmakers are generally optimistic about its success. It will be up for second-round consideration on Tuesday, which sets the bill up for final passage on Thursday, August 13—the final day of the 60-day session.
 

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