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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Wrapping things up in Lincoln

Monday, May 23, 2011

With only seven legislative days left in this year's session, things are beginning to wrap up here in the Capital City. The Unicameral advanced the redistricting bills and a compromise on the reform of the Commission of Industrial Relations in Legislative Bill 397 to Final Reading. I would like to touch on those two controversial issues this week, since many of you had contacted me regarding them.

Every 10 years the Legislature has the job of making the necessary changes to Congressional and State Legislative, Judicial, and other districts to follow demographic changes in the population of Nebraska. This last week the two most controversial redistricting bills dealt with the changes in our three congressional districts for the U.S. House of Representatives and our 49 state legislative districts.

I supported all the changes to the districts that were advanced out of the Redistricting Committee. I think they did a good job of making them compact following county lines and keeping cities whole as much as possible.

As you might guess, the changes in the congressional districts are in the eastern part of the state, not affecting southwest Nebraska. However, our legislative district, District 44, if passed in its current form, will grow eastward acquiring Gosper and Harlan counties while losing the southwest corner of Dawson County. You can find all the maps at HYPERLINK "http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov" www.nebraskalegislature.gov and clicking on "Committees."

Last Thursday evening a compromised emerged regarding CIR reform. Amendment AM1528 was adopted Friday with my support on a 42-0 vote and advanced to Final Reading. I want to highlight what I see as three improvements to the bill.

First, AM1528 will improve oversight and transparency in the CIR process. It will require a majority of commissioners to decide all labor disputes instead of requiring only one commissioner to hear disputes. Moreover, the public employer and the union must submit their final offer to the CIR, must vote to accept or reject the other's offer with the public employer's vote being public, and both parties must have rejected the other's final offer before CIR can order wages.

Second, it will reduce the array size for comparable employers from 13 to 9, which will reduce the chance that a comparable employer with inflated wages will skew the comparison result.

And last, it provides a better opportunity for cost containment. A provision in the bill would expand the midpoint calculation where the CIR would have to order wages to decrease to 102 percent of the midpoint if an employer's wages were found to be too high. On the other hand, wages must be increased to 98 percent, or 95 percent during a recession, if the employer is paying too low of wages. In both cases the employer would have three years to reach the 98 or 102 percent respectively.

I believe this is a good step forward in CIR reform.

If you have comments, concerns, or questions about these bills or any other issue, please, call my office at 402-471-2805 or for more information you can view my legislative website at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist44/.

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State Sen. Mark Christensen
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