Legislative Bill 599 would allow businesses to pay their teen-age workers a dollar less than the new state $9/hour minimum wage, once fully implemented at the beginning of next year.
Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete sponsors the bill, which she told colleagues during legislative floor debate would provide small businesses an incentive to hire youth.
“I think it’s important for us to recognize that this bill is really designed to maximize the opportunities for students who may otherwise have limited skills, and limited hours of availability because of their school schedules,” Ebke stated.
Opponents didn’t see it that way.
“This bill is an affront to our democracy,” Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha said.
Nordquist lead the petition drive that landed the minimum wage issue on the ballot after the Unicameral refused to raise the wage. Voters approved the increase in November to be fully implemented next year.
Nordquist stated all the rhetoric he heard last year against raising the minimum wage rings hollow now.
“We have now the lowest unemployment rate in the country, despite what the opponents of the minimum wage effort said,” Nordquist said. “They said the sky was going to fall, businesses were going to pull up the stakes, scatter to other states, because they just won’t not be able to afford to do business in Nebraska.”
LB 599 has passed to the next round of debate on a 32-11 vote. It will need 33 votes on final passage, because it would alter a law approved by voters.