Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha defended the filibuster of Legislative Bill 599 against criticism from Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion, arguing that the bill flies in the face of what voters approved in November.
“I would certainly call it a filibuster on behalf of the Nebraska voters, the 60% of Nebraska voters that voted for this and you threw out there that we didn’t know much about economics. Do you think Nebraska voters know much about economics?” Nordquist asked Kintner.
“Well, they certainly know how to vote themselves someone else’s money. If you give people a chance to vote someone else’s money, it doesn’t matter if they are Republican or Democrat they will reach out there and grab it,” Kintner answered.
LB 599 would allow businesses to pay high school workers, up to the age of 19, one dollar less than the state minimum wage approved by voters in November. Some exemptions would be given, such as to those with dependents. The state wage is scheduled to increase to $9/hour next year.
The sponsor of the measure, Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, argued the break in wages was needed to help struggling small-town businesses, such as grocery stores and hardware stores.
Nordquist, a leader of the filibuster, told colleagues that voters had no intention to pay teens less when they approved the minimum wage hike in November.
“Because the voters were crystal clear about the way they felt,” according to Nordquist. “I think the voters knew about this issue, they knew about the impacts, they knew what they wanted, and they stood up and said resoundingly ‘Yes.’”
Supporters got the needed 33 votes to break the filibuster, but only 31 to advance the bill to final round. They will need 33 to approve the bill, because it makes a change to law approved by the voters.
Another opponent, Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha, made light of the claim by supporters that small, “mom and pop” stores need the break.
“Look, we all love our small town grocers, right?” Harr stated. “As a little kid, I loved going to little town grocery stores in my parent’s town. I get it. They don’t really exist anymore. It’s a bygone era.”
But Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis told Harr those types of stores do exist in his district and one of the owners told him the increase in the state minimum wage will cost him $15,000 a year.
“It may not sound like a whole lot of money to everybody here, but if you’re running a small town grocery which operates on a very, very slim margin, $15,000 a year is money out of his pocket,” Davis replied.