The World-Herald’s Statehouse reporters round up news highlights from the Legislature and state government into the Capitol Digest — a daily briefing for the political newshound with a busy schedule.

Minimum tipped wage. Nebraska lawmakers moved on Thursday without voting on a proposal to give waiters, waitresses and other tipped workers their first minimum wage hike in 28 years.

The action, coming in the face of a filibuster, means Legislative Bill 400 is effectively dead for the year. State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha tweeted that she would shelve the battle for this year.

The bill would have boosted the tipped minimum wage to $4.50 an hour, up from the current $2.13 an hour. The proposed new minimum would equal half the minimum wage for other workers in Nebraska.

Nebraska’s minimum wage for tipped workers has not changed since 1991, while the minimum wage for other workers has gone up seven times. Nebraska voters approved the most recent increase after a petition drive put the issue on the ballot.

Supporters argued that tipped workers are more likely to be in poverty than other workers and that, to get tips, they put up with sexual harassment from customers.

While state law requires restaurant and bar owners to make up the difference if wages plus tips fall short of the $9 per hour minimum wage for other workers, supporters of LB 400 said violations are commonplace.

The opposition was led by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings, who owns some Hu Hot Mongolian Grill franchises.

He argued that tipped workers usually earn far more than $9 an hour and that requiring businesses to pay more would force them to cut jobs and hours.

Opponents also said better enforcement should be the solution to employers who do not comply with wage and hour laws.

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Sexual assault care. All hospitals would be required to make emergency contraception, commonly known as the morning after pill, available to sexual assault survivors under a proposal heard Thursday by the Health and Human Services Committee.

Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, who introduced LB 555, said she did so to ensure that survivors would get the care they need at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.

Currently, she said, not all hospitals provide emergency contraception or information about that option to sexual assault survivors.

Emergency contraception works by preventing ovulation and by keeping a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus, which is defined as the beginning of a pregnancy.

Supporters of the bill said that concern about pregnancy adds to the anxiety of being assaulted and that women don’t always have a choice about where they are taken for a rape examination.

But Marion Miner, speaking for the Nebraska Catholic Conference, said the bill would create a problem for religiously affiliated hospitals and for providers with religious or moral objections to abortion.

He said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops allows the use of medications for sexual assault survivors that prevents ovulation, incapacitates sperm or blocks fertilization.

But it bars the use of contraceptive methods that interfere with a fertilized egg, which he said is the beginning of life. That means emergency contraception could not be used once a woman has ovulated or is close to ovulating.

Mental health rates. Advocates for Nebraska groups that offer mental health and substance abuse services are seeking a boost in state reimbursement that they say would better reflect the actual cost of treating patients.

The Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations pointed Thursday to a state-commissioned study showing that rates paid for behavioral health services are far below the costs of providing care.

The group says roughly one in five Nebraskans will suffer from a mental illness or addiction in any given year, and one in five high school students report that they have seriously considered attempting suicide.

State Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln has introduced a bill that would increase state reimbursement for such services by 5 percent in each of the two years of the upcoming budget.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

Capitol Digest reporters photo xcapitoldigest capitoldigest

From left, World-Herald legislative reporters Martha Stoddard, Paul Hammel and Aaron Hegarty.

Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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