Sen. Heath Mello
District 05


January 8th, 2014

Thank you for visiting the official website of Nebraska’s 5th Legislative District! I am honored to serve as your representative in the Nebraska Unicameral, and am committed to being an independent voice for South Omaha and Midtown in our non-partisan legislature.

I hope this website will allow me, and my staff, to communicate with you about the issues you care about and those affecting our community . Please check back often for important news and information. Also, feel free to use the contact information on the right to contact me with any issues or concerns you may have regarding public policy or your state government, and let me know how my staff and I may assist you.

Working for you,

Senator Heath Mello

Senator Heath Mello’s Statement on Passage of State Budget Bills

March 24th, 2014

LINCOLN, NE – Appropriations Committee Chairman Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) issued the following statement following the passage of the budget bills earlier today:

“The passage of mid-biennium budget adjustments by wide, bi-partisan margins today reaffirms the hard work of the Appropriations Committee in crafting a sensible, pragmatic state budget that invests in key priorities and provides direct property tax relief to Nebraskans.

“This year’s budget makes long-term investments in Nebraska’s future, including an additional $3.7 million in early childhood education grants, $10 million for job training, $5 million to address the developmental disabilities waiting list, and $15 million in deferred maintenance of Nebraska’s state park system.

“Unlike previous years, this state budget also includes an additional $25 million per year in funding for the Property Tax Credit Act, providing Nebraska taxpayers with ongoing, sustainable property tax relief.

“Finally, the Legislature’s state budget provides $31 million in both one-time and ongoing funding for water research and infrastructure projects across Nebraska, providing a crucial investment to ensure the sustainability of Nebraska’s greatest natural resource.”

Cumulative votes for the three bills comprising the budget package (LB 905, LB 906, and LB 130) totaled 125 in support, 19 opposed, and 3 absent.

March 24, 2014

For More Information:
Senator Heath Mello, (402) 471-2710

Senator Heath Mello’s Statement on February Forecasting Board Meeting

February 28th, 2014

LINCOLN, NE – Appropriations Committee Chairman Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) issued the following statement in response to today’s Forecasting Board meeting:

“Today’s action by the Forecasting Board provides needed flexibility for the Legislature to put together a comprehensive package of priorities this session that includes responsible tax reform, investments in water infrastructure, prison reform, and public education.”

February 28, 2014

For More Information:
Senator Heath Mello, (402) 471-2710

State Senator Heath Mello Statement on Nebraska State Slogan

January 22nd, 2014

LINCOLN, NE – Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) issued the following statement regarding erroneous media reports that LB 1024 would repeal “The Good Life” as Nebraska’s state slogan:

“Last fall, I met with consultants with the Nebraska Tourism Commission, who were working on branding efforts for the State of Nebraska. Following these meetings, it was discovered that Nebraska’s official state symbol and slogan was not ‘The Good Life’ but rather ‘Welcome to NEBRASKAland – where the West begins’. This morning I introduced LB 1024 at the request of the Nebraska Tourism Commission to repeal the outdated ‘Welcome to NEBRASKAland’ language and give the Tourism Commission the authority to adopt a new state symbol and slogan that would be in line with their ongoing branding efforts.”

“Unfortunately, media reports making the claim that LB 1024 would repeal ‘The Good Life’ are grossly inaccurate. While ‘The Good Life’ tagline first appeared on state materials during the 1970s, it is not and never has been our official state slogan. Nothing in LB 1024 or in the Tourism Commission’s branding efforts changes that fact.”

State Symbol & Slogan

State Senator Heath Mello Seeks to Expand DHHS Budget Reforms

January 17th, 2014

LINCOLN, NE – Earlier today, Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) announced the introduction of LB 974, bipartisan legislation that would require the Divisions of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Medicaid & Long-term Care in the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) to develop strategic plans and performance benchmarks as part of the biennial budget process.

In 2012, the Legislature passed LB 949, which implemented similar requirements for the Division of Children & Family Services in DHHS. These changes, which were introduced by the Legislative Performance Audit Committee in response to issues related to privatization of the state’s child welfare services, were utilized by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee during last year’s biennial budget process.

“The performance-based budgeting requirements on Children & Family Services were very helpful myself and several other members of the Appropriations Committee last session,” said Mello, who chairs the Appropriations Committee. “Recent audits by State Auditor Mike Foley have convinced me that these additional divisions should face a greater level of scrutiny than what our current budget process provides, and LB 974 is a responsible next step to help the Legislature get a better handle on the budget for the largest agency in Nebraska state government.”

January 17, 2014

For More Information:
Trevor Fitzgerald- Legislative Aide, (402) 471-2710

State Senator Heath Mello Introduces Legislation to Provide State Oversight of Local Pension Plans

January 9th, 2014

LINCOLN, NE – Earlier today, Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) announced the introduction of LB 759, legislation that would require that cities, counties, and other political subdivisions which offer defined benefit retirement plans to file a report with the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee of the Legislature if contributions to the plan do not equal the actuarial requirement for funding or if the funding ratio for the plan is less than eighty percent.

“LB 759 will provide critical legislative oversight and transparency when it comes to local public pension systems,” said Mello. “While local governments can’t fix their underfunded pensions overnight, state-level oversight has the potential to help get plans back in order and avoid costly mistakes in the future. Encouraging responsible fiscal policy in our local pension plans will have positive long-term effects for local budgets.”

Under the proposed reporting requirements, political subdivisions would be required to provide the committee with an analysis of the pension plan’s conditions and recommendations for future benefit changes, contribution changes, or other corrective action to improve conditions of the plan. In addition, the bill provides that the committee can require the political subdivision to present its report at a public hearing.

January 9, 2014

For More Information:
Trevor Fitzgerald- Legislative Aide, (402) 471-2710

State Senator Heath Mello Announces Legislation to Crack Down On Patent Trolls

January 7th, 2014

LINCOLN, NE – Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) announced plans today to introduce legislation at the request of Attorney General Jon Bruning that would protect Nebraska consumers and small businesses from patent assertion entities acting in bad faith, commonly referred to as “patent trolls”.

“While we expect our federal patent system to protect the intellectual property of those who create inventive new products and services, a growing number of ‘patent trolls’ have been asserting patent infringement claims to extort money from Nebraska businesses and consumers,” said Mello. “I am proud to stand with Attorney General Bruning at the forefront of this nationwide bipartisan effort to combat patent trolls.

Under the proposed legislation, a bad faith assertion of patent infringement would be a specific violation of Nebraska’s existing consumer protection statute, the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The bill would provide criteria for courts to determine whether a bad faith assertion had been made, and also requires that any person sending twenty-five or more patent assertion letters within a one-year period notify the Attorney General of each business and address to which a demand letter was sent. Currently, only Vermont has a similar state statute designed to specifically address patent trolls.

“Patent trolls often make unfounded allegations to demand money by threatening litigation against unsuspecting Nebraskans,” said Mello. “This bill will be a great addition in the fight to protect Nebraska businesses and consumers from patent trolls.”

January 7, 2014

For More Information:
Trevor Fitzgerald- Legislative Aide, (402) 471-2710

State Senator Heath Mello Statement on Release of Tax Modernization Committee Report

December 13th, 2013

Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) issued the following statement on the release of the Tax Modernization Committee’s findings and recommendations:

“The report issued today by the Tax Modernization Committee provides a solid road map for responsible reform of our tax code not just next session but in the years to come. I want to thank Senator Hadley, Chairman of the Tax Modernization Committee, for his leadership in guiding a deliberate and thoughtful process, providing the committee with information from unbiased national tax experts and the opportunity to obtain critical feedback from Nebraskans across the state.”

“Although the committee has accomplished a great deal in just six months, it is neither feasible nor wise to rush through wide-ranging tax reform proposals during the upcoming 60-day legislative session. Our state’s over-dependence on property taxes to fund state and local government didn’t occur overnight. While we will likely take initial steps next session to address the property tax burden in Nebraska, the committee’s recommendations represent a long-term approach to meaningful property tax relief.”

“As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, my first concern is ensuring that all tax reform proposals enacted by the Legislature are fiscally responsible in both the short- and long-term. Based off the analysis from the Tax Rate Review Committee report, I believe it is critical that the state maintain a minimum cash reserve balance of at least $643 million, or two months of state government operations, to stave off future tax increases due to economic downturns.”

December 13, 2013

For More Information:
Senator Heath Mello, (402) 471-2710

State Senator Heath Mello Proposes Legislation to Create Tax Amnesty Program & Crack Down On Tax Cheats: Proceeds From Program Would Fund Property Tax Relief

December 6th, 2013

LINCOLN, NE – Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) announced plans today to introduce legislation to create a tax amnesty program in Nebraska and provide for greater future enforcement against delinquent taxpayers.

“During my research as a member of the Tax Modernization Committee this summer and fall, I realized that Nebraska is seriously behind other states in enforcing our existing tax laws,” said Mello. “While the committee is continuing to work on significant changes in our tax code to provide property tax relief, we must update our enforcement capabilities to ensure that all of our state tax laws are applied fairly and judiciously.”

Under the proposed legislation, taxpayers with unreported or delinquent taxes could apply to the Nebraska Department of Revenue for amnesty during a three-month period in 2014. If amnesty is granted and all back taxes owed are paid, any penalties and interest on those taxes would be waived and the state would be prohibited from seeking civil or criminal prosecution in amnesty cases. A similar tax amnesty program conducted in 2004 has collected more than $53 million in delinquent tax revenue, and Mello’s legislation provides that revenue collected from the 2014 tax amnesty period would be directed towards property tax relief.

In addition to creating a tax amnesty program, Mello’s legislation would require the Department of Revenue to contract with private vendors to identify non-filers, under-reporters, or non-payers of taxes who have a minimum tax liability of $25,000. While legislation authorizing such contracts was passed in 2011, the Department has made no effort to exercise their authority to do so.

“When tax cheats get away with breaking Nebraska law, it ultimately leads to higher taxes for everyone else,” said Mello. “This legislation begins to even the playing field for taxpayers, all while focusing new revenues towards reducing property taxes.”

December 6, 2013

For More Information:
Senator Heath Mello, (402) 471-2710

South Omaha Community Update on L Street Bridge

November 7th, 2013

At a recent community meeting with City of Omaha officials, several South Omaha residents expressed significant frustration with the apparent lack of progress by the Nebraska Department of Roads with the ongoing construction of the “L” Street bridge. My office requested an update on the status of the project on behalf of these constituents, and a copy of the Department’s response can be found below. I will continue to monitor the progress of this vital infrastructure project in South Omaha and do my best to keep the community up-to-date.

Working for you,
Senator Heath Mello

Letter to Senator Mello 2013-11-06