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

State Senator Heath Mello Statement on 2013-14 Fiscal Year Tax Receipts

July 10th, 2014

OMAHA, NE – Appropriations Committee Chairman Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) issued the following statement in response to Fiscal Year 2013-14 tax receipts that were reported by the Nebraska Department of Revenue earlier today:

“This fiscal year’s tax receipts indicate that the Legislature’s cautious fiscal approach over the past session was the right course of action. Revenue exceeded estimates for the fiscal year by a modest amount, resulting in a slightly larger than planned transfer to the Cash Reserve Fund, while the General Fund budget remains balanced for upcoming fiscal year.

“This session, the Appropriations Committee followed a policy of utilizing the Cash Reserve Fund only for one-time items while preserving an adequate reserve balance to help reduce the need for deep budget cuts or potential tax increases during the next economic downturn. This strategy has worked well over the past two years, and should continue to be one of our state’s guiding fiscal policies moving forward.

“While we have serious fiscal work to do next biennium with ongoing issues like entitlement reform and justice reinvestment, the Legislature will also have to address a projected budget gap of approximately $170 million and many one-time funding challenges including the anticipated $5.5 million Republican River Compact settlement, the $15 million federal penalty for misuse of child welfare funds by the Department of Health and Human Services, and a number of claims against the state stemming from recent missteps by the Department of Correctional Services.”

July 10, 2014

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

Public Meeting to Discuss Gilmore Avenue Water Quality Project

May 29th, 2014

Clean Solutions for Omaha (CSO) will hold a public meeting on Thursday, June 12, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 pm at the Kroc Center, 2825 Y Street.

The meeting topic will be the design phase of the Gilmore Avenue sewer project. Gilmore Avenue area residents and business owners will have a chance to ask questions and learn more about the combined sewer overflow project which involves their neighborhood.

Most of the combined sewer system is still in use in the older areas of Omaha east of 72nd Street. During heavy rainstorms, raw sewage combines with storm water and can back up into homes and businesses. Even minor rainfall can cause overflows to local waterways with unhealthy bacteria, making them unfit for swimming or recreation. The City of Omaha is one of 772 communities nationwide designated by the EPA that must address the water quality due to a combined sewer overflow system. In order to meet regulatory compliance, the City of Omaha must reduce the number of raw sewage overflows to the Missouri River and the Papillion Creek to meet the water quality standards.

The remedies in the CSO Long Term Control Plan are estimated to cost at about $2 billion. The source of revenue for the CSO remedies is monthly MUD sewer-use fees. The City of Omaha has until 2027 to complete the projects in the approved Long Term Control Plan.

Meeting Notice – Gilmore Ave English Version 6 12 2014

Meeting Notice – Gilmore Ave Spanish Version 6 12 2014

For more information about the Clean Solutions for Omaha Program, call the CSO Hotline at (402) 341-0235.

State Senator Heath Mello Announces Interim Study to Examine Department of Health & Human Services Structure

April 29th, 2014

LINCOLN, NE – Appropriations Committee Chairman Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) announced that the Appropriations Committee has designated LR 535, an interim study to examine the structure of the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), as its top priority interim study for 2014. The resolution is co-sponsored by 14 senators, including most members of both the Appropriations and Health & Human Services Committees of the Legislature.

Under LR 535, the Appropriations and Health & Human Services Committees will conduct a joint interim study to review the current structure of DHHS as well as the structures utilized in other states. Prior to 1996, health and human services functions were divided between four separate state agencies – the Department of Aging, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Institutions, and the Department of Social Services – in addition to the Office of Juvenile Services in the Department of Correctional Services.

Mello acknowledged that while LR 535 would potentially look into deconsolidating DHHS, that the ultimate goal of the interim study is to provide greater transparency and fiscal oversight in what has become a “problem child” of Nebraska state government. Since 2000, the State Auditor’s Office has performed 103 separate audits of DHHS programs, including major audits relating to the Beatrice State Developmental Center, the Thomas Fitzgerald Veterans’ Home, the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney, child welfare reform efforts, and management of federal Medicaid and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds.

“During the six years that I have served in the Legislature, no agency has demonstrated more deficiencies or caused lawmakers more headaches than the Department of Health & Human Services,” said Mello. “With the change in administration that will come with a new governor next year, I believe that it is appropriate for the Legislature to consider wholesale structural changes in the largest agency in Nebraska state government.”

April 29, 2014

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

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