NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Heath Mello

Sen. Heath Mello

District 5

Welcome!

January 6th, 2016

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

LINCOLN, NE – Today, Senator Heath Mello (District 5 – South Omaha) introduced legislation that would make it easier for home owners to make energy efficient updates to their home.

LB 1012, the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act, would authorize municipalities to create energy assessment districts and provide property-assessed loans through outside financing to residential and commercial property owners for energy efficient updates to the property. As introduced, LB 1012 is a bipartisan effort that has 10 co-sponsors from both urban and rural areas of the state.

“The upfront costs for energy efficient improvements is the single largest barrier preventing property owners from making meaningful upgrades to their homes and businesses,” said Senator Mello. “By authorizing cities to implement an alternative financing method through the creation of energy assessment districts, we can spur the further development of the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, while creating new jobs across the state.”

“Creating good-paying jobs has been a key priority for me during my eight years in the Nebraska Legislature,” Mello said. “Helping homeowners reduce their energy bills and increase the value of their property all while creating new, skilled jobs is a “win-win” for Nebraskans.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2016

For More Information:
Elizabeth Hertzler, (402) 471-2710

LINCOLN, NE – Today, Senator Heath Mello (District 5 – South Omaha) introduced LB 928, a bill to strengthen Nebraska’s wage discrimination law.

This legislation is part of a larger effort nationally to close the wage gap between men and women. Of the 45 states with a version of an equal pay law, Nebraska is one of six states that currently exempt certain businesses from complying based on the number of employees they have.

“A majority of states have wage discrimination protections in place for men and women to be paid equally for comparable work, regardless of the size of their workplace,” said Senator Mello.

LB 928 would modernize Nebraska’s wage discrimination law by removing the current employee size exemption and modifying key definitions to improve enforcement. Last session Senator Mello passed legislation – with overwhelming support from the Legislature and the Governor – updating the laws to support pregnant women in the workplace. This bill continues or efforts to modernize Nebraska’s labor laws.

“Our economy and our families are strengthened when all Nebraskans can work, provide for their families, and pay taxes. LB 928 updates Nebraska’s equal pay laws to make sure they are applied fairly,” said Senator Mello. “It provides clarity and uniformity for the business community and wage fairness for more women in the workplace.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2016

For More Information:
Rachel Meier, (402) 471-2710

LINCOLN, NE – Today, Senator Heath Mello (District 5 – South Omaha) introduced LB 889, The School Readiness Tax Credit Act.

“Investing in the children who build with blocks today and the workforce who nurture them in their most important early years of life is sound long-term policy for building our economy long into the future,” said Senator Mello.

Senator Mello’s School Readiness Tax Credit Act is modelled after a successful package of tax credits that began in Louisiana in 2008. The following package of credits is designed to address the high cost of child care and increase access to high quality early childhood programs:

– Parent Credit
– Early Childhood Program Credit
– Early Childhood Workforce Credit
– Business-Supported Credit

The tax credits support Nebraska’s youngest children with emphasis on 42% of all young children from birth through age five considered at risk of failing in school.

“School Readiness Tax Credits will support a high-quality child care industry that is a key work support for families, the businesses that employ them, and also the healthy development of children to ensure they start school ready to learn,” said Senator Mello.

The School Readiness Tax Credits are directly aligned and in support of Nebraska’s Step Up to Quality program created in 2013.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 11, 2016

For More Information:
Rachel Meier, (402) 471-2710

LINCOLN, NE – Earlier today, Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) introduced LB 836, legislation to provide benefits to the families of law enforcement, firefighters, and correctional officers killed in the line of duty.

“Every day, thousands of Nebraska law enforcement, firefighters, and correctional officers go to work and put their lives in harm’s way for the sake of public safety. It is critical that we as policymakers do everything we can to ensure the financial stability of families of first responders through the In the Line of Duty Compensation Act,” said Senator Mello.

“If passed, the In the Line of Duty Compensation Act would provide a benefit that we hope and pray every day that we will not need. The harsh reality is that it will happen and when it does the family of the fallen hero will be given much needed financial assistance,” said John J. Francavilla, President of the Nebraska Fraternal Order of Police.

While the benefit is near the average of annual law enforcement compensation, it is only a one time payout. This compensation can provide for the immediate needs to families of those Nebraskans who pay the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

“Other states in our region and across the country have recognized the importance of compensating our first responders and those who put themselves at risk to protect the public; it is time for Nebraska to do the same,” said Senator Mello.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2016

For More Information:
Elizabeth Hertzler, (402) 471-2710

LINCOLN, NE – Earlier today, Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) introduced LB 835, legislation on behalf of Attorney General Doug Peterson to strengthen Nebraska’s consumer protection laws.

Attorney General Doug Peterson said, “We are very encouraged that Senator Mello is offering LB 835. This bill, if passed, will help significantly strengthen Nebraska’s consumer protection laws.”

“Fraudulent and consumer scamming practices are becoming more sophisticated. LB 835 will protect against minor Identity Theft by allowing parents to place a credit report freeze, and also enhance our ability to go after those who practice fraud in the area of charity solicitation. Our Consumer Protection Division looks forward to passage of this bill in order to better protect Nebraskans,” said Attorney General Peterson.

“LB 835 is an important modernization of Nebraska’s consumer protection laws,” said Senator Mello. “These changes will strengthen our Attorney General’s ability to conduct investigations and aid our citizens in protecting their information.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2016

For More Information:
Elizabeth Hertzler, (402) 471-2710

LINCOLN, NE – This morning, Senator Heath Mello (District 5 – Omaha) introduced LB 806, a bill that authorizes Nebraska municipalities to establish special riverfront development districts and authorities along Nebraska’s major rivers.

“Developing the Omaha-Council Bluffs riverfront into a world-class destination is a tremendous opportunity for our city, our state, and region,” said Senator Mello. “This new legislation provides a framework for Nebraska cities to take intentional, strategic action for their riverfront areas.”

The Urban Land Institute report released at the end of 2014 provided the Greater Omaha-Metropolitan area strategic concepts to enhance the prime riverfront properties along both sides of the Missouri River. LB 806 would authorize a new special district that can be created through municipal ordinance. The special district allows for a public-private partnership to develop, enhance, and manage riverfront property and public spaces. Currently, there are twenty-eight (28) Nebraska cities statewide that could potentially utilize the new tool under the Riverfront Development District Act.

“LB 806 makes way for a new organizing entity for strategic community development,” Mello said. “Similar to what we have done with Land Banks and Business Improvement Districts, a Riverfront Development Authority would give Nebraska cities another modern tool to enhance our communities and quality of life across the state.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2016

For More Information:
Rachel Meier, (402) 471-2710

OMAHA, NE – Earlier today Senator Heath Mello released the following statement in respects to the recent riots at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution:

“While I recognize the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services is working toward stability following the incidents that occurred over the weekend at the Nebraska State Penitentiary and at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, these events are yet another indication of the serious systemic issues facing our state prison system.”

“I eagerly await a full debriefing from Director Frakes on the incidents that occurred at TSCI including any fiscal estimates as to the damage to the facilities, any relocation needs of housing state inmates, understaffing solutions or other resulting costs.”

“This weekend’s incidents reinforce the critical need for the Nebraska Legislature and Governor Ricketts’ administration to deliver long-term prison reform through the efforts led by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the work of the LR 424 Special Investigative Committee (2014).”

“At a bare minimum, the newly created LR 34 Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee should lead an investigation into the recent riots and the staffing levels at all State Correctional facilities.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2015

For More Information:
Elizabeth Hertzler, (402) 471-2710

LINCOLN, NE – Earlier today, Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) introduced LB 419, legislation to establish a sales tax exemption for Nebraska’s four nationally accredited zoos and aquariums. The exemption aims to make these local attractions more accessible for families and encourages continued strategic growth for Nebraska’s tourism industry.

“In Omaha, the philanthropic community has invested millions of private dollars to sustain Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium as an educational landmark destination for the state, the country, and the world,” said Senator Mello. “LB 419 is a way for the State of Nebraska to partner with local communities that support our statewide nationally accredited zoos and aquariums and the economic and intrinsic value they provide.”

For years, states across the country have used varying exemptions, incentives and state appropriations to bolster their educational zoos and aquariums and grow their tourism industry. Under LB 419, all nationally accredited zoos in Nebraska, including the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Safari Park, and Scottsbluff Riverside Discovery Center, would receive a sales tax exemption.

“Nebraska’s zoos and aquariums serve as a unique retention and attraction tool for communities across the state,” said Mello. “With LB 419, these state economic development tools will only serve to further expand the state’s tourism industry and grow Nebraska.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2015

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

Proposal averts more than $300 million in corrections spending, eases prison crowding and improves public safety

LINCOLN, Neb.—The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center on Wednesday released its final report on justice reinvestment in Nebraska.

Under a policy framework contained in the the report, more individuals would be supervised after completing prison sentences, the needs of crime victims would be addressed through expanded restitution collection, and crime-reduction strategies would be implemented to tackle the revolving door to state prisons.

Returning State Sens. Les Seiler, Heath Mello and Bob Krist, who served on the state’s working group, arranged a briefing at the Capitol where all 49 state senators were invited to review the group’s findings and policy framework.

“This report provides an outline for how the state could improve our corrections system and address the need to reduce prison overcrowding,” said Sen. Seiler, who represents the 33rd Legislative District (Hastings). “The Legislature must immediately address developing legislation this session based on the findings of this report and others before the Legislature and the input of all stakeholders across the criminal justice system.”

“This plan includes innovative strategies that will strengthen supervision in the community, address victims’ needs and hold people convicted of crimes accountable for their actions,” said Sen. Krist, who represents the 10th Legislative District (Omaha). “After undergoing a comprehensive criminal justice system analysis, we cannot kick the can down the road and expect the corrections system to improve without making substantial policy changes that will keep our communities safe.”

“While spending on corrections in Nebraska continues to grow substantially, it is not yielding the intended results,” said Sen. Mello, who represents the 5th Legislative District (Omaha). “The policy recommendations are tough, smart, and fiscally sustainable. With the help from our colleagues in the Legislature, we can move forward and put these proposals into law.”

The working group’s policy framework is projected to slow the growth of Nebraska’s prison population while averting $306.4 million in corrections spending over the next five years. The framework also increases accountability for those who commit crimes, protects victim rights, strengthens the reentry process for people returning to the community from prison and, most importantly, makes communities safer.

As part of the justice reinvestment approach, a portion of the savings would be invested in more training for parole officers, expanding the probation workforce, increasing community-based programs and treatment, a sentencing information database, and evaluations of corrections programming.

Nebraska prisons house more than one-and-a-half times as many men and women as they were designed for. It would cost the state an estimated $261.6 million to add enough space to bring the system down to 128 percent of its design capacity by fiscal year 2019, according to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. But just building more prison capacity will not halt the growing prison population, which is projected to swell from 5,221 people as of December 31, 2014 to 5,581 people by fiscal year 2020.

In addition to the returning senators, the 19-member working group included district court judges, county and defense attorneys and other public safety stakeholders. The working group, which was co-chaired in 2014 by Gov. Dave Heineman, Chief Justice Michael Heavican and Speaker Greg Adams, was established under Legislative Bill 907, which was passed last spring. The group convened its first meeting in June 2014, spent months reviewing data analyzed by the CSG Justice Center and, in December 2014, forwarded a package of 15 policy recommendations for the Legislature’s consideration.

In developing policy recommendations, the working group used the justice reinvestment approach, a data-driven process to avert growth in the prison system and reinvest savings in strategies that increase public safety. Nebraska received technical assistance from the CSG Justice Center in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance.

About the CSG Justice Center
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state and federal levels from all branches of government. The CSG Justice Center provides practical, nonpartisan advice and evidence-based, consensus-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities. These efforts, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, have provided similar data-driven analyses and policy options to state leaders in 18 other states to date.

Link to CSG Justice Center Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2015

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

Justice Center Contact: Juliet Fletcher – 646.753.5209

Sen. Heath Mello

District 5
Room #1004
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2710
Email: hmello@leg.ne.gov
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