Sen. Heath Mello
District 05

Welcome!

January 7th, 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 Introduces Key Legislation to Bolster Tourism Industry

January 16th, 2015

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

Nebraska Receives Final Report on Justice Reinvestment

January 15th, 2015

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

State Senator Heath Mello Introduces Budget Reform & Fiscal Planning Legislation

January 9th, 2015

LINCOLN, NE – Yesterday, Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) introduced LB 32 and LB 33, key legislation that will enhance the Legislature’s efforts towards performance-based budgeting and sound planning for fiscal uncertainty.

LB 32 would require the Nebraska Department of Corrections to develop programmatic strategic plans and performance benchmarks as part of the biennial budget process.

“The recent investigations into the various scandals surrounding the Department of Corrections has convinced me that the Department should continue to face a greater level of scrutiny during the biennial budget process,” said Senator Mello, who serves as Chairman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. “After passing LB 974 last year to create these strategic plans and benchmarks for a troubled Department of Health & Human Services, LB 32 is a natural step to help the Legislature in evaluating the agency’s ongoing performance.”

LB 33, a bill also introduced by Senator Mello, would require the Legislative Fiscal Analyst to produce a state revenue volatility report.

“Creating the new planning instrument will assist the Legislature in both preparing for the next economic downturn and for strengthening the state’s fiscal policy,” Mello said. “This best practice fiscal policy, promoted by The Pew Charitable Trust, will serve future Legislatures in both crafting state budgets and understanding the volatility of our tax system.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2015

For More Information:
Anthony Circo, (402) 471-2710

Nebraska Legislature Releases 2014 Study to Support and Increase Venture Capital in Nebraska $53.45 million Annual Economic Impact from Existing Business Innovation Act Programs for Nebraska Entrepreneurs

December 17th, 2014

LINCOLN, NE – Today, State Senators Heath Mello and Galen Hadley released the report: “Supporting and Increasing Venture Capital in Nebraska.” This economic impact analysis and best practices report, prepared by Invest Nebraska, was part of LB 1114 which was approved unanimously by the Nebraska Legislature and signed into law by Governor Heineman earlier this year.

“Nebraska has experienced significant growth in its entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem since 2010 when the Legislature’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Task Force began analyzing entrepreneurship and the needs of small businesses and startups in the state,” said Senator Mello. “This report reveals the significant economic impact the existing Business Innovation Act programs have had on our state economy and provides a roadmap to explore additional state resources for venture capital in the state.”

Administered by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Business Innovation Act consists of financial assistance programs from $50,000 up to $500,000 for the state’s technology startups and small businesses. The programs are intended to spur innovation and commercialization in the state, create new high-growth businesses and increase the number of venture capital ready businesses.

The economic impact study, written by Dr. Eric Thompson of UNL, found significant private sector investment for each dollar of state support. Small businesses and technology startups participating in the Business Innovation Act programs raised $5.12 in private investment funding for each $1 dollar of state funding.

Participating business earned $2.32 in revenue for each $1 of state funding and created a total of 307 jobs with an annual average annual wage of $49,609. From the total $7.3 million of states funds devoted to participating companies during the period October 2011 through June 2014, the total annual economic impact for the programs was $53.45 million.

“The results of this study clearly demonstrate that by planting the seeds with today’s entrepreneurs and innovators, we are growing Nebraska’s future high-growth businesses,” said Senator Hadley. “Due to the leadership of Governor Heineman and the Legislature in having the foresight to create these programs, Nebraskans should welcome the strong economic impact numbers found in the report. Extending the Business Innovation Act until the year 2021 under LB 1114 indicates the Legislature’s commitment to Nebraska’s entrepreneurs and innovators.”

The second part of the report provides research and analysis of the best practices with state venture capital programs in other states and makes recommendations to support and increase venture capital in Nebraska. Written by Cromwell Schmisseur LLC, these recommendations provide a roadmap for additional state resources to build on the foundation established by the Business Innovation Act.

The Cromwell-Schmisseur analysis of best practices from other states resulted in three main recommendations: 1) Consistently support and possibly increase financial support for the Business Innovation Act programs; 2) Leverage the Department of Economic Development’s resources and existing state incentives to recruit venture backed high-growth small businesses to the state; and 3) Begin planning for a state-sponsored “fund-of-funds” venture capital program that includes a focus on financing “emerging managers” of venture capital funds based in Nebraska.

“Nebraska has the key ingredients – leadership, creativity and capital – to emerge as the regional leader of a robust innovation economy,” said Dan Schmisseur, co-founder of Cromwell Schmisseur, a leading consulting firm on state-sponsored venture capital initiatives. “The Nebraska Business Innovation Act created a suitable foundation. What must follow is a sustained commitment of reasonable resources for NBIA programs and near-term targeted investments focused on increasing the supply and accessibility of risk capital for Nebraska entrepreneurs.”

To read the entire legislative study, go to:

http://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/103/PDF/Agencies/Economic_Development__Department_of/500_20141201-141035.pdf

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2014

For More Information:
Sen. Heath Mello, (402) 471-2710
Sen. Galen Hadley, (402) 471-2726

Senator Heath Mello’s Statement on October Forecasting Board Meeting

October 31st, 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 indicates that Nebraska’s economy is growing at a modest pace and is further reason why we must continue our responsible budgeting to ensure future fiscal stability.”

“When considering new investments in state priorities, both the Legislature and next Governor must keep in mind competing financial obligations such as addressing a $15 million child welfare repayment, a yet unresolved $5.5 million water settlement, and a new $262 million Department of Corrections Facilities Master Plan to pay for new prison beds due to chronic overcrowding.”

“These and other recent events have reaffirmed the wisdom of the Nebraska Legislature to carefully manage our “rainy day” fund through budget uncertainty and risks of weak economic cycles.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 31, 2014

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

Senator Heath Mello Attends No Labels National Ideas Meeting

September 19th, 2014

LINCOLN, NE — On September 17, Senator Heath Mello traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with dozens of members of Congress, state and local officials, and business leaders for the No Labels National Ideas Meeting. The meeting served as the kick-off to a yearlong process that that will set a vision for where America needs to go and how we get there culminating in a National Strategic Agenda that will be released in the fall of 2015.

No Labels’ goal is to move beyond partisan lines and bring people from across the country together to lead America towards a productive vision for our future. Four main goals have been identified by leaders from around the country:

1) Grow 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years
2) Secure Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years
3) Balance the federal budget by 2024
4) Make America energy secure by 2024

The National Strategic Agenda will be created with input from people across America beginning with the National Ideas Meeting. Subsequent events in New Hampshire, Iowa and elsewhere will enable No Labels to take the pulse of people across America and to ultimately forge agreement on a full policy plan to achieve the goals of the National Strategic Agenda.

“I am honored to have been asked to participate in developing a nonpartisan national strategic agenda with policymakers from across the country,” said Senator Mello. “No Labels’ focus on bringing state and local problem solvers together in hopes of forging a consensus agenda for the country is long overdue.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2014

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

Senator Heath Mello Receives Champion of Small Business Award from the National Coalition for Capital

August 20th, 2014

Award recognizes leaders for their efforts in promoting access to capital and economic development in states across the country

WASHINGTON, DC, August 20, 2014 – Nebraska Senator Heath Mello was honored this week with a Champion of Small Business award from the National Coalition for Capital. Senator Mello and 34 fellow legislators and officials from across the nation were recognized for their leadership at the annual National Coalition for Capital Awards Ceremony on August 19th in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Champion of Small Business Awards recognize individuals for demonstrating leadership in supporting policies and initiatives designed to promote access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs, especially those in economically distressed communities.

“This award recognizes Senator Mello’s important work to preserve and create jobs through access to capital policy that helps Nebraska small businesses grow and develop,” said Greg McIlvaine, President of the National Coalition for Capital. “Senator Mello has demonstrated he is a champion of small business, and his efforts will have an enduring positive impact on Nebraska.”

Senator Mello was elected to the Nebraska Legislature in 2008, and currently serves as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. During his time in the Nebraska Legislature, Senator Mello has introduced and passed legislation to help create jobs and spur economic development in Nebraska. Senator Mello has continually supported policies to encourage both economic development and entrepreneurship, most recently helping reactivate Nebraska’s Enterprise Zone program and expand the state’s highly successful Business Innovation Act, which provides capital for Nebraska-based start-ups and high-growth businesses.

“Now more than ever, it’s critical that elected officials do their part to advance innovative access to capital policies that allow small businesses to grow and prosper,” said Senator Mello. “I am pleased to be among those honored for supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs as they strive to preserve and grow jobs in their communities.”

The National Coalition for Capital hosts an annual awards ceremony during the week of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit to recognize individuals for taking a leading role in fostering access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

(continued)
About the National Coalition for Capital

The National Coalition for Capital (NCFC) is a non-profit, nationwide coalition of leaders supporting economic development and job creation through long-term access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs. To learn more about NCFC, visit www.nationalcoalitionforcapital.org.

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For more information, contact:
Greg McIlvaine
President
National Coalition for Capital
(202) 337-1661
greg@cypressgroupdc.com

Senator Heath Mello
(402) 471-2710
hmello@leg.ne.gov

State Senator Heath Mello Statement on Corrections Correspondence on Fiscal Impact of Sentencing Miscalculations

July 31st, 2014

OMAHA, NE – State Senator Heath Mello (District 5, South Omaha) issued the following statement on recent Department of Correctional Services correspondence on the fiscal impact of the sentencing miscalculation scandal:

“It’s frustrating to see the Department of Correctional Services not be honest with taxpayers and the Legislature about the true costs to house inmates longer due to the recent sentencing miscalculation scandal.

“The average annual cost to house an inmate in Nebraska’s corrections system is $26.046. That number comes directly from a Department of Correctional Services data sheet dated June 30, 2014, so I find it bizarre that Corrections officials estimate the cost to house inmates longer due to the sentencing scandal is only 23% of the average costs published just 28 days ago.

“The only conclusion I can come to is that the Department of Correctional Services is trying to whitewash their mistakes away by telling taxpayers it will only cost them only $4 million instead of the estimated $20 million using the average inmate costs published last month.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2014

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

datasheetJun14 (1)

Nichols from Kenney 7-24-14

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.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.