Sen. Les Seiler
District 33

Welcome

January 7th, 2015

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 33rd legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Les Seiler

Newsletter – March 20, 2015

March 20th, 2015

This is Senator Les Seiler, representing District 33. Greetings from the State Capitol!

I’d like to talk a bit about a bill that decreases the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land from 75% to 65% in Nebraska, and a few other major tax bills this session.

Senator Schnoor introduced LB 293 to decrease agricultural land valuation, as well as LB 350, which was introduced by Senator Brasch. The hearing for LB 293 and LB 350 occurred on February 19 in front of the Revenue Committee. Neither of these bills have advanced from the committee.

Those in opposition claim that property taxes will increase as a result of school need because of the decrease in land valuation. This legislation seeks to create a 10% drop for the benefit of local taxpayers. This is a short term solution for farmers and ranchers in rural Nebraska. In the long term, we will need to factor in school aid and state education needs in order to find a balance between land valuation and state aid in the future.

As an update, LB 357 puts into action incremental tax cuts for the lowest and highest income tax brackets in our state. Proponents of this legislation claim that tax cuts for the higher income brackets and the cuts for corporations will infuse more business activity, as well as encouraging those with higher incomes to contribute to and stimulate the economy.

I still believe the tax cuts for the middle class are too small and they do not continue after 2020. If the bill is changed in the future to provide direct and substantial tax relief for middle class working families, then I will consider supporting it. This legislation has not advanced from the Revenue Committee either.

LB 610 is a bill that strikes the 7 ½ cent gas excise tax and raises it over time from 8 to 9 1/2 cents per gallon. A percentage of the revenue from this tax gets distributed to the State Highway Fund, as well as cities and counties in Nebraska. As a result, LB 610 seeks to improve our roads, and contribute to our localities. LB 610 has been designated a Priority, and is currently on General File for debate.

As the session continues and we debate important tax legislation, I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions related to legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Legislative Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

 

Newsletter March 12, 2015

March 12th, 2015

This is Senator Les Seiler, representing District 33.  Greetings from the State Capitol!

Many bills have been up for debate as we move into the session and one of them is LB 77, which was introduced by Senator Nordquist. This legislation provides family planning services for women who are 185% below the poverty line through Medicaid in Nebraska.

I want to explain my vote on LB 77. I am not unequivocally opposed to providing these services, but I do have to act within our own existing fiscal options and executive framework. The fiscal note indicated that this bill would save $19 million over the next few years. However, we would still have to pay $500,000 out of our General Funds for the next two years, and if the Federal Government does not fund the $9 million each year, the State of Nebraska would be responsible.

In my discussions with Senator Campbell, who I consider to be a knowledgeable expert on health and human services and who is the Chairperson for our Health and Human Services Committee, I discovered that the Director of the Health and Human Services agency in Nebraska could make this election without a new law. A court case had been referred to during debate that indicated this bill needed to be adopted in order to provide these services. However, after my review of the case during debate, I do not believe LB 77 is necessary and it can be done by administrative action.

We have many bills that are introduced in the Legislature and some of them are well intentioned, but I stand firm on the letter of the law and our current existing statutes. I prefer to leave that discretion to the Executive decision-makers, who I believe already have the authority to provide these services. LB 77 failed to advance to Select File during debate and will probably not be taken up for consideration again.

As the session continues, I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the debates during session. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions on legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

Newsletter February 27, 2015

February 27th, 2015

This is Senator Les Seiler, representing District 33. Greetings from the State Capitol!

Judiciary Committee hearings are in full swing as we discussed various prison reform legislation. LB 172 would remove mandatory minimums to provide more judicial discretion and provide inmates with the opportunity to obtain good time on a basic minimum sentence. We also discussed LB 605, the Justice Reinvestment Act, which is a comprehensive prison reform bill that shortens imprisonment sentences followed by more intense supervision upon release for lower level non-violent crimes in Nebraska. I anticipate a thorough debate in the Chamber regarding this legislation.

LB 111 is a bill introduced by Senator Larson to require identification to vote during an election. This legislation requires a state ID; or Driver’s License; or a U.S. document which includes name, photograph and expiration date, in order to vote in an election. This requirement does not apply to early voting mail-in ballots, except if registering and voting in the state for the first time. I voted against this bill during debate because it has yet to be established if there is a problem with voter fraud in Nebraska. As far as I can see, the evidence simply does not demonstrate the existence of voter fraud in order to justify the need for photo identification.

LB 586 is a bill introduced by Senator Adam Morfeld that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Under LB 586, it would be an unlawful employment practice for an employer, an employment agency, or a labor organization to discriminate against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill applies to employers having 15 or more employees, for employers with state contracts, the State of Nebraska, governmental agencies and political subdivisions.

I voted against this legislation in the Judiciary Committee for the same reason I voted against legislation to require an ID to vote. There is no evidence to suggest discrimination based on sexual orientation exists in Nebraska. There must be a foundation to build an argument on in order to justify passing legislation that may be unnecessarily imposed on Nebraska businesses. Neither side provided me with a complaint filed in Nebraska, which I requested. I base my decisions on the facts, and the facts do not demonstrate any evidence to suggest that discrimination exists in Nebraska.

As the session continues, I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the debates during session. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions related to legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Legislative Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

Newsletter February 20, 2015

February 20th, 2015

This is Senator Les Seiler, representing District 33. Greetings from the State Capitol!

Tax legislation is always at the forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to relief for business owners, every day middle class working citizens as well as ranchers and farmers in rural Nebraska. I’ve seen quite a few bills come across my desk this year that seek to lessen the tax burden on the citizens of Nebraska, but I can’t say that they all quite get the job done. There are 92 bills dealing with Revenue.

LB 357 is legislation that has been introduced that makes incremental income tax cuts for the lowest and highest income tax brackets, however in my estimation does not go far enough for the middle class. The decrease for these brackets is too small and the cuts do not continue after 2020. If the bill is changed in the future to provide more tax relief for middle income working families, then I am more inclined to support it.

LB 610 strikes the 7 ½ cent gas tax and raises it over time to 8 cents, 8 1/2 cents, 9 cents and 9 1/2 cents per gallon. As you know, a percentage of this revenue gets distributed to the State Highway Fund as well as cities and counties in Nebraska. This is instrumental for improving our Nebraska roads.

A few bills have been introduced this year that decreases the valuation for agricultural and horticultural land from 75% to 65%, however I have yet to see how this will significantly affect property taxes in Nebraska if the mill levy is not also stabilized. Legislation that provides property tax relief has been introduced in various forms and dollars.

An interesting bill is LB 523, which seeks to raise income tax rates in order to facilitate state support for public education for the purpose of shifting some of the tax burden on education from real estate taxes to income taxes. The tax increase is progressive meaning that it starts low for the lowest bracket and increases as we move to the higher income brackets, and also increases the corporate income tax in Nebraska. I support state education funding for our public schools.

I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the debates during session. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions related to legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Legislative Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

Newsletter February 12, 2015

February 12th, 2015

This is Senator Les Seiler, representing District 33. Greetings from the State Capitol!

Let me talk a bit about a few bills that we debated in our Chamber.

LB 18 was introduced by Senator Krist which requires students entering the 7th grade and at the age of 16 to receive a meningitis vaccine. The purpose of this legislation is to provide a public health benefit and a defense against the spread of disease that will potentially save lives. Members of the Legislature debated this bill on general and select file based on concerns that a mandatory medical treatment violates parental rights and creates an unnecessary government mandate. LB 18 is currently under a filibuster debate.

LB 107 was introduced by Senator Crawford that permits nurse practitioners to engage in a transition to practice agreement that encourages independent practice without physician collaboration. To begin, a supervisor is needed and those supervisors must have at least 10,000 hours of training, which may include a physician or a nurse practitioner. Considerable debate ensued based on concerns that nurse practitioners would not practice independently in rural areas where they are most needed, and that collaboration with physicians is still necessary. LB 107 advanced to Select File for further debate.

LB 70 was introduced by Senator Schumacher and authorizes an occupation tax on mechanical amusement devices. The intent of this legislation is to address the line between illegal games of chance and lawful games of skill that may be used in Nebraska. This legislation places the burden of proof on the retailer to decide whether or not to use the machine if there is a legal discrepancy on the game and be taxed.

I expect further debate on this legislation in the future. I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to these debates during session, and to attend the public committee hearings at your convenience.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions related to legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Legislative Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

Newsletter February 6, 2015

February 6th, 2015

This is Senator Les Seiler, representing District 33. Greetings from the State Capitol!

This session, the Judiciary Committee has 103 legislative bills to be heard and if our schedule holds, we will be finished on March 20, 2015.

LB 39 is legislation in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee of which I am a member. LB 39 provides rules for a motor vehicle passing a bicycle in multiple lanes; undivided two way lanes going in the same direction; and as well as two lanes moving in the opposite direction.

It still remains in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

LB 172 is legislation enacting a law that removes the word “mandatory” from mandatory minimums from the description of authorized penalties for Class IC felonies and Class ID felonies. It would not affect certain mandatory minimum sentences for misdemeanors. Those felonies however, could still be punished by sentences ranging from 5 to 50 years, and ranging from 3 to 50 years, respectively. This range gives the District Judges who have all the records and recommendations before them, complete discretion to sentence the felon.

LB 173 is legislation that makes our habitual criminal provision in the law only apply to violent crimes and certain motor vehicle homicide crimes. The enhancement penalty would still be applicable if the two antecedent convictions as well as the current conviction are felonies, and would still subject the offender to a potential sentence of an additional ten to sixty years.

The purpose of this legislation is to provide more discretion to the judge as opposed to a uniform mandatory minimum, and I cosigned this legislation. More discretion permits the judge to evaluate the circumstances and context of the case more effectively and thereby make a decision that is accurate and appropriate on the merits of the case.

LB 172 and LB 173 both have a hearing set in front of the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 11 at 1:30pm in Room 1113. I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the debates during session, and to attend the public committee hearings at your convenience.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions related to legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Legislative Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

 

Newsletter January 30, 2015

January 30th, 2015

Greetings from the State Capitol!

Just this week, I had two bills up for a judiciary committee hearing on LB 194 and LB 297 which ensures the continuation of the Supreme Court Attorney Services Cash fund and raises salaries for Supreme Court Justices in Nebraska.

LB 194 has a little history. The Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Cash Fund was set up by a Supreme Court rule and created by the Accounting Division at the Department of Administrative Services. It was created to manage funds related to the Supreme Court requirement that attorneys complete legal education courses. The name of the cash fund is now the Supreme Court Attorney Services Cash Fund.

The Supreme Court was recently made aware that cash funds created by the administration must lapse or be permanently established in statute. Since it still needs this cash fund to fulfill the Supreme Court’s responsibilities regarding the practice of law, the fund needs to be established in our statute, as proposed by LB 194.

LB 297 seeks to raise the salary for Supreme Court Justices by 4.5% on July 1, 2015 and 4.5% on July 1, 2016. This will also affect the salaries for the judges of the district court, county court, workers compensation court and juvenile court, whose salary is based on a percentage of Supreme Court salaries.

We hold judges to high levels of expectation with a code of conduct based on national standards, and any violation of those ethical standards can and will be heard, evaluated and addressed by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Judges will make decisions to the best of their ability and adherence to the law. I firmly believe in the integrity and standard of excellence to which we hold our Supreme Court Justices in Nebraska. I believe they are more than capable of adhering to that standard now and into the future.

I’d like to note that the summary of the combined raises in salaries of all the judges in the fiscal note for one year do not exceed the salary of our football coach for the state of Nebraska. Judges do not receive automatic merit or seniority raises. I believe we should give our judges the same standard of salary that we give them in the standard of excellence and accountability in Nebraska.

I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the debates during session. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions related to legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Legislative Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

 

Newsletter January 23, 2015

January 23rd, 2015

Greetings from the State Capitol!

Things are running smoothly as we head into our first Judiciary Committee hearings this week and as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I am happy to report that the ship is steering the right course. I have introduced a few bills of my own this session, two of which will be introduced in the Judiciary Committee next week.

I stand firm on my policy of being a neutral and fair facilitator and guide as new members on the committee settle in. As a result, my legislation list will be short this session so that I can manage and effectively lead in committee and during possibly late night debates in the Chamber.

The four bills I have introduced are as follows:

LB 194 is legislation that relates to the Supreme Court Attorney Services Cash Fund. The fund is currently set out in the rules and implemented through the Department of Administrative Services and it is necessary for continuing education requirements for attorneys. It simply sets the fund in statute. It has no fiscal impact in Nebraska.

LB 297 is legislation that provides a raise for Nebraska Supreme Court Judges. The other courts will receive the same percentage. The purpose of this legislation is to attract high quality judges to the bench, and to support the high standard to which we hold them. The current salary is increased by 4.5% in this legislation for July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016.

LB 195 is a bill that requires a financial institution that operates more than one office or branch where deposits are received to designate a main chartered office for the service of garnishment or service of summons, and that this designation be posted on the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance website.

LB 654 is legislation that appropriates General Funds in the amount of $43,661,270 to projects laid out in a recent report required by LB 999 that evaluates the opportunity to use facilities at the Hastings Regional Center for mental health treatment.

LB 462 creates the definition of campaign under laws that delve into a violation of the rules of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act. This legislation simply seeks to provide some clarification and draw an appropriate line between agencies that educate the public on issues related within its service areas versus the potential misuse of public resources that may either benefit or hinder a candidate’s campaign.

I have cosigned legislation this year that intends to allow the city’s damage to be compensated by the owner’s insurance when the real estate has been damaged and has been abandoned by the owner. This legislation has been submitted to the Banking, Insurance and Commerce Committee, and the primary introducer is Senator Schumacher from Columbus. I support this bill and I believe that it will appropriately resolve the financial burden that has been placed on cities in Nebraska with regard to damaged abandoned property.

On the third Thursday of this session, Governor Ricketts gave his State of the State address to the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature. His address incorporated positive messages on goals that slow reduction in spending, property tax relief, easing regulations on businesses and expanding educational opportunities in Nebraska. The Governor has expressed his interest in working with the Legislature on prison reform with regard to sentencing, good time, facilities, and mental health. I look forward to working with the members of the Legislature and our Governor in the days to come in order to resolve these challenges ahead of us.

I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the debates during session. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions related to legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Legislative Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

 

 

 

 

Newsletter January 16, 2015

January 16th, 2015

Greetings from the State Capitol!

And so the legislative session begins with 18 new Senators and 10 new Chairmanships, one of which is the Judiciary Committee. I am proud to say that I have recently become the new Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Nebraska Legislature.

I expect a full plate on prison reform this session, and a continuous line of legislation to be heard that seeks to address and rectify cost, structural and management problems that were uncovered by the Justice Reinvestment Working Group as well as the Department of Corrections Investigative Committee.

I served on both the Working Group as well as the Investigative Committee. The Justice Reinvestment Working Group consisted of the Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Speaker of the Legislature and members of the Legislature, as well as representatives with judicial expertise. This team worked in conjunction with the Council of State Governments to research Nebraska agencies and commissions in order to obtain pertinent data that would lead us to tangible solutions. The goal is, of course, to reduce recidivism, reduce the prison population, reduce costs and save dollars, but with the long term vision to invest in programs that work.

Together with the members on the Judiciary Committee, I plan to have thorough and comprehensive hearings on legislation so that each bill receives a proper public hearing. Public Hearings begin on Tuesday, January 20 at 1:30pm.

I encourage you to tune in through NET or KHNE in Hastings to watch the debates, starting on Thursday, January 23, 2015. Debate will begin at 10am on Mondays and as for the following days in the week, debate will begin at 9am.

Legislators are currently in the process of introducing new bills for the 2015 session.  I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the debates during session. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions related to legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Legislative Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.