NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Les Seiler

Sen. Les Seiler

District 33

Welcome

January 6th, 2016

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

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

LB 947 is a bill to remove the restriction on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) youth obtaining commercial and professional licenses and this bill was vetoed by the Governor. A motion was filed to override the veto and I supported this legislation. The Governor’s veto was overruled.

This bill was heard by the Judiciary Committee, of which I am a Chairman. At the hearing, 27 people testified in favor of this bill and no one testified in opposition. In addition to youth sharing their aspirations to become teachers, nurses, accountants and engineers, the Committee heard positive testimony from the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Nebraska Cattlemen, League of Women Voters, Central Community College at Grand Island Campus, Nebraska Appleseed, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The Committee voted 8-0 to advance the bill to General File.

I spoke in favor of LB 947 as it advanced from General File and Select File. There was no serious opposition to the bill until Final Reading on April 13, 2016, when Senator Bill Kintner filed a motion to return to Select File and another motion. Senator Kintner withdrew his motions and LB 947 passed on Final Reading with 33 votes in favor, 11 opposed and 5 not voting. I voted in favor of LB 947.

LB 947 requires applicants for professional or commercial licenses to be authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to accept employment. LB 947 also requires applicants to produce evidence of lawful status, as recognized by the Department of Homeland Security. I contend that this bill has nothing to do with illegal immigration because DACA recipients must receive authorization and recognition from the Department of Homeland Security. The DACA application review process is very thorough. An application for consideration for DACA covers the youth’s entire background and can be hundreds of pages and several inches thick.

Approval for DACA does not give the applicant amnesty or confer citizenship, but does allow them to attend school and work in the United States. The students who testified before the Judiciary Committee were outstanding, and came from colleges like St. Mary’s College of Nursing, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Creighton University, University of Nebraska, and University of Nebraska at Kearney. All grew up in Nebraska and want to continue their profession in Nebraska. Without LB 947, they will be forced to cross the bridge and work in Council Bluffs, because Iowa does not restrict professional and commercial licenses to DACA youth.

It is quite a contradiction to travel the United States asking for professional and licensed people to come to Nebraska and join our workforce, and then force DACA youth living in Nebraska to leave the state to further their professional careers. Even though the Governor asked me to change my vote, I chose not to do so based on judicial committee testimony and prudent reason.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact the office if you have any questions. If you have questions on policy, please speak with the Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, please speak with the Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or Capitol staff can be reached at the office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

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

Last week we debated LB 1067 that eliminates the common levy for learning community councils in Nebraska. There are 11 learning community councils in the Douglas and Sarpy counties that pool a levy based on property taxes that give rise to specific revenue for the communities to share for the benefit of educating minority and poverty stricken students in the surrounding school districts.

After considerable debate, the common levy was eliminated with the insertion of a provision for transition aid for those learning communities that will lose funds as a result of the legislation, which include Bennington, Elkhorn and Millard. More state aid will be given to learning community school districts due to the loss of the common levy, and based on recommendations by the school superintendents, poverty aid is also increased to supplement the loss.

Programs that levy for early childhood programs and elementary learning center leases, remodeling learning center facilities and half the capital cost for new focus schools or programs through learning community councils are still in place. According to the legislation, learning community councils are required to develop a three year community achievement plan to work together and address obstacles to student achievement. Open enrollment is replaced with option enrollment, which gives students a criteria and process to opt out of a certain school district and is currently used throughout the state of Nebraska.

All in all, LB 1067 sought to eliminate a funding mechanism that did not produce the results it was intended to create, and with that and a considerable debate, the bill advanced to Final Reading with 40 votes in favor and 5 votes in opposition. This bill advanced from Final Reading on Wednesday, April 13.

We have one more day of legislative business on Wednesday, April 20. This is the last day in a 60 days session that will give us an opportunity to debate any bills vetoed by the Governor. At the end of the day, we will listen to speeches from those Senators termed out from returning to the Legislature. The last day will be full of action as well as sad goodbyes for all of us.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions. If you have questions on policy, please speak with my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, please speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my Capitol staff can be reached at the office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

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

Currently, when a citizen is stopped by law enforcement and large amounts of dollars are discovered in the motor vehicle under suspicion of drug trafficking, the dollars are confiscated and used for evidentiary purposes. Afterwards, it is forfeited.

LB 1106 as introduced is based on a legal opinion, State v. Franco, that was issued in 1999 by the Nebraska Supreme Court. This legal opinion rules that cumulative punishments under a single proceeding, as determined by Legislative intent, is acceptable and without risk for double jeopardy. Double jeopardy involves multiple proceedings for one offense that originate from the same act or facts of the case.

Hence, LB 1106 requires a conviction prior to forfeiture in order to protect the citizens’ due process rights and prevent double jeopardy abuse within proceedings of the court. The bill also requires that once the forfeiture has been settled, only those dollars confiscated above $20,000 are federal jurisdiction. For dollars confiscated under $20,000, the forfeiture must undergo a proceeding in local criminal court, which decided the guilt of the defendant and splits the fund to law enforcement and local education.

Senators in favor of LB 1106 advocated for citizens’ due process as well as the prevention of double jeopardy. Senators in opposition argued against making the process more cumbersome with the implementation of a state court proceeding.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions on policy, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my capitol staff can be reached at the office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

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

The Speaker has noted that this is the year of the filibuster!

A filibuster is an action in the Legislature that involves speaking at inordinate length in order to obstruct legislation from advancing in debate and passing into law. A filibuster is a mechanism that members of the Legislature use to voice opposition against a bill for a long period of time until it is necessary to come to a vote in the Chamber. A bill can be filibustered until the Speaker deems it full and fair debate. By Speaker rule, that is six hours, which can be spent in one day or split between numerous consecutive days in the session.

During that time, a Senator can make a motion for cloture which involves a call to house and then a vote where 33 members are required to cease debate and immediately vote on the bill. When 33 votes are reached on cloture, then the bill needs 25 votes to advance to General or Select File. If a cloture motion does not reach 33 votes, then the bill fails to have a vote and the Legislature moves to the next item on the Agenda. When this happens, the bill seldom comes back on the Agenda.

It is extremely difficult to reach 33 votes in a filibuster debate. Even a Governor Veto Override only requires 30 votes. If a group of Senators decide to filibuster a bill, there is profound reason and strident opposition. A filibuster ensures that the opposition has the opportunity to demonstrate and articulate concerns, as well as enable long term rhetoric for the public during a lengthy, fair and honest debate.

The introducer is permitted ten minutes in the opening statement upon introduction of the bill prior to debate in the Chamber. Each member is allotted three times to speak for five minutes.

We have had many filibuster debates this session due to divisive concerns over controversial issues which are often taken personally by members in the Chamber, whether it be regarding Medicaid expansion, faith-based foster care homes, LGBT rights in the workplace, a call to a convention of states, or workplace privacy concerns.

It is my hope that we can finish priority legislation this session, regardless of the filibuster. Though a crucial part of our system, the filibuster takes considerable time and intense determination. With that, I hope we proceed with caution due to time.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions on policy, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my capitol staff can be reached at the office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

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

We had considerable debate on a few judicial bills this week:

LB 843 provides immunity to prostitutes who are the victims of a human trafficker. This bill prevents children from being prosecuted, as well as adults who may be under the emotional, psychological and physical control of a trafficker. Prostitution is often dealt with singularly in the court. LB 843 seeks to provide immunity in order to provide an information pathway to the suspected trafficker. LB 843 advanced to Select File.

LB 894 ensures that juveniles charged with a crime are appointed a defense counsel. Whereas now it is an option, if this legislation passes, it will be mandatory. Juveniles are simply not adept in the law and court process, nor are they knowledgeable on the ramifications that result from a criminal charge or conviction. LB 894 necessitates that juveniles are provided with appropriate legal advice in order to protect their rights and their future. This bill was amended to apply to Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy Counties and advanced to Select File.

LB 910 stipulates that the Inspector General for the Department of Corrections provide oversight to the Office of Parole which is being transferred to the Board of Parole. LB 910 contains a provision that permits food stamps for convicted drug felons released from prison, based on the logic that food is a basic necessity and not dependent upon the nature of a criminal conviction. The bill also includes a provision to report data on inmates in restricted housing to include behavioral health conditions. LB 910 did not reach a cloture vote during a filibuster debate and failed to advance to Select File.

We debated LB 586 which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. A business that has more than 15 employees or employs through state contract will be held liable for discrimination, as well as the State of Nebraska, political subdivisions and other government entities. Faith-based organizations opposed this legislation in order to protect religious liberty and freedom, as well as prevent frivolous lawsuits and cost in litigation. Proponents on LB 586 advocated for LGBT and transgender rights and the need to protect these individuals from the unnecessary loss of livelihood and discriminatory practices in the workplace. This legislation did not advance to Select File.

The original facets of LB 910 concerning Office of Parole oversight are being amended into LB 1094, which is clean up legislation from prison reform last year that realigned severity in sentencing for the most violent of crimes. Provisions regarding restricted housing inmate data and food stamps for convicted drug felons upon release will not be included in LB 1094, and those portions are not expected to advance this session.

I wish you all a Happy Easter as you celebrate with family and loved ones! As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions on policy, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my capitol staff can be reached at the office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

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

This week we debated the mid-biennium budget adjustments in the Legislature. After a filibuster debate from Senator Chambers on his mountain lion bill, we advanced a bill that raises maximum fees for permits, stamps and licenses with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, then we proceeded to the budget recommendation package which was passed to Select File.

LB 960 requires transfers from the “rainy day” fund to support three programs: one, the Accelerated State Highway Capital Improvement Program; two, the County Bridge Match Program; and three, the Economic Opportunity program. The package also transfers fuel tax revenue to the Transportation Infrastructure Bank Fund created this session and $50 million dollars from the rainy day fund to assist in the completion of our Nebraska Expressway system. The test as to build, is whether the completion will have a positive economic impact.

Additionally, a $13.7 million dollar transfer from the Cash Reserve to the Critical Infrastructure Facilities Cash Fund for Natural Resource Districts is being done in order to provide military installments, transportation routes and wastewater treatment facilities. Also, this assists the Offutt Air Force Base Levee project in Sarpy County and seeks to prevent the 55th wing from leaving Omaha, which is critical.

Appropriations to the Nebraska Department of Corrections include various important functions such as inmate health services (i.e. hepatitis C treatment and drug costs), operations costs and equipment for the electronic monitoring of inmates; training and communication service expenses; utility costs; and program treatment for parolees (i.e. cognitive behavioral classes and substance abuse supervision).

In addition, transferred dollars from the Nebraska Capital Construction Fund also include $27.3 million to cover the three year cost of adding space and beds for inmates at the Lincoln Community Corrections Center.

The budget recommendations report that the expenses for the new biennium is at a $4.5 billion dollar budget with revenue growth being projected at a 4.7% per year average. After the mid-biennium proposed budget adjustments, the ending balance in the “rainy day fund” is projected to be $634.2 million.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions on policy, please speak with my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, please speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my capitol staff can be reached at the office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

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

This week we debated LB 83 which permits an employee to disclose their wage or salary information, but at the same time still preserve the employer’s proprietary, trade secret and legally privileged information. Under this bill, an employee can pursue civil action in order to protect their right to disclose wage information.

The bill is gender neutral and permits the opportunity to make wages transparent in order to ensure accountability, fairness and adequate pay for each person, as well as prevent wage discrimination based on race, disability, gender or creed. This bill underwent a filibuster and advanced to Select File.

We also debated LB 371, which establishes in state statute a Nebraska Council for Educational Success to oversee and make recommendations to improve our education system from early childhood education to postsecondary education. Members in the Legislature believed this is to be better established through executive administration as opposed to state statute. LB 371 failed to advance to Select File.

LB 710 is hazing legislation that applies to educational institutions and broadens the jurisdiction and clarifies activities that are consistent with hazing under the law. Current law applies only to post-secondary institutions. The intent of the legislation is to protect younger students who are the object of bullying or inappropriate behavior under the definition of hazing in the law. We debated details on the legislation with amendments and LB 710 advanced to Select File.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions. If you have questions on policy, please speak with my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, please speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Capitol Office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

Newsletter – February 26, 2016

February 26th, 2016

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

This session I designated LB 1094 as my Senator Priority bill. LB1094 is a clean-up bill to clarify statutes related to the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which was enacted last session with the passage of LB 605 in 2015. The bill clarifies the process for responding to probation violations, for probationers and for parolees, and updates penalties. These are merely procedural changes and non-controversial, and agreed to by the representatives of the Judges, Prosecutors and Defense Counsel.

I have two judiciary bills that are designated as a Judiciary Committee priority. We can choose two each session and I chose one priority for LB 894. LB 894 sets forth reporting requirements for the solitary confinement of juveniles, sets a minimum age for juveniles with truancy violations and jail time, establishes the right to counsel and clarifies alternatives to detention.

I also chose LB 910 which essentially addresses parole and behavioral health issues as well as re-entry of inmates to the community. This bill ensures that the Inspector General for the Department of Corrections has oversight over the Office of Parole Administration when that office transitions to the Board of Parole as required by LB 598 in 2015.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I remain a neutral facilitator in the process as I mediate through the controversial bills during public hearings before the Judiciary Committee.

This week we debated LR 35, introduced by Senator Ebke. This legislation is a resolution to petition Congress to call a convention of the States to propose amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The purpose of the legislation is to permit states to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to provide fiscal restraints, control the jurisdiction of federal government and establish term limits for Congressional representatives.

Proponents discussed the need for states to be empowered in decisions made by the federal government stemming from fiscal concerns on the budget. Opponents discussed the risk involved when creating a convention that mitigates more than just a few concerns, a lack of control over the process and the ambiguity on who is designated from the states to attend the convention. LR 35 was recommitted to the Government, Military and Veteran Affairs Committee for amendments.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions on policy, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Capitol Office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712

Newsletter – February 19, 2016

February 19th, 2016

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

I serve on the Committee for Transportation and Telecommunications besides being Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Farmers have concerns about agricultural vehicles being held to stringent rules that make it difficult for small farmers to transport material from one point to another. State law and regulations make it stringent for small farmers in Nebraska.

However, LB 977 has been introduced by Senator Smith that is a result of an interim study. LB 977 would exempt certain vehicles used for purpose of agriculture from weight and load limitations when operated on any highway of this state, except the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. We hope this will settle the grievances brought up in the past.

A few other bills from the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on file include LB 474, introduced by Senator Chambers, to create mountain lion plates and create a fund for those purposes. This bill passed through General File, Select File and Final Reading and is now upon the discretion for the Governor to sign.

LB 47, introduced by Senator Watermeier, stipulates that on the Driver’s License application, a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response is required for organ donation upon death. This legislation has passed into law and has been signed by the Governor.

LB 53, introduced by Senator Scheer, requires only one license plate on certain motor vehicles as opposed to two license plates. After significant debate, this legislation is now on Final Reading in the Legislature.

As always, I encourage you to follow debates that start at 10am Monday morning and on 9am weekday mornings unless it is a recess day. If you have questions on policy, please ask for my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to make an appointment, please speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. I can be reached at our office number at the State Capitol at (402) 471-2712.

Newsletter – February 12, 2016

February 12th, 2016

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

This week, public hearings were held on a few school bills such as LB 1063 and LB 883 in the Education Committee. LB 883 is legislation that removes elementary site funding, where if an elementary school is outside a certain distance from the school, then the district gets funding for those purposes. The bill also removes the summer school allowance, which is additional funding the school district receives for summer school.

More importantly, this legislation replaces equalization aid with foundation aid, or a flat rate based on fall membership or daily membership, whichever is higher, and incorporates a four year phase-in until 2021. The purpose is to benefit taxpayers and keep property taxes down, however I still have concerns about the potential effect on Hastings Public Schools, approximately a loss of $469,000 of state aid.

LB 1063 is legislation that is intended to provide property tax relief and benefit the taxpayers. It replaces the income tax component with foundation aid which is directed to the lowering of the maximum levy. School districts with concerns on the loss of funding or the potential to receive more dollars should be in contact with state representatives on legislation that stipulates foundation aid in the future.

LB 958 is legislation introduced last week that provides less exceptions to the local budget limitations and seeks to control levies through the power of election on a vote in the local community. The value on agricultural and horticultural land would not exceed 3% under the bill. The purpose is to keep property taxes down, however cities throughout the state of Nebraska testified in opposition to the bill due to restraints on local budgets that are uniform statewide. Some city governments still need the appropriate discretion to manage their budget effectively according to the needs and resources of the community.

The Legislature needs to reduce real estate tax burdens on the citizens of Nebraska. There is no doubt about it. I am not sure these bills reduce real estate taxes and shift the tax burdens to the sales and income taxes.

This week, we also debated LB 188. Under current law, compensation is provided to an innocent third party injured or property damaged in a police chase. The compensation is provided through the Nebraska Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act and the State Tort Claims Act and the public entity that employs the law enforcement officer whose actions caused the injury or damage is liable. This legislation is changing the term innocent third party to recognize exceptions when the passenger may be engaging in illegal activity, or the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or encouraged the driver to run. This legislation was filibustered for six hours and then advanced to Select File.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. If you have questions on policy, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Anne. If you need to schedule an appointment, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Capitol Office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

Sen. Les Seiler

District 33
Room #1103
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2712
Email: lseiler@leg.ne.gov
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