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 January 23, 2015

January 23rd, 2015

Newsletter

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.

Unicameral Update

April 5th, 2013

Greetings from the Nebraska Unicameral. It has been a very busy session. At the beginning of this week Speaker Adams informed all of the members to be prepared for late nights, every night, for the remainder of the session. There have been multiple filibusters already this session, and a significant amount of bills are having a hard time advancing from General File to select file.

This week I had two very important bills debated on General File.

I introduced LB 158 on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Roads. This bill is essential for Nebraska retaining $6.2 million dollars in federal highway funding. LB 158 advanced out of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee unanimously. The Committee also prioritized this bill. Last year President Obama signed into law, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which is commonly referred to as MAP-21. This program funds $105 billion dollars worth of surface transportation programs throughout the United States over a 2-year period. A major legislative change in MAP-21 unfortunately put Nebraska out of compliance with federal law. Current Nebraska law allows installation of an ignition interlock device for the balance of the one-year revocation period after a 45-day license suspension. Federal law requires a full year of ignition interlock after the 45-day license suspension. LB 158 will make Nebraska law compliant with federal law. During the committee process the DMV articulated they would like to extend the license revocation period to 18 months. The DMV believed this would give people more time to have their ignition interlock installed and, hopefully reducing the incidence of people trying to reinstate their license prior to the end of the ignition interlock period. MAP-21 also removed the driving destination restrictions allowed with an ignition interlock. Both of these issues were addressed in amendments to LB 158. Fortunately LB 158 along with its underlying amendments passed without any opposition. I am hopeful it will have the same result on Select File and Final Reading and Nebraska will receive the $6.2 million dollars in federal highway funding.

My priority bill, LB 299, was also debated this week. I introduced LB 299 on behalf of the city of Hastings. Current state law allows a city of the first class to elect no more than 3-at large city council members. The current law was not applicable to first class cities with 4 wards. Hastings has 4 wards. LB 299 would change that allowing for a 4-ward first class city to elect 4 at large city council members but must also keep the minimum of 1 city council member from each ward. This issue may be placed on a General election ballot by the City Council or by petition with signatures that exceed 25% of the vote for the last election for City Council member. LB 299 also passed without opposition. I believe it will clear the next two rounds as well.

As always please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of any assistance to you or your family. My Capitol office number is (402) 471-2712 and you can always reach me by email at lseiler@leg.ne.gov.

Hastings Regional Center

April 2nd, 2013

It has been a busy week in the Nebraska Unicameral. All day floor debate has started. While most committee hearings wrapped up last week, the Appropriations Committee held their final hearings on Monday and Tuesday. On those days the committee heard from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding their upcoming budget.

A very important part of their budget is funding for the Hastings Juvenile Chemical Dependency Program which provides residential substance abuse treatment for young men paroled from the Kearney treatment center. The Governor’s budget recommendation fully funded renovations of the current facility on the campus at the Hastings Regional Center (HRC.) Unfortunately, the Appropriations Committee’s preliminary budget recommendations did not include funding for these renovations.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is requesting renovations for HRC. The cost would be spread over three years to minimize the impact on the budget. $5.2 million dollars would renovate Building #3. This would include bringing all services up-to-date including installing a new H-VAC system, creating an exercise area for the young men in the program, and renovating the building to make it more conducive for treatment. $3.1 million dollars would demolish the rest of the buildings that are not being used. There would also be a slight reduction in staff, and with a new H-VAC system it would reduce the operational costs of the HRC from $8 million dollars to $6.4. Lastly, selling off hundreds of acres that make up the campus, would generate a significant amount of money. At current prices, DHHS estimates it would yield $1.4 million dollars. The money from the sale of the land would reimburse the costs of renovating and demolishing the buildings. DHHS estimated that in four years, the plan will pay for itself and will save taxpayers money in the future.

As many in the community know, the Hastings Juvenile Chemical Dependency Program is a very important and unique program. It is the only one of its kind in Nebraska. For many of the young men, this is their last chance. A significant amount of the young men have failed in multiple other programs, many have backgrounds that have made community-based treatment centers reluctant to accept them. According to DHHS, 95% of the young men in this program have been at a community-based treatment centers at least four times before the Hastings Program. Of the 55 men admitted last year, 38 completed 6 months of sobriety, 20 secured employment, 7 are in college, and 20 successfully completed parole from Kearney. These statistics reiterate why it is so important for the Appropriations Committee to fully fund these renovations. Without this program, we face the consequence of treating these young men in other States, which is often very costly to Nebraska or the young men not receiving the treatment they need.

I am currently working with Senator Mello and the Appropriations Committee. I am optimistic and hopeful this program will be funded. The committee will be working very hard during the next month to finalize the budget bills which are due on the 70th legislative day which falls on May 1st this year.

As always please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of any assistance to you or your family. My Capitol office number is (402) 471-2712 and you can always reach me by email at lseiler@leg.ne.gov.

Town Hall Meeting

March 20th, 2013

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2013
Contact: Ashley McGrain, (402) 471-2712

LINCOLN, NE — State Senator Les Seiler will meet with constituents of District 33 on Saturday, March 23, 2013. He will hold a constituent town hall meeting in Hastings at Kitty’s Roadhouse, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Members of the media are welcome to attend.

Who: State Senator Les Seiler

What: Town Hall Meeting

Where: Kitty’s Roadhouse; 1400 East South Street, Hastings

When: Saturday, March 23 2013; 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

An Update from the Nebraska Unicameral

March 18th, 2013

Greetings from the Nebraska Unicameral. This past week the Speaker, Committees, and Senators designated their priority bills. In the long sessions not all bills are debated by the entire legislature. Many will be laid over and debated next year during the short session. However, if a bill is designated a priority it is almost certain that it will be moved to the floor and debated.

This session I designated LB 299 as my priority bill. I introduced this bill on behalf of the city of Hastings. This proposal, upon approval of the voter, would allow up to four members of the city council to be elected as at-large members, with at least four council members elected by ward. Current law limits a city, of the first class, up to three at-large council members, with at least four members elected by ward. This bill is important to Hastings and I look forward to the floor debate.

For the last two weeks the Legislature spent a significant amount of time debating LR41CA, a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Omaha Senator Scott Lautenbaugh. This constitutional amendment would allow the citizens of Nebraska to vote during the November 2014 general election, to allow the gambling on the results of live, replayed and delayed horse races. These wagers could only take place at licenses racetracks where live racing occurs. After 8 hours of debate and a strong filibuster, it passed. I voted in favor of this, Hall County and central Nebraska would benefit significantly from the revenue generated from these video races. This would help revive the Nebraska horse racing industry which is an important business, specifically for the rural and agricultural areas of Nebraska. Horse racing has been a part of Nebraska since 1934 and I believe we should continue to promote and grow the industry. While the constitutional amendment passed, it still must pass select file and final reading. Since it is a proposed constitutional amendment, 30 votes are required to place it on the general election ballot.

I have received a lot of feedback on Legislative Bill 561, introduced by Senator Brad Ashford of Omaha. In its original form this bill proposed closing the youth detention centers in Kearney and Geneva. After a significant amount of testimony against this proposal, Senator Ashford agreed to work on an amendment that keep the centers open for at least a few more years. The amendment, which is still a work in progress, would require a sub-committee of the Children’s Commission to evaluate the centers and come up with a long term recommendation. The intent of this bill is to look at other available alternatives to help these juveniles with treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to locking them up in a detention center. The Judiciary Committee prioritized LB 561.

As always please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of any assistance to you or your family. My Capitol office number is (402) 471-2712 and you can always reach me by email at lseiler@leg.ne.gov.

An Update from the Nebraska Legislature

March 12th, 2013

Greetings from the Nebraska Unicameral. We started this week out with some great news.

The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board, a nine-member board comprised of experts in tax policy, economics, and economic forecasting, released their revenue projections. If these projections hold true it would mean an $81 million surplus for the state budget. While obviously this is very good news, it is important to continue moving forward with the budget process very cautiously. In years previous, the Legislature faced a nearly $1 billion shortfall, this year we started with a $200 million projected shortfall. While these increased revenue projections puts Nebraska in a much better place, I still believe the Legislature should continue with their cautious approach to the budget.

At the beginning of the session the Governor released his budget recommendations. Last week, the Legislature was presented the Appropriations Committee’s $7.8 billion preliminary budget. While there are some similarities between the two proposals, there are distinct differences. It is important to note that this is just a recommendation. It gives the Senators and the public an idea of what the Appropriations Committee is working on.

The first big difference that stood out to me was the lack of funding for rehabbing the Hastings Regional Center chemical dependency unit. This program provides residential substance abuse treatment for young men transferred from the Youth Rehabilitation Treatment Center in Kearney. The program is licensed for 40 beds and on average the stay is between 4-6 months. Currently this program is housed in the Hastings Regional Center. These buildings are inefficient, expensive to heat and cool, and the living quarters are not conducive for rehabilitation. The Governor’s budget appropriated more than $3.3 million for this program. This funding would be used to renovate the current building in which this program is housed. It would also demolish the remaining buildings on the Hastings Regional Center property, which would allow the state to sell that land. I am hopeful that the Appropriations Committee will eventually include funding for this program.

The preliminary budget also did not include funding for a new veterans home in Grand Island. The Governor suggested using $47 million dollars from the state’s rainy day fund for the home. With the state paying $47 million dollars, the federal government committed a match of $74 million. I know how important veterans are to the Legislature and I am hopeful there will be funding for a new veterans home in their final budget.

Some other key differences, the Appropriations Committee allocated less funds for the University of Nebraska; State colleges and community colleges. The budget committee also estimated that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would be less than the Governor’s budget.

These are just some of the differences. Again, it is important to recognize that this is a preliminary budget, it will likely see many changes throughout the session. By law, the bills representing the Appropriations Committee recommendation must be on General File for debate by the 70th day in a long session. I look forward to debating this very important issue.

As always please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of any assistance to you or your family. My Capitol office number is (402) 471-2712 and you can always reach me by email at lseiler@leg.ne.gov.

An Update from the Nebraska Unicameral

March 1st, 2013

Happy Birthday Nebraska and greetings from the Unicameral. One of the most important issues we deal with in the Legislature is education. I have the privilege of being a member of the Education Committee, and today I am going to summarize a handful of the bills that had hearings before the committee this week.

LB 593, introduced by Senator Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, would allow the State Board of Education to create charter schools. This type of school would be independent of the school district in its location. LB 593 mandates that charter schools will be non-profit and must still meet all education requirements set forth by the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education would have the jurisdiction to regulate the charter standards, discipline them, and remove them if they were not meeting their standards.

The Education Committee also held a public hearing on LB 438. This bill, introduced by Speaker Greg Adams of York, would target low performing schools and create a process to help correct their problems. LB 438 would require the State Board of Education to designate five schools, which are considered under-performing, and to get help from an intervention team appointed by the State Board. Under LB 438, this team would help both the school district and the staff at that particular school to identify the problems and create a strategy to correct them. The school would be classified as a priority school until the State Board deemed it was no longer necessary.

A public hearing was held on two different bills dealing with the Learning Community. The Legislature created the Learning Community in 2007 with the intent of improving minority and low-income student academic achievement. The Learning Community is comprised of 11 districts in the Omaha metropolitan area, and has a common property tax levy. The funds from this levy and state aid to schools is then redistributed among member districts.

LB 179 introduced by Senator Bill Kintner of Papillion would eliminate the Learning Community in its entirety. LB 585, introduced by Senator Jim Smith of Papillion would modify the current Learning Community and reduce the governing council from 18 members to six members. A 1-cent tax levy is currently used to pay for elementary learning center employees, for contracts with entities or individuals who are not employees of a learning community and for pilot projects. Under this proposal, all would be eliminated. The 2-cent levy would remain, these funds would be directed to early childhood education programs for kids in poverty and for focus school or capital projects. Under this proposal, transportation costs in some instances would be shifted onto the school district to pay. Lastly LB 585 would allow multiple school districts to work together on focus programs, magnet schools or pathway programs without the approval of the Learning Community.

The Education Committee took no immediate action on these bills. This will hopefully give you an understanding of some of the issues before the Education Committee. As always please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of any assistance to you or your family. My Capitol office number is (402) 471-2712 and you can always reach me by email at lseiler@leg.ne.gov.

Tax Debate

February 25th, 2013

We are nearly two months into the 103rd Legislative Session. Senators are keeping very busy with floor debate in the morning and public hearings in the afternoon. Many of the bills have attracted a lot of attention. One issue that has garnered a lot of discussion is Governor Heineman’s two tax bills, introduced by Senator Beau McCoy of Elkhorn. My office has received a significant amount of phone calls and emails from constituents in the district, expressing their dislike of these plans. To refresh your memory, Senator McCoy introduced LB 405 and LB 406. LB 405 would have eliminated personal and corporate income taxes and would have removed $2.4 billion in sales tax exemptions. LB 406 would have eliminated the state’s corporate income tax and would have removed about $400 million in sales tax exemptions, a small portion of retirement income would also have been exempt from the income tax.

Both of these bills had hearings before the Revenue Committee. During the testimony it was obvious these bill faced an uphill battle. There was significant opposition, particularly from the agriculture and manufacturing community. These two industries rely heavily on these tax exemptions, and many communicated their worry that without these exemptions they might go out of business. For example, some of the items farmers and ranchers would be taxed on include seed, machinery, chemicals, irrigation water, and energy. Due to the lack of support, Governor Heineman announced he would like the Revenue Committee to kill both bills. However, he expressed his desire to keep the conversation going regarding tax policy.

The plan moving forward is to now create a tax reform group, to study not only eliminating or reducing corporate and income taxes, but also property taxes, the sales tax base, along with incentives for economic development. Senator Schumacher of Columbus introduced LB 613, which will hopefully facilitate this discussion about our state’s current tax structure. Multiple senators have articulated their desire to expand the conversation to include occupation taxes, tax increment financing, and the entire tax code.

I support having an open conversation about the tax structure in Nebraska. It is important that we visit this issue and analyze it greatly before moving forward with a complete overhaul of our tax system. I look forward to the discussion and the findings that come from this committee. I anticipate a plan emerging from this working group and hopefully having a proposal ready for next year’s legislative session. While it is important to move on this idea, it is best we take our time and do it correctly.

As always please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of any assistance to you or your family. My Capitol office number is (402) 471-2712 and you can always reach me by email at lseiler@leg.ne.gov.