Sen. Les Seiler
District 33

Welcome

January 8th, 2014

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

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.

Senator Seiler Summarizes his Legislative Bills

February 25th, 2013

Greetings from the Nebraska Unicameral. This week was spent debating bills on the floor in the morning, and holding public hearings in the afternoon. I am thoroughly enjoying my time on the Education and Judiciary committees. Today, I will highlight the remainder of the bills that I have introduced.

I introduced LB 403 on behalf of the volunteer firefighters in Nebraska. This bill would prohibit and criminalize the sale or distribution of toy-like novelty lighters. Novelty lighters can look like animals, purses, tractors, blow dryers, cell phones, coins and cameras. Children are attracted to these types of lighters because they look like toys. My experience with the burn units of the Shriner Hospitals for Children brought the importance of this bill home for me. Nothing is as devastating as a burned child. LB 403 had a hearing before the Judiciary committee and I am awaiting executive session on this bill.

I introduced LB 151 which provides an exception to the hearsay rule. Current law allows a business records exception to the hearsay rule, where LB 151 would create an “acquired” or “integrated” business records exception to that rule. In order to qualify for this “exception,” a business record relating to acts, events, or conditions, other than opinions or diagnoses, that was received by one entity from another, must have been incorporated into and kept in the regular course of business of the receiving entity. This exception is important in a world where businesses are being acquired, especially loans and medical records. LB 151 will enhance the ability for business records to easily and seamlessly change hands in the market. Without this legislation and if litigation occurred the business records of the acquired company could not be introduced into evidence. LB 151 had a hearing before the Judiciary Committee. During the hearing there was opposition and I am currently working on trying to get a compromise before the committee proceeds.

I introduced LB 441 which pertains to the procedure of taking care of a deceased person’s remains. This legislation would update the current law and create a clear process to address our evolving society. LB 441 would clearly state order of which family member has the right of disposition of the remains. This bill also establishes a majority rule when there are two or more persons with an equal relationship. LB 441 also creates specific conditions under which right of disposition is automatically forfeited in the event of first or second degree homicide, divorce, estrangement and missing or uncooperative relatives. This bill also establishes that offering to pay for final disposition does not give a person a greater right to disposition than they otherwise have. LB 441 will have a public hearing at the end of this month before the Judiciary Committee.

This will hopefully give you an understanding of the bills I have introduced. 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.

A Summary of Senator Seiler’s Legislative Bills

February 8th, 2013

Floor debate and committee hearings were the highlight of this week. In total 655 legislative bills were introduced along with 6 constitutional amendments. I introduced seven bills. I will summarize some of them to give you a better idea of what I am specifically working on.

I introduced LB 294, which pertains to public employees using public resources to campaign. The goal of LB 294 along with its subsequent amendment is to provide clear and objective guidelines as to what communications, paid for public funds, are not allowed. This legislation stems from two public power district employees who were fined by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission for the placement of radio ads. These ads were part of an ongoing ratepayer education program. The ads addressed issues that pertained to the business of the government bodies for which the employees worked. These ads responded to issues raised during the election. While the ads did not mention the candidate’s name or the election, the two employees were fined. This legislation clarifies and defines campaigning, it makes the guidelines clear and objective so there is little discretion. LB 294 will have a public hearing before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. No date has been set for that hearing.

I introduced LB 158 on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Roads. This bill would bring Nebraska into compliance with a new provision of the federal DUI Repeat Offender mandate. Currently Nebraska law allows installation of an ignition interlock device for the remainder of a 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. Complying with the federal government will allow the Nebraska Department of Roads to retain $6.2 million in annual federal highway program funding that is now being diverted to driver and roadway safety programs. LB 158 will have a public hearing before the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, however no hearing date has been set.

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 and, at least 4 members of the city council can be elected by ward. LB 299 would change that policy slightly, allowing for 4-at large city council members, and would keep the minimum of 1 city council member from each ward. LB 299 will have a hearing before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, but no hearing date has been set.

LB 415 affects the delivery of the receipt of garnishment summons. This bill will create legislation authorizing financial institutions to designate a central location for the receipt of garnishment summons. If there is a main office in Nebraska, that is where the summons will be delivered. However, if its main office is located outside of Nebraska, an office or branch within Nebraska must be designated as the office for the purpose of serving the summons. LB 415 will have a public hearing before the Judiciary Committee, but no hearing date has been set.

This will hopefully give you an understanding of some of the bills I have introduced. 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.