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

Newsletter – January 28, 2016

January 28th, 2016

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

This week we debated LB 289, which would prohibit a locality from creating and enforcing ordinances on conceal carry gun use that are more stringent than state law under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act. This bill, introduced by Senator Ebke of Crete, failed to meet a cloture vote to cease a filibuster debate. Hence, the bill did not reach the 33 votes needed to cease debate and advance to Select File. So, it was passed over to the next item on the Agenda.

According to this legislation, if you meet state law with regard to a gun in your case, you would not be in violation of a city ordinance if more stringent requirements were stipulated in the ordinance. As a hunter who hunts all across the state, I appreciate this portion of LB 289 and the idea of preemption.

Local control and the ability for communities to regulate themselves are important, especially with regard to large cities such as Omaha who have experienced violence related to guns for quite some time. The need for city ordinances are different in Omaha than in Hastings, Grand Island or Wood River, and I question the loss of local control that is incorporated into the legislation.

I respect the individual right to carry as well as the safe transportation of firearms. However, opponents state that in localities such as Omaha where serious violence exists on the use of guns, specific ordinances that seek to regulate guns within the community, as well as public safety, must come first. I did vote for cloture in order to conduct a vote on the legislation. As aforementioned, we did not receive that opportunity.

LB 883 is a bill introduced by Senator Scheer of Norfolk, which seeks to replace equalization aid with per student foundation aid at a flat rate. It removes summer school and elementary site allowances, as well as the averaging adjustment from the formula needs calculation.

The bill establishes a Citizen Oversight Group that requires approval prior to passage of the school district budget. The intent of this legislation is to provide property tax relief for taxpayers and lower the levies in the community. I have concerns about the outcome of the legislation with regard to the communities and school districts in my region, and I will continue to inquire about financial projections to protect the well-being of our schools in District 33.

I value our process in the Legislature which gives each legislation full and fair debate, as well as the opportunity to engage the public and constituency regarding significant legislation. As always, I appreciate your input and I look forward to hearing more from you as the session moves forward.

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 – January 22, 2016

January 22nd, 2016

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

This week we debated LB 18, a bill introduced by Senator Krist of Omaha, to require a meningitis vaccine for children before entering the seventh grade, and a booster shot at the age of 16. The bill required 33 votes to end a filibuster led by Senators who oppose government mandates and favor freedom for parents to choose the best option for their children.

LB 18 is well intentioned and could potentially save lives for those that are not diagnosed in time, however during debate it was not established that the disease is widespread or that there is a significant health risk in order to justify the mandate. For this reason, the bill ended with a cloture motion that failed to advance the bill to a vote. As a consequence, the legislation does not pass.

The Legislature advanced LB 136 introduced by Senator Johnson to ban flying lanterns in Nebraska, which are used in the fireworks industry and also for religious purposes. Fire hazards and public safety were reasons for supporting the ban and advancing the legislation. A violation would be a Class V misdemeanor and punishable by a $100 fine. LB 136 has advanced to the next stage of debate on Select File.

This session, an anticipated removal of funds from the Cash Reserve is estimated to be up to $150 million dollars from the years 2016 to 2019. This removal is facilitated by LB 960, introduced by Senator Smith of Papillion, which establishes a Transportation Infrastructure Bank Fund that borrows from the Cash Reserve to pay for the completion of the expressways. Nebraska tends to favor a “pay as you go” method, and as such, has demonstrated in the past that it does not favor bonding authority as a method for construction.

I look forward to more education on LB 960. Transportation infrastructure is crucial in Nebraska for the transport of goods and services and is an important aspect for travel and economic growth, as well as promotion of public safety. However, in hindsight, it will be important to project how payment to the Cash Reserve will be accomplished. The bill stipulates that the Transportation Infrastructure Bank Fund may be compensated by the increase to our gas tax, but it will be important to understand the process and obtain revenue projections during debate.

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 – January 15, 2016

January 15th, 2016

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

On Thursday, January 14, 2016, Governor Pete Ricketts delivered the State of the State address in the Chamber of the Nebraska Legislature. The Governor highlighted improvements to state government with regard to ACCESS Nebraska in reduced call times, a new system that improves prison sentence calculations, and a revision to our budget that enhances the economy in Nebraska.

Governor Ricketts applauded those Senators whose term is finished in 2016 and recognized the nobility and value of service in the Nebraska Legislature. The state will move forward under the call to work with all colleagues in order to ensure Nebraska is the greatest state in the union. I look forward to working with the Governor as we buckle down for the 2016 session.

According to the Governor, we plan to discuss the revenue shortfall based on the Economic Forecasting Board projections issued in October of 2015 and the potential for property tax relief in the future. Additionally, a request for $26 million is being considered regarding the Community Corrections Center in Lincoln for renovations and construction over the next few years for 160 new inmate beds. During this session, we do not wish to remove any dollars from the Cash Reserve, which is primarily used for emergencies and sharp economic downturns in the state.

During debate this week, we discussed LB 47 introduced by Senator Watermeier. This legislation makes it mandatory to ask on a Driver’s License application if a person wishes to be an organ donor or not. The bill does not stipulate that organ donation is mandatory, only that a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response is required to the question posed on the Driver’s License application. A filibuster by Senator Chambers was conducted based on free speech concerns and the constitutionality of requiring an answer to that question. The crux of the argument centered on the legitimacy of making the question mandatory weighed against the prospect of saving lives in Nebraska. This legislation advanced to Select File.

We also debated LB 619 introduced by Senator Larson that authorizes two games of poker which are claimed to be based on skill and not chance, and hence constitutionally legal in Nebraska. The bill provides for a special designated poker license and a poker endorsement under the Nebraska Liquor Control Act. This bill is currently under a filibuster in the Legislature.

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 legislative staff can be reached at the Capitol Office in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

Newsletter – January 8, 2016

January 11th, 2016

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

The 104th Legislature, Second Session began this year with the election of a new Chairman for the Retirement Systems Committee, and that is Senator Mark Kolterman from Seward in District 24. I congratulate Senator Kolterman as he embarks on his new journey as a Chairman.

A total of 406 bills have carried over from last session. Of these, 47 are being held in the Judiciary Committee, of which I am Chairman. The Speaker of the Legislature has made it clear that only priority legislation will be discussed in the short 60 day session. So, debate will begin early and most of it will center on legislation designated as a priority by a Senator.

We have a $110 million dollar shortfall, which may be resolved through cutting government spending or dipping into funds from our Cash Reserve. The Economic Forecasting Board will meet in February to give us an outlook before we act on the budget this year, but it will need to be soon. A considerable amount of time will need to be spent debating and adjusting the biennium budget.

The Legislature will convene every morning at 10am until Tuesday, January 12, 2016 and then we begin at 9am. We will debate the 2015 priority legislation next week, as designations for 2016 priorities will begin to be submitted to the Speaker’s office. Adjournment will be at 5pm or until the Speaker determines. You may tune in to NET or KHNE or on your computer to watch the debates, starting on Monday, January 11, 2016.

Senators are in the process of introducing new bills for the 2016 session and the last day to submit bills for introduction is on Wednesday, January 20, 2016. I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and tune into the debate. I plan to focus my attention on legislation introduced in the Legislature that provides real estate tax relief to citizens as well as education legislation that affects my District, in addition to my role as Chairman and legislation that is related to prison reform.

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 would like to schedule an appointment, please speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my legislative staff can be reached at the Capitol Office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

Newsletter – December 10, 2015

December 10th, 2015

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

In November, I participated in a 50 state forum located in Austin, Texas sponsored by the Conference of State Governments Justice Center. The forum outlined the core principles of reducing recidivism and improving outcomes for youth in juvenile facilities from a policy standpoint.

We often hear that low to moderate risk offenders are not successful in life upon release, and end up right back where they started. Effective alternatives to incarceration for low to moderate risk offenders include probation, diversion and community based services that have the support and funding in place to ensure adequate success.

A coordinated and systematic approach that joins behavioral health, juvenile justice and child welfare to resolve co-occurring conditions that contribute to recidivism, such as substance abuse and mental disorders, can effectively treat the problem.

Of course, the most effective way to keep young adults out of juvenile incarceration is to prevent contact with the judicial system in the first place, and this can be done with diversion programs, probation and community based services for low risk offenders. More and more, we are finding that young adults respond more effectively to incentives and treatment as opposed to severe punishment.

Mental health disorders and substance abuse are predominate conditions in the juvenile system, which contributes to thought processes and decisions that result in severe consequences. National statistics demonstrate that up to 70% of youth in the juvenile system have a mental health disorder, and a quarter or more have a serious mental health disorder.

Additionally, the national re-arrest rate for youth runs at 75% within three years of release from confinement. Clearly, even though advancements have been made in juvenile justice, there is room for improvement. Investments in more effective screening tools and treatment that address co-existing mental and substance abuse disorders can effectively treat and rehabilitate youth prior to release, and hence reduce the opportunity for further crime and recidivism.

Information, data and thorough assessments that identify dynamic changing risk factors can assist caseworkers. Assessments that identify the primary causes for behavior are often more effective than those that identify static risk factors such as age or criminal history. Ineffective programs and assessments that fail to identify underlying primary causes of youth behavior in the juvenile system only lead to more crime and incarceration. Positive development such as cognitive behavioral therapy, family, and community centric approaches lead to more positive outcomes for youth.

States that use policies to evaluate youth risk levels, as well as develop, and maintain electronic case management, require agencies to report recidivism rates and youth outcome data on an annual basis to various facets of government, and enhances efficiency, accountability and public trust in the system. Furthermore, the data that is crucial to identify is how youth subsequently comes in contact with law enforcement again upon release.

Performance measures reported by agencies and the juvenile justice system, which outline the establishment of internal processes and effective management, contribute to improvement in the system. Within a narrow perspective, this is imperative for success.

On a larger scale, a comprehensive, and coordinated approach to juvenile justice will seek to resolve the mental health and substance abuse issues that plague it. Therapeutic and research based approaches and alternatives to incarceration will stop the revolving door to a life of crime.

If you have any questions, my State Capitol legislative office number is (402) 471-2712. Please ask for Anne, my Legislative Aide on policy, and Linda, my Administrative Aide on appointments. As always, I look forward to hearing from you on any of your questions, concerns and comments!

Newsletter – September 25, 2015

September 25th, 2015

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

In August, I attended a seminar sponsored by the National Conference for State Legislatures and the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. A series of educational meetings on criminal justice led me through new perspectives and solidified current expectations on policy.

The states in our nation share a common thread on objectives to cut spending, reduce the prison population, create effective educational, vocational and treatment programs, reduce recidivism, enhance public safety and measure policy impact through assessment tools, best practices and responsible oversight.

Since 2009, 29 states have eased mandatory penalties for nonviolent crimes and drug offenses according to the Vera Institute of Justice. Furthermore, states have embarked upon the task of reducing prison population by lowering these sentences in favor of community based services, diversion and treatment programs, as well as probation and post-release supervision. This generates fundamental space in our prison system for the most serious offenders who commit violent crimes against our residents of Nebraska.

The most serious offenders cannot be present in our communities until they have served a significant amount of time and proven themselves to no longer be a safety risk so they can be reintegrated into society. Our prison system needs to reserve space for those individuals who are a serious danger to themselves and to others in our communities, and at the same time find proper programs that can effectively treat drug abuse, addictions, and mental health disorders.

The dollars that are saved through reducing sentences for nonviolent crimes can be reinvested into programs and alternatives that are often more effective in terms of rehabilitation, and reduce the chance for past offenders to re-enter the revolving door to prison. Currently, our recidivism rate is at 32%. Taxpayer savings can be reinvested into effective programs and treatment, and then assessment tools that collect data can evaluate whether these policies and programs are actually working in this State.

Nationally, since 2000, the corrections budget has made up 5-6% of the state General Fund and for the fiscal year 2014, 5.3%. The four major spending items in a state budget are corrections, K-12 education, higher education and Medicaid, with Medicaid being the largest item.

With that in mind, corrections funding is almost entirely spent from the General Fund. According to the Public Safety Performance Project of Pew Charitable Trusts, every $9 out of $10 spent on Corrections goes specifically to prisons. Hence, the need to proactively manage our prison population and the cost is paramount to a proper budget as well as effective use of taxpayer dollars to the State.

The seminar sponsored by the National Conference for State Legislatures proved to be a resourceful and useful collaboration of information on criminal justice issues that affect all states from coast to coast. I am glad to report that Nebraska has advanced policies in 2015 that will create safer communities, real growth and a reduction in wasteful spending in the future.

 

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

This week we debated legislation related to access of medical marijuana in Nebraska.

LB 390 is a bill that provides for the proper medical use of marijuana. More importantly, LB 390 establishes that the University of Nebraska appropriate $250,000 for each of the next two fiscal years for the Medical Cannabidiol Pilot Study. The Medical Cannabidiol Pilot Study is established under the purview of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and serves to help those patients with severe epilepsy.

Those patients can be treated by federally approved drugs with an extract of a marijuana plant. As a safeguard, the Department of Health and Human Services will establish policies and procedures to regulate the two medical providers who will conduct research and treat patients under the pilot study at the center.

LB 643 is another bill that creates the Medical Cannabis Act. This permits patients to be treated with cannabis for epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV & Aids, Tourette’s Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease and terminal illnesses as well as cancer treatments producing conditions of chronic pain, severe vomiting or waste. Marijuana treatments would be administered through liquid, pill and vaporized forms for the benefit of the patient.

The Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, will regulate the manufacturing of medical marijuana as well as a registry for qualified caregivers, patients, and manufacturers of cannabis.  The registry will also include data on patients that is considered medical record, and is thereby protected.

A criminal penalty is applicable for those manufacturers or agents that give cannabis to any other person other than a qualified patient, designated caregiver or parent or legal guardian of the patient. As a result of a conviction, a person affiliated with the manufacturer can no longer participate under the Medical Cannabis Act.

LB 643 and LB 390 have advanced to Select File for further debate. I voted in favor of these bills in order to relieve the suffering for the families and children who are enduring terminal illnesses and the symptoms of painful disease that can be alleviated by the benefits of medical cannabis in Nebraska. I simply cannot turn my back on those families that need this legislation the most.

As the session continues and we debate 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 on legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you need to schedule an appointment with me, you may speak with my Administrative Assistant, Linda. Either I or my staff can be reached at the office number in Lincoln at (402) 471-2712.

 

Newsletter-May 15, 2015

May 15th, 2015

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

This week we debated prison reform and advanced LB 605, LB 173 and LB 598 to Final Reading with Amendments. LB 605 is legislation that resulted from six months of careful study with vested stakeholders and representatives from the three branches of government; the Governor, the Speaker of the Legislature and Chief Justice Heavican as well as collaboration with the Council of State Governments.

This legislation realigns the felony classification to retain penalties for violent felonies and lessen penalties but require supervision upon release for non-violent felonies. This legislation seeks to relieve prison overcrowding in Nebraska as well as to contribute to better reintegration into society through necessary supervision and education programs related to drugs, alcohol and mental health that will ultimately lower recidivism for the benefit of public safety.

LB 173, as amended, removes mandatory minimums for Class IC and Class ID felonies in Nebraska. A minimum of three and five year sentences are still established but the term “mandatory” has been taken out. LB 173 removes the habitual criminal enhancement for lower felonies so that it is best used for more violent crimes under the judge’s discretion. I firmly have faith in our judges in Nebraska, and trust them to make the right decisions. I prioritized this legislation so that it could be heard from a policy standpoint with other prison reform legislation.

LB 598 creates the Office of the Inspector General of the Nebraska Correctional System Act to conduct investigations and performance reviews. The legislation provides distinction for mental illness for those in restricted housing, and a stipulation to the Department of Correctional Services to require parole supervision for purposes of effective reintegration.

The Director is required to provide up- to- date electronic records and rules that provide evidence-based practices to establish whether someone nearing release is mentally ill and dangerous as defined by current law, and to require community standard mental health care.

I am proud to say that prison reform has been a top priority on my agenda this year. With the passage of significant prison reform, we can now effectuate the necessary steps to alleviate prison overcrowding and contribute to public safety through the programming of essential behavior, and supervision.

As the session continues, I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the debate 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 need 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.

 

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

This week we debated the budget. The budget highlighted a $60 million transfer to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund each year over the next two years for a total of $120 million. This is the equivalent of $93.33 per $100,000 of valuation. This seeks to give back to the taxpayers who have been asking for property tax relief for years. It is the single largest increase in the budget.

Another large increase in the budget aside from the Property Tax Credit is a $20.3 million increase for FY2015-17 for the Department of Correctional Services for medical costs for inmates. This is due to an increase in population, an aging inmate population, inflation and new Hepatitis C treatments. In addition, there is also $2.5 million each year for 59 additional security staff and $1.2 million each year for behavioral health staff. These appropriations are important as we move forward in managing are prison system effectively in the future.

The budget included a 3% increase for the University of Nebraska, State Colleges, and Community Colleges and provided an increase in state aid to schools of $40.1 million in FY2015-16 and $7.6 million in FY2016-17. This is a 4.3% and .8% increase, respectively.

Overall, the unicameral budget growth is an average of 3.1%, which is the same as the Governor’s recommendations and is the third lowest growth in the last 15 biennial budgets. The two year average for revenue growth is close to 5%, which is in line with our historical average in Nebraska. The Nebraska Economic Advisory Forecasting Board met on Thursday in order to make adjustments from the February Forecast. I look forward to reviewing these changes in the forecast.

As the session continues and we debate in the Chamber, 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 on legislation, you may speak with my Legislative Aide, Tyanne. If you need 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.

 

 

 

 

Sen. Les Seiler

District 33
Room #1103
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2712
Email: lseiler@leg.ne.gov
Search Senator Page For:
Topics
Archives
Committee Assignments
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
Find Your Senator