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 – May 21, 2015

May 21st, 2015

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.

 

Newsletter – May 1, 2015

May 1st, 2015

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.

 

 

 

 

Newsletter – April 16, 2015

April 16th, 2015

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

Last week we debated LB 472 in the Legislature. This is Medicaid Expansion that provides coverage for adults under 65 with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level. Currently, Medicaid applies to children, parents with low incomes, seniors, pregnant women and people with disabilities. This legislation seeks to help 79,600 low income working Nebraskans.

The Medicaid Redesign Task Force created by LB 472 looks at cost drivers and efficiencies in our current system. If we take advantage of the federal dollars, then the task force can identify cost effective strategies to enhance the current system. These dollars are helpful and can benefit the people of Nebraska.

There are opponents to LB 472 that support the protection of our taxpayers and the need to improve our welfare system as opposed to adding to it, as well as encouraging people to find employment and contribute to the economy in a productive and meaningful manner. For these reasons, the legislation was bracketed or postponed this session. The vote was 28 to bracket and 16 opposed.

I was unable to vote on this legislation because I cracked my tooth on a cherry pit and had an appointment to have my dentist rebuild it. I still have a concern about the lingering status of our federal budget and national economy. Until I see less gridlock and more fiscal consideration in Washington D.C., I am hesitant to commit Nebraska to this legislation based on that principle.

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

Newsletter – April 2, 2015

April 2nd, 2015

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

Our Judiciary Hearings are now complete, as we move into our final Executive Sessions in order to advance important legislation for full day debate. One of these bills is LB 605, introduced by Senator Mello from Omaha.

LB 605 is comprehensive prison reform legislation that is a direct product of work of the Justice Reinvestment Workgroup. This group was appointed by the three branches of government; the Governor; Speaker of the Legislature; and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Justice Reinvestment Workgroup was established by LB 907 last session for the purpose of working with the Council for State Governments to seek a resolution to prison overcrowding and provide options that lead to cost effective management and operation of our prison system. LB 605 is a result of the accumulation of research and cooperation between the Council, Nebraska’s Agencies, and Commissions.

This legislation realigns low level non-violent felonies to provide shorter imprisonment intervals with supervised release. It increases theft amount thresholds that correspond with the increase of inflation. LB 605 also establishes an evidence-based assessment process that identifies risk factors and the needs of individuals on probation and parole. More importantly, this legislation takes a further step to ensure victims’ restitution by increasing the amount available to victims through the Crime Victims Reparations Fund.

LB 605 is intended to slow Nebraska’s prison population growth, ease prison overcrowding, contain corrections spending, reduce recidivism and increase public safety. I co-sponsored this legislation, and it has been designated a Speaker Priority this session.

As we move into full days of debate, I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned during session. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions. If you have questions on legislation, please 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 – March 20, 2015

March 20th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Newsletter March 12, 2015

March 12th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newsletter February 27, 2015

February 27th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Newsletter February 20, 2015

February 20th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Newsletter February 12, 2015

February 12th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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