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 – 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.

 

Newsletter February 6, 2015

February 6th, 2015

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

This session, the Judiciary Committee has 103 legislative bills to be heard and if our schedule holds, we will be finished on March 20, 2015.

LB 39 is legislation in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee of which I am a member. LB 39 provides rules for a motor vehicle passing a bicycle in multiple lanes; undivided two way lanes going in the same direction; and as well as two lanes moving in the opposite direction.

It still remains in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

LB 172 is legislation enacting a law that removes the word “mandatory” from mandatory minimums from the description of authorized penalties for Class IC felonies and Class ID felonies. It would not affect certain mandatory minimum sentences for misdemeanors. Those felonies however, could still be punished by sentences ranging from 5 to 50 years, and ranging from 3 to 50 years, respectively. This range gives the District Judges who have all the records and recommendations before them, complete discretion to sentence the felon.

LB 173 is legislation that makes our habitual criminal provision in the law only apply to violent crimes and certain motor vehicle homicide crimes. The enhancement penalty would still be applicable if the two antecedent convictions as well as the current conviction are felonies, and would still subject the offender to a potential sentence of an additional ten to sixty years.

The purpose of this legislation is to provide more discretion to the judge as opposed to a uniform mandatory minimum, and I cosigned this legislation. More discretion permits the judge to evaluate the circumstances and context of the case more effectively and thereby make a decision that is accurate and appropriate on the merits of the case.

LB 172 and LB 173 both have a hearing set in front of the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 11 at 1:30pm in Room 1113. I encourage you to engage in your right to civic participation and stay tuned to the 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.

 

 

Newsletter January 30, 2015

January 30th, 2015

Greetings from the State Capitol!

Just this week, I had two bills up for a judiciary committee hearing on LB 194 and LB 297 which ensures the continuation of the Supreme Court Attorney Services Cash fund and raises salaries for Supreme Court Justices in Nebraska.

LB 194 has a little history. The Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Cash Fund was set up by a Supreme Court rule and created by the Accounting Division at the Department of Administrative Services. It was created to manage funds related to the Supreme Court requirement that attorneys complete legal education courses. The name of the cash fund is now the Supreme Court Attorney Services Cash Fund.

The Supreme Court was recently made aware that cash funds created by the administration must lapse or be permanently established in statute. Since it still needs this cash fund to fulfill the Supreme Court’s responsibilities regarding the practice of law, the fund needs to be established in our statute, as proposed by LB 194.

LB 297 seeks to raise the salary for Supreme Court Justices by 4.5% on July 1, 2015 and 4.5% on July 1, 2016. This will also affect the salaries for the judges of the district court, county court, workers compensation court and juvenile court, whose salary is based on a percentage of Supreme Court salaries.

We hold judges to high levels of expectation with a code of conduct based on national standards, and any violation of those ethical standards can and will be heard, evaluated and addressed by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Judges will make decisions to the best of their ability and adherence to the law. I firmly believe in the integrity and standard of excellence to which we hold our Supreme Court Justices in Nebraska. I believe they are more than capable of adhering to that standard now and into the future.

I’d like to note that the summary of the combined raises in salaries of all the judges in the fiscal note for one year do not exceed the salary of our football coach for the state of Nebraska. Judges do not receive automatic merit or seniority raises. I believe we should give our judges the same standard of salary that we give them in the standard of excellence and accountability in Nebraska.

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 23, 2015

January 23rd, 2015

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.