In less than a month, the 107th Nebraska Legislature will fulfill its constitutional obligation to convene on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January. For those doing the math at home, that’s January 6, 2021.
On Day 1 of the 90-day First Session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature, newly elected and re-elected senators will be sworn into office, promising to uphold the Nebraska and United States Constitutions. Those legislators—along with their already sworn-in colleagues—will go on to elect critical leadership positions, such as the Speaker of the Legislature.
These opening and solemn moments will set the tone for the next two years of legislative activity.
In addition to these activities, the first set of legislative bills will be introduced and senators, staff, lobbyists, and other Nebraskans will be off to the races of reviewing legislation.
It’s practically platitudinous to say that every legislature is faced with unique challenges and opportunities, but it’s simply the truth. In particular, the 107th Nebraska Legislature will open their business in the face of the ongoing pandemic which has consumed our daily existence for nearly a year. This once-in-a-lifetime (I hope!) public health crisis only makes those challenges and opportunities more apparent.
At this juncture, it is still unclear exactly how the Legislature will proceed with its activities given our COVID circumstances. Will they convene for several days only to postpone their activities until a date uncertain when things are a bit calmer and, dare I say, normal? Or will they push through and conduct their business while implementing the necessary public health precautions as we witnessed during the postponed 2020 legislative session that took place in July and August?
(If you know the answer to either of these questions, give my office a call—you might have a future in lobbying, and we could use your insider knowledge!)
As Catholics prepare for the beginning of the legislative session, it’s a good opportunity to take some personal inventory: Does the convening of the legislature make much a difference to me? Do I care much for their work? Will I give it much thought? Will I pay attention to how my own elected official treats the issues that are most important to me as a Catholic?
I’ve talked seemingly incessantly about the importance of being a faithful citizenship, not just in-season during election time but out-of-season when there is no election immediately in sight. It is this “out-of-season” attention to political bodies, like the State Legislature, that makes all the difference in advancing the common good. It is important to consider those words chiseled into the entrance of the Capitol: “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness of the Citizen.” Notably, they do not say that “The Salvation of the State is Participating Every Two or Four Years in an Election.”
As the Legislature prepares to convene, as citizens of this great State we have the responsibility ahead of us to be watchful, to be vigilant. We are given this opportunity to pay attention to the work of our elected officials. Are they acting in accord with the common good? Are they protecting human dignity? Are they furthering a culture of life by protecting the unborn and combatting euthanasia? Are they advancing the good of the family? Do they support legislation that empowers parental choice in the education of children? Are they protecting the sacred institution of marriage and safeguarding the truth of our human sexuality? Are they caring for the least of these our brethren? What are their attitudes and voting records toward the poor, the imprisoned, the disabled, and those lacking basic material needs? And what about their approach to protecting religious liberty? Do they value people of faith and the religious institutions that are the fiber of our country?
These questions mark but the beginning of a journey over the course of the next two years as we vigilantly attend to the work of the 107th Nebraska Legislature. We invite each of you to join us as watchful citizens and advocates for the common good. To join us more closely in this effort, go to www.necatholic.org and “Join Our Network” of Catholic advocates!