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Good bills, bad bills

Many things have occurred in the Nebraska Legislature since I last wrote to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Omaha. And many things are yet to occur with 40 working days remaining in the current legislative session.

All the standing committees (Revenue, Judiciary, Education, etc.) have held public hearings on approximately 700 bills and constitutional amendment proposals. Each senator has designated their priority bill for the session. And the Legislature has begun all-day floor debate on these priority bills. Soon enough the state’s biennial budget will be debated and, for the first time in some time, the Legislature will actually have substantial revenue to allocate.

As legislative debate is underway, I want to point out some priority bills the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) is supporting.

First, Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (Elkhorn) has designated scholarship tax credit legislation (LB364) as her priority bill. This marks the fourth year Sen. Linehan has prioritized helping low-income families gain greater access to educational scholarships.

Take a moment to thank her for prioritizing LB364 (llinehan@leg.ne.gov) and take a moment to charitably ask your state senator to support this measure. (If you don’t know your senator’s contact information, visit www.nebraskalegislature.gov.) It is critical that we help more low-income families choose the best education for their child. Visit www.InvestInKids.org to learn more about LB364.

Second, Sen. Mike McDonnell (South Omaha) has designated LB298 as his priority bill. This legislation closes the unemployment insurance benefits gap for work-authorized immigrants. Currently in Nebraska, people like DACA recipients, asylum seekers and temporary-protected-status immigrants cannot access state unemployment insurance benefits, even though they are legally authorized to work in our state. This is a basic injustice. As with LB364, tell Sen. McDonnell (mmcdonnell@leg.ne.gov) thank you for prioritizing LB298 and ask your senator to support it.

The NCC supports several other bills that have been prioritized:

Sen. John McCollister (Omaha) has prioritized LB108, which increases access to food assistance for Nebraskans experiencing poverty.

Sen. Tom Brandt (Plymouth) has prioritized LB306, which similarly ensures more low-income families have access to energy assistance benefits, especially for weatherizing their homes.

Sen. Rita Sanders (Bellevue) has prioritized LB389, which guarantees an efficient pathway for military spouses to receive a Nebraska teaching license, if they are already licensed in another state.

Sen. Julie Slama (Peru) has prioritized LB139, which provides liability protections for nonprofits – as well as hospitals, small businesses and others – which have diligently followed COVID health and safety standards.

Please join us in supporting these bills.

I also want to say a brief word about some bills that are highly problematic.

Sen. Megan Hunt (Omaha) introduced a litany of legislation promoting an ideologically driven LGBT agenda. For example, she introduced legislation to create special protected classes in statewide employment, housing and public accommodations law (LB120 and LB230), to provide easier ways to “change” a person’s sex on their birth certificate and allow for so-called gender neutrality on driver’s licenses (LB517), and to impose unconstitutional restrictions on counseling clients seeking assistance with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria (LB231).

These bills are in addition to legislation Sen. Hunt introduced to expand access to abortion (LB183, LB276 and LB357).

Sen. Hunt’s LGBT bills have a fundamental flaw. While each piece of legislation attempts to identify some element of unjust treatment and discrimination of persons who identify as LGBT, they all do more damage than good. They advance an understanding of the human person at odds with basic moral reasoning, biblical truth, theological ethics and human flourishing. Each bill seeks to impose a governmental norm about marriage and human sexuality at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then seeks to punish anybody – whether it be the Catholic Church, a Christian small business owner or mental health counselor – who does not kowtow to the extreme agenda of LGBT activists.

Thankfully none of these bills have been prioritized this session, but Catholics must remain vigilant on these and other attacks on marriage and sexuality. In fact, a further attack is discussed in Jeremy Ekeler’s column on the Nebraska Department of Education’s draft Health Standards, which seek to inject similar ideas into the education curriculum of Nebraska’s children.

As always, thank you for your faithful advocacy. God bless!

Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at tvenzor@necatholic.org.

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