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Advocates wanted

Nebraska’s 108th Legislature will convene in less than one month. The opening days of session are both joyful and stressful. New Senators will be sworn in, while family and friends look on with excitement. Legislative leadership will be elected. And bill introductions will begin in full force.

As bill introductions take place in the first 10 days of session, and committee hearings begin on the heels of bill introduction, it is important to remember: legislation doesn’t pass on its own. Every piece of legislation that passes into law is the result of hard work by many people, including senators, staff members, special interest groups, lobbyists, and the general public.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference anticipates many exciting opportunities to pass “generational win” legislation. There will be viable paths to passing legislation to protect unborn human beings, to provide needed supports for mothers both pregnant and postpartum, to ensure that government cannot discriminate against religious believers and organizations, to safeguard the conscience rights of medical professionals, to guarantee school choice to low-income families, among other things.

And like I said: legislation doesn’t pass on its own. We’ll need you to step up as faithful citizens and advocate for these generational wins with our state senators.

But why do they need to hear from you?

First, our legislative system in Nebraska is a one-house, unicameral system. It is understood that the “second house” is the people. Your voice is inherently essential to the process of lawmaking as members of the “second house.”

Second, with the implementation of term limits, it is my experience that constituents need to be all the more involved in the process. Your senator serves only a short, eight-year stint (assuming they are re-elected) in the Unicameral. The way senators know what their legislative districts want is by hearing and listening to the constituency. When your voice is absent, it can be assumed (rightly or wrongly) that people who hold our values aren’t in the legislative district.

Finally, in the great words of Lt. Gov. Mike Foley: “Legislative issues are won by those who show up.” Those powerful words speak for themselves.

So, what can you do between today and Jan. 4 when senators begin the new session?

First, pray for your state senators (and all other public officials). Let your prayers be a constant petition to God that He would raise up in our elected officials hearts that are ready to serve Him in all that they do. Pray that every single one of their actions would give Him glory and build up the common good and respect human dignity.

Second, reach out to your state senator. Take time in this next month to make a personal touch with your state senator. Send them an e-mail. Write them a personal letter. Call their office.

If you have a pre-existing relationship, ask for a meeting. Let them know you are praying for them. Ask them what their major legislative priorities will be this session. Ask them whether they will support or oppose important issues like protecting the unborn, school choice, and religious liberty. Get their wheels turning as they prepare for next month.

Third, form a small group in your parish that is interested in being political advocates this upcoming session. Your small group can do things like take time to read important social encyclicals (e.g., Evangelium Vitae, Deus Caritas Est, or Laudato Si). Or you can read documents like the U.S. Bishops’ Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. With minds formed in the heart of the Church, you can be better equipped to advocate the basic and deep principles the Church offers us for building a just and peaceful society.

Once January hits you can put the pedal to the metal and, with the key NCC legislative priorities in hand, together you can courageously bear the light of Christ in the public square.

I cannot emphasize enough: this session your voice will be critical in the formation and passage of legislation. Prepare yourself today to be the advocate Nebraska needs tomorrow. God bless your efforts!

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