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Preparing for the legislative session

The 2018 legislative session began Jan. 3. It marks the commencement of the second session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature. As you recall, a Nebraska Legislature convenes over a two-year period (biennium). The first session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature occurred this last spring over a 90-day period. This second session will occur over a 60-day period and end around mid-April.
 
As usual, state senators will introduce somewhere around 500 to 600 legislative bills, covering a broad range of topics and issues. Each bill receives a committee hearing. Bills that have been advanced from committee and designated with some sort of priority status will be given more extensive discussion and debate by the whole Legislature.
 
As we begin this legislative session, some practical advice is worth consideration so that we can  exercise our God-given duty to be faithful citizens and help establish peace and justice in our political order.
 
Visit the NCC website and join CANN. Most people lack the time to track even some of the Legislature’s activity. Yet most people want to stay up-to-date about state government. This, of course, is consistent with our faith, which calls us to faithful participation in political life. 
 
The NCC maintains a website (necatholic.org) that tracks major legislation of concern to Catholics. At our website, you can sign up for the Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska (CANN). Through CANN, we provide email information updates and notify you when Catholics are needed to take action on legislative matters by contacting their state senator.
 
While it may seem daunting to contact your state senator, your feedback is important to state senators and influences outcomes. As inscribed above the north doors of the state Capitol, “The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.”
 
Follow NCC on social media. The NCC has a Facebook page and Twitter feed. Simply search “Nebraska Catholic Conference” on either social media platform. “Like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter. Through social media, we provide more timely updates on political matters, which you can read and share with family and friends.
 
Contact the NCC anytime. Please feel free to contact us anytime about legislative efforts by phone (402-477-7517) or email (info@necatholic.org). Whether you have a question about legislation, want advice on contacting your state senator or have other questions, we are happy to speak with you.
 
Host the NCC at your parish. The NCC is more than happy to speak at your parish. We are regularly invited to parishes to provide legislative updates, discuss specific legislation or talk more broadly about certain themes (for example, right to life, education choice, immigration, participation in the voting process, etc.). Contact Lauren Garcia, the NCC’s communications and outreach specialist, if you would like us to present to your parish community or organization.
 
Learn about the Unicameral. Our state Legislature has a user-friendly website (nebraskalegislature.gov) where you can find a variety of educational resources to learn about, for example, the legislative process, the history of the Unicameral and the progress of specific legislation.
 
Know your state senator. The state Legislature’s website provides a webpage for each state senator. Many senators regularly post their own legislative updates. Each webpage also provides senator contact information. Again, never be afraid to contact your state senator. They (and their staff) are grateful to hear from constituents.
 
If possible, build a personal relationship with your state senator. While this may be difficult during the legislative session, many state senators regularly tour their legislative districts to attend events or host town hall meetings. You also never know when you might run into your state senator at church, the grocery store or a high school basketball game. Take these opportunities to learn more about your state senator as a person and his or her political positions.
 
Pray. Pray for our elected officials (and their families). Pray that the Holy Spirit guides their discernment as they consider critical issues that directly impact the common good. Pray for their virtuous leadership. Entrust their work to the Blessed Mother and her immaculate heart!
 
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at tvenzor@necatholic.org.

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