A Legislative Smorgasbord

The main event the last two weeks at the Nebraska Legislature has mostly consisted of legislative hearings. We have testified in support and opposition of numerous pieces of legislation on varying topics, which I would like to review with you. But before we jump into that, let me update you on a few other things.

First, by the time you read this column but after I write it, our major school choice legislation, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, will have been debated for first round of legislative debate. This bill will provide more scholarship opportunities to low-income children to get to the school best for them. I hope the good news is that LB753 advanced the first round of debate, but I don’t have a time machine to know that quite yet.

Second, our major pro-life legislation, the Nebraska Heartbeat Act (LB626), I’m sure will be debated soon. Go to and send your Senator an e-mail asking them to support LB626. Little preborn babies with heartbeats need our legal protection.

Finally, Catholics at the Capitol is in Lincoln on Wednesday, April 12. This is your chance to be more deeply educated on legislation that matters to us as Catholics and advocate with your State Senator. Register for our event at

Now onto our legislative smorgasbord!

This last week, we saw a slew of LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Ally, Plus) related legislative bills which we opposed. There was legislation to remove the terms “husband” and “wife” from state statute. There was a constitutional amendment proposal to remove the recognition of marriage as between one man and one woman from our state constitution. There was legislation that would punish individuals, business owners, and religious organizations for holding onto the traditional (and correct) views of marriage and human sexuality by punishing them with non-discrimination laws. (These are the types of laws used to go after people like Jack Phillips, the cake artist, and Baronelle Stutzman, the florist.)

We also saw legislation that amounts to counseling censorship and would prohibit a minor client from working through issues of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria with their preferred counselor. This legislation would only allow counselors to be “neutral” or affirm the minor child’s same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.

There was legislation attacking human life which we opposed. This legislation would require hospitals to provide emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault. While the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives allow for emergency contraception to prevent conception or fertilization of an ovum (because the rapist has no right to assault or impregnate the victim), the legislation does not protect life where conception has already taken place. Oftentimes, emergency contraception can act as an abortifacient and take the life of an innocent human being which is immoral and should not be mandated in hospitals subject to fines and other disciplines.

We supported legislation providing more school choice options for kids with special needs. In Nebraska, we have a program called option enrollment. Option enrollment allows a public school student to attend a different public school district, which is ultimately paid for by the state. However, children with special needs are almost always denied acceptance as an option enrollment student. Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair introduced legislation to provide that student with their state funding to attend a school of their choice to ensure they get the education they need rather than be forced to return to a school district that was failing to serve them properly.

Along these lines, we supported legislation by Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln, which would allow K-12 educational expenses as an eligible use of 529 savings accounts. Currently, these accounts can only be used for college savings purposes. This makes us unaligned with the federal law, which allows 529s to be used for K-12 expenses, and also makes us out of line with most other states in the country.

Last but not least, we supported legislation to maintain adequate access to food assistance for low-income families and to provide for community mental and behavioral health centers, which would help increase mental health access for Nebraskans.

This is all to say that we’ve been “on our toes” at the Nebraska Catholic Conference by bearing the light of Christ in a lot of committee hearings. Now we’re moving that light into full force for legislative debate on major issues like school choice and protecting human life.

Please pray for us, and don’t forget to register for Catholics at the Capitol!

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

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