Faithful, Watchful Citizens: A Full Plate
February 16, 2022
As faithful readers of this column know, sometimes the plate is full and I feel like I’m better off giving you a smattering of many things rather than treating any one particular issue. Well, now is one of those moments. So, in the spirit of one of those fancy meat and cheese trays, here is a smattering of various legislative activities and issues happening these days.
Catholics at the Capitol – As I mentioned in an earlier column, Catholics at the Capitol is Wednesday, March 9th. It runs from 8:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be held at St. Mary Church (lower level) across the street from the State Capitol. You’ll hear from Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) staff and an array of state senators, who will all provide overviews on a variety of legislative issues. We are particularly excited for our morning’s keynote: Speaker Mike Hilgers. The event is $15, which will cover coffee, rolls and lunch. You can register at www.NEcatholic.org. Bring a friend (or 10)!
Pro-Life Bills Up for Debate – Our three major pro-life bills have their Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, Feb. 24th. The bills are Sen. Julie Slama’s LB781, Sen. Suzanne Geist’s LB1086, and Sen. Joni Albrecht’s LB933. LB781 is the Heartbeat Act, which would ban abortion once a heartbeat can be detected in the preborn child. LB1086 is the Chemical Abortion Safety Protocol Act, which would put into place health and safety measures – including reporting requirements – on chemical abortions, as well as ban it after seven weeks. LB933 is the Human Life Protection Act, which would protect all human life from the moment of conception, if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Our country is on the cusp of a historic moment with the Dobbs v. Jackson U.S. Supreme Court case. Having the right protections for the preborn child are going to be critical now more than ever as we anticipate the hoped for overturning of Roe v. Wade. This is our opportunity to show that we can both embrace women and abandon abortion.
I encourage you to do two things with these bills. First, visit the Nebraska Legislature’s website (www.NebraskaLegislature.gov) and file comments on each one of these bills. You can do that by typing in the bill numbers into the website and clicking on the “Submit Comments Online” button. Provide your winsome and charitable reasons for why these bills should pass. Second, I invite you to listen to the legislative hearings. You can do this by visiting the website on the day of the hearing and clicking on the “Live Video Streaming” icons – you’ll want to watch that day’s Judiciary Hearing, which begins at 1:30 p.m.
Expanding Medicaid for Postpartum Mothers – A bill that had a legislative hearing a couple weeks ago has been trying to make its way through the Health and Human Services Committee. This bill is LB929, introduced by Sen. Anna Wishart. This legislation would extend the amount of time a mother who is on Medicaid can receive postpartum care. Currently, mothers only receive health care under Medicaid for 60 days postpartum. Sen. Wishart’s bill would expand this care to 12 months.
This bill represents an important piece of legislation that can help embrace mothers who are low-income and in need of longer-term medical care postpartum. Studies and basic experience recognize that the health of mothers is particularly vulnerable in the first year after giving birth and the danger is particularly high when a mother, who is responsible for taking care of her child as well as herself, has little or no means of support from family or other social institutions.
Take a moment to look up the Health and Human Services Committee and ask them to support LB929.
Housing Assistance to Refugees – This legislative session, senators have introduced various ways to spend Nebraska’s $1.04 billion in American Rescue Plan Act COVID relief funds. One of those ways is LB968, introduced by Sen. Myron Dorn. This legislation would appropriate $10 million for two purposes: 1) grants to nonprofits to develop affordable housing, including housing for vulnerable populations like refugees and immigrants and 2) funds for job training and employability programming for refugees.
As the state Legislature considers how to best allocate these historic funds, we will be advocating that state senators, consistent with Catholic social teaching, retain a preferential concern for the poor and other populations, such as refugees, who have been most adversely affected by the pandemic.
Bill Tracker – As the session keeps moving along, I highly encourage you to stay up-to-date on our legislation by visiting our “Bill Tracker” at www.NEcatholic.org. The bill tracker helps you learn about all the issues we are supporting and opposing, as well as understand the “why” behind our advocacy.
Thank you for bearing the light of Christ in the public square!
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.