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Commentary

Faithful, Watchful Citizens: All eyes on LB933

Busy times right now at the Nebraska Unicameral. The Legislature recently hit its halfway mark. But they are far from having completed half the work that is on their plate. Instead, they are roughly a quarter-to-a-third through their workload. If the slower pace of this session continues, it could mean a variety of legislative bills that would typically receive floor debate may receive little to, possibly, no floor debate. Whether this is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder.

Also, committee hearings will just have completed by the time you read this column. With committee hearings completed, the Legislature moves to all-day floor debate. While all-day floor debate typically means debating legislation from 9 to 5, in about mid-March all-day floor debate will mean just that, going late into the evening or night (possibly all the way to 11:59 p.m.).

Being in the thick of things means that there is plenty going on and plenty to report on. While I was tempted to offer you one of my typical potpourri or hodgepodge updates to help us cover a lot of ground in a, hopefully, significant way, I want to take a moment to focus on the three major pro-life bills of this session. In particular, I want to make sure our focus draws in on LB933.

On Feb. 24, the three major pro-life bills received their public hearings in the Judiciary Committee. The hearings lasted over six hours total and brought out countless pro-life and pro-abortion advocates. It was pretty amazing to see the State Capitol so busy and to watch so many Nebraskans passionately engage on an issue that matters to them.

The three pro-life bills heard were Sen. Joni Albrecht’s LB933 (Human Life Protection Act), Sen. Suzanne Geist’s LB1086 (Chemical Abortion Safety Protocol Act), and Sen. Julie Slama’s LB781 (Heartbeat Act).

While the hearings went well, I don’t have the space right now to provide an overview of them. Instead, I want to draw your attention to this question: Where do we go from here?

In the last decade, getting pro-life legislation out of the Judiciary Committee has been a difficult, though not impossible, task. It is unclear yet whether these bills will be advanced from committee, though it is almost certain all three of them will not advance and it is reasonable to assume that none of them will advance from committee. But this does not mean defeat by any stretch of the imagination, as will be clear in the following paragraphs.

Moving forward, the pro-life community’s focus and energy should be on Sen. Albrecht’s LB933, the Human Life Protection Act. This bill would protect unborn life from the moment of conception in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned, which is the hoped for result in the Dobbs case currently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

LB933 has been prioritized by Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers – our keynote speaker for Catholics at the Capitol, by the way! This is significant because it indicates the Speaker’s utmost personal interest in the passage of this bill. As well, the Speaker of the Legislature determines the daily schedule of the Legislature. This means you can safely place money on the fact that LB933 will be debated this legislative session. But exactly when is the bigger question.

If the legislation fails to advance from the Judiciary Committee, there is a procedural rule that allows legislation to be “pulled” from its committee of jurisdiction. This is done through a legislative floor debate and requires 25 Senators (a simple majority) to be successful. If a bill is “pulled” from committee, it makes the bill eligible for floor debate by the entire Legislature. As readers may recall, a “pull” motion was a major part of the path to victory for Sen. Geist’s dismemberment abortion ban in 2020. There is a strong likelihood this “pull” motion will be necessary for LB933.

But a “pull” motion cannot be filed until 20 calendar days after the committee hearing. In this instance, a “pull” motion for LB933 could occur around mid-March. This would leave around 15 legislative working days – around a calendar month – for LB933 to make it through the legislative process. A tight, but not impossible, turnaround.

All that said, pro-life Nebraska needs to start “revving up the engine” and preparing for the road ahead. You can start by contacting your state senator today and respectfully urging them to support LB933. The innocent unborn have no voice but your voice, and your voice will be critical in the next month-and-a-half. Let’s make sure that Nebraska can finally abandon abortion and truly embrace women and pre-born babies!

Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Email him at tvenzor@necatholic.org.