The Nebraska Legislature in session March 19, 2021. NEBRASKA UNICAMERAL INFORMATION OFFICE

Commentary

Legislative session right around the corner

I can hear the words of Andy Williams playing in the back of my head already: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. It’s the hap, happiest season of all.”

That’s right, it’s that time of the year when we at the Nebraska Catholic Conference are counting down the days until the next legislative session. This year’s legislative session will be a “short” session, but there will be no shortage of public policy and politicking to be had. It begins, as every session does, on the first Wednesday after the first Monday of January – or, more precisely, Jan. 5.

I like to write this column about the upcoming session about a month in advance to give Catholics a heads up, so they can more intently think about and pray for our Legislature. And on the national front, Marion Miner, our associate director for Pro-Life & Family Policy, will also be writing columns soon on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court heard oral arguments on Dec. 1.

This case deals with the constitutionality of a Mississippi law protecting unborn life at 15 weeks of pregnancy. The commentary and hopes surrounding this case are that it has the potential to overturn the infamous cases of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. Marion’s upcoming columns will dissect the oral arguments and venture into different ways the case might potentially be decided.

But, closer to home, as you think and pray more intently about the upcoming legislative session, I offer a few questions for reflection that I offered last year at this time: “Does the convening of the Legislature make much of a difference to me? Do I care much for their work? Will I give it much thought? Will I pay attention to how my own elected official treats the issues that are most important to me as a Catholic?”

In short, do I see the value of the local politics that are taking place in my backyard? Or do I only focus on the national political stage? While the national political stage is important, I’ve argued on numerous occasions in this column for the need and primacy of focusing on politics at the local level.

Our state Capitol maintains this same idea of focusing on state government. In fact, this idea is etched into the side of its beautiful façade: “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness of the Citizen.” The salvation of the state is ultimately to ensure that the state serves the common good and directs the gaze of its people to Almighty God and reveres his Kingship as Lord of the Universe. For the state to do these things, it requires people of faith to step up and help direct the work of the state toward these proper ends. To take the inverse of this idea, we might consider this famous quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

This legislative session will be marked by many great issues. The Legislature will deal with major topics like pro-life, marriage and family, human sexuality, education and school choice, anti-poverty, criminal justice and juvenile justice reform, housing, immigration, among so many other important matters. Will our Legislature be one that advances human dignity and a proper understanding of the human person, or will it be one that undermines or subtly denigrates the beautiful fact that we are each created in God’s image and likeness?

As we approach the legislative session, I ask you to do three simple things: 1) pray for your senator by name at some point if not on a regular basis; 2) pray for the governor who will have the pivotal role of signing or vetoing bills that are passed by the Legislature; and 3) pray for legislative staffers who will work tirelessly behind the scenes with constituents, advocacy groups and lobbyists to hear the voices of so many who are interested in the crafting of Nebraska’s public policy. Pray that all these various people and groups be given the grace of wisdom and prudence in the months ahead.

And, one last request for good measure: follow our work at www.necatholic.org by joining our Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska (CANN)!

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