The Unicameral: open again for business

The tricky thing about writing for the three Nebraska diocesan newspapers is that you must sometimes write about the future. And as Aeschylus, the ancient Greek tragedian, wrote: “You’ll know the future when it’s born.” In other words, it’s a bit difficult to write about the future when you’re not yet there.

Since this is one of those tricky occasions where I will write about a future event, we’ll see if this column can be visited by the second cousin of the third spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas eve slumber: the ghost of legislative activity yet to come. If this spirit arrives, I’ll be seeking the intervention of the diocesan exorcist.

Once this column is published, the Nebraska Unicameral will already be two days into the 106th Legislature, second session, which will have convened Jan. 8.

This year’s session is a continuation of last year’s, which was a 90-day session. The new session, also known as the “short” or “carryover” session, consists of 60-working days’ worth of legislative activity. This will take us into the third full week of April.

In a carryover session, all bills from the previous year that were active remain active. In addition, the first 10 days remain the customary days for introducing new legislation. If the number of new bills matches last January’s total, we’ll see another 739 pieces of legislation for consideration.

While the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) will engage with numerous bills, for a variety of reasons it does not deal with every issue. The faithful and vigilant people of Nebraska are called to give their attention to these matters as well. I’ll never tire of repeating the words chiseled above the state capitol’s north entrance: “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness of the Citizen.”

At this time of year, not only do I write humorless jokes into my opening paragraph, but I also try to provide practical suggestions for how Catholics can better equip themselves as faithful citizens for the legislative session. Here are some:

Join the Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska (CANN). It’s clear that a lot is going on at the Legislature, but it’s not always clear what’s most important and pressing. It’s even harder to discern this when you’ve got countless other daily obligations. The political process doesn’t always make the top of that list. But you can be sure it’s the top of our list, and we want to help you pay attention to issues that matter most to us as Catholics.

Through CANN, you can receive regular email updates about legislative activity and be alerted to “action items” when it is important for Catholics to make their voices heard by contacting their state senators.

You can join CANN through our website ( by clicking on the upper right-hand corner banner that says “Join Our Network.” Invite a few family and friends to join while you’re at it.

Follow the NCC on Facebook. The NCC has an active Facebook page where you can stay up-to-date on legislative matters. Simply search “Nebraska Catholic Conference” and like our page.

Contact the NCC anytime. Never hesitate to call or write to the NCC. Maybe you need a quick rundown of the major bills the NCC is working on. Perhaps you have a question about the legislative process. Maybe you just want to know who your state senator is. Or maybe you want to invite the NCC to give a “Legislative Update” presentation at your parish. No matter the reason, we love hearing from you. Call us at 402-477-7517 or write to us at 215 Centennial Mall South, Suite 310, Lincoln, NE 68508.

Know and pray for your senator. As faithful citizens we have the privileged responsibility to elect our public officials. This means we should get to know them. Take time to follow their efforts and voting records. And, as always, pray for their work. Senators make many important and impactful decisions on any given day at the Legislature, and the gifts of discernment and fortitude are critical to their work.

And, of course, pray for us at the NCC as we enter the 2020 legislative session. Pray that we can bear 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

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