Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, is urging us to call or email our state senators to support LB364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act. The legislation, which will be debated and voted on before the end of the current legislative session, would provide tax credits for donations to scholarship-granting organizations so that children in lower-income families can attend parochial and private schools in Nebraska. DRAGANA GORDIC/SHUTTERSTOCK

Commentary

TOM VENZOR (NCC): Urgent action needed on LB364

As of April 16, there are less than 30 working days remaining in the current session of the Nebraska Legislature. Time is fleeting and the days ahead will be here and gone before we know it.

In the waning, yet intense, days ahead, the fate of numerous legislative proposals will be decided. Some legislation will pass into law. Other bills will die a legislative death.

Whether legislation lives or dies depends on each and every one of us. As Lt. Gov. Mike Foley has told us on numerous occasions: “Legislative issues are won by those who show up to the Capitol.”

This is why I’m urging your immediate action on our top priority legislative bill, LB364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act. By “immediate” I mean: After reading this column and Lauren Garcia’s column, fire up your email or phone to charitably and winsomely urge your state senator to pass this legislation. Even if you’ve previously contacted them on this issue, it never hurts to make multiple contacts.

LB364, introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (Elkhorn), provides low-income families more scholarship opportunities to a parochial and private (non-public) school in Nebraska. The legislation accomplishes this by providing a higher tax incentive (that is, a tax credit) to donors. Donors can redirect a portion of their state income tax liability to educational scholarships for families who need and deserve school choice.

Eighteen other states have this form of school choice and it has proven transformative for children. When you consider all forms of school choice, Nebraska is one of only three states in the country without school choice – and this is no badge of honor.

LB364 was advanced from the Revenue Committee by five senators who represent districts within the archdiocese: Sen. Linehan, Sen. Mike Flood (Norfolk), Sen. Brett Lindstrom (Omaha), Sen. Tom Briese (Albion), and Sen. Joni Albrecht (Thurston). Take a moment to tell them thank you!

Sen. Linehan also designated LB364 as her “priority” legislation, which means it will be due for legislative debate within the next week or, at the latest, two weeks. In other words, the legislation will be debated and will be voted on for passage into law.

Since “repetition is the mother of learning,” it bears repeating: Whether LB364 can advance into law depends on us: “Legislative issues are won by those who show up to the Capitol.”

When LB364 was advanced from the Revenue Committee, it was amended to include another important piece of legislation, LB531, which provides similar tax incentives to donors who contribute to early childhood education efforts in Nebraska. This would increase Nebraska’s investment in childcare and early childhood education.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference also supported this legislation. Early childhood educational programs ensure that all kids start off on the right foot in life, so they can succeed and receive an education that nurtures their God-given potential as human beings.

Currently, across the three Catholic dioceses in Nebraska, the Catholic Church boasts 80 childcare centers that empower parents as primary educators of their children, create access to education for families of lesser means, and honor the rights of parents to find the best fit for their children.

LB364 provides a clear opportunity for children from early childhood all the way through high school to find an educational setting that is best for them. In short, LB364 invests in kids.

This is why it is absolutely imperative that you contact your state senator. Reach out to them and ask them to support both tax credit programs and to invest in kids all across our state.

For more information on how to contact your state senator, visit www.nebraskalegislature.gov. For more information about LB364, visit www.InvestInKidsNebraska.org or www.necatholic.org. As well, join the Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska during your visit to our website.

In addition to your advocacy efforts via phone, email and letters, don’t forget to pray for the success of LB364. In the words of the psalmist: “Bless the work of our hands, O Lord; bless the work of our hands” (90:17).

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