Students, teachers, administrators, government officials and supporters gathered at the Nebraska state Capitol in Lincoln Jan. 29, 2020, for the School Choice Rally. While National School Choice Week will be observed the last week of January again this year, no state rally will be held because of the pandemic. MEL O’KEEFE/MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY

Commentary

VENZOR: And they’re off!

This is my first legislative session writing for the Catholic Voice on a once-a-month schedule. To be honest, I dread the infrequent writing schedule. Every legislative session is packed with activity. And writing weekly doesn’t even cut it.

While I still intend to give you plenty to chew on each month, I also want to direct you to more up-to-date information about the Nebraska Catholic Conference’s work during this legislative session.

First, visit www.necatholic.org. There you will find a “Bill Tracker” webpage that will inform you about the legislation we support and oppose.

Second, go to and like our Facebook page. We post several times a week and you will find timely information about action alerts, upcoming events, news and the saints.

Third, visit the Catholic Voice’s online publication, catholicvoiceomaha.com, in between print editions. I write every week for the Diocese of Lincoln’s newspaper, Southern Nebraska Register, and will share those columns with the Catholic Voice.

Fourth, one of my NCC colleagues will also be writing a monthly Catholic Voice column, so give them a read. Rather than put you to sleep like I do, they’ll better educate you on other policy and advocacy matters. This month, Lauren Garcia has written an excellent piece about the Parable of the Persistent Widow.

Finally, never hesitate to write, e-mail or call our office. We are honored to serve you and happy to update you on, answer questions about, or take feedback on legislation.

With that said, the 107th Nebraska Legislature has a journey ahead of it. This year is a 90-day working session, which will last through late May to early June. When this column shows up in your mailbox, the Legislature will be on Day 12, having just completed its 10-day bill introduction period. To quote every horse race announcer ever: “… and they’re off!”

During this session, my column will get down to business and focus on our major legislative priorities. I intend to give you policy justifications on major pieces of legislation, with the hope that you will be motivated to action. Charitable engagement and advocacy with your state senator is critical to building up the common good. If I’ve quoted Pope Benedict and Pope Francis once, I’ll quote them a thousand times: “If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church, ‘cannot and must not sit on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’”

So, what’s our first “fight for justice” this legislative session?

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (Elkhorn) once again introduced a critical piece of legislation (LB364) that would guarantee more educational scholarship opportunities for low-income families looking to send their children to parochial or private schools.

Every year, Catholic and other faith-based schools across Nebraska must, sadly, turn down families because they lack the financial resources to help every kid who wants an education in our schools. Sen. Linehan’s Opportunity Scholarships Act would remedy this problem. LB364 incentivizes more charitable giving to scholarship-granting organizations, which can turn around and provide increased scholarship opportunities for families.

Our Catholic social teaching tradition – rooted in faith and reason – is clear: parents must be respected as their child’s primary educator, and parents must be provided concrete opportunities to direct their child’s education. The tragedy is that too many parents lack the financial means to truly choose their child’s education. This is an injustice which demands our action.

I’m calling on you – my fellow Catholics – to write, e-mail and call members of the Revenue Committee and urge them to support LB364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act. You can find their contact information at www.NebraskaLegislature.gov.

The Revenue Committee members who have previously supported scholarship tax credits are Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan, and Senators Joni Albrecht, Tom Briese and Brett Lindstrom. Let them know your appreciation for their support of scholarship tax credits.

The other members who need to hear from you are Senators Mike Flood, Curt Friesen, Rich Pahls and Eliot Bostar.

If you want to learn more before you contact these senators, visit www.InvestInKidsNebraska.org for more resources. Thank you for your faithfulness to our low-income families in Nebraska seeking the best educational opportunities for their children!

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