What. A. Week!
April 17, 2023
A little factoid about me: I’m a night owl. I usually stay up until midnight or 1 AM. It’s always been the time when I do my best work. The house is silent, the world is calm and my phone is typically quiet. It’s a great time if you ask me – and I’ll be happy to go toe-to-toe with any early birds out there who think otherwise.
Last Friday night, when I put my 7- and 4-year-old girls to bed, they asked if I would lie down with them. While I tried to talk them out of it, they reminded me that the last couple times, I had given them the proverbial “next time” excuse. As I looked at them with those sweet, begging eyes, I gave in and said, “Yes!” Before I knew it, and before 9 PM, I was out like a light.
That’s all to say: last week was a crazy, hectic and wonderful week at the Nebraska Legislature!
The week was already set to be a busy one with our ninth annual advocacy day, Catholics at the Capitol. This day brings Catholics from across Nebraska to the State Capitol. It gives Catholics a chance to learn about the Nebraska Legislature by listening to public officials and Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) staff. It also provides an opportunity to watch legislative debate and meet with state senators.
This year’s Catholics at the Capitol, by the grace of God, ended up being on the same day as the first-round legislative debate on LB626, the Nebraska Heartbeat Act, introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht. It’d be an understatement to say we were not expecting this. It isn’t until the end of the week before (usually Friday) that we learn what will be debated the following week. At best, we have a few days’ notice that we’ll be debating a bill. In this case, we got notice Thursday that LB626 would be debated on Wednesday.
At this year’s Catholics at the Capitol, we had a record-setting attendance of 275 attendees. We beat our previous record by over 100 people and our typical attendance by nearly three times. We already had a record-setting attendance before the LB626 debate announcement, but that announcement encouraged others to attend the event.
We had an incredible morning. Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha gave a powerful speech that riled up our attendees about the importance of being zealous advocates for our Catholic faith, especially on the life issue. Sen. McDonnell was immediately met with a standing ovation. Governor Jim Pillen gave an equally incredible and emotional speech. He spoke about the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit, his humble upbringing in poverty and the call from God to run for governor, and the beauty of the gift of life (especially in his own life through the adoption of his son, Izic). Another standing ovation moment.
Our attendees also made a major impact by attending legislative debate. We had to send our group to the Capitol in multiple envoys because we had so many attendees and the legislative chamber balcony could only seat so many of us at once. We heard from multiple senators about the impact our presence had on them during debate. They were strengthened in their pro-life resolve, knowing that fellow pro-lifers were watching and praying for them.
To cap off Wednesday’s experience, the Nebraska Legislature advanced the Nebraska Heartbeat Act to the second round of debate. It defeated a filibuster and advanced by a vote of 33-16. One step closer to protecting babies with heartbeats – praise God!
On top of all this, two other major NCC priorities advanced in the legislative process. LB753, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, advanced to the third and final round of debate. This bill is transformative school choice legislation that will help low-income and other vulnerable student populations have access to a school of their choice. With one last round to go, we are excited for the chance to pass historic school choice legislation.
The Nebraska Legislature also advanced LB574, the Let Them Grow Act. This legislation would prohibit experimental and dangerous procedures and medicines – such as cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers and surgeries to remove otherwise healthy body parts – from being used on minors experiencing gender dysphoria. What these kids need is compassion, care and watchful waiting, not irreversible damage done to their bodies. Pray this legislation advances its last round of debate!
Hopefully, it makes a little more sense why I passed out before 9 PM on a Friday. We had a jam-packed week full of generational wins, and the Unicameral could not have gotten there without you. Continue to be advocates by joining our network at www.NEcatholic.org. God bless Nebraska!
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at email@example.com.