Key upcoming legislative activities

Friday, 03 February 2017

Any given week, numerous issues could easily become the topic of this column. Some weeks, the topic is easy to determine. Other weeks, it is difficult. This is one of those “other” weeks. Because of that, I want to highlight a few key issues/events. 

Mark Your Calendar: Catholics at the Capitol (March 21). Catholics at the Capitol is an event that grew out of a yearly gathering of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women at the state capitol, to learn about legislative issues. Two years ago, the event opened to the public and became a sponsored activity of the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

Catholics at the Capitol is a “legislative day” for Catholics to gather together, learn about important legislative issues, listen to a keynote speaker, and visit with State Senators. We have also been privileged to always have one or more of our bishops in attendance.

Catholics at the Capitol will take place Tuesday, March 21, in the basement of St. Mary Church (14th and K in Lincoln—across the street to the north of the Capitol). The event begins with registration at 8:30 a.m.—coffee and donuts will be served. The program begins at 9 a.m. and concludes with 12:10 p.m. Mass at St. Mary.

Reiterating the words of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis states in The Joy of the Gospel, “If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’” Let Catholics at the Capitol be another opportunity to be engaged in the political process.
For now, save the date and invite your parish, family, and friends!

Reintroduction of Doctor-Prescribed Suicide (LB450). The first 10 days of the legislative sessions are mostly reserved for introducing new legislation. On the 10th day (Jan. 18), Sen. Ernie Chambers introduced legislation to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide.

Doctor-prescribed suicide legislation would create immunity for doctors who prescribe concoctions of lethal drugs to assist their patients in ending their lives. Under the legislation, a patient must be terminal—meaning they have less than six months to live—to be eligible.

The problems with this legislation are beyond measure. The legislation is both inherently flawed and adequately lacks proper safeguards. It undermines the gift and dignity of human life by engaging in a “murderous act” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church bluntly states. It violates the healing nature of medicine. It fails to provide adequate medical and government oversight, prevention against coercion (by doctors, insurance companies, government, family, friends, etc.), and protections for the most vulnerable (the sick, poor, and minorities), to name but a few practical problems.

Last year, doctor-prescribed suicide made little progress in our legislative process. This year, however, could be different. In light of major, nationwide efforts by Compassion & Choices—the main doctor-prescribed suicide advocacy group—there is a need to be particularly vigilant about this legislation.

“Choose Life” License Plates (LB46). A minor—but, important—piece of legislation still awaits first round of legislative debate, though it may have been debated by the time this is published. LB46—introduced by Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse—would allow for “Choose Life” license plates. The legislation was unanimously advanced (8-0) to first round of debate by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

During the committee hearing, LB46 received significant opposition by Planned Parenthood advocates. Already, a couple dozen “unfriendly” amendments have been filed, each one intended to demean and ridicule the underlying pro-life message of the legislation.

The level of opposition to this bill is both surprising and unsurprising. On the one hand, it is surprising because the legislation is fairly minor as it only concerns a license plate. On the other hand, Nebraska—out of all places—has not passed pro-life legislation in six years. To that extent, passing “Choose Life” license plates becomes a symbolic victory for the pro-life movement in Nebraska, which means pro-abortion advocates are working tirelessly.

To continue following the work of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, join our Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska (CANN) at www.necatholic.org. As always, stay tuned and ready to promote the common good.