The Legislature is in session 01/15/2016

The second session of the 104th Legislature of the Nebraska Unicameral is off and running, as of Jan. 6. Each Legislature involves a two-year cycle with the first year’s session (in odd-numbered years) lasting 90 days and the second year’s session (in even-numbered years) lasting 60 days.

Legislative days include only those days the Legislature is in session and conducting business (i.e. not weekends, recess days or holidays). Hence the 90-day session lasts from early January until mid-June and the 60-day session lasts from early January until mid-April.

Bills are introduced by senators during the first 10 legislative days of each session. During the first session (2015), 664 bills were introduced. About one-third of those bills were enacted.

Those bills introduced in the first session that are not enacted or “killed” carry over to the second session. Whether a carryover bill sees action in the second session depends upon a number of factors (e.g. whether it is designated as a priority bill by its introducer or another senator, and whether it received debate time in the first session).

During the first four days of bill introduction this session there have been more than 200 additional bills introduced. By the time the last day of bill introduction occurs (Jan. 20) there will undoubtedly be dozens more bills introduced.

Among the weighty issues of this session will be the budget shortfall, demands for property tax relief, a prison expansion proposal, gun laws, Medicaid expansion, road funding and medical marijuana.

There may also be a continued push for bills expanding homosexual rights, especially following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last summer legalizing same-sex “marriage.” One of the bills carried over from 2015 is LB 586. This bill, which the Nebraska Catholic Conference opposes, would prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is possible that this or a similar bill could be debated in this session.

As for the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC), which represents the mutual interests of the Catholic Bishops in Nebraska, our priorities will include the following: the rights and dignity of human life at every stage, family life, marriage, human sexuality, assistance for those in poverty, Catholic education, religious freedom and conscience rights. Besides these priorities, there will likely be many other issues of concern to the Church that will be followed by NCC.

One of the tools the Nebraska Catholic Conference uses to inform and activate Catholics on important and priority public policy matters is the Catholic Advocacy Network Nebraska (CANN). Members receive occasional email updates and action alerts as urgent matters arise.

Through the use of Voter Voice on our website (www.necatholic.org) we provide members with the names and contact information of their elected representatives. We also provide action alerts with pre-written messages that can be sent to a person’s representatives with a quick and easy click of a “mouse.” Making your voice heard in the public arena has never been easier!

There are currently about 3,900 members of CANN, which is a decent start, but with about 400,000 Catholics in Nebraska, I know we can do much better.  If you are not already signed up please go to www.necatholic.org and take a couple of minutes to sign up.  If you are already a member, please ask at least one more person to join.

If you are into social media, you can also help us (and receive more frequent updates) by “liking” our Facebook page (search for “Nebraska Catholic Conference”) and by following us on Twitter (@NECatholic).

With little effort, 10,000 members of CANN is easily attainable and will significantly increase the influence of the Nebraska Catholic Conference on important legislation. The voices of constituents (even by email!) can be very influential in how a senator votes on a piece of legislation. A few minutes of your time can make a significant contribution toward building a civilization of life and love and in pushing back against the culture of death.