By Tom Venzor
As a bit of background, I usually write this column by Monday and the Southern Nebraska Register typically arrives in your mailbox on that Friday. This sometimes makes it difficult to provide the most up-to-date information about the Nebraska Legislature’s activities. Oftentimes, there are major legislative actions that occur in between the time I write and when you read. Had I any ability to accurately write about the future that has not yet occurred, I would do so. But given that I’ll never acquire such a talent, I’ll stick to writing about events that have occurred.
Once you read this column, the Legislature will have nearly completed its business for the 2019 session. Speaker Jim Scheer recently announced that the Legislature will not require the entire 90 days to complete this session’s work. Instead, they will adjourn May 31. The final two days of session (May 30 and May 31) are intended to address any veto overrides and to wrap up final round debate on remaining legislation. This means the Legislature is completing nearly all its substantive work two weeks before the originally scheduled final day of session—and you’ll hardly hear anybody complaining about that fact.
One major legislative bill that will fall into that gap of being debated after I write this column and when you read it is LB209, the Abortion Pill Reversal Information Act. It will have been debated on second round earlier in the week, either on Tuesday or Wednesday.
While I did not get a chance to provide a summary update of the first round of debate, it is anticipated that LB209 will safely advance to third round of debate. During first round of debate, LB209 received 37 votes in support, which is four votes beyond the super majority of 33 needed to overcome a filibuster. This major achievement indicates that an overwhelming number of Senators in the Legislature view LB209 for what it is: common-sense, pro-life policy that empowers mothers with the information they need in the event they change their mind about undertaking the abortion pill process.
Another key legislative bill that will also fall into this same gap is LB519, which includes several human trafficking bills. One of these trafficking bills is a measure that ensures all children receive appropriate social services once they are identified as victims of human trafficking.
Unfortunately, under current practices, children who are trafficked by somebody other than their parent or legal guardian are not given the appropriate access they need to critical social services through the Department of Health & Human Services. Instead, law enforcement is tasked with the responsibility of assisting these children. While our law enforcement undertakes courageous efforts to abolish human trafficking, they are not equipped to be social service providers.
This legislation will also have been slated for debate earlier in the week. Like LB209, LB519 received overwhelming support during first round debate. It advanced on a vote of 45-0.
When exactly these bills will be up for final round of debate is not yet clear. It is likely these two bills will be debated on final round of debate May 31, the final day of session. But time will tell—and, as I said earlier, I lack the ability to write about events that have not yet occurred.
As you think about the Legislature winding down, you should consider this as another prime opportunity for grassroots advocacy. For example, reach out to your State Senator ask them how they think this legislative session went. Ask them to provide you a recap and to offer their perspective on what they believed were the highlights and challenges of the session.
As well, this is an excellent time to express your gratitude for their service. Regardless of whether you agree with them or not, we can all agree that the work of public service is a difficult task. Everybody surely appreciates a little pat on the back and some gratitude for their work. This small gesture can build civic friendship, which our world desperately needs.
This is also a time to look toward the future. As one session closes, another one is on the horizon. Find out what issues your Senator intends to focus on as they prepare for 2020. Listen closely for how these priorities may or may not align with principles like the common good, subsidiarity, solidarity, and human dignity. And, of course, feel free to express your hopes for their future policy priorities.
As always, pray that the work of this legislative session will bear abundant fruit for Nebraska!