The Real Deal
Without the real deal, the policy making process can miss the mark.
Every bill in the Nebraska Unicameral has a public hearing. This tradition is baked into the process and (most) Senators attend all hearings, listen to hours of testimony, and ask thoughtful questions.
You will almost always hear a thank you to the mother who shared her story through tears in the Health and Human Services Hearing, an acknowledgement to the correctional officer who came before Judiciary to tell his story from the day-to-day grind, and a thoughtful question or two proposed to the well prepped high school student who went before the Education Committee. These are small, but not trivial things. They are part of what makes the Unicameral tick.
Every. Person. Has. A. Chance. To. Be. Heard.
Session is in full swing. While the consistency of the public hearing schedule and the daily agenda is ever-present, variety is in store as the Capitol is a buzz every day with different interests, press conferences, and lunch and learns.
Press Round Up
Don Walton’s write up offers a quick synopsis of an array of political topics including filibusters, Ben Sasse’s Twitter account, and the latest in the “Governor greeting the President” controversy.
On the topic of filibusters – here are a two articles for you to catch up on the gun debate set to resume Monday January 25th: Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World Herald.
Learn more about Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services testifying against a coalition member priority LB 690, the bill that would remove the barrier for individuals with drug felonies to access SNAP benefits.
Full Steam Ahead
Let’s talk about the ever changing, highly anticipated, strategically ordered, and occasionally loathed daily “agenda”. It can be found a few different ways on the legislature’s website. Your best bet is probably visiting the calendar page.
The Speaker sets the agenda and the agenda in turn sets the pace for the day/week. Staffers and seasoned advocates can look at the order of bills and gauge the flow of the day. Nebraskans make the decision whether to drive to Lincoln from Omaha, Grand Island and beyond based on the agenda. It’s a big deal.
The next day’s agenda is not only a hot topic, but there is a whole current of whispers throughout the Capitol building about when certain controversial bills may be scheduled on a future agenda. You might be thinking, that is a lot of attention for what amounts to a simple schedule, but entire legislative packages have lived or died based on their placement on the fluid document. Watch for much discussion later about when T-HIP (Medicaid Expansion) and other Coalition member priorities are scheduled.
At our core, when we each envision poverty, we are grounded in our own perception of what it can look like in everyday life. When you work on policy change – we do not lose the image of an individual person or child – rather we look at the system and ask ourselves what can be done to change the picture.
The volunteer at the food bank, the philanthropist, the policy advocate, and the family struggling to put food on the table are all change agents. Your work is ongoing and this, my friends, is only the beginning of the 2016 Legislative Session.
Let’s see what you can do…
The 104th Legislature, 2nd Session begins this week!
There are some certainties that Coalition for a Strong Nebraska members can count on during these first 10 days of bill introduction. The Unicameral will see legislation introduced that would fight poverty, legislation introduced that would foster the growth of poverty, and legislation introduced that simply forgets poverty exists in Nebraska. Look here for updates in all three categories (as prioritized by the Coalition) in the months ahead.
While tax policy, medicaid, education, and prison reform have been widely cited as key issues this session, addressing the $132 million dollar projected budget shortfall will be a priority looming over these and all policy discussions.