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The 2016 legislative session has ended and the interim has begun. There is a lot of work that needs to be done over the interim months in preparation for the next session which begins in January. Notwithstanding all the work, one of the things I have been doing since session ended, and have thoroughly enjoyed, has been visiting the local elementary schools, specifically the fourth grade, to enhance the Nebraska history curriculum taught to our fourth graders. Unfortunately I was not able to visit every elementary school in the District, and to those students and teachers I was unable to meet with, you have my sincere apology. It is my full intention to visit every elementary fourth grader in the District next year during my legislative recess days.
It is important that our youth learn about Nebraska and the history of Nebraska and the Legislature. Nebraska’s one house system, the Unicameral, makes us unique when compared to all other states. All across Nebraska, fourth grade students get a lesson on Nebraska’s history and the history of the Unicameral. Students learn the historical foundation and events that led to the formation of Nebraska’s government. They learn the function of the Unicameral, how a bill becomes law, and get to learn about the different roles of government and who the leaders in our government are. To compliment the curriculum taught in class, fourth grade students also get to visit and tour the State Capitol. Many students even get to see the Legislature in action, observing debate among the Senators and seeing them vote. Unfortunately, with distance and travel issues that are a part of living in far western Nebraska, our fourth grade students do not get to participate in the Capitol visit. This is why I chose to bring the Capitol and the Legislature to our students.
During my visits, I was able to visit with the students about what I do as their state Senator, how the Legislature works, why Nebraska is unique with its one house Unicameral, and most importantly, to answer the many questions the students had. The interest and enthusiasm the students possess made me proud to be able to bring them this information and experience.
Recognizing that the 400 miles to Lincoln is a daunting trip, I would still encourage anyone who has never visited the Capitol in Lincoln to do so. The building holds so much history. Much of what you see in the Capitol is still original from when the Capitol was constructed in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The Capitol is home to the three branches of State government. The official tour provided by the wonderful tour guides takes you around the Capitol, to the legislative chamber, the Governor’s office, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. On a clear day, if you go up to the observation deck on the 14th Floor, you can see for miles in all directions. Also on the 14th Floor is a Memorial Chamber, which is a dedication to the heroic enterprises associated with Nebraska’s history.
Under construction right now are fountains in the four Capitol courtyards. These fountains were contained in the original blueprints during construction of the Capitol, but because of the Depression in the 1930’s and the high unemployment rate, they were never installed. Completion of the fountains will be done by the end of the year, in time for the 2017 Nebraska Sesquicentennial, Nebraska’s 150th birthday.
If your summer plans include a trip to the Capitol, please stop by my Capitol office, Room 1406. My staff is in the office Monday through Friday, and are happy to meet and visit with you. I also plan on being in my Capitol office during the interim months about every couple of weeks.
I would like to thank all of the fourth grade students and teachers I was able to visit with. Thank you for allowing me to visit with you about my experience in the Legislature. I am humbled that I am allowed this experience, and to be able to share my experience with the youth in my District.