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On Monday, January 25th, the Legislature will begin public hearings for the year. These hearings are open to all Nebraskans, and provide fantastic opportunities for you to share your opinions on any bills introduced that are important to you. You can see the schedule of upcoming hearings at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/calendar/hearings_range.php.
Due to COVID-19, the procedures for public hearings have changed. Hearings will run for the full day, beginning at 9:30 in the morning. This schedule will at least go through the month of February. Full day floor debate will begin when committee hearings are complete. The Legislature is offering four options for testifying in public hearings.
As always, if you attend a public hearing in person, you still have that option. Testimonies are generally limited to three to five minutes, depending on the committee. If you choose to testify in person, please note that there will be some changes in the procedures.
First, the Legislature is asking that you only enter the hearing room when it is necessary for you to attend the bill hearing in progress. There will be a list outside of the hearing room that will have the schedule of bills being taken up. We also ask that you wear a face covering in the hearing room. Testifiers may remove their face covering while testifying to assist committee members and transcribers in clearing hearing your testimony. Please limit or avoid bringing handouts if possible. All in-person testimony will be added to the committee report and will be included on the bill’s official record.
You may also provide a written testimony in place of an in-person testimony, This is to create a substitute for those who are concerned about their safety by testifying in person. In order to take advantage of this option, the following four requirements must be met:
If these requirements are not met, the written testimony will still be included in the official hearing record, but the testimony will not be listed on the committee statement.
You may also submit a position letter. These letters may be delivered to the office of the committee chair or emailed to the committee’s email account by 12:00 p.m. CST on the last work day prior to the public hearing. You can find a list of the committee emails at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/committees/committee-emails.php. Your letter should identify which bill or resolution you are testifying on, your position, your name and address, and a request to have your letter included as part of the public hearing record.
Finally, the Legislature has added a new feature to their website for submission of written statements on pending legislation. To access this feature, just search for the bill you would like to comment on, and click the button that says “Submit Written Comment.” You can select your position on the bill and type up to 300 words in a text box explaining your stance.
These submissions are not considered testimony or part of the public hearing record, but the statements will be available for access by senators and staff throughout the session. If you use this database prior to a hearing, committee members will be able to see your input prior to their vote.
Nebraska’s unique Unicameral Legislature relies heavily on the “second house” – the citizens of the State of Nebraska. Ensuring that members of the public have the opportunity to have their voices heard is vital to the legislative process.
As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: email@example.com.