Nebraska residents are often referred to as the second house of our unique unicameral legislative system. Recognizing the importance of constituent voices in the legislative process and the long distances some must travel to appear before a legislative committee, new rules were introduced this session. Now letters of testimony may be submitted to be included as an exhibit in the official hearing record, permitting participation in the process—even if you are not able to travel to Lincoln.
Another unique component of Nebraska’s system of government is that each and every legislative bill (LB) introduced during the session gets a legislative hearing. Each bill is referred to a certain legislative committee in the statehouse that will schedule and host a hearing. As a result, constituents are able to weigh in on legislation before senators, and express their support, opposition, or neutrality on the proposal.
If constituents are unable to testify in person at the committee hearing, they may submit a letter into the official record of the proceedings. This means that Nebraskans can express their stance on legislation even if they can’t attend the hearing by submitting a written letter and following these six steps:
1. You should address your message to: "Chairperson _______ and members of the __________ Committee.” Be certain to include the full name of the committee.
Example: “Chairperson Stinner and members of the Appropriations Committee.”
2. Be sure to include your name and address.
Example: John Smith, 1234 Lane, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509.
3. Start your comments with this phrase, "Please make this proponent/opponent/neutral testimony part of the official record for the DATE public hearing for LB _______."
Example: “Please make this proponent testimony part of the official record for the Feb. 14, 2019, public hearing for LB 314.”
4. Then, make whatever statement you wish to present to the committee.
5. Attach your testimony to an email addressed to: “________ Committee Clerk _________.”
Example: “Appropriations Committee Clerk Brittany Bohlmeyer.”
6. Your brief message can simply request that they include your statement in the hearing documents for LB _____.
Example: “Appropriations Committee Clerk Brittany Bohlmeyer, please include this proponent testimony into the hearing documents for LB 314.”
You’re ready to go! Just a few more tips: testimony must be received by 5 p.m. on the business day before the hearing, and make sure to account for holidays and recess days. As always, if you have any questions, I am happy to guide you through this process.
Here’s a pro tip: The listing of committee chairs and members can be found on the Nebraska Legislature website. Committee clerks are often listed on senator’s webpages or can be found by calling the committee chair’s office.
Feature photo: Residents of Nebraska came from all over the state for Family Farm Lobby Day in April 2018. Here they talk with lawmakers in the Rotunda in the Unicameral. | Photo by Rhea Landholm
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