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Watchfulness in the Citizen

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April 6, 2022

“The Salvation of the State is the Watchfulness in the Citizens.” – Hartly Burr Alexander

Many citizens think that once they vote to elect a representative to office, their work is done. The belief that elected representatives will make all the changes promised in their campaigns is a common misperception. Elected officials need constant feedback about the issues at the forefront of their constituents’ minds. Otherwise, how will they understand the depth of passion or the shallowness of apathy felt by those who put them in office?

Nebraska proudly brags of the Unicameral system, with the “Second House” – the citizens – taking a prominent role in legislative processes.

Are we, the citizens of Nebraska, living up to our role? The Second House was created to support the close relationship between the citizens of Nebraska and the leaders they elected. Supposedly it highlights an ongoing, interactive partnership between the two. As time progressed, it seemed fewer and fewer citizens got actively involved. The citizens of Nebraska appear to be waking from their legislative slumber.

Not only are more Nebraskans aware of legislative issues, but more are also stepping up to get involved. Grassroots organizations from both sides of the aisle have formed to magnify the impact of many voices. Technology has made sending a letter or phone call to your elected representative as simple as clicking a button. More importantly, people are showing up at the Capitol to meet with their representatives, give testimony about bills and sit in the chambers during debates. All these actions resonate with our elected officials, giving them guidance about how Nebraskans want our state to be run.

This also means that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The more involved and vocal a group is – the more attention and credence they receive. This may mean a vocal minority is able to sway legislators’ opinions in the absence of other information.

With that in mind, if you have ever disliked a law, or wondered how on earth someone could vote the way they did, understand that your voice is powerful and necessary. Take some time to show up at the Capitol when a bill is being debated. Consider lending your signature to a petition or giving personal testimony about that which you have the most passion. At the very least, call or email your state legislator giving them your opinion. This is the very essence of a representative government. We, the Second House, have to uphold our part of the bargain.

The 107th Legislature ends this year on April 20. Our legislators will be working late nights, to debate and either pass or block several bills: Heard in General File yesterday LB 873  - which deals with our tax system (the bane of many in Nebraska.) Wednesday the legislature will focus on LB933 – which will ban abortion in most cases should Roe v Wade ever get overturned. There is also an attempt to override Governor Ricketts’s veto on LB1073 – which would force Nebraska to apply for additional rental assistance funds.

The last two years have proven the need for a strong state to stand up and push back against federal government overreach. We must not sit out these discussions. As Nebraskans, it is imperative that we stay involved (or get involved!) and make our voices heard. -30-

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