The next session of the Nebraska legislature is fast approaching! The Second Session of the 108th Nebraska Legislature is scheduled to start on January 3rd, 2024 and end on April 18th, 2024. The session and daily calendars can be accessed at the legislature’s website. The legislatures’ website is also a source of all kinds of information: text of bills, senator contacts, and ways to submit comments on legislation.
“Nothing About Us without Us”
Chiseled into the North Portal over the main entrance of the Capitol is a quote by Nebraska philosopher, Hartley Burr Alexander: “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen”. Alexander’s words serve as a permanent reminder that we have a responsibility to be active participants in the public policy process. These words also remind us that the legislative process works best when the public is engaged and providing their perspective, knowledge, and expertise to policymakers. Senators only know what they know. They rely on individuals to share their stories, experiences, and knowledge to fill in what they don’t know, so that they can make good decisions. However, decisions depend on information. Outcomes reflect the amount, diversity, and quality of information given. That is why it is so important for people with disabilities, their families, and advocates to engage in the development of disability policy.
People with disabilities are the true experts on disability. When creating disability policy, decision makers must seek out and include the voices, lived experience, and perspectives of people with disabilities and/or their families.
“It’s Go Time…Get Prepared”
Around 13% of Nebraska’s population identify as having one or more disabilities and people with disabilities live in every Nebraska county. The legislature makes the rules by which all Nebraskans will live their lives and this includes people with disabilities, too. While often not the most flashy or controversial legislation, senators introduce a significant number of bills each session directly or indirectly impacting people with disabilities.
Disability Rights Nebraska works to educate state policymakers on disability issues, legislation, and policy. To see what legislation we are working on, visit our Legislative Updates page and download our Legislative Agenda. We also work to help people with disabilities and their families engage with senators and other policymakers on disability policy. Our Legislative Updates page also has information and resources useful when preparing for (and during) the legislative session. For example, read Jennifer Herting’s blog post about testifying at her first public hearing and our animated video with tips for communicating with senators. Keep checking the page as we update it as new information comes in or resources are developed.
Winter is coming. The next legislative session is just weeks away. Let’s all get prepared.
- Brad Meurrens is the Public Policy Director at Disability Rights Nebraska. Brad works with policymakers and others on disability-related policy and legislation. Brad also provides support to individuals with disabilities who wish to engage in advocacy and works to raise awareness of emerging disability issues. If you have policy questions or are interested in sharing your voice with the legislature, please contact our office at 1-800-422-6691 or email at Info@disabilityrightsnebraska.org.