Sign the Petition – Post the Unicameral’s Videos Online
“The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen”
Some of you may remember that those are the words etched into the stone above the main entrance to our State Capitol building. Video recordings and archives of floor debate and committee hearings are one of the primary tools most states and U.S. territories make available to the public to empower and inform them.
Nebraska is not one of those states. In fact, Nebraska is one of only four states that do not make the video or audio recordings of their legislative process available online. Although Unicameral activities are streamed live by Nebraska Public Media, the recordings are not officially posted anywhere the public can search and view them later.
This access is particularly important in Nebraska, where we are represented by a single legislative chamber. With power vested in a relatively small number of elected officials, it is our duty to be engaged in the process of holding our senators accountable, and our right to know about what our elected officials are envisioning for the state.
Without this access, we are forced to either take off time from work or other responsibilities to watch the Legislature live, or receive information second-hand, filtered through the lens of the media or other advocates. I don’t know about you, but when it is something I care about, I want to hear about it first-hand so I can decide for myself what is going on.
Why doesn’t Nebraska post Unicameral videos online?
This is the big question. We almost got it done in the last session. In 2022, Sen. Tom Brewer introduced Legislative Bill 777, which would put the videos online. On the Platte Institute Take Action page, 65% of respondents say they support the bill.
Although that result is non-scientific, it closely mirrors a past scientific survey on allowing Nebraskans to participate in government meetings through virtual conferencing. Sixty-six percent of voters told us they would support a law allowing the public to provide legislative testimony through software like Zoom. In short, Nebraskans are interested in using technology to access the legislative process.
LB777 was not the first bill seeking a state legislative video archive, but it was the first to receive a priority designation from the Speaker of the Legislature, which can help it move up the legislative agenda. The bill received no opposition in its committee hearing, and it was advanced to full debate. However, that debate never made it on the schedule, and the bill died at the end of the session.
As we approach the next biennium in our Legislature, we are back at square one. It is up to us to make sure our representatives give us the access we deserve to stay informed about their activities and progress. Now is the time for you to let our senators know that we expect them to empower us with direct access to the work we elected them to do.
Stay tuned to the Platte Institute for updates and direction on how you can help reintroduce this important bill. In the meantime, to dig a little deeper into why Nebraskans deserve access and transparency from their policymakers, check out this post from our CEO, Jim Vokal.
And be sure to sign the petition to show your support for putting Nebraska Unicameral videos online:
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Sign the Petition - Put the Unicameral Online
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