Unicameral releases new online feature for public comments

Unicameral releases new online feature for public comments

The Nebraska Legislature has rolled out a new way of soliciting public comment on bills being heard before legislative committees.

In the past, if members of the public wished to make their opinion on a bill known, they had to trek to Lincoln on the day of the hearing, sign in as “For” or “Against” the bill, wait their turn to speak before the committee–or email or call their senator, who might not be on the committee.

This year, the Legislature is trying a new method, spurred by the need to be more cautious about large groups gathering in hearing rooms. But this is a method that should remain after the pandemic is over, because it allows people from all over the state, day or night, to submit their comments on a bill from home.

Here’s how to submit your written comment on a bill. First, you visit the Nebraska Legislature website.

If you know the bill number already, you can search for it in the top right search box on PC, or by scrolling down until you find “Search Current Bills” on a mobile device. If you don’t know the bill number you can go to the bill search page, and look for the bill by subject or introducer.

And if you’re not sure what to look for just yet, you can also find an assortment of bills we’re tracking at the Platte Institute through our Take Action section. You can find a link to the Legislature’s page for each proposal in our bill summaries.

You might also find your bill on the Legislature’s hearing schedule, which is organized by each week’s public hearings.

No matter how you get to the page for the specific bill you’re interested in, you’ll then click on the button that says “Submit Written Comment,” along with the bill number.

That will open a form where you can provide your statement for or against the bill in question.

This option creates a tremendous opportunity for Nebraskans to provide meaningful written comments on legislation being considered, without having to take time off from work or fight the sometimes crowded hearing rooms (and parking challenges around the Capitol). We hope that the public takes advantage of this option and that the Legislature decides to continue to maintain it once the pandemic is over. Sometimes great things can come out of bad situations, and this may be a way of increasing public involvement that was never envisioned before COVID-19 changed life in Nebraska last March.

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