How to share your views with senators
Nebraska’s unique Unicameral Legislature relies heavily on the “second house” – the citizens of the State of Nebraska. Ensuring that members of the public have the opportunity to have their voices heard is vital to the legislative process.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique health and safety concerns. The Legislature has considered and adopted expanded methods by which the public can provide input into the legislative process so that citizens who have safety concerns about in-person testifying have multiple opportunities to have their voice heard as part of the legislative and committee process.
The following options provide ways for citizens to share their views on a bill with the Legislature. Please read each option carefully, as each has a different outcome as to how your input is recorded.
As always, persons attending a public hearing in person will have an opportunity to present verbal testimony to the committee and be subject to questioning by the committee members. In-person testimony is generally limited to 5 minutes although the chair of each committee has discretion to modify that time limit.
Persons verbally testifying will be listed as a testifier on the committee statement as has been the practice, and have their position included within the official committee hearing record
As part of the Nebraska Legislature’s procedural modifications in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, during the 2021 Session, the standing committees will be accepting submitted written testimony for public hearings on a bill or resolution when the following specific procedures outlined below are met.
The intent of this option is to create a substitute for those who are concerned about safety by testifying in person but wish to have their testimony submitted, name recorded on the committee statement, and included in the formal committee hearing record as if they had testified in person. Please note that the committee statement will note that the testimony was provided in writing with no opportunity for the committee members to question the testifier.
In order to take advantage of this option, the following six requirements must be met:
- Submission of written testimony will only be accepted between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. in the respective hearing room where the bill will be heard later that day.
Individuals must present their written testimony in person during this time frame and sign the submitted written testimony record at the time of submission on the day of the hearing on the bill.
- An individual with a disability, as defined by the federal Americans with Disability Act of 1990, may have his or her written testimony submitted in person by another individual between 8:30 and 9:30 on the day of the hearing in the respective hearing room.
- The individual delivering the testimony will be authorized to sign the written testimony record on behalf of the individual with a disability, after signing a statement that to the best of their knowledge, the individual whose testimony he/she is delivering has a disability as defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
- This exception is allowed because COVID-19 often presents greater risks to individuals with a disability.
- In order to be included on the committee statement as submitting written testimony, all remaining requirements (numbers 1, and 3-6) must be met.
- The testifier must submit 12 copies. Failure to submit the required number of copies will result in the treatment of the submission as a position letter and not written testimony.
- The written testimony must be a written statement that is no longer than 2 single-spaced, typed pages or 4 double-spaced, typed pages in length.
- Only the written testimony from the person delivering the testimony will be accepted. No handouts, testimony, or letters from other individuals may be included outside of an individual’s written testimony.
- Written testimony will be handed out to each member of the committee during the hearing and made available as part of the hearing transcript when the transcript is made public.
Failure to meet all of these procedures for submitted written testimony will result in the person providing the testimony to not be listed on the committee statement as a written testifier, however, the testimony will be included in the official hearing record as an exhibit.
Directions for Preparing Written Testimony
The easiest way to think of written testimony is that it should read as if you were sitting in the chair and orally testifying. Submitted, written testimony should be a written version of oral testimony. Written testimony should not be a letter to the committee or a memo. No inside address to the chair or closing signature is needed on your testimony.
When written testimony is submitted, the testifier fills out a “sign-in sheet” (similar to providing oral testimony) identifying their name and who he/she is representing, if anyone other than self. This sheet serves as the “signature” of the testifier so no closing signature is required on the testimony itself.
Additionally, handouts may not be submitted with written testimony and “handout information” should not be incorporated into your written testimony. You cannot read a chart when orally testifying, so a chart should not be included in the middle of your written testimony.
SAMPLE Written Testimony
Chairman Williams, and members of the Banking Committee, my name is [first and last name]. I am here representing myself in support of LB 21. This bill changes several different insurance provisions. As a newly licensed insurance agent, I am here to support the change to Nebraska’s continuing education laws for insurance agents. LB 21 would change the law to provide that the current continuing education provisions will not apply to insurance agents in their first license period if the license expires less than a year after the date of licensing. The current law does not provide an adequate amount of time for an agent to practice under their original license before requiring the agent to obtain continuing education hours. I believe the change to the continuing education requirements for newly licensed agents is a commonsense change and ask for your support in advancing LB 21 to general file.
If you are not testifying in person on a bill or resolution, or submitting written testimony in person on a bill (Option 2), but would like to submit a position letter to be included in the official hearing record as an exhibit, you must deliver your letter to the office of the committee chair or emailed to the committee’s email account List of Committee Emails by 12:00 p.m. CST on the last work day prior to the public hearing.
Letters emailed (and not hand-delivered) will not be included as part of the public hearing record if sent to any email other than the committee’s email account List of Committee Emails.
Your letter must identify the bill or resolution, include your name and address, state a position of for, against, or neutral, on the bill in question and include a request for the letter to be included as part of the public hearing record.
Please note that mass communications will also not be included as part of the official hearing record as an exhibit regardless of delivery time or requests to have the communication included.
In order to facilitate public input on legislation, a new feature has been added to the Nebraska Legislature’s website for submission of written comments on pending legislation on the Legislature’s website at any stage of the process. (To access this feature, search for the bill you wish to submit a statement on and click the corresponding button near the top of the bill page.)
These submissions will not be considered testimony or part of the public hearing record, but the submitted comments will be available for access by senators and staff throughout the session. Please note, there should be no expectation of privacy regarding comments submitted in this format. If a citizen uses the database to submit his or her views prior to the public hearing on a bill or resolution, this option will allow input to the members of the committee prior to any committee votes.