Nebraskans learn about key legislative issues

Todd Seifert


More than 100 people learned about legislation in Nebraska on important topics such as human trafficking, funding for schools, prison reform and immigration during the annual ecumenical legislative briefing day.

Founded in 1975, the event provides a full day of workshops and presentations on issues in the Nebraska unicameral legislature. Though winter weather kept some registrants away, the briefing day still drew a crowd that led to full workshop rooms as representatives from agencies and advocates regarding some topics shared statistics and anecdotal stories.

Ruby Thelander, who has served on the organizing committee since the very first briefing day, said this kind of event is important for people to learn more about what their government is doing.

The annual briefing day provides an opportunity to become educated on topics that sometimes don’t appear at the top of a newscast or on the front page of the newspaper. And participants from a state senator to the host pastor noted how the event provided a chance to be better informed residents while also living as a disciple of Jesus.


The sensitive topics of human trafficking and immigration drew large audiences. Andrea Paret, director of the Great Plains Conference’s Peace with Justice Ministries, led the workshop on immigration issues. And Anna Brewer, a retired FBI investigator, provided insights into the growing problem in Nebraska of human trafficking during her presentation on behalf of Women’s Fund of Omaha, an organization that advocates for women and children.

The following videos provide a synopsis of what each workshop provided.

Two statewide issues also were put in the spotlight this year. Liz Standish, associate superintendent for business affairs with Lincoln Public Schools, talked about issues surrounding funding for public schools and the impacts on quality of education. Meanwhile, Michael Rothwell, deputy director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, shared goals for an embattled part of the state government, including how the department wants to do more than simply restore inmates to the lives they had prior to becoming incarcerated.

The following videos provide some details about from the schools and prisons workshops.

The environment provided a theme for two workshops. One, presented by Kenneth Winston –  counsel for the Sierra Club and Bold Nebraska, an advocacy group that strives to protect land and water – shared information about climate change and its potential impacts for Nebraska. Another, provided by Janece Molhoff, director of Natural Resources for the League of Women Voters, shared concerns about the use of water in Nebraska, including the potential impacts of some industrial changes in the state.

The following video of Winston provides insight into why climate change is not taken seriously by some people.

New this year were workshops featuring “breaking news” and racial justice. Thelander explained that the planning of the briefing day starts the previous summer, meaning some legislative bills and issues arise after the event organizers have started their work. This year, Tim Fickenscher, a retired Montessori school teacher and advocate from the Great Plains Conference, gave attendees an overview of arguments on the both sides of issues ranging from free speech on college campuses to bump stocks for guns to medical marijuana to net neutrality.

Judi gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, highlighted bills of importance to Native American Nebraskans and supporters. One bill would help place a statute of Standing Bear in Washington, D.C.

The following videos share details about the breaking news topics and the effort to build the statue. 

Nebraska state Sen. Adam Morfeld, who represents downtown and northeast Lincoln, provided a final workshop on health care and its impact on older residents. And Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska and chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, served as the closing speaker.
Contact Todd Seifert, communications director, at

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