The co-chair of the Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day wanted the approximately 100 attendees to look on the bright side of having the annual issues forum online instead of in-person on Feb. 13.
Participants didn’t have to deal with a subzero windchill, nor drive in the snow, and they could stay in the warmth of their homes, the Rev. Ron Roemmich, a retired United Methodist pastor said.
More importantly, it would greatly lessen the exposure to coronavirus.
“We do not want to make anybody vulnerable to catch this horrible disease,” Roemmich said.
Those participating in the two-hour session had their choice of workshops: the Nebraska Legislature, climate change, immigration, gerrymandering, racial justice, taxation and budget, and workplace rights.
The legislature session was led by the Rev. Carol Windrum, a retired UMC pastor and a member of the Peace With Justice team.
She said there is a proposal for a new state prison, likely to be built between Lincoln and Omaha, that would cost $230 million over four years, plus another $34 million a year for maintenance.
Nebraska, Windrum said, has the second most overcrowded prisons in the nation.
“Crime has fallen over the past 20 years, yet our prison population is exploding,” she said, adding that 80% of people polled said a new prison would be a waste of taxpayer money.
The session on racial justice was led by Adam Morfeld, a representative from the 46th legislative district, covering northeast Lincoln, as well as founder and executive director of the nonprofit Civic Nebraska.
Morfeld said three bills under consideration this year would decriminalize marijuana possession in one form or another.
One would decriminalize marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia offenses. Another would give a clean slate to marijuana offenses, and a third would change the penalty for possession.
“We’ve really overpenalized, for lack of a better word,” Morfeld said.
A closing session discussed how a bill becomes a law in Nebraska and encouraged participants in the briefing day to take action.
“We hope you’ve primed the pump, so to speak, and you’ll follow up,” Roemmich said.
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