Before we tell you about the exciting legislation we're watching—and how you can support it directly—Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is excited to announce that we have partnered with a dedicated lobbyist for the first time in years! Spike will be a tireless servant in our mission, raising our profile in the Capitol, building direct relationships with lawmakers, and keeping a finger on the overall pulse of the legislative process in ways that no one can. If you're interested in helping make our direct lobbying efforts sustainable into the future, please navigate over to our Donate page and be sure to choose the Nebraska Death Penalty Repeal Fund as you complete the form. And as a special thanks for your involvement, we welcome you to use the temporary code UNICAM2023 for free shipping on purchases from our webshop. Now, on to the bills! We have three main priority bills this session:
Thanks to multiple conversations with our lobbyist, Senator McKinney has introduced a legislative resolution to place a question on the November 2024 ballot: "A constitutional amendment to eliminate the death penalty and commute sentences of death to life imprisonment." This bill strikes directly at the root of the capital punishment system in our state, and gives voters a chance to correct the mistakes of the 2016 ballot! LR17CA has not been set for a committee hearing yet, but as it is our primary priority this session, rest assured we will let you know as soon as possible.
This bill is a reintroduction of legislation that Senator Wayne introduced in 2021. Known informally as the "Earnest Jackson bill", LB28 would provide a clear pathway for defendants to motion for a retrial whenever new evidence emerges that was either unavailable or concealed during the original trial and sentencing. This is especially important in cases where a defendant received lengthy sentences of incarceration, life without parole, or death. A justice system that allows imprisoned people a chance to present new evidence in hopes of receiving a lesser sentence (or exoneration!) is a justice system that is safer for everyone! This bill has its committee hearing set for 1:30pm on Thursday, February 2, 2023, in Room 1113 of the Nebraska State Capitol. Keep reading to learn how you can support this NADP priority bill!
In accordance with the Nebraska Constitution, our state's Board of Pardons is currently made up of just three people: the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State. Absent from this body are any individuals with an interest or expertise in restorative justice, reentry, victims' rights, or mental health. LR27CA, if passed by the Legislature, would change the makeup of the Board by increasing its membership to seven—adding an individual who was formerly incarcerated, an individual with experience in restorative justice and reentry into society, an individual with experience as a victims' rights representative, and an individual with experience in mental health, conflict resolution, and trauma counseling/therapy. Additionally, this constitutional amendment would ensure that individuals cannot be denied hearings, that the Board shall make individual decisions for each pardon request, and that should the Board fail to meet a minimum number of times each month, the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska Legislature will assume the Board's powers. Ultimately, the changes proposed in this constitutional amendment, like LB18 above, would make it less difficult for an individual sentenced to die to make a successful case for a commutation or a pardon. LR27CA has also not been set for a committee hearing yet.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Raise your voice! There are several ways to submit testimony or comments on bills that you would like to see become law, and each method carries a different weight. Here's a brief rundown:
In-person testimony is the most effective way to share your views on a bill! The committee chair (Senator Wayne, in this case) has final say on the hearing agenda—but typically, the Senator introducing the bill addresses the committee first and answers any questions committee members might have. After they finish, the committee will hear testimony in support of the bill, followed by testimony against the bill. Offering your testimony in person can convey passion in ways that written testimony often cannot, and committee members may ask questions as well. Testimony is typically limited to three minutes, so we recommend you write out your testimony in advance, and practice it a few times with a stopwatch! You may leave as soon as you finish. Personal safety is still a concern for many, so if you feel uncomfortable testifying in person, read on for other safe and effective ways.
Submission of online comments can be done on each bill's page via a wide button at the top of the bill's "History" section that reads "Submit Comments Online for LB###". This button appears as soon as the bill has been set for hearing. Comments submitted in this way count as testimony, where they become viewable by all Senators and legislative staff—and if you provide your comments before noon on the last work day before the hearing, you may check "Yes" on the "Include Comment in Hearing Record" question. Be sure to include your legislative district and a valid email address; upon submitting your comment you will receive a confirmation email with a link that must be clicked to finalize your submission. Get started here:
Written testimony is now only accepted as an accommodation for qualified individuals under the Americans with Disabilities Act "who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (as defined in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, C.F.R 35.108). More information can be found here.
Finally, as usual, you may call, write, or email your Senator directly—and encourage like-minded friends and family to do the same. This approach will be especially effective in showing support for any bill that is voted out of committee for full consideration on the floor of the Unicameral! If you're not sure who your Senator is, you can find out by entering your address on this page. And don't forget, you can watch the livestream of the hearings from home!