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April Spotlight: Wrapping up 2023 - 2024 Lobby School

Group of 12 people smile at the camera at their lobby school graduation

Last week marked the end of the regular 2024 legislative session and with it, the completion of our 2023-2024 Lobby School program. Lobby School aims to expand the bench of policy experts in Nebraska. The goal of the program is to build power and capacity of Nebraska nonprofit advocacy organizations by developing participants' skills to advocate for community interests that are often unrepresented by the traditional roster of professional lobbyists. 

Made up of 13 individuals from a variety of organizations, our 2023-2024 cohort found success advocating for legislation across a range of issues, including child care, voting rights, affordable housing, and mental health. Some of the wins of the cohort include Demetrius Gatson from Q.U.E.E.N.S Butterfly House passing legislation to enable individuals on parole and probation who own certain types of businesses to access state funding. Alicia Christiansen at Together Omaha successfully advocated for a range of poverty reduction bills that will update the current systems to better support those in need. Courtney Witterstruck at the Nebraska Community College Association helped to expand eligibility for scholarships to community colleges, increasing access to higher education in Nebraska. Melanie Kirk with the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence was instrumental in passing LB870 which amends the Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights Act to provide additional information and preservation of evidence to support more thorough investigations and protect survivors. 

Beyond the Capitol, many participants used the session to build a strong foundation for future advocacy efforts. Take a peek into what this learning process was like for cohort members by listening to our Legislative Advocacy episode of Seat at the Nebraska Table to dive into what they took away from the session and their experiences engaging with the legislature. 

A key component of the Lobby School program are our Policy Fellows. The Nebraska Table hires and places fellows at Member organizations for two years to increase the capacity of Members’ policy efforts. Our current Policy Fellows accomplished some great things this session! 

Second-year Policy Fellow at RISE Olivia Larson and Lobby School members Demetrius Gatson and Mike Forsythe of Civic Nebraska were instrumental in the passage of LB20. LB20 removes the arbitrary two-year waiting period imposed on individuals who had completed felony sentences, thus restoring the vote to thousands of Nebraskans. Visit getmyvoteback.org to learn more about voting rights restoration in Nebraska. Check out our Seat at the Nebraska Table episode on the topic here to learn more about the background of this effort.  

Andrew Farias, second-year fellow at the Asian Cultural and Community Center, worked hard to pass a bill to create a Nebraska Commission on Asian American Affairs. Schmeeka Simpson at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation successfully achieved state recognition of Malcolm X’s birthday. Aleyah Smith with I Be Black Girl helped introduce legislation to provide Medicaid reimbursement for doula services. Jaden Perkins with the Heartland Workers Center laid a strong foundation to expand professional licensure in later sessions. 

The successes of this year’s cohort highlight the importance of capacity and power building in communities typically left out of the policy conversation. The Nebraska Table is proud to provide training and spaces through programs like Lobby School to uplift leaders advancing Nebraska’s public policy.

Interested in joining the bench of policy experts fighting for change in Nebraska? Apply to be a Policy Fellow! Applications close May 13th

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