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Big successes in Nebraska Legislature by MassResistance affiliate: All bad bills stopped, two of three pro-family bills passed!

Major LGBT bill defeated, Planned Parenthood defunded!

Two years of hard work (and prayer!) paid off.

May 10, 2018

Packed room for public hearing on Bill LB173, which would have forced a "sexual orientation and gender identity" law on the entire state. Pro-family opponents of the bill are in the foreground and pro-LGBT proponents are near the windows.

Around the country pro-family losses are piling up in state legislatures. Terrible anti-family bills are being passed and signed into law, and good bills die. But not in Nebraska. Thanks to our MassResistance affiliate, in the current two-year legislative session which just ended there were big successes.

Nebraskans for Founders’ Values (NFFV), run by Mark Bonkiewicz, is headquartered in Omaha and has strong influence across the state. In 2016 NFFV became a MassResistance affiliate. Since then, we’ve worked closely with Mark on strategy. NFFV’s mission is “to be the guardian of the First Amendment rights – including freedom of speech, religion, and expression of your beliefs in the public square – in all 93 Nebraska counties."

Over the past two years the group has worked hard focusing their energy on the State Capitol in Lincoln. When the legislative session began, they identified three terrible anti-family bills that needed to be stopped, and three pro-family bills that needed to be passed. They nearly swept the table! Their only failure was that one of the good bills got delayed until the end of the session didn’t get passed due to vote-trading. But passing two pro-family bills is a big deal anywhere in the country!

Here’s the scorecard:

WIN: Passed LB944 - Reallocate Title X Funds from Planned Parenthood (withstood eight filibusters!)
WIN: Defeated LB173 – Would force sexual orientation & gender identity non-discrimination law on the state (died on floor during debate after big LGBT push)
WIN: Defeated LB785 – Change marriage from Husband & Wife to Spouse & Spouse.
WIN: Defeated LB877 – Would make 3-year-old pre-K public school attendance mandatory
WIN: Passed LB46 – “Choose Life” license plates

Defeat of LB1066 – Require photo ID at voting check-in (due to RINOs caving in at last minute)

How did they do it?

Unfortunately, most pro-family groups think that if you show up at a bill’s public hearing to testify, maybe make some phone calls, send polite emails to the committee and other legislators afterwards, and pray for victory, then you’re doing enough. Not so. The Left learned that a long time ago.

If you’re serious about winning, there’s almost year-round work to do. Mark and his group understand the need for prayer for God’s help and guidance, and that’s where they start. But they understand that God depends on them to do everything that’s necessary to make it happen.

First of all, NFFV works to leverage its natural advantages. Nebraska is located in the heartland. It’s a conservative state with overwhelmingly Republican voter registration. NFFV has the opportunity to observe bad anti-family bills that are passed first on the liberal East Coast and West Coast. “This gives us 1-2 years notice to prepare defense,” says Mark.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, CO came and testified how he is being driven out of business because of the "sexual orientation and gender identity" law there.

Nebraska is the only state with a Unicameral legislature – only one branch (the Senate) not two. On one hand, if a bill passes that branch there’s no second branch to get it stopped in. But it’s also easier to focus on a set of legislators, with their personalities, rules, and procedures.

They start with good preparation:

Understanding the legislative cycle. The NFFV group has learned that unless you understand in detail not only the legislative calendar but also every step of the legislative process and rules, you’re at a huge disadvantage for either getting a bill passed or killing it. “You MUST do the right things at the right time,” says Mark.

Continuously building a statewide network of educated activists. Organizing lots of conservative parents, grandparents, and taxpayers throughout the state who also understand the basic legislative process – and how to lobby – are a big key to winning. Over the last two years, NFFV hosted 14 local “legislature workshop 101” sessions in towns located within a two hour driving distance of the Capitol... These were well organized and very effective in both educating and attracting activists.

NFFV focuses on recruiting grandparents because they are more likely to have the time to travel and testify at legislative hearings and send emails to senators or key staff members, and have the money to travel to multiple hearings each year.

These NFFV activists came from an hour away to lobby at the Capitol and participate in a public hearing. Note their distinctive stickers.

Building trusted relationships with legislators. The NFFV group found that a great way to do this was to have the local State Senators (if they’re not Democrats or RINOs) or a nearby conservative Senator to come and teach the “legislature workshop 101” sessions. In two cases the Lt. Governor taught the workshop in a district. This built outstanding relationships between legislators, constituents, and NFFV that proved invaluable.

Then, during the actual session:

Constant monitoring of the agendas for each committee and the full Senate, for each bill of interest. Sometimes you could only find out these things from key friendly staff members. There were teams of people that only did this. In the Nebraska legislature, all committee and floor activity, including public hearings, are usually only announced the 1 or 2 days before they happen! NFFV had special teams of people to constantly monitor all the agendas, and if an important bill is on it they would immediately prepare for action.

Mobilizing people at a moment’s notice. When bills were at a critical juncture, they quickly mobilized people to make sure that their own legislator do the right thing – and also other key legislators -- through strong communication. They’ve mastered the art of hard-hitting (i.e., not wimpy) effective talking points. As part of the overall strategy, if there was an important public hearing, they would do their best to fill the room with people wearing bright stickers – “because body count is important.” Getting people across the state at short notice isn’t always easy, but there are ways to do it if you’re prepared – and NFFV prepares months in advance.

Mark Bonkiewicz, leader of Nebraskans for Founders' Values (left) with Brian Camenker of MassResistance, meeting in 2016 to discuss strategy.

What every pro-family activist needs to understand

A big key to NFFV’s success is understanding a basic principle that most pro-family people fail to grasp: Just because you have “conservatives” or “Republicans” in office, doesn’t mean that good things will automatically happen. Not at all. In reality, good legislators turn into RINOs and turncoats all the time if there is not constant pressure to keep them in line.

Mark acknowledges that even in the “deep red” Nebraska legislature, without appropriate pro-family pressure every one of the “wins” listed above could have easily lost. There are endless well-oiled special interests, lobbyists, and slick well-funded left-wing activists in that building every day.

In fact, although the Governor himself led the fight to de-fund Planned Parenthood, on other important pro-family issues he gave in to some of the bad influences. So NVVF’s goal is to keep bad bills from getting to his desk and not just count on a veto. And the Senate President turned RINO and opposed the voter ID bill.

All of this really underscores the need for serious groups like NFFV.

This should be happening everywhere!

At MassResistance we have always believed that these battles can be won. We’ve seen it happen in deep-blue states like Massachusetts and Maryland. Different states obviously need slightly different strategies. And we will never have the vast funding that the Left has. But the Left is a house of cards built on a pile of lies. We have the truth. In the long run, that’s a powerful advantage – “if we pray AND take action,” as Mark says!




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