2015 is a legislative session to remember. Thanks to strong independent nonpartisan leadership in our unique Nebraska legislature, the voices of tens of thousands of Nebraskans, and policy experts at the ACLU and many partners, historic progress was made on a variety of critical civil liberties issues.
Repealed the Death Penalty and Replaced it With Smart Alternatives to Protect Public Safety: From a unanimous vote in the Judiciary committee to an override of the Governor's veto, the voices of fiscal conservatives, faith leaders, murder victims' families joined with the ACLU and other traditional allies to bring a historic victory to our state. The ACLU's work helped to identify what we were hearing on the ground and across the nation: the majority of voters favor smart alternatives that put public safety first. We offer our gratitude to Senator Chambers and Senator Coash for leading the way.
Reforms to Nebraska's Prisons: Two years of work with local and national prison experts lead to a bill that provided smart alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. Another bill created a meaningful framework for reform to improve conditions for those in solitary confinement and for inmates with serious mental illness. The ACLU's Prison Litigation Advisory Panel and other experts are reviewing the progress to determine the next steps for reform in Nebraska's crisis-riddled prison system. We offer our gratitude to Senator Sieler, Senator Mello, and Senator Schumacher for leading the way.
Drivers Licenses for DREAMers: Young immigrants who want to work and go to school in Nebraska can do so now that Nebraska has joined 49 other states in offering licenses to DREAMers. Since implementation the day after 34 senators overrode the Governor's veto, our clients and hundreds of other DREAMers have already received their licenses to ensure they can contribute in a positive manner to our communities and our economy. We offer our gratitude to Senator Nordquist and Senator McCollister for leading the effort.
Petition Circulators First Amendment Rights: Nebraska's second house ñ our citizens ñ now have enhanced access to democracy by ending prohibitions on the free speech rights of paid petition circulators. We offer our gratitude to Senator Groene for leading the effort.
Protections for Pregnant Employees: Pregnant women now have protections from discrimination in the workplace. Mothers-to-be must have accommodations from their employer and cannot be discriminated against in hiring and firing. We offer our gratitude to Senator Mello for leading the effort.
Voter ID: Opponents called us first to craft legal arguments. We were in the media, at the hearing, and in the lobby supporting a successful filibuster to stop this bill.
Reproductive Health: Two bills similar to what shut down clinics in Texas were introduced this year. A coalition of reproductive health advocates called us first to craft legal arguments and thanks to our excellent communication strategies and strong opposition these serious threats to women's health have been stopped in committee for now. These bills will carry over to next year and we must renew our efforts to stand up for Nebraska women and their doctors.
Employment Protections: Over 3,000 Nebraskans signed our 'Equality Agenda' petition! More businesses than ever are speaking out in favor of ensuring no one is fired for who they are or who they love. While this bill made it out of committee, and was prioritized, it failed to pass and will carry over for additional floor debate next year. We extend our gratitude to Senator Morfeld and Senator Pansing Brooks for their leadership on this issue.
Medical Marijuana: Nebraska families showed up in force at the Capitol to share their heartbreaking stories about the need for medical marijuana. The bill moved out of committee and had a successful first-round debate. Further rounds of debate will happen next year. We extend our gratitude to Senator Garrett for his unyielding leadership on this issue.
Further Prison Reforms: The true root of Nebraska's prison crisis are laws that foster mass incarceration including the failed war on drugs and so called "tough on crime" strategies that take the discretion out of the hands of our judges and put nonviolent offenders behind bars. A bill that would strengthen judicial discretion and provide options for non-violent offenders had incredible momentum out of committee and on the floor but will carry over to next year. We extend our gratitude to the Judiciary Committee and Senator Harr for their leadership.
Because of Nebraska's two-year legislative session, bills that didn't pass in 2015 have the opportunity to move forward in 2016. Please consider contacting your state senator or writing a letter to the editor sharing your thanks for the bills that passed or bills you want to see progress on next year.
The ACLU of Nebraska will be reviewing interim studies on civil liberties issues over the summer and preparing an equally ambitious legislative agenda for 2016. We'll continue fighting for everyone's constitutional rights and civil liberties in the legislature, the courts, and through our public education and organizing efforts. Be a part of the team and get up to date breaking news on our work by following us on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for joining with us to defend our freedoms.