Working for Change

News, Winter 2017

Every one of us can make a difference

BY MELANIE MORRISSEY CLARK

If you don’t like something, work to change it. That’s what my mother always says, and I have been taking her advice to heart for many years.

Whether it’s working on a political campaign, giving your time to a nonprofit or chiming in on issues you care about, the fact is that getting involved is the best way to impact change. Anyone can do it, and there is no shortage of causes and work to be done.

You don’t have to be a member of Congress to help steer outcomes. Most of the change that will affect the daily lives of those who live in our community happens at the local and state level.

In this issue of Today’s Omaha Woman we take a closer look at the issues before our Nebraska State Legislature, because policy changes start right here. Which bills have been introduced that will impact the lives of women and their families? Which ones have a good chance of making it through and becoming law? Which ones have been introduced before and failed, and why? What can be done to make sure they pass this time?

For example, there is a payday lending bill that, if passed, would reduce the percentage lenders can charge, and increase the time borrowers have to pay. This would have a tremendous impact on the life of a family caught in the vicious cycle of payday lending. Most people don’t realize that the typical payday lending customer is a single mother living paycheck to paycheck. Without reform in payday lending practices, these families have little hope of ever finding financial stability.

Another bill seeks to change laws surrounding child custody and visitation granted to men who father children as a result of rape. As incredible as this may sound, Nebraska women are forced to allow their rapists access to their children—often alone and unsupervised. Thankfully, some state senators find this abhorrent and are seeking to change this law.

A new bill regarding sex trafficking in Nebraska also has been introduced—this time with the goal of increasing penalties for those who purchase sex, and with even harsher penalties for those who solicit minors. Women trapped in sex trafficking rings won’t escape if there is demand; this bill seeks to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, demand.

For these bills and others—including ones for equal pay and family planning—there is always a need for the public to show up and speak out. And that’s where you come in.

If you care about one or more of these issues, make time to attend a hearing, or, better yet, if you have a related story to share, volunteer to testify. In Nebraska, citizens are considered the second house of the Legislature, and anyone can testify on any bill. This means we can have a big impact on our own laws. So get involved and make a difference. In my experience, you will get more out of it than you give.

If you are interested in testifying on one of the issues covered in this magazine, please email tbruckner@omahawomensfund.org and chiyama@omahawomensfund.org. W

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