By Sheila Freed
On August 7, Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada met at the Nevada State Senate for a role-play called ULegislate. It was great fun, and in typical Lutheran fashion, the group questioned authority.
ULegislate is a learning experience in which participants play the roles of Senators and have floor debate on actual bills that passed in the 2017 Session. On two of the three bills that were up for debate, LEAN voted the same way that the Legislature did. However LEAN voted down the third, and the reason was quite Lutheran. The bill, Senate Bill 322, requires every pupil in Nevada to pass a civics test before graduating high school. This is a concept we can all support, and LEAN did. However the bill has several exceptions, and the group did not like that. We Lutherans embrace the “priesthood of all believers,” and take seriously the notion that all believers are equal before God. So the majority voted no, in hopes that the bill would return in a more acceptable form.
Participants learned the rigid protocol of Senate business, and that much of the legislative process happens not on the chamber floors, but in committee meetings and legislators’ offices. Here is where advocacy comes in. Our paid Advocate meets with legislators individually to present the moral arguments on selected bills, with particular reference to the ELCA Social Statements. Individual parishioners can do the same, either in person or by email, phone call, or letter. The LEAN Advocate also testifies at committee hearings on selected bills.
The Senate staff was helpful and accommodating. They even made a video for us!
It’s great fun to watch, for several reasons. First, you will learn some facts you may not know, and hear some arguments for and against the bills that you might not have thought of. You will hear a bit of Bob Marley quoted! You will see people you know and those you don’t, so a roster of participants is included here. LEAN is excited that people came from Las Vegas to participate, and that new people from both north and south were there.
“Senators” participating in ULegislate were: Chad Adamik, Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Family, Carson City; John Biggs, Pastor of Saved by Grace, Pahrump; Veralyn Combs, member of Holy Cross, Reno; Ed Cotton, member of Community Lutheran, Las Vegas; Diane Drach-Meinel, Pastor of Christ the Servant, Las Vegas; Sonja Dresbach, member of Faith, Reno; Sheila Freed, member of Good Shepherd, Reno; Timothy Johnson, member of Lord of Mercy, Sparks; Bill Ledford, LEAN Advocate; Diane Ludlow, member of Holy Cross, Reno; Shaun O’Reilly, pastoral intern at Lord of Mercy, Sparks, Mike Patterson, retired pastor, Gift of Grace, Fernley; Barbara Peterson, member of Holy Cross, Sparks; Thomas Rasmussen, member of Saved by Grace, Pahrump; Pennie Sheaffer, member of Lord of Mercy, Sparks; Scott Trevithick, Pastor, Holy Cross, Reno; Ashlynne Valdez, member of Lord of Mercy, Sparks; Vic Williams, member of Good Shepherd, Reno. “Secretary” of the Senate was Allan Smith, former LEAN Advocate. If you want to learn more about LEAN, please connect with one of these folks.
ULegislate was just the first in a line-up of events designed to engage parishioners as LEAN moves into the 120-day 2019 Legislative Session. Watch for “Pencils for Pupils” in January, followed by the LEAN kickoff lunch on February 4, the session’s first day.