NE lawmakers responding to public events criticism

NE lawmakers responding to public events criticism
Posted at 10:45 AM, Feb 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-23 13:26:42-05

Nebraska lawmakers are responding to criticism that they are not holding enough public events.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse said Wednesday that he is meeting with constituents all week while back in Nebraska. He spoke at the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce earlier in the morning.

"We’ve done dozens every year,” Sasse said regarding town halls. “There weren't any scheduled for this week, the calendar is full with a broad range of public and private meetings. I started the week in Munich as well."

At a protest Tuesday, demonstrators interrupted U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer while she was speaking at the Lincoln Independent Business Association luncheon. The protesters shouted in the hallway of the Grand Manse building and banged on the walls outside of the event, saying she was not accessible to the public.

They also shouted “Hey Deb, meet with us,” as she left the event.

Former Democrat senator Ben Nelson, who also served as Nebraska’s governor, says he's noticed interactions become more politically charged.

"You represent everybody, not just the people who agree with you,” Nelson said. “So, if you only listen to the people who agree with you, you're not going to get the full picture."

However, Nelson says protesters also need to be mindful about how their conduct toward members of congress.

"Yelling hardly ever gets you anywhere,” he said.

For lawmakers, "you simply have to make yourself available to listen to those folks,” Nelson said. “If you don't then don't be surprised if they only yell.”

Congressman Don Bacon, Nebraska's Republican representative for the 2nd Congressional District, says he's planning to meet with employers and groups to avoid a dominating confrontation and one person dominating the conversation.

"I would optimally like to do fully public town halls,” he said. "It’s not about opposing views. I don't even mind someone yelling at me. Frankly, that’s part of this business. What I don't like it when someone takes a microphone and doesn't share it with anyone else."

For Sen. Sasse, his advice for Nebraskans wanting their voices heard is to continue to reach out, via calls, emails or his website.

"People banging on walls and windows, not usually the way Nebraskans engage on an issue."

Many of Nebraska’s protests have been organized by groups affiliated with the national Indivisible group. The group's mission is to resist the Trump administration.