‘Cap Days’ are back

Civic Nebraska's Capitol Experience Days give students the opportunity to meet state officials, think critically on an issue, and then practice the nuances of civil discourse in the building where the state’s laws are debated and made.

The Nebraska State Capitol often sees visitors from schools around the state. On March 28, however, Central Valley High School students got a lot more than a standard statehouse tour.
The CVHS students took part in Civic Nebraska’s Capitol Experience Day, an intensive daylong program tailored just for their class that immersed them in the workings of the Capitol.
State Sen. Tom Briese meets talks with Central Valley High School students at the Nebraska State Capitol on March. 28. (Steve Smith, Civic Nebraska)
Capitol Experience Days give students the opportunity to think critically on an issue and then practice the nuances of civil discourse in the building the state’s laws are debated and made. They also get to meet and interact with state officials while learning the ins and outs of Nebraska’s one-house, nonpartisan system.
We’re especially happy to see “Cap Days,” as we call them, back on the docket after a two-year absence from the State Capitol due to COVID-19 protections. We’ve hosted any number of virtual events over the past two years, but there’s nothing like the real thing.
Central Valley’s visit marked the fourth in-person Cap Day of the spring semester. The Cougars took in the history of the unicameral Legislature, watched as senators debated bills, and then attended a live committee hearing.
Later, they convened in a Capitol conference room to conduct a mock committee hearing on a current piece of legislation before the Legislature.
Central Valley social studies teacher Kimbrie Vlach discusses the various roles and responsibilities that take place during a legislative committee hearing. (Steve Smith, Civic Nebraska)
During the mock hearing – which focused on real-life LB76, a proposal to return Nebraska to winner-take-all status in the Electoral College – some students role-played as senators, while others offered supporting testimony and others spoke in opposition of the bill.
In a private meeting with students, State Sen. Tom Briese of Albion also shared what it was like to be a state senator and answered questions about some bills he has introduced this year. Briese told his own story of why he ran for office and shared what kind of skills are needed to get things done in Lincoln.
Beyond specific expertise on different issues, Briese said, senators must focus on interpersonal and communication skills, which help build consensus so senators can work across partisan or geographic divides.
For more information about Civic Nebraska’s Capitol Experience Days, contact Christine McCurdy at chris.mccurdy@civicnebraska.org.

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