LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have created a new way for the public to comment on proposals without attending a hearing in person.

The Legislature unveiled a new website feature Friday that will let people submit online comments at any stage in the process. It was introduced to help encourage social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic and reduce the size of in-person legislative hearings.

The submissions won't be counted as on-the-record testimony or a part of a public hearing's record, but they will be accessible by senators and staff members throughout the session.

Legislative officials caution that commenters shouldn't assume that their comments will be private. They say submitting comments before a public hearing will allow senators to consider their arguments before any committee votes.

Members of the public can still provide in-person testimony during hearings or submit position letters. The Legislature is also allowing people to submit written testimony in lieu of in-person testimony during the 2021 session when they follow specific procedures.