|Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts|
Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska vetoed a bill on Tuesday to abolish the death penalty in the state, testing the strength of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who said they would try to override his decision.
“This is a matter of public safety,” he said. “It’s also a matter of making sure the public prosecutors have the tools they need to put these dangerous hardened criminals behind bars.”
“We have 10 inmates on death row — we don’t have hundreds,” he said. “We use it judiciously and prudently, and therefore we need to retain it. I urge all the senators who are making this vote, please sustain my veto.”
Nebraska is poised to become the first conservative state in more than 40 years to strike down the death penalty. Republican legislators who have voted in favor of abolition said they believed the death penalty was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party’s values. Other lawmakers cited religious or moral reasons for their support of the death penalty ban.
Nebraska officials have had difficulty procuring lethal injection drugs in recent years. The state last executed a prisoner in 1997.
In Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature, three rounds of voting are required to approve a bill before it can reach the governor’s desk. Last week, in the third round, the Legislature voted 32 to 15 in favor of abolition. Governor Ricketts, who said the death penalty is necessary as a deterrent to dangerous criminals, had vowed for weeks to issue a veto.
Lawmakers said the override vote, which could happen as early as Wednesday, would be extremely close: 30 votes are needed to override.
State Senator Ernie Chambers, an independent from Omaha who sponsored the legislation, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he planned to make a motion to override the governor’s veto.
He declined to say whether he was fully confident the override would be successful. “I expect those people who voted for the bill three times, during the three stages of debate, I would expect them to do the same thing,” he said. “But you never know. We’ll just see how it turns out.”
Source: The New York Times, Julie Bosman, May 26, 2015
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