February 7, 2016

Filibuster kills anti-death penalty bill

A filibuster works and kills an anti-death penalty bill in the Unicameral.

Supporters of LB 543, a bill that would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole failed to get the votes needed to cut off debate and force a vote.

Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha predicted the outcome.

“It has become clear after yesterday that two things are true,” Lathrop stated during legislative floor debate. “One, there are enough votes on this floor to repeal the death penalty and, two, a filibuster will prevent that vote from ever taking place.”

Not so fast responded, Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, an opponent of the measure.

“I heard this morning that it is perfectly clear that proponents of this have 26 votes. They do not,” Lautenbaugh stated. “There were 26 votes against a bracket motion yesterday, two or three of which I know don’t support the bill. So there are not 26 votes in favor of this.”

Legislators debated the measure all day Monday.

An amendment sponsored by Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, AM 865, replaced the underlying bill sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha.

The test vote to which both Lathrop and Lautenbaugh referred came on a motion to shelve the bill until the end of the session, effectively killing it. Sen. Brad Ashford, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, made the motion to postpone the vote until the last day of the session. Eighteen senators voted in favor of the motion with 26 against.

Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha launched the filibuster, tying up debate and preventing the bill from coming before the legislature for a vote. It took all of Monday and began again when the legislature returned on Tuesday.

At about 11:15am, Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, the sponsor of LB 543, made an unprecedented move, for him. Chambers had never before moved to cut off debate. Chambers, who often uses the filibuster to kill legislation he opposes, stated he had never moved for cloture during his long legislative career.

The vote for cloture was 28-to-21, short of the 33 votes needed to cut off debate and force a vote.

The legislature then moved on to other business.

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