May 25, 2015

Gov. Ricketts urges Nebraskans to voice their views on death penalty

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts confirms he will veto the bill repealing the death penalty and Ricketts calls on Nebraskans to let their senators know how they feel.

Ricketts says he has been talking with state senators since they approved LB 268, which would repeal the death penalty in Nebraska.

Ricketts says public opinion can be persuasive on the issue.

The Unicameral voted 32-15 to end capital punishment. Three senators would have to switch their votes to sustain a veto.

Ricketts hasn’t formally vetoed the bill, yet, but says he will, but signals that he will return the bill on Tuesday.

Ricketts says while he is making his views known to individual senators, he needs Nebraskans to do the same.

“Here in our unique system of government in Nebraska where we have a Unicameral, the people are the second house. And if you feel strongly that the death penalty is an important tool for public safety and that we should retain it here in this state, please reach out to your senator,” Ricketts says. “I’m guessing most of the senators have gone home for the Memorial Day weekend. This would be a great time to reach out and talk to them, have a conversation and let them know how important it is that they sustain my veto on the death penalty.”

Ricketts declines to disclose which senators he has been speaking to.

Gov. Ricketts offers condolences to Officer Orozco’s family (AUDIO)

Gov. Pete Ricketts pays tribute to slain Omaha police officer Kerrie Orozco prior to a news conference

Gov. Pete Ricketts pays tribute to slain Omaha police officer Kerrie Orozco prior to a news conference

Gov. Pete Ricketts paused during a news conference on highway safety to remember slain Omaha police officer Kerrie Orozco.

“I’d like to take a moment right now to remember one of the members of our law enforcement community who has passed away recently,” Ricketts said. “The terrible tragedy with Officer Orozco is something that reminds us that everyone who puts on the blue risks everything to keep us safe.”

Ricketts made the remarks prior to a news conference at the Nebraska Department of Roads and Nebraska State Patrol headquarters in Lincoln on highway safety during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Orozco, a seven-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department, was shot and killed trying to serve a warrant on a known gang member. The gang member also died in the shootout.

Orozco was 29.

Gov. Ricketts said he was grateful for the outpouring of support from throughout Nebraska for the Orozco family.

Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Bradley Rice also offered the patrol’s support for Orozco’s family and the Omaha Police Department.

“It’s truly a tragedy and our hearts go out to them,” Rice stated. “We do offer our continued prayers and support and it makes all of us think quite a bit about how short life is and how brief it is.”

Orozco is survived by her husband, two step-children and a baby girl. Baby Olivia was born prematurely on February 7 and Orozco was due to go on maternity leave Thursday as her baby was being released from the hospital.

AUDIO:  Gov. Pete Ricketts pays tribute to slain Omaha police officer Kerrie Orozco. [1 min.]

Gov. Ricketts signs into law $8.6B state budget for next two years (AUDIO)

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

No objections. No line-item vetoes.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has signed into law the bills making up the $8.6 billion state budget for the next two years.

Ricketts says the budget achieves the goals he set out earlier this year: keep the growth of state spending around 3% and provide more money for property tax relief.

Ricketts says he’s especially pleased with the additional $60 million added to the state property tax credit relief fund and then an additional $8 million once the forecast board increased the state revenue estimated to come in the next two years.

“So, if you look at this budget what you will see is over the biennium an additional $408 million going to property tax relief,” Ricketts tells reporters during a news conference.

Yet, the legislature failed to move on one of Ricketts’ key proposals: lowering the percentage at which agricultural land is assessed from the current 75% of market value to 65%.

Ricketts says that would have provided structural property tax change.

“It also would have required us putting an additional $30 million a year into the school aid formula. So, you have to have both there,” according to Ricketts. “That’s what I said, we have more work to do.”

Ricketts made no line-item vetoes to the budget.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

DREAMers might soon be drivers in Nebraska

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist appeared with DACA youth at a news conference earlier  in the session

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist appeared with DACA youth at a news conference earlier in the session

Youth brought into this country illegally at a young age will be allowed to apply for a Nebraska driver’s license under a bill passing the Unicameral.

The Unicameral has voted 34-to-9 to allow youth enrolled in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to apply for driver’s licenses. The youth are often referred to as DREAMers after the DREAM Act, an immigration reform bill that has failed to make it through Congress.

Justice for Our Neighbors of Nebraska Executive Director Emiliano Lerda says Nebraska’s status as the last state to withhold driver privileges from such youth has hurt the state.

“It was really sad and I think it’s also an illustration that we have a long ways to go as a state to be more welcoming,” Lerda tells reporters. “And being more welcoming is good for everybody. It’s even good for the economy.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts stated during a Capitol news conference on Wednesday that he opposes LB 623 which is sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha. The governor stopped short of saying he would veto it.

It will take one more vote to repeal death penalty in Nebraska (AUDIO)

Sen. Ernie Chambers

Sen. Ernie Chambers

Nebraska lawmakers have voted to repeal the death penalty, but one more vote looms ahead.

Veteran state Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha saw success after 40 years of trying to repeal the death penalty.

“Nebraska will step into history by abolishing the death penalty,” Chambers told colleagues during legislative floor debate. “This will be the first so-called conservative state to have done so.”

Chambers noted his bill, LB 268, is the same number of the bill that reinstated the death penalty in Nebraska in 1973.

Chambers had to sit out a term under the state legislative term limit law, but returned to the legislature and returned to his efforts to repeal capital punishment. The Unicameral voted in 1979 to repeal the death penalty only to see then-Gov. Charles Thone veto it. Legislators failed to override the veto.

Legislators passed LB 268 on a 32-to-15 vote, with two senators not voting. That vote came after supporters overcame a last-minute filibuster against the bill, a highly unusual move in the Unicameral, which normally doesn’t debate bills on final reading.

Chambers will need to retain 30 of his votes to override a veto promised by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Ricketts made clear he would spike the bill once it reaches his desk during a news conference held in his Capitol hearing room as lawmakers debate LB 268.

“I can’t stress enough how this is out of touch with what most Nebraskans believe,” Ricketts told reporters.

Nebraska’s last execution took place in 1997. There are 11 inmates currently on death row.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]