August 2, 2015

Pros and cons in death penalty debate take issue to all of Nebraska (AUDIO)

A petition drive is underway on an extremely emotional issue and Nebraska’s top election authority is watching closely to ensure all rights are protected.

Workers have fanned out across Nebraska asking registered voters to sign petitions to place the death penalty on the ballot next November.

Opponents plan to counter the effort.

Secretary of State John Gale finds his office playing referee.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is protect the rights of the citizen to be well-informed, to know what they’re doing, and how to do it and get it done right,” Gale tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Pro death penalty petitioners have the right to ask you to sign their petitions. Opponents have the right to try to persuade you not to.

Neither side has the right to coerce, harass, or intimidate.

The petition drive to restore the death penalty began almost immediately after the Unicameral overrode the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts, passed Legislative Bill 268, and repealed the death penalty.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, circulators must gather approximately 57,000 signatures of registered voters to place the issue on the November ballot next year. The signatures must be 5% of the registered voters from 38 counties.

If circulators gather 10% of the registered voters, between 114,000 and 115,000 signatures, they can block LB 268 from going into effect.

Gale says he’s keeping in close contact with county officials, including county attorneys to determine if everyone is playing fair.

“Many times, we’ll get the report or the county election official will get the call, saying this is happening, this shouldn’t be happening, and somebody is violating my rights,” Gale says.

August 27th is the deadline for the signatures to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Former AG joins effort to reinstate death penalty (AUDIO)

Don Stenberg

Don Stenberg

A former Attorney General joins the effort to reverse the Unicameral and reinstate the death penalty.

State Treasurer Don Stenberg served as Attorney General for 12 years. He now serves as honorary co-chair of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.

“I was very disappointed with what the legislature did here. In my opinion, I think it was a grave mistake; repealing the death penalty,” Stenberg tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And this referendum effort is an opportunity to let Nebraskans correct that mistake.”

State legislators approved LB 268, repeal of the death penalty, on a 32-15 vote. They then overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto on a 30-19 vote. Supporters of capital punishment quickly formed an organization to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.

Stenberg calls capital punishment an important public safety tool, especially in deaths involving police officers, corrections officers, or prison inmates.

Stenberg mentions three incidents in particular: the shooting death of Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco, in which the suspect was shot to death as well; the strangulation death of Scotts Bluff County jailer Amanda Baker early last year; and the deaths of two inmates during the riot at Tecumseh prison.

Stenberg sees no need for a protracted, expensive campaign on either side. He believes Nebraskans have their minds made up whether those who commit such heinous acts deserve to die at the hand of the state.

“And they believe the death penalty should be available for that or they don’t,” Stenberg says. “So, I don’t think a lot of money has to be spent post-certification of the petitions.”

Stenberg will co-chair Nebraskans for the Death Penalty along with State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha. Petitions are being circulated throughout Nebraska.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Nebraska voters might decide the death penalty issue

A referendum effort is underway that would allow Nebraskans to vote on whether or not the state should reinstate the death penalty.

Aimee Melton is a board member with Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and says the first step was taken Monday by filing the necessary documents with the Secretary of State’s office. Melton says that process could take up to 15 days before petitions are in hand and circulators will start collecting signatures.

Last week Nebraska lawmakers voted to override Governor Pete Ricketts veto of a bill that repeals the state’s death penalty. Melton says, “I appreciate the governor’s position but I think at this point in time the people of Nebraska, we need to step up. This needs to be on the ballot whether you agree or disagree with the death penalty I think it needs to be a vote of the people.”

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty need to collect more than 56,700 valid signatures for the issue to appear on the 2016 general election ballot.

Political warning fails to stop second override of governor (AUDIO)

Sen. Bill Kintner

Sen. Bill Kintner

A warning issued prior to the vote on the second override of the governor in as many days failed to sway votes in the Unicameral.

Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion fought to sustain Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of LB 623, the bill allowing youth brought to the country illegally when young to apply for a Nebraska driver’s license.

At one point, Kintner warned conservatives in the legislature about the political consequences of their votes, both on the driver’s license bill and the death penalty repeal bill the day before.

“You can’t run from your record. This is the information age. Your record’s going to follow you everywhere,” Kintner warned. “These votes that you take will be thrown in your face.”

Kintner tied both override votes together.

Yet, Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, in his closing on the override debate over LB 623, urged senators to look beyond politics.

“I hope you don’t vote to sustain a veto out of those type of threats,” Nordquist said. “I hope you think about the policy and the positive impacts here.”

Despite the warning, lawmakers overrode the governor on LB 623 the day after overriding the governor on LB 268.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

No joke, Marijuana Party seeks political recognition in Nebraska

MarijuanaNebraskans have the opportunity to sign a petition that would recognize a new political party in the state.

Mark Elworth Jr. is the acting chairman of the Marijuana Party, an organization that supports the medical, industrial and recreational use of hemp and says they need about 5,500 valid signatures before they can move forward.

Elworth says, “Then we would be on the ballot as a party. For election year 2016, our focus is to find candidates to run for the Unicameral in the state of Nebraska.”

So far, it has been a successful venture. Elworth says they started collecting signatures two weeks ago and about 1,000 Nebraskans have signed on. He says they need about 5,500 valid signatures to move forward. He says, “We are in 24 states but Nebraska would be the first state we would be recognized as an official party.”

The group supports the legalization of hemp, medical and recreational marijuana use.

The Marijuana Party is holding a rally and a petition signing event at Memorial Park in Omaha from 3 until 6 pm Monday. Elworth says they will have guest speakers and members to answer questions.