State lawmakers have overridden Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto of $2.5 million to pay subcontractors in the state child welfare system not paid by Boys and Girls Home of South Sioux City.
The governor, in his veto statement, claimed that paying the 50 subcontractors would violate the state constitution, because the state had fulfilled its obligation to the general contractor.
Senator Steve Lathrop of Omaha dismissed the cases cited by the governor in his veto message, stating they do not apply in the case of the subcontractors.
“This isn’t about the governor. It’s not about the governor versus the legislature. We’re not here to vote for or against it, because he’s urged us to be in favor or opposed to the override,” Lathrop told colleagues during legislative floor debate. “It’s about what the right thing to do is.”
The moral obligation of the state to pay the subcontractors threaded the theme throughout floor debate by those who supported the override.
Nebraska entered into an experiment to privatize child welfare services in 2009, contracting with private agencies. By all accounts, the state fulfilled its obligation to Boys and Girls Home as the general contractor. But, when Boys and Girls Home failed to pay 50 subcontractors, they brought their claims to the state.
Speaker of the Legislature, Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, cautioned senators during the debate on the override motion, as he did when the legislature first considered the bill, against setting a precedent. Flood, as well as others arguing against the override, pointed out the state had fulfilled its contract. It had no obligation to the subcontractors.
Flood also picked up the governor’s legal argument, referring to the cases cited by the governor.
“I think what the court here is saying, no matter how moral or right this feels, Article 3 of the Nebraska Constitution puts a barrier between what we want to do and what we can legally do.”
The Unicameral voted 31-12 to override the veto, one more than the minimum needed.
AUDIO: Sen. Steve Lathrop closes on motion to override governor’s veto [4 min.]