Lawmakers debate, but don’t take a vote on abolishing the death penalty.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha sponsors LB 543, which would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Chambers told colleagues during legislative floor debate Monday that he understood the opposition he faces and the uncertainty of success. Opponents have promised a filibuster and so far have kept their word.
Chambers said he welcomed an opportunity to gauge his support, even if it came from the other side.
“At the earliest opportunity when the other side wants a test vote, we ought to take it so that we don’t waste time,” Chambers stated. “If the bill is going to be killed, kill it.”
Kill it with kindness seems to be the approach favored by opponent Beau McCoy, a senator from Omaha.
“People in Nebraska, in my opinion, deserve a full and fair debate on this issue,” McCoy said.
His stance frustrated Sen. Brad Ashford, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Ashford pressed McCoy on whether he thought the Unicameral should have a final vote on the measure. McCoy refused to answer his question directly.
Opponents continued to discuss the matter, chewing up time on Monday and marching the legislature closer to the unofficial eight hour limit that would trigger a cloture vote. Debate will resume today.
Ashford grew tired of the tactic.
“This bill deserves a final vote; yea or nay,” He stated.
Debate hasn’t reached that stage, yet. A test vote, of sorts, was taken. It indicated 26 senators are ready to throw out the death penalty. That won’t be enough. Supporters need 33 votes to end the filibuster, cut off debate and force a vote. They will need 30 to stick with them to override a gubernatorial veto.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]