Gov. Pete Ricketts finds himself at odds with the legislature after a week in which the Unicameral passed a number of crime bills.
Ricketts objects to some of the moves by the legislature last week, especially first-round approval of a bill to repeal the death penalty.
“And we have to remember, we’re not Texas,” Ricketts replies when asked about Legislative Bill 268. “We use it judiciously here. We only have 11 people on death row.”
Texas leads the nation in executions with 10 carried out last year alone.
Throughout the nation, seven states executed 35 inmates last year, the lowest number in two decades, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The United States Supreme Court is considering whether the common three-drug protocol for lethal injections is constitutional, especially in light of a botched execution in Oklahoma.
Neighboring Missouri has switched to the one-drug protocol, using a lethal dose of pentobarbital to execute three inmates so far this year.
Ricketts has promised a veto of the death penalty repeal bill. Supporters, though, seem to have enough votes to override a veto. LB 268 passed on a 30-to-13 vote with four senators not voting. Two senators were excused from voting, one of whom likely would have voted for repeal.
The bill could face a more daunting obstacle when it returns for second-round debate. Opponents decided against a filibuster on first-round. They could mount one on second-round. Supporters would need 33 votes to overcome a filibuster.
Other legislation receiving preliminary approval in the Unicameral last week bothers Ricketts.
The governor objects to LB 173, which won first-round approval on a 28-9-10 vote. The bill would eliminate mandatory minimum prison sentences and get rid of the habitual criminal statute. Under the bill, enhanced sentences would be restricted to the most violent of offenses.
Both LB 173 and LB 268 are sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha.
Ricketts asserts the moves by the legislature last week undermine public safety.
“One of my primary roles as governor is protecting the public safety and these bills, some of them they passed, Sen. Chambers’ bills in particular, harm public safety.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]