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]