Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, who succeeded in overriding the governor’s veto of LB 947, accused the governor of using out-of-bounds rhetoric against the bill, an accusation that confused the governor.
The debate in the legislative chamber over Sen. Mello’s motion to override the governor became emotional and a bit heated at times during the two hours legislators discussed the measure. The bill proposed allowing the children of illegal immigrants who have received temporary legal status from the federal government to apply for professional licenses to work in Nebraska.
The legislature approved the bill on final reading 33-to-11 with five senators abstaining.
Gov. Pete Ricketts’ vetoed the bill.
The action set the stage for a showdown between the Unicameral and the governor on the final day of the 2016 session.
Ricketts held a news conference, talked to individual state senators, and launched a campaign to turn four votes to uphold his veto. It didn’t work. The legislature overrode the veto 31-13-5, one more vote than the minimum needed for an override.
Sen. Mello harshly criticized the governor during his opening remarks, saying that though he has had a good relationship with Ricketts, he was “utterly disappointed” with the tact the governor took on the bill, claiming the governor had used misinformation, demagoguery, hyperbole, and political rhetoric against the measure. Mello further stated colleagues had been condemned from the legislative floor for using similar rhetoric.
“We should not allow people to make fictionist comments, things that are so out-of-bounds in regards to what we know are the facts, what the truth is, purely to try to scare the public,” Mello told fellow lawmakers.
The bill would allow so-called DACA youth to apply for the nearly 200 professional licenses issued by the state of Nebraska. That acronym stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, children younger than 16 brought into the United States illegally by their parents. The Obama Administration has granted them temporary legal presence, which stops short of legal status, but allows them to receive driver’s licenses, go to school, and work in the country.
The United States Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case brought by Texas, which argues the administration overstepped its bounds with the DACA program and a program proposed in 2014, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA. Twenty-six states have joined the lawsuit, including Nebraska.
There are approximately 3,000 DACA youth in Nebraska.
When asked during his post-session news conference about Mello’s accusations, Ricketts replied he merely argued the bill is much broader than supporters claimed.
“We talked about how if the president is successful in his Supreme Court case, this will vastly expand the benefits we offer to people at the state, beyond just the DACA youth, but to people who clearly broke the law by crossing the border,” Ricketts said. “So, I really don’t know what Sen. Mello’s referring to.”
Ricketts has said the bill is unfair and unjust to those who went through legal immigration.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]