Gov. Pete Ricketts opposes a bill that would do away with mandatory minimum prison sentences, even in its modified form.
Ricketts is unimpressed with changes made by the Unicameral which limit the bill to those charged with drug crimes.
“The mandatory minimum law is specifically about people who are actively working to destroy the fabric of our society,” Ricketts tells reporters during a recent news conference. “When we’re talking about drug dealers, these are drug dealers that could be dealing drugs on school property, these are drug dealers that could be using weapons to carry out the drug deals. They’re preying about vulnerable people in our society; people who are addicted to drugs.”
As introduced, LB 447 covered a number of crimes which carried a minimum sentence of three to five years. Those convicted would have to serve the minimum sentence before becoming eligible for Nebraska’s good-time law, which can effectively cut a prison sentence in half.
State lawmakers narrowed the bill considerably during first-round debate. It now only pertains to drug offenses.
Still, Ricketts says some of those offenders have committed more serious crimes than backers let on.
“These are people that are committing crimes that should be incarcerated. So, to portray this as something else is inaccurate,” according to Ricketts. “These are dangerous people that need to have that. For example, with our good time law, this is one of the ways to make sure that they don’t start getting that until after they have served their mandatory minimum sentence.”
Ricketts says the mandatory minimum laws are good for public safety and the legislature is “going the wrong direction on this.”
Even after LB 447 was drastically altered, it drew the minimum number of votes needed for passage, advancing on a 25-to-22 vote. It must pass two more rounds of voting to reach the governor’s desk.
Supporters of the measure say mandatory minimum sentences tie the hands of judges, who are better able to determine the appropriate sentences of individual cases.