Nebraska lawmakers Tuesday prepared to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto of a measure that would have made the Cornhusker state the first red state since 1973 to outlaw the death penalty. The Unicameral planned to hold the vote Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
Lawmakers passed the bill last week by a veto-proof 32-15 vote. "We got 32 votes to end the death penalty, and if they follow their conscience, we should have no trouble with an override,” sponsor Sen. Ernie Chambers told the Los Angeles Times, adding Nebraskans have expressed concern about the number of recent exonerations.
But Ricketts said abolishing the death penalty would send a message Nebraska "will be soft on crime." He reportedly has been trying to convince senators to change sides. "Nebraskans expect their public officials to strengthen public safety, not weaken it," he told a news conference. "Under this bill, there is no guarantee that convicted murderers will stay behind bars for life or not harm other innocent victims."
Nebraska is one of 32 states with a death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Since reinstating executions in 1973, it has put three people to death. Senators have introduced a bill to outlaw the practice in every legislative session since 1981.
Nebraska currently has 11 inmates on death row. The last execution was in 1997, Agence France-Presse reported. “It’s been expensive, hasn’t been used, it won’t be used and doesn’t need to be in the statute," Sen. Colby Coash told MSNBC.
State Attorney General Doug Peterson is in favor of keeping capital punishment. Other politicians, like Sen. Jerry Johnson, told reporters they were undecided or had changed sides on repeal since pushing it through. Some cited cost; others referenced religion.
"I am Republican enough. I am conservative enough," Sen. Bob Krist said. "And I am strong enough to follow through with my life convictions, which is life from conception to natural death."
The override vote was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday. Watch a live stream of the proceedings.