The state’s unicameral legislature passed bill LB268, which would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life imprisonment, by a vote of 32 to 15.
Governor Pete Ricketts has threatened to veto the bill. Thirty votes are required to override a veto in Nebraska. Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who sponsored the bill, said “Nebraska will step into history” if the death penalty is abolished in the state. “It would be the first so-called conservative state to do so.”
The death penalty repeal is supported by conservatives who oppose the death penalty for religious reasons and say it is a waste of taxpayer money.
“This is not a conservative/liberal issue,” Senator Tommy Carrett of Bellevue said. Rather, it’s “a matter of conscience,” and for him, a pro-life issue. Senator Adam Morfeld of Lincoln said the death penalty represents “vengeance, not justice.”
The last execution in Nebraska was in 1997.
Several states have taken steps toward abolition in the last couple of years. Delaware’s Senate passed a bill to abolish the death penalty earlier this year, which prompted Governor Jack Markell to announce his support for ending the death penalty and urge the House to pass the bill. New Hampshire legislators also have come very close to passing legislation that would end capital punishment.
Six other states have recently abolished the death penalty: Maryland, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, and Connecticut.