By a vote of 30-19, the unicameral Nebraska legislature has overridden the veto of Governor Pete Ricketts, regarding the repeal of the death penalty.  Nebraska is the first conservative state to abolish the death penalty in over 40 years.  North Dakota repealed the death penalty in 1973.  Of course, since 1973, several other states have also repealed the death penalty, the most recent being Maryland on May 2, 2013.

 

In every legislative session since 1981, a bill has been introduced which would abolish the death penalty.  In some years, it never advanced out of committee, while in other years it gained significant support.  However, the bill has never passed.  On Wednesday, May, 20, 2015, the unicameral Nebraska legislature approved a bill to abolish the death penalty by a vote of 32-15.  In Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, all bills must be voted on three times.  Each time the death penalty repeal bill was voted on, it gained support.  Following the third vote on May 20, the bill advanced to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts.

 

Governor Ricketts had previously spoken out against the bill and publicly stated that he would veto the bill, which he did on Tuesday, May 26, 2015.  The bill then returned to the legislature, who voted on whether to override Governor Ricketts veto on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 27, 2015.  Thirty votes (out of 49) were needed to override the veto.  With no votes to spare, the state legislature overrode Governor Ricketts veto and officially abolished the death penalty in the state of Nebraska.

 

Nebraska has not executed an inmate since 1997, although Governor Ricketts has recently announced that execution drugs had been purchased.  When the legislature began its debate on abolishing the death penalty, there were 11 inmates on death row.  Earlier this week, Michael Ryan died, leaving 10 inmates on death row.  Their sentences will be converted to life in prison.

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