Nebraska legislators to once again consider death penalty repeal bill

Started by Rick4404, January 20, 2015, 01:22:15 AM

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January 20, 2015, 01:22:15 AM Last Edit: January 20, 2015, 01:33:35 AM by Rick4404
The Nebraska Unicameral Legislature will once again have a death penalty repeal bill up for consideration this year.  Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha's 11th Legislative District, introduced what has become an annual ritual for him; a bill that seeks to replace capital punishment with a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole as the maximum penalty for first degree murder in the state.

The bill was introduced on Jan. 14th into the state's unique one-house legislative body.  It is awaiting referral to committee for consideration, most likely the Judiciary Committee.

Chambers is Nebraska's longest-serving legislator.  In his first tenure with the Legislature, from 1973 to 2008, Chambers introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty. In 1979, his bill passed but was vetoed by then-Gov. Charles Thone.  Chambers left the Legislature following the 2008 session in that he had become term-limited.  Nebraska state senators may only be elected to and serve for two consecutive four-year terms.  Chambers was replaced by an Omaha attorney by the name of Brenda Council.  She served for one four year term, until she was forced from office amidst a gambling scandal.  Chambers ran against Council in a 2012 primary election, among a field of six contenders.  He was among the top two vote getters from the primary; and they advanced to the Nov. 2012 general election, where Chambers re-captured his seat in the Legislature. Nebraska legislators are elected on non-partisan ballots and serve in the Legislature without political party labels.   

In that Nebraska is the only state with one legislative chamber; a bill makes several stops on the road to final passage and consideration by the governor.  Every bill and resolution in Nebraska has to go through three separate readings on the floor of the Legislature on three separate days, in accordance with the state constitution. (a copy of the introduced bill)


On March 17, 2015, the Nebraska Legislature Judiciary Committee passed Chambers death penalty repeal on to the first step of consideration -- General File -- on an 8-0 vote.  General File is the legislative body's first opportunity to debate and vote on a bill.  If the bill survives this first round debate with a majority vote in favor of it advancing -- the bill goes to enrollment and review initial, where a group of senators goes over the bill and incorporates all amendments to date into the bill.  It then goes to the Select File round.  Another opportunity for the full body to debate and vote on the bill.  If it survives this second round, then it goes back for a final review by enrollment and review, where the bill is placed into final form and then sent back for Final Reading.  At final reading no amendments are allowed, but a motion to send the bill back to Select File can be considered.  Otherwise, Final Reading is where the final vote on a bill is taken.  If it passes, it goes on to the governor for signature or rejection by veto. 

Oh, an interesting matter to point out.  When the bill came out of committee, District 2 Sen. Bill Kintner introduced an amendment to the Chambers repeal bill, which would replace lethal injection with execution by firing squad as the means of carrying out an execution in Nebraska.  Interesting maneuver.  It will be interesting to see if that amendment flies or not, since Nebraska is in the same boat as other states, it is having difficulty maintaining a supply of drugs that would be used in an execution, although there are no currently-scheduled executions pending.

Here is where LB 268 stands at this point:

The current sitting of the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die on Friday, June 5th.  There's still time for this thing to get through the legislative process by then.  We'll have to wait and see what happens.

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