Trying his luck again: Ricketts vetoes another Dreamer bill


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Phil Brown

In Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts’ inaugural term in office last year, he faced a crucial series of political tests as legislature passed the state’s unicameral Senate and arrived at his desk for final approval. The biggest one was the death penalty repeal, and another was a bill that increased the tax on gasoline to pay for road repairs. Another important bill that arrived at Rickett’s desk last year was LB 623, which allowed so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the US illegally as children covered under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, to legally obtain driver’s licenses. Ricketts vetoed all of them.

And yet, all three of Rickett’s vetoes were overridden. While the death penalty debate still rages on, with a fall referendum pending, roads are being fixed with the gasoline tax money in spite of the governor’s wishes. LB 623, the Dreamer license bill, was passed after the legislature overrode Ricketts’ veto by a 34-10 margin, outstripping the 30 votes they needed to force the measure through.

Whatever lessons Ricketts might have learned from his disastrous freshman session seem to have been completely lost on him, however, as he gets into the thick of his second. His new license plate design has already crashed and burned, and his public efforts to get a refund on the drugs he failed to illegally smuggle into the country continue to haunt his administration. And when it comes to the legislature, it looks like the governor is back to his old tricks.

LB 947, introduced by South Omaha senator Heath Mello, would allow undocumented Nebraskans covered by the DACA to legally acquire professional and commercial licenses. Sound familiar? Another
licensure bill covering Dreamers has passed the Nebraska senate, and very predictably, Ricketts vetoed the measure on Friday.

This sets up yet another veto-override attempt for the state legislature. Even without Ricketts’ ghastly track record with vetoes, the odds seem especially stacked against him. Not only did the legislature override his veto on another Dreamer licensure bill last year, but they already had the 30 votes required to override a veto when the bill passed on Wednesday. Mello’s bill received 33 votes in favor, meaning he would have to some-how lose 4 votes in order to fail to override the veto when the senate meets for the last time on Wednesday.

Yet another failed veto would ask serious questions of the Ricketts administration. A governorship that’s incapable of enforcing even its small role in the legislative process is one that is profoundly ineffective. How much political capital can the governor spend on failed vetoes before he exhausts his support and further alienates his legislature?


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