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Death Penalty. Yes or No?


Nebraska is set to execute a prisoner in just moments. It has been many years, I believe since the 1990’s, since a person on Nebraska’s death row was executed.

About 10 years ago, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the electric chair an inhumane way to kill someone, calling it torture. Today the individual will be given a lethal injection. There is a great deal of opposition to this also. Many are concerned about the drugs he will be given. After today, Nebraska will not be able to get the drugs for a lethal injection. Then what?

How do you feel about the death penalty?

I am for it. Just saying that may cause me to get a great deal of feedback. That is fine. As I have said, I like to hear other people’s views.

There are the pro-life people who are in Lincoln now, protesting this upcoming execution. I understand their feelings as well. It is hard to comprehend a deliberate killing of a person. Religious beliefs play into this as well.

I am a religious person. But, I am also a realistic person. This individual killed people. He had no regard for their lives or the family that he had and how they would suffer for the rest of their lives due to his actions.

Many believe that life without parole is the proper punishment. So, the murderer sits in jail, eats three meals a day, can use a weight room to work out every day, can possibly even get a college education. All on the taxpayers dime! Tax dollars need to be spent on better things than this! They say it is more expensive to execute them than to pay for life without parole. Maybe so. I haven’t seen the numbers on that. It is a sad situation either way.

People say the murderer has rights. What about the rights of the victims? I hear more about pro-life, human rights for the murderer, but nothing about the victims.

They were working to support their families and had their life stolen from them. The murders affected many lives. What about their rights? What about the pain and suffering they went through, for the rest of their lives!

Maybe their isn’t an answer. It isn’t an easy one. But, I will continue to support the death penalty. But, I will listen to all points of view, and maybe, only maybe, will I be swayed.

But, I doubt it!

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Governor Ricketts Signs Death Penalty Protocol


Governor Pete Ricketts signed the protocol for carrying out death penalty sentences in Nebraska and delivered it to Secretary of State John Gale. 

 

“The Department of Corrections was responsive to feedback provided in the public hearing,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Finalizing the protocol will help carry out the will of the people of Nebraska in regards to the death penalty.”

 

A copy of the final protocol will be available on the Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.ne.gov.

Traveling Nebraska and Listening to You


Over the past month, I have been traveling and holding town halls across the state to listen to Nebraskans like you and to share an update on the priorities on which my administration has focused over the first seven months.  Input from the Second House, the people of Nebraska, helps to shape my policy priorities.  These travels have taken me from Falls City to Chadron and Laurel to Ogallala and a number of communities in between.  This is part of my administration’s effort to establish a culture of accountability and transparency in state government.  Holding town halls lets me hear directly from you about your concerns, hopes, and ideas.

 

At the town halls, I have heard from Nebraskans on a vast array of issues ranging from taxes and corrections to mental health and infrastructure needs.  One issue, however, has stood out from all others.  Everywhere I travel, families, ag producers, and business owners say the same thing: property taxes are too high.  This year, we took steps to cut the growth of government by about half and delivered over $400 million in property tax relief, an over 40 percent increase over the previous biennium.  This is a win for taxpayers, but there is more work to be done.  According to the Tax Foundation, Nebraska has the 13th highest property taxes in the nation.  I have heard countless accounts of the impact of high property taxes.  Nebraskans like Gary in Ord have shared their property tax bills with me, and their taxes have skyrocketed dramatically.  In Gary’s case, his taxes went up over 145 percent over eight years on one parcel of land.

 

At many of the town halls, I heard from citizens concerned about the Legislature’s repeal of the death penalty this past session.  Overwhelmingly, Nebraskans want to see capital punishment reinstated and carried out for public safety reasons.  Attendees have asked questions about reforms that are happening in the Corrections Department, and I have been able to share with them an update on some of the great progress Director Scott Frakes is making in his agency.  Later this fall, Director Frakes will be announcing his strategic plan for the agency as he continues to change the culture of Corrections.

 

Another common concern I hear at town halls is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overreach on many fronts including the Waters of the U.S. Rule, the Clean Power Plan, and the Renewable Fuel Standard.  The EPA continues to act like an unelected fourth branch of government, and the rules they are legislating through regulation are having a very real impact on the lives of Nebraskans.  One woman who attended my Loup City town hall mentioned that the EPA is forcing her to remove a culvert next to her pasture because the culvert in the EPA’s opinion is prohibiting the natural flow of the water through a ditch.

 

A multitude of important issues were raised at the town halls, and my administration continues to listen to concerns and ideas from people like you.  This week I will be holding another town hall in Norfolk.  You can find all the details about the town hall by visiting www.governor.nebraska.gov.  Be sure to watch this website for updates, and for other public events which my office publishes on a weekly basis.  If you are not able to make it to any of the town halls, I hope you will take the time to share your thoughts with me by emailing my office at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or calling 402-471-2244.

Governor Pete Ricketts

Governor Pete Ricketts

 

Death Penalty Debate by Legislators Historical


The Unicameral’s 104th Legislature, First Session, is officially over. We adjourned Sine Die (which is Latin for ‘without a day’) on Friday, May 29, Day 89, one day earlier than anticipated during a “long session”. The remaining bills left to debate would have required more time than that single day allowed. Also, early adjournment saves the State over $10,000.

 

Overall, despite many controversies encountered this session, many bills passed. 664 total bills were introduced. Of those, 272 passed into law. Of the bills introduced, 107 were designated as priority bills which means they are generally considered ahead of other bills in debate. 80 priority bills were passed into law. The Speaker promised to carryover 5 priority bills to next year as they did not receive debate this session. The remaining 22 priority bills either received a veto, were unsuccessful through the debate process, or were not advanced out of their respective committees.

 

Two other points are worth noting. First, on Wednesday, the death penalty was debated on a motion to override the Governor’s veto. The debate was nothing short of historic.

 

Again, I stood in staunch support of the death penalty. I opposed Senator Chambers’ bill to repeal the death penalty throughout the legislative process. In addition, I stood in strong support of the Governor’s veto. Ultimately, the death penalty was repealed by the minimum amount of votes necessary to override a Governor’s veto, 30 votes in favor and 19 votes opposed, and Senator Chambers witnessed the fruit of 40 years of legislative effort to repeal the death penalty.

 

While the Legislature repealed the death penalty, despite an overwhelming majority of support in our district and state to maintain the death penalty, there is much conversation to begin petition drives and referendums to put this issue to the vote of the people in the next election. I strongly encourage you to engage in the political process and have your voice heard.

 

Additionally, the Governor’s veto on LB623 received a legislative override. LB623 offers drivers licenses to DACA youth. DACA youth are young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children by their parents. While I certainly have compassion for these young people who are illegal immigrants, as they are in the difficult predicament of being brought to the United States illegally by their parents, I was committed throughout debate to not undermine or overlook our legal process of immigration. Ultimately, the bill was passed into law, which took effect immediately, with 34 in favor, 10 against, 2 present not voting, and 3 excused not voting.

 

Thank you all for reading this weekly update throughout session to remain informed on the business of the Legislature. Over the next two weeks I will discuss some of the legislation I worked to pass, summarize other key legislation discussed throughout session, and highlight some of my major upcoming legislative activities.

 

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov. At this point in time the majority of my work is in our district, where I typically travel to Lincoln once a week. Katie and Tom remain in Lincoln full time and continue working hard to address constituent services as needed, while preparing research and legislation for next year’s session beginning January 2016.

 

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

 

Lydia Brasch

Lydia Brasch

Kats’ Korner: Opinion on Abolishing of Death Penalty


As a taxpayer, the death penalty being abolished concerns me on many levels.

In my opinion, the citizens of Nebraska should have voted on this issue. It affects the state and everyone residing within it. Our voices should be heard on an issue of this magnitude.

If I had been given the privilege to exercise my voting rights, I would have voted in favor of the death penalty.

I have many reasons to support my decision. My concern lies with the murder victims. Those that commit such a horrendous crime don’t care about the victims, or their rights. They die an awful death without any say in the matter.

Their families suffer for the rest of their lives because of the condemnable acts of another person.

Now, the murderer knows he or she won’t die because he killed someone. Once convicted of the crime, if convicted, the individual goes to prison, having three meals a day, exercising, watching television and has the opportunity to obtain a college education, all at taxpayers expense.

Not to mention the endless appeals of their case, also at taxpayers expense.

I will say, once a murderer was placed on death row, it took entirely too long to enact the law. I believe the process should have moved forward much faster. Not relevant now since the death penalty no longer exists.

I know Senator Lydia Brasch, our local Senator, voted in favor of keeping the death penalty. I commend her efforts in trying to keep the law in place, along with Governor Ricketts and all of the other legislators that did so.

I sincerely hope and pray this decision is reversed before more victims suffer at the hands of those with no respect for the lives of others.

 

 

Governor Ricketts Condemns Legislature’s Repeal of Death Penalty


“My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families,” said Governor Ricketts. “While the Legislature has lost touch with the citizens of Nebraska, I will continue to stand with Nebraskans and law enforcement on this important issue.”

 

The Governor thanks the following senators that voted to sustain his veto: Senator Dave Bloomfield,  Senator Lydia Brasch, Senator Joni Craighead, Senator Curt Friesen, Senator Mike Groene, Senator Dan Hughes, Senator Jerry Johnson, Senator Bill Kintner, Senator John Kuehn, Senator Tyson Larson, Senator Beau McCoy, Senator John Murante, Senator Merv Riepe, Senator Jim Scheer, Senator Ken Schilz, Senator Dave Schnoor, Senator Jim Smith, Senator John Stinner, Senator Dan Watermeier.

Governor Ricketts Vetoes Death Penalty Repeal


This afternoon, Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed LB268, a bill which would repeal the death penalty in Nebraska. The bill also attempts to repeal the sentences of convicted murderers currently sitting on death row. Governor Ricketts announced his veto at a veto-signing ceremony held at the Nebraska State Capitol at 3:00pm today.

 

Governor Ricketts was joined at the ceremony by Attorney General Doug Peterson, family members of a victim of the 2002 Norfolk bank shooting, state senators, and members of the law enforcement community. 

 

“Today, I am vetoing LB268 which would repeal the death penalty in Nebraska,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “Repealing the death penalty sends the wrong message to Nebraskans who overwhelming support capital punishment and look to government to strengthen public safety, not weaken it. Under this bill, there is no guarantee that convicted murderers will stay behind bars for life or not harm other innocent victims.”

 

“The Legislature’s decision will test whether our state has the prosecutorial tools to manage the ‘worst of the worst’ cases. Their decision will determine whether the families of the victims of ten men on Nebraska’s death row will ever receive the justice meted out by a very deliberate and cautious judicial process in each of their cases. Their decision tests the true meaning of representative government. For these reasons, I urge Nebraskans to contact their senator, and ask them to sustain my veto.”

 

The Governor also pointed out that life imprisonment, as proposed in LB268, is not a thoughtful compromise because it does not guarantee that a convicted murderer will spend his life behind bars. The case of convicted murderer Laddie Dittrich demonstrates this. Dittrich was sentenced to life imprisonment, yet after serving only 40 years in prison, his sentence was commuted by the Pardons Board. He was then paroled, and shortly thereafter arrested for sexually assaulting a young girl.  

 

“Heinous murderers such as the ten on Nebraska’s death row have surrendered their lives by their own utter disregard for human life,” said Attorney General Peterson. “The state affirms this reality through a sentence of death. The state should not be deprived of its ability to carry out a just sentence.”

 

“I watched my daughter die over and over again on the security camera footage during the trial and then during the sentencing,” said Vivian Tuttle, mother to 2002 Norfolk bank shooting victim Evonne Tuttle. “The jury said my daughter’s murderer should be put to death, and I believe it is appropriate for justice to be carried out. Senators who vote to override the Governor’s veto of LB268 are preventing justice for my daughter and all of the other families from being carried out.” 

 

“As I have been visiting with senators, I have informed them that the death penalty is an important tool used by prosecutors and law enforcement in tough cases,” said Pierce County Sheriff Rick Eberhardt. “Senators should listen to their county attorneys, juries, as well as judges. Do not second guess their work. This is a matter of local control.”

 

“The death penalty remains an important tool and protection for Nebraska’s law enforcement community that works firsthand to protect our state against dangerous criminals,” said Brian Petersen of the State Troopers Association of Nebraska (STAN)  in a prepared statement. “The deterrent effect of capital punishment protects lives, including the lives of our state’s men and women who wear blue. Law enforcement put their lives on the line every day, and they deserve every protection our state can provide to them. Repealing the death penalty strips away one of those protections at a time when law enforcement faces greater risks than ever before. STAN urges senators to sustain the Governor’s veto of LB268.”  

LB268 Veto Ceremony

 

Word on the Street: Repealing of Death Penalty


Nebraska lawmakers just voted in favor of repealing the death penalty. Are you for or against their decision?

        Peggy Robinson Peterson Sad
  • Melissa Thomas Hawk Complete slap in the face of murder victims and their families……..
  • Lauri Bundy Canarsky The biggest problem is enacting the death penalty. It’s been almost 20 years since the last execution. We simply pay a fortune to keep them on death row with unlimited appeals. There’s no deterrent there.
  • Melissa Thomas Hawk totally agree……it’s a retirement plan……
  • Leann Canarsky Jorgensen Why put something into effect if you are never going to use it? For some families this is closure for them!
  • Kay Gibbs Kommers So now what do we have to threaten them with? If you don’t follow thru and Use it…what difference does it make. I personally believe we need to have the death penalty and we need to use it! Don’t hand me the old they have rights thing. They gave up their rights when they chose to do the horrendous crimes..they took away their Victims Rights…without a second thought.
  •  Melissa Thomas Hawk Exactly! !!!!!!
  • Melissa Thomas Hawk The criminal loses all rights when they did the crime. And yet many activists defend the criminals rights!!!!! Total outrage and total ass backwards. ….I will never understand. ……so you have laws to follow and to punish but they never totally pay for their crimes…….we do….The taxpayer. …..that is what is criminal! !!!!!
  •  Jeannene Schutt Sometimes I think “death” is too good for them ..then there is Neko Jenkins….and someone inside will probably kill him….
  • Laura Marr Mittlestadt A life for a life, I’m sorry but making taxpayers pay to house murders when so many go homeless and hungry is wrong. When a family of a murdered loved one does not get the justice they deserve. And the possibility of being freed after they took a life?
  •  Paula Stromquist I am definitely for the death penalty. I wrote all our senators and told them so. But I do agree they need to enforce it too. Look how long ago those people got murdered in the bank in Norfolk….those criminals are still sitting pretty! !
  • Melissa Thomas Hawk That is what is so wrong Paula……..that is exactly the point……
  • Amy Wheaton Can I say where I want my hard earned taxes go then cause I no longer feel I need to support people in prisons! Especially the ones who deserve the rope!
  •  Loren D Swanson all this on a day that an Omaha cop is shot and the latest unofficial reports is that she has died. I guess Senator Chambers wins

Governor Ricketts Statement for Senators on Death Penalty Vote


This morning, Governor Pete Ricketts urged senators to listen to their constituents when considering how they vote during the final round of debate on a measure that would repeal the death penalty.

 

“This morning’s debate on the death penalty is significant,” said Governor Ricketts. “No one has traveled the state more than I have in the past 18 months, and everywhere I go there is overwhelming support for keeping the death penalty in Nebraska. Ahead of this morning’s vote, I am reminding senators that a vote for cloture on LB268 is a vote to repeal the death penalty and to give our state’s most heinous criminals more lenient sentences. This isn’t rhetoric. This is reality.”

Senator Brasch Votes Against Repeal of Death Penalty


By Senator Lydia Brasch

This week at the Legislature marked Days 62 through 65 of our 90-day session. Two key items are worth mentioning from this week’s business.

 

First, and with great disappointment, it has become clear the Revenue Committee has no interest in supporting my priority bill (LB350) to reduce the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land from 75% to 65% for the purposes of property taxation. Currently, LB350 is one vote short of advancing out of committee. The objection of some rural Senators is the lack of benefit LB350 would provide their districts. Despite efforts to add an amendment providing state aid funding for their rural school districts which do not receive any state aid, there continues to be a lack of support by these rural Senators. Notably, the Department of Revenue just released its Property Assessment Report for 2014-2015 indicating a nearly 20% average statewide increase in property tax valuations for agricultural land.

 

Second, this week largely focused on prison reform and the death penalty. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Legislature debated LB605, LB598, and LB173. These bills are considered the prison reform bills and respond to the prison overcrowding issue which is a major concern.

 

As amended, LB605 would restore a state law requiring the minimum sentence for a serious felony be no longer than one-third the length of the maximum sentence. In addition, LB173 would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for several felonies and restrict the use of enhanced penalties for habitual criminals to a limited list of violent crimes.

 

Overall, these bills are concerning. While we unquestionably face a serious problem with prison overcrowding, LB605 and LB173 are not the solution. Rather than be soft on crime, we need to remain tough on violent crimes and habitual criminals. We should address other solutions, such as assisting non-violent criminal’s rehabilitation and their re-entry into society.

 

LB268 was somberly addressed on Thursday morning. Introduced and prioritized by Senator Chambers, LB268 seeks to repeal the death penalty for first-degree murder and replace it with life imprisonment without parole. LB268 opponents, of which I am a part, insist on the necessity of capital punishment for the most heinous crimes to ensure strict justice is served. In addition, capital punishment provides an effective deterrent to other crimes. As well, our Attorney General offered data refuting the claim prosecution of capital punishment is a cost-burden and financial hardship to the State. Also, in response to affirmations about our God-given human dignity, opponents affirm the State has a unique God-given authority to ensure society is protected from violent criminals, even to the extent of using deadly force.

 

LB268 advanced to second round with 30 votes. While this is sufficient support to become law and override a Governor’s veto, LB268 needs 33 votes to override a filibuster. I voted against the repeal of the death penalty—the need for capital punishment is a rare but necessary tool for our civil society.

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

 

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Lydia Brasch

 

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