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

 

Ricketts Congratulates Unicameral for Passing Ricketts Blueprint


Today, Governor Pete Ricketts signed the next biennial budget, claiming victory for Nebraska taxpayers. In his budget recommendation to the Legislature, the Governor sought a reduction in the growth of spending by nearly 50% and included $400 million for the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund. The Legislature met both recommendations. After signing the budget, the Governor made the following statement:

 

“This is a great day for my administration, the Unicameral, and most importantly Nebraska citizens. My top two priorities for this session were to cut the growth of government spending and to provide tax relief to Nebraska families,” Gov. Ricketts said. “I want to congratulate lawmakers for working with my administration to make this a reality. We will provide Nebraska taxpayers with $408 million in property tax relief while cutting the rate of spending growth, and we are still funding essential state government services for the people of this state.”

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.”

Governor Ricketts Announces Flags to Flown at Half-Staff Friday


Today, Governor Pete Ricketts, in accordance with a proclamation from President Obama, announced that all U.S. and Nebraska flags are to be flown at half-staff on Friday, May 15, 2015, in honor of a Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Flags will be flown at half-staff until sunset on Friday, May 15, 2015.

Senators Lydia Brasch and Senator Al Davis Request State Action, Oversight in Nebraska Nursing Home Closings


On Monday, May 4, Senator Brasch and Senator Al Davis (District 43) along with Governor Pete Ricketts, representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL), and private representatives of the nursing home care community met to ensure proper oversight and due diligence are undertaken to protect the residents and employees of various nursing home facilities.

 

Deseret Health Group announced last week on April 25 it would close its facility, Logan Valley Manor, in Lyons. This announcement coincided with a notice to also close another facility, Ainsworth Care Center, in Ainsworth. Deseret Health Group has now withdrawn care of all four of its facilities in Nebraska.

 

Currently, DHHS is working to provide receivership status for the Lyons and Ainsworth facilities. Receivership provides the state the ability to work with a private entity to take custody, manage, and protect the people, property, and assets involved. Receivership provides a temporary, legal remedy while a more permanent, long-term solution is determined.

 

Initially, Deseret Health Group gave a 30-day notice to the Lyons and Ainsworth facilities. However, federal law requires a 60-day notice be given with regard to the closing of a nursing home facility that accepts Medicaid and/or Medicare payments. Deseret has complied with the 60-day notice, but could not be reached for comment.

 

DHHS, under the new leadership of Courtney Phillips, has been actively involved at both facilities in Lyons and Ainsworth. DHHS made on-site visits to ensure adequate care was being offered and continues to monitor each facility on a shift-by-shift basis.

 

DOL has been working diligently to try to ensure the payment of wages for employees. Employees of the nursing home facilities were scheduled to be paid on April 30. However, Deseret Health Group is yet to provide payment of wages as of May 6. The DOL also sent a Rapid Response Team to both the Lyons and Ainsworth location to speak with employees. The Rapid Response Team provides services regarding filing wage complaints, new employment opportunities, and the requirements for filing for unemployment benefits.

 

Senator Lydia Brasch, representative of District 16, voiced concern for the recent announcement stating: “I am truly concerned for the residents and employees of Logan Valley Manor as they undergo this difficult transition in light of Deseret Health Group’s recent and abrupt actions. Yet, I remain hopeful as I believe the residents, family of residents, employees, citizens, businesses, and government agencies will step up and provide needed care and support for those affected.” Senator Brasch additionally indicated her desire for local groups, charitable organizations, businesses, and church communities to step in where necessary and offered gratitude for all those who have already sacrificed to ensure the health and welfare of the residents and employees of Logan Valley Manor.

 

Any questions or concerns for DHHS may be addressed by contacting them at 402.471.3324 (between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.), 402.499.4417 (after hours, weekends, or holidays), or by e-mail to eve.lewis@nebraska.gov. To file a wage complaint with the DOL, call 402.471.2239.

 

###

Protect Public Safety


By Governor Ricketts

Events over the past two years have resulted in a renewed focus on the importance of public safety and the role of state government in administering justice and upholding the rule of law. From errors that resulted in the early release of convicted murderer Nikko Jenkins and sentencing miscalculations to incendiary comments made in a committee hearing by State Senator Ernie Chambers, public safety has been at the center of conversations at the State Capitol and across Nebraska.

 

These events and conversations have served as the basis for a variety of reports and advocacy for a number of approaches to address concerns about the way our corrections system has operated in the past. Groups ranging from the Council of State Governments (CSG) to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have made policy recommendations to the Legislature to address concerns they have about overcrowding in our prisons, the utilization of solitary confinement, and the availability of mental health services to inmates. Several senators have introduced legislation generated from these advocacy groups this year. In the final eight weeks of this legislative session, senators will be considering what new resources they may provide to our corrections system and which policy recommendations are worthy of adoption.

 

During this upcoming discussion, it is imperative that any changes in policy are motivated by a desire to put public safety first. Nebraskans tell me that they want to see an approach to reform that is tough on criminals. Some of the proposed policies under consideration in the Legislature, however, are out of step with the desire of Nebraskans to be tough on crime. For example, the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee has advanced a plan introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers to do away with mandatory minimum sentences for certain classes of felonies, and to provide for more lenient sentencing guidelines. If the Chambers plan is adopted, some sex offenders could end up receiving early parole for which they are not currently eligible.

 

Senator Chambers’ plan to repeal the death penalty is another troubling proposal. The death penalty remains an important tool for Nebraska’s prosecutors when seeking proportional punishment for the most heinous crimes.  Some have tried to argue that the death penalty is too costly; however, the costs of litigating the appeals that are filed in death penalty cases are negligible to the state and in no way offset the death penalty’s usefulness in sentencing the worst criminals. In fact, the fiscal note for the death penalty repeal shows no cost savings to taxpayers should this repeal effort succeed. As I have said before, I will veto any attempt to repeal the death penalty here in our state. This proposal is the wrong direction and would soften our state’s approach to dealing with criminals.

 

While the Unicameral considers legislation, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) Director Scott Frakes has already been hard at work making critical changes to his agency’s policies and programs. Within weeks of his appointment, Frakes ended a furlough program that had previously given violent offenders early release. Recently, my office announced with NDCS that important software upgrades will be made to sentence calculation software to eliminate manual processes that had previously resulted in sentence calculation errors. Additionally, I am working with both NDCS and the Attorney General to develop alternative protocols to ensure that the State of Nebraska can effectively carry out the death penalty. These first steps represent a commitment from my administration to continually seek new ways to put public safety first.

 

There is more to be done and my administration will continue to work closely with the Legislature to ensure that reforms that are made to our corrections system protect public safety. If you share these concerns about the future of our corrections system, I would urge to you to have a conversation with your state senator about the importance of supporting policies that protect Nebraskans. You can find all the information you need to contact your state senator at www.NebraskaLegislature.gov.

Governor Pete Ricketts

Governor Pete Ricketts

 

Governor Ricketts Calls on Senator Ernie Chamber to Apologize


Today, Governor Pete Ricketts called on Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha to issue a public apology following unacceptable comments he made during a committee hearing:

 

“As public officials, we are held to a higher standard, and we should be. No one should ever suggest the use of violence against law enforcement officials. I have reviewed the transcript from the Judiciary Committee hearing in question, and Senator Chambers’ comments were out of line. Words matter. At a time when we need to develop better relationships between law enforcement and our communities, Senator Chambers’ comments are irresponsible and only promote distrust and the potential for violence. I urge Senator Chambers to issue a full apology for his remarks and to condemn all violence against law enforcement.”

 

Yesterday, Governor Ricketts tweeted his support for law enforcement. He encourages Nebraskans to tweet their support using the #SupportBlue hashtag. Twitter users can follow @GovRicketts for updates.

Protecting Nebraska Policyholders


Governor Pete Ricketts

Governor Pete Ricketts

Thousands of Nebraskans are being encouraged to quickly change their health care coverage due to the collapse of CoOportunity Health (CoOportunity).

 

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, created CoOportunity as a consumer operated and oriented plan, or co-op. Co-ops are non-profit health insurers intended to create competition in the health insurance marketplace. CoOportunity, based in Iowa, was approved as a co-op to sell health insurance in Iowa and Nebraska.

 

High enrollment numbers exceeded expectations in both states. This led to more claims, and, in a matter of months, the company had outgrown its resources. On December 16, 2014, President Obama’s administration refused CoOportunity’s request for additional loans, and a week later, an Iowa court determined that CoOportunity was in financially hazardous condition. On February 28, 2015, the company was liquidated.

 

This Obamacare failure has left many insured Nebraskans wondering what to do next. My administration is working with the Nebraska Department of Insurance (NDOI) to help CoOportunity policyholders decide what is best for their families and businesses. NDOI encourages those still covered by CoOportunity to obtain coverage with a new carrier during a Special Enrollment Period, which runs from March 1st through April 29th. Enrolling during this time is essential because CoOportunity policies will be cancelled before the next open enrollment period begins. NDOI reports that individual policies will be canceled 180 days after liquidation, and group policies canceled within 30-45 days after liquidation.

 

During the Special Enrollment Period, individuals insured by CoOportunity and any of their enrolled dependents may choose a different health plan offered by a different company. Doing so now may give those individuals more options for individual plans, since an insurer is not required to sell individual policies outside of a special enrollment period.

 

CoOportunity policyholders can follow the company’s regular process for claims while it is in liquidation. To avoid a gap in coverage, keep paying CoOportunity premiums until you have purchased a policy to replace CoOportunity.

 

Policyholders still covered by CoOportunity will no longer receive Advanced Premium Tax Credits (APTC) or Cost Sharing Reductions (CSR) because these plans lose Qualified Health Plan status upon liquidation. That means that those who stay on this plan may be forced to pay hundreds of more dollars per month in policy fees and co-pays.

 

Today, I am joining the NDOI to encourage those affected by CoOportunity’s collapse to find new health insurance coverage. This is yet another unintended and unfortunate result of the Affordable Care Act, and my administration is committed to helping Nebraskans who have been negatively impacted by this issue.

 

Policyholders with individual plans who are in the Special Enrollment Period (beginning March 1st) should call 1-800-318-2596.

 

For policyholders with a small business plan through the SHOP exchange, call 1-800-706-7893.

 

Insurance agents and brokers can assist employers who are moving to a new plan.

 

Hearing from you is an important part of helping my administration assess your needs.  I look forward to input from people all across our state.  As always, you are welcome to contact my office at (402) 471-2244, or by email, at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov.

 

Governor Ricketts Comments on Marriage Ruling


Governor Pete Ricketts commented on U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon’s decision to strike down Nebraska’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

“Today, a judge took steps to overturn a constitutional amendment approved by 70% of Nebraskans that defines marriage as between one man and one woman,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “The definition of marriage is an issue for the people of Nebraska, and an activist judge should not substitute his personal political preferences for the will of the people. I will continue to work with Attorney General Doug Peterson to uphold Nebraska’s Constitution and the will of the people of our great state.”

 

%d bloggers like this: