Nebraska, after a debate rife with quotes from the Bible, Pontius Pilate and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has become the first predominantly Republican state in more than 40 years to repeal the death penalty, the National Law Journal reports. State lawmakers, voting 30-19, overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of repeal legislation approved last week primarily with the help of their conservative colleagues. Republicans made the difference during the override vote. Nebraska was the seventh state in the past 10 years and the 19th, plus the District of Columbia, to repeal the death penalty, says the Death Penalty Information Center. The most recent states to act were Maryland (2013); Connecticut (2012); Illinois (2011); New Mexico (2009); New Jersey (2007); and New York (2007).
“Today we’re doing something that transcends me, that transcends this Legislature, that transcends this state. We’re talking about human dignity,” said Sen. Ernie Chambers, the repeal’s sponsor. Chambers, the longest serving state senator, has tried to repeal the death penalty 37 times. A repeal bill passed the unicameral body in 1979 but was vetoed by Governor Charles Thone. Ricketts said, “My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families. 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.” Sen. Dave Bloomfield warned, “No matter what we do here today, this debate will not be done. I’m virtually certain there will be a bill next year to take [the issue] to a vote of the people. This debate is not going to end today.”