Gov. Pete Ricketts on Tuesday blocked three bills passed by the Legislature in the final days of the session.
The first (LB436), from Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, authorized the Nebraska State Data Center to create a “Complete Count Committee” to work with the U.S. Census Bureau in counting the state’s residents next year.
LB436 passed on final reading with a veto-proof 38 votes, but with lawmakers adjourning sine die last Friday, no override could be attempted.
In a veto message, Ricketts called the bill “unnecessary,” because volunteer committees are already convening across the state in preparation of the 2020 census.
Ricketts added that the bill gave “inappropriate authority” to the Nebraska State Data Center, which operates under the University of Nebraska, because it did not contain “any guidance, parameters, duties or goals from the state.”
“Furthermore, the Complete Count activities recommended by the Department of Commerce, such as Census parades and interfaith breakfasts, are not activities the university should be asked to focus its energy on,” the governor added.
Hansen said Tuesday evening he was disappointed by the governor’s veto, adding that a lot of hard work went into the bill to earn unanimous support from the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, which has members from a diverse set of political spectrums.
Hansen said this was Nebraska’s last chance to create a Complete Count Committee in time to assist in the decennial count of the citizens of the state. Any legislation brought next year would go into effect in April at the earliest, after the census had begun.
Ricketts said the state is “committed to a complete and accurate census” and indicated he will support the Census Bureau in promoting the effort.
Hansen said Nebraska has so far failed to take any steps toward fulfilling that promise, however.
“I keep hearing people say we have plans for the census and we are committed to doing something,” he said. “To date, nobody has done any of the key recommendations of the Census Bureau, so I find that a little hard to process.”
Civic Nebraska, a nonpartisan voting rights group, said it was also disappointed.
"Around the nation, such commissions are considered best practices by the U.S. Census Bureau. For rural states like Nebraska, which can potentially have hard-to-count populations, an efficient count is especially important to our overall interests," the group said in a news release.
Ricketts also vetoed a bill (LB470) that included proposals from several senators, including a bill by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell exempting military housing from property taxes, a proposal by Sen. Andrew La Grone of Gretna to simplify contributions made to Nebraska’s 529 college savings plans, and a bill from Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne authorizing employers to make contributions to those college savings programs.
According to Ricketts’ veto message, the Nebraska Attorney General determined McDonnell’s bill violated the state constitution by redefining real property as tangible personal property.
“Relying on this opinion, I have vetoed” the bill, as well as an adjoining appropriations bill, Ricketts wrote. “While I have no specific objections to the underlying policy contained within LB470, I will not sign a bill that the Attorney General has found violates the Nebraska Constitution.”
Ricketts signed three bills into law Tuesday, including LB209 from Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, which instructs the state to provide information on what to do if a woman changes her mind after taking the first of a two-pill abortion regimen.