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Legislature final day

Gov. Pete Ricketts greets senators following his address on the final day of the 104th Legislature's second session on Wednesday at the Capitol.

Thirteen state senators criticized Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday for not recognizing or respecting the nonpartisan nature of the Legislature when he calls out senators who are Republicans for not "always obey(ing) his wishes" or those of the GOP party platform.

Five of the senators who signed the joint statement are Republicans.

On Tuesday, a 14th senator, Kate Bolz of Lincoln, said her name also should have been on the list. 

Ricketts chastised more than a dozen senators who are Republicans by name at the GOP state convention earlier this month for not supporting him or the party platform on various issues and casting votes to override his vetoes.

"Many of those he chastised were in the audience," the 13 senators noted.

"The governor's list included educators, business owners, lawyers, doctors and farmers.

"All of them are well-known and respected conservatives elected by the people to obey their own convictions and principles, not the governor's," the 13 senators stated.

In his address to the Republican convention, Ricketts argued for the need to "elect platform Republicans" to the Legislature.

That declaration, Monday's joint statement suggested, presumably means "those who vote as the party platform commands."

The state constitution provides for a one-house legislature that is non-partisan in nature, the statement noted.

"Individually, we are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and independents," the senators wrote. "Together, we are the singular Nebraska Legislature -- an institution which operates through collaboration and expertise to uphold its distinct powers and privileges to create laws and policies.

"Governor Ricketts believes political party trumps principle," the joint statement declared.  

"Our non-partisan unicameral Legislature has lasted for 80 years and, barring the will of the people for a new legislative experiment, we will not surrender our non-partisan and constitutional duties.

"We support the Nebraska constitution and not any particular political party."

Responding to the senators' statement, Ricketts said he respects the separation of powers between the executive and the Legislature, but believes "it is appropriate in a public forum for the governor, or anyone else, to point out the public votes cast by legislators."

"The collective will of the voters is greater than the will of any elected official," the governor said.

Sens. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, Colby Coash of Lincoln, Laura Ebke of Crete, Mike Gloor of Grand Island and Bob Krist of Omaha were Republicans who signed the letter.

Sens. Tanya Cook, Burke Harr, Sara Howard and Heath Mello, all of Omaha, were joined by Sens. Adam Morfeld and Patty Pansing Brooks, both of Lincoln, and Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids, as signators who are Democrats.

Bolz is also a Democrat. 

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, a registered independent, also signed the letter initiated by Harr.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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