Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday vetoed three of the 24 bills passed on the final day of the 2018 Nebraska Legislature, effectively killing that legislation for the year.

Lawmakers adjourned the 60-day session April 18 after approving two dozen bills on final reading. But without any days remaining on the schedule for potential veto overrides, it left those bills largely to Ricketts' discretion.

The governor returned three of the bills — LB449, LB873 and LB998 — without his signature.

In his veto message, Ricketts said LB449, which repealed the state's prairie dog control act, "fail(ed) to protect the individual property rights of those landowners who are detrimentally harmed by a neighbor's inaction."

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers had argued his bill repealed a 2012 law allowing government agents to come onto a property to exterminate prairie dogs without the owner's permission in violation of their due process.

Ricketts said repealing the management act "would actually infringe on the property rights of responsible landowners."

The governor also vetoed the Urban Affairs Committee's omnibus bill (LB873), which contained several provisions, including an expansion of the land bank system passed into law in 2013.

As it exists now, the land bank statute allows appointed boards in Douglas and Sarpy counties to purchase vacant homes and sell them to developers.

The bill would have expanded the law to any city or village in the state, which could not be justified in greater Nebraska, Ricketts said.

Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, who chairs the Urban Affairs Committee, said he was disappointed Ricketts chose to veto LB873 after the Legislature's adjournment.

Wayne said some city officials "have expressed the need for additional tools to help address vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties," contrary to the governor's statement, including Lincoln, Crawford, Grand Island, Norfolk, Kearney, Lexington, Ord and Red Cloud.

He added that the Urban Affairs Committee plans to study the issue in "multiple hearings" during the interim "to demonstrate a proven need to expand land banks to other areas of our state."

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With his veto, Ricketts also struck down seven other bills incorporated into LB873 and advanced out of committee on a unanimous vote, including a proposal introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld prohibiting cities from banning services such as Airbnb.

The governor also vetoed a bill from Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont allowing a private foundation to pay for a social worker to provide mental and behavioral health services in each of Nebraska's 17 education service units (ESU).

Ricketts said he agreed with the underlying problem LB998 addressed, but believed the bill "unnecessarily inserts the state between private funders and the political subdivision receiving those donations.

He said foundations could donate to individual ESUs to create "locally tailored programs" instead.

Walz said she was "appalled" at the veto, saying the bill had the support of behavioral and mental health experts, school administrators, teachers, social workers and parents.

"I am in shock that a program intended to help children, with no cost to the state, would draw this level of opposition," she said. "Now, thousands of children will not have access to services they need because our governor is out of touch with the people he is supposed to represent."

Ricketts also signed 21 bills Monday, including:

* LB807 from Omaha Sen. Burke Harr, replacing sculptures of William Jennings Bryan and J. Sterling Morton with new statues of Nebraska author Willa Cather and Ponca Chief Standing Bear.

* LB989 from Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart, authorizing autonomous vehicles to use Nebraska streets and roadways, so long as those vehicles can follow traffic laws.

* LB791 from Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, which requires new documentation for law enforcement officers terminated from an agency to be submitted to the Nebraska Crime Commission, and allows for employees to report instances of sexual harassment to the Department of Administrative Services.

* LB1065 from Sen. John Murante of Gretna, providing for the use of electronic polling books to check in voters at voting precincts.

* LB194 from Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas, outlining new requirements for short-term or payday lenders.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.


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