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Nebraska senators come up short in call for special session to ban vaccine mandates
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Nebraska senators come up short in call for special session to ban vaccine mandates

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Nebraska's coronavirus cases and hospitalizations were up again last week, indicating that the delta surge that began over the summer has not yet lost its sting.

Nebraska legislators aren't headed back to Lincoln to consider a prohibition on vaccine mandates — at least not yet.

An effort to convene the Legislature for a special session failed to garner enough support from state senators to move forward.

Sens. Ben Hansen of Blair and Rob Clements of Elmwood led the push. They delivered a letter, signed by 26 state senators, to the Secretary of State's office Oct. 19. 

The letter requested a session to consider "legislation to prohibit employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccines," according to a news release from Hansen's office, as well as legislation to bar government or educational entities from mandating the vaccines "as a condition of receiving services."

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At least 33 of the state's 49 senators have to join the call to trigger a special session under state law — that's also the number of senators needed to overcome a filibuster by opponents.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen notified the senators who hadn't signed the letter and two additional senators ultimately did sign on, according to the Secretary of State's Office: Sens. Rich Pahls of Omaha and Matt Williams of Gothenburg. The deadline was Monday. 

The effort fell five senators short.

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Clements on Tuesday said he was "disappointed" in the result, and Hansen said his reaction was a "mixture of frustration and disappointment and resolve." 

“Now I’m more resolved, in January, as soon as I can, to address the same topic," Hansen said.

Before the senators' push, Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has encouraged people to get vaccinated while also decrying vaccine mandates as government overreach, had said he would not call lawmakers into a special session unless there were 33 senators willing to support legislation prohibiting mandates.

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Last week, Ricketts announced he was barring multiple state agencies from complying with federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The 26 senators who originally signed on to the letter were Clements, Hansen and Sens. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, John Arch of Papillion, Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, Tom Brandt of Plymouth, Tom Brewer of Gordon, Tom Briese of Albion, Myron Dorn of Adams, Steve Erdman of Bayard, Mike Flood of Norfolk, Curt Friesen of Henderson, Suzanne Geist of Lincoln, Tim Gragert of Creighton, Mike Groene of North Platte, Steve Halloran of Hastings, Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, Dan Hughes of Venango, Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, John Lowe of Kearney, Mike McDonnell of Omaha, Mike Moser of Columbus, Dave Murman of Glenvil, Rita Sanders of Bellevue and Julie Slama of Sterling.

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