LINCOLN - On the last day of the legislative session, state senators overrode two gubernatorial vetoes: expanding prenatal care and allowing municipalities to increase their sales tax. A veto relating to horse racing stood.
LB599 will provide prenatal medical assistance for women not covered under Medicaid, including illegal immigrants and women in prison. According to the bill’s fiscal note, 1,162 unborn babies will be covered annually. In a letter explaining his veto, Gov. Dave Heineman said he opposed the bill because it gave taxpayers’ benefits to illegal immigrants.
During debate, Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, who introduced the bill, said the unborn child holds the eligibility and “It is the unborn child who receives the benefit.” Sen. Norm Wallman of Cortland, who voted for the override, said that healthier babies grow up to be less expensive for the government to care for.
Sen. John Nelson of Omaha, who voted against the override, said the issue was about illegal immigration. There are services available for these mothers, in the form of clinics run by charities or churches, he said.
The veto override was successful on a vote of 30-16. Overriding a veto requires 30 votes.
Legislators also overrode a veto on LB357. The bill will allow municipalities to increase their sales tax to 2 percent. Currently, municipalities can only tax up to 1.5 percent. In order to raise the tax to 1.75 percent or 2 percent, municipalities would need both voter approval and approval from 70 percent of the municipality’s governing body.
Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, who introduced the bill, said LB357 would trust local officials to put forth a plan for their communities.
In his veto letter, Heineman said that the bill only represents state authorization for increased tax, which he called “an excessive burden upon Nebraskans at this time in our current economy.”
State senators voted 30-17 to override the veto.In response to both of the overrides, Heineman released a statement that said a majority of the Nebraska Legislature decided their priorities were to provide taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants and to increase the sales tax rate.
“I strongly disagree with their decisions,” he said in the statement. “Providing preferential treatment to illegals while increasing taxes on legal Nebraska citizens is misguided, misplaced and inappropriate.”
State senators failed to override Heineman’s veto on a bill that would have allowed the State Racing Commission to regulate pari-mutuel wagering on historic horse races. Heineman vetoed the bill, LB806, writing in a letter that the bill would create a new form of gambling and may not be permissible under Nebraska’s Constitution.
During debate on Wednesday, Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha and other supporters of the bill said it was a bill about jobs, while opponents said it was expanded gambling. The veto override attempt failed by one vote, 29-20.