Gov: “Session’s over and we’re moving forward”
April 19th, 2012
Omaha, NE – Governor Dave Heineman said today he disagreed with the way Nebraska lawmakers ended this year’s legislative session. But he’s ready to move on.
The Legislature passed significant legislation during this year’s session, including a series of bills to reform Nebraska’s child welfare system. Governor Heineman signed those into law last week. But there were two major sticking points between the two branches of government that kept lawmakers debating late into the final day of the session.
“I strongly disagreed with what they did at the end of the session,” Heineman said Thursday at a news conference with reporters. Referring to the Legislature’s vote to override his veto on a bill that would restore prenatal care coverage to illegal immigrants, Heineman said, “That’s money that will not go to state education next year. That’ll be over a million dollars in the budget next year, and that will grow every year thereafter.” The coverage was revoked in a contentious move by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2010, and prompted an unusual alliance between left-leaning and pro-life groups lobbying to have it reinstated.
Heineman also re-stated his disapproval of a bill – where his veto was again overridden – that would allow cities to pitch sales tax increases to voters.
“Gee, we passed a modest tax relief package in the morning and in the afternoon, we’re going to increase taxes,” he said. “That is not going to make us competitive for jobs. So to me, they sent a mixed signal. Previously, we’ve had a pretty laser-like focus on education and jobs and we’ve made a lot of progress. I’m worried this is a step backwards and will be reflected in the rankings.”
The Governor’s opposition to the two bills pitted him against fellow Republicans at the Capitol, including Speaker Mike Flood. Heineman blasted Flood earlier this month for his support of the bills, prompting Flood to counter that the prenatal bill is pro-life and fiscally responsible, and the sales tax bill is not a tax hike, but a “vote of the people.”
But the Governor seemed more inclined to move on from the argument today, emphasizing that he signed the vast majority of the Legislature’s bills this session into law. “I find it interesting everybody talked about well, this is a showdown between the Governor and the Legislature,” he said. “Look at the number of bills that were passed, I signed 96 percent of them into law… I think I vetoed 10 bills, they might have overridden four. That’s part of the process. And that’s what’s great about the American democracy in Nebraska.”
Heineman did not speak at the closing of the legislature Wednesday, as is customary. But he dismissed notions that it was a sleight, saying a “series of factors” led to the decision not to speak, and it was “not a big deal.”