Death penalty secrecy, public testimony, fake senator porn links discussed in Nebraska Legislature

By

February 10th, 2017

Sen. John Kuehn testifies on his lethal injection bill (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

Secrecy about the suppliers of death penalty drugs, the right to testify at public hearings, and fake twitter accounts for state senators were subjects of discussion at the Nebraska State Capitol Thursday.


Lincoln, NE – Sen. John Kuehn is chief sponsor of a bill that would exempt the names of companies that supply death penalty drugs from Nebraska’s public records law. At a hearing before the Government Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Kuehn said “harassment” by death penalty opponents had already dried up the supply in the United States of sodium thiopental – a drug that can be used for lethal injections, but also a good anesthetic.

Kuehn quoted the American Society of Anesthesiologists that the results included “a dangerous reduction in the supply of anesthesia-induction medications,” and that “the safety of American patients is now in jeopardy. He said the Society also said “It is an unfortunate irony that many more lives will be lost or put in jeopardy as a result of not having (the) drug available for its legitimate medical use.”

Bob Evnen, co-founder of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty which led a successful referendum campaign last year to overturn the legislated repeal of the death penalty, supported the bill. “Those who voice objection don’t really object to the protection that this bill would provide. What they object to is the death penalty,” Evnen said. “But that issue has been resolved in our state and decisively so. More than 61 percent of Nebraskans who voted in a high-turnout election this past November voted to keep the death penalty.”

Also supporting the bill was Scott Frakes, director of the Department of Correctional Services. “I firmly believe this bill is needed to remove a tool that death penalty opponents will continue to use to frustrate and stymie the will of the voters,” Frakes said.

Among those opposing the bill was attorney Alan Peterson, who has represented a death row inmate and opposes the death penalty. Responding to a question about why the public should be allowed to know the name of who supplies lethal injection drugs, Peterson said “It may be that the outfit selling the material is so shady…that this state if it knew that, if the public knew it, would say ‘No – don’t deal with them,’” Peterson said. “This incident that occurred the last two or three years with the attempted illegal procurement from India…that source may be a factor in whether or not the state should be dealing with them, and the citizens have a right to judge,” he added. Peterson was referring Nebraska’s attempt to obtain a lethal injection drug from a company in India that Indian authorities prevented from exporting it.

His objection to the bill was amplified by Mary Boschult of the Lincoln/Lancaster County League of Women voters. “This bill creates a lack of openness and accountability to the public about the generation of the lethal injection used in the execution process. If you’re acting on behalf of the people, the people have a right to know what you are doing and how you are doing it,” Boschult said.

The committee took no immediate action.

In legislative debate Thursday, two senators did something unusual — they apologized. First up was Sen. Burke Harr. At a hearing Wednesday on Sen. Pete Ricketts proposed income tax cut, Harr said, between Ricketts, tax commissioner Tony Fulton, and others, supporters got an hour and a half to testify, while opponents got only a half hour.

Harr said four opponents complained to him about not being able to speak, and at the hearing, he complained angrily about the way Revenue Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Smith conducted it. Thursday, Harr said he shouldn’t have done that. “I screwed up. I do believe the public should be heard. But the way I handled it was wrong. And so to that, I want to apologize to Sen. Smith, and I want to wish him a happy birthday,” Harr said.

Smith, who turned 58 Friday, then rose to explain. In addition to the income tax bill, the committee also heard Ricketts property tax reform bill Wednesday, and Smith said he was trying to let as many people as possible testify. “It was my intent to get people through so they could be heard in support or opposition before the evening got too long. And I did have people come by the office that had to leave because the meeting was going long and they had to get back to feed their cattle. So I was working with the best information I had to try to get every voice heard,” Smith said. “So if I did not allow folks to express themselves, for that I apologize.”

Wednesday’s hearing ended after 8 p.m.

Also Thursday, Sen. Bob Krist said someone had created a fake twitter account in his name, containing links to pornography. Krist vowed to find out who it was. “I’ll find the IP address that set it up. And I will expose the person. And I’m also asking the chairman of the Executive Board to use his IT process, the IT folks he has in place, to make sure the rest of you are not exposed to this indecency, this immorality,” Krist said.

And Krist had advice for people who target state senators like that. “If you’re out there in Nebraska watching in tv land and you’re part of it, stop it! Don’t take advantage of the 49 of us. We already take advantage of ourselves — $1,000 a month and all you can eat,” Krist said, referring to a popular quip about low legislative salaries and lobbyist-provided meals.

“We do this because we serve our state and because we serve the 39,000 plus or minus three or four thousand people in our district, and the 1.9 million people across the state. Find some other way to get your jollies,” Krist said.

The Legislature adjourned for the day without resolving the rules fight over filibusters that has so far practically paralyzed the session.

Comments are closed.

©2020 KVNO News