Death penalty supporters in the state are looking to challenge the Legislature’s landmark repeal vote in court and on the ballot. The Nebraska attorney general’s office said that it plans to challenge part of the law that changed the sentences of the 10 current death row prisoners to life in prison. Attorneys plan to argue that the law violates the state constitution, which gives the Board of Pardons exclusive power to change final sentences. Senator Beau McCoy of Omaha announced the formation Wednesday of a new group, Nebraskans for Justice, which will look into a citizen-led ballot initiative to reinstate capital punishment. McCoy says the group may push to suspend the new law before it takes effect or could seek a constitutional amendment.
The Nebraska State Patrol is still investigating five “concerning calls” to legislative offices in the heat of a debate over the death penalty, but the calls haven’t been deemed a criminal matter. Three state senators reported calls to their legislative offices in recent days. Lawmakers voted Wednesday to abolish capital punishment, overriding Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto. Investigators have concluded so far that the calls do not rise to a criminal matter. One of the phone messages was left at the office of Senator Heath Mello, a death penalty opponent. Mello, of Omaha, says the caller didn’t explicitly make a threat but suggested that he should be harmed because of his vote.
Nebraska State Senator Jeremy Nordquist is resigning from the Legislature to take a job with Democratic U-S Congressman Brad Ashford. Nordquist announced Wednesday night that he will step down on June 30 from the seat he first won in 2008. He will serve as Ashford’s chief of staff in Washington. The two served together in the Legislature before Ashford left office due to term limits. Nordquist was the lead sponsor this year of legislation to end Nebraska’s ban on driver’s licenses for youth brought to the country illegally as children but allowed to remain under the federal deferred-action program. He also was a leading figure in the 2014 ballot drive to increase the minimum wage. Nordquist is in his seventh year in the Legislature, representing District 7 in south Omaha.