All About the Veto


The veto – the elusive decision – is as an important element of our national and state lawmaking framework. In light of the one house Nebraska Legislature, gubernatorial veto power serves as an important check in the system.

I apologize in advance for how many times you are about to read the “v” word. There is truly no appropriate alternative.

The Legislature passes a bill, the Governor can then veto. The end? Certainly not. Last session, the Legislature overrode three vetoes by then newly elected Governor Ricketts – a bill to allow DACA recipients to obtain drivers licenses, a gas tax increase, and a bill to eliminate the death penalty. Notably, the Governor did not use line item veto power to make any changes to the state budget. This year, the Governor also signed the budget bills without any [official] objection in the form of line item vetoes.

In fact, as of now, the Governor has yet to veto any legislation for 2016. With three working days left in this session, there is one piece of legislation rumored (with justification) to be under a threat of veto. That is LB 947 – a bill to allow work authorized DACA recipients or DREAMers to obtain professional or commercial licenses. LB 947 is on final reading, the last stage of debate.

Once a bill passes, the Governor has five days, excluding Sundays, to decide whether to sign, decline to act (bill becomes law), or veto. This means, LB 947 will have to advance from final reading by April 13th in order to make it to the Governor’s desk with enough time to schedule a veto override vote in the Legislature before they adjourn for the year. Luckily for supporters of LB 947, the session calendar is staggered to avoid “pocket vetoes”.

The official veto override question is: “Shall the bill pass notwithstanding the objections of the Governor?”

It takes 30 votes to override a veto. Worth noting – this threshold is lower than the threshold needed to break a filibuster or “cloture” (33 votes). Why is it 30 votes? Because the Nebraska Constitution says so. Will LB 947 pass and be rejected by the Governor? Will any other bills be vetoed? Will it be a completely veto free session? Only time will tell.

For now, the veto remains elusive.