Photo by the Nebraska Unicameral
State senators declined Wednesday and again Thursday morning to override a gubernatorial veto of a bill that would have prohibited the hunting of mountain lions.
Senators originally passed LB 671, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, March 24 on a vote of 28-13.
The bill would have repealed a 2012 law that authorized the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to hold a mountain lion hunting season if they deem it best.
Chambers said harming a predator at the top of the food chain such as the mountain lion can disrupt an entire ecosystem.
“[The Game and Parks Commission] is not managing these animals,” he said. “Allowing a year-long hunting season outside of [the Pine Ridge Reservation] is exterminating these animals.”
Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed the bill March 28 and said prohibiting wildlife management under LB 671 could be deemed unconstitutional.
Heineman said the bill could be challenged as infringing upon Article XV, Section 25 of the Nebraska Constitution, which establishes that “hunting, fishing and harvesting of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.”
Chambers moved to override the governor's veto on Wednesday. Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery supported the override, saying that the mountain lion population is just beginning to recover from near extinction.
“Hunting of such a small population is rejected by nearly all the scientists who study wildlife and big game,” he said. “We’re not talking about management here. If it were about management, we would not be killing animals of such a small number.”
Bellevue Sen. Tommy Garrett opposed the motion. He said Nebraska Game and Parks should be allowed to carry out their prescribed duties.
“We have a game and parks commission for a reason,” he said. “They’re the experts and we should let them do their jobs. If they’re not doing their job, we can hold them accountable.”
On Wednesday, senators voted 24-21 on the motion to override. Thirty votes are required to override a veto.
Chambers had another chance to resubmit the issue for a vote, and he did so Thursday morning. The margin of the vote was narrower, with all 49 senators voting. The final tally was 28 in support, 21 against, so the bill will not become law.
"We worked awfully hard to sustain the veto," Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis said afterwards on a Facebook post. "The vote was 24 yesterday, so we only 'lost' four senators to the pressure cooker of deal making which was occurring."
Davis said if Game and Parks decides to eliminate the hunting season he'd be okay with that, but he just doesn't think the Legislature ought to be micro-managing every department it has an issue with.
The Nebraska Unicameral Update contributed to this report.