LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed a bill Tuesday that would make Nebraska the first traditionally conservative state in more than four decades to abolish the death penalty, sending it back to lawmakers who will attempt an override.
Nebraska lawmakers passed the bill last week with a veto-proof, 32-15 majority. At least 30 senators are needed to override the Ricketts' veto, but the Republican governor has been talking to individual senators to try to weaken the support.
Ricketts reiterated his support for capital punishment during a Capitol news conference. The lead sponsor, independent Sen. Ernie Chambers, has said he's confident the bill will maintain enough support for the override.
Nebraska hasn't executed a prisoner since 1997, when the electric chair was used. The state has never imposed the punishment under the lethal injection process now required by state law.
The state's action to repeal the death penalty is unusual because of its traditionally conservative leanings. Maryland was the last state to end capital punishment, in 2013. Three other moderate-to-liberal states have done so in recent years: New Mexico in 2009, Illinois in 2011 and Connecticut in 2012. The last traditionally conservative state to eliminate the death penalty was North Dakota in 1973.
Thirty-two states and the federal government allow capital punishment.
Many senators argued that they oppose the ultimate punishment for religious reasons. Others said it was too costly and inefficient, and questioned whether government could be trusted to manage it.