Nebraska lawmakers headed home Wednesday after wrapping up their 2012 session. Gov. Dave Heineman may be among those glad to see them go. It was a rough session for the governor generally — and lawmakers handed him a couple of big defeats before leaving town.
Senators overrode his veto of a bill providing publicly funded prenatal care for the unborn babies of illegal immigrants. They also overrode his veto of a bill allowing cities to raise sales taxes by up to one-half cent with voter approval. Heineman fought intense, public battles against both measures but failed to sway more than a couple votes.
The governor prevailed on two other vetoes — one of a bill that would have allowed gambling on old horse races and one of a little-noticed measure that would have provided startup grants for school-based health clinics. But Heineman did not make such a public effort on either and support for the health clinic bill had been soft.
The governor fared little better the rest of the session. His major initiative of the year was a package of individual and corporate income tax cuts along with the elimination of the inheritance tax. It passed but only after getting pared back to less than half its original size.
Lawmakers snubbed two other ideas entirely – his plan to merge the departments of Labor and Economic Development and his proposal to transfer the youth rehabilitation and treatment centers from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Correctional Services.
Meanwhile, lawmakers took the lead on fixing the state’s child welfare system after the administration’s experiment at privatization fell apart. The Legislature handed the governor his third override on a measure that paid child welfare providers who had been left in the lurch by one of the former private contractors. Lawmakers also stepped in on other executive branch issues, including the problems with the new call centers for handling food stamps, disability aid, Medicaid and other public benefits.
The governor didn’t lose them all, though. His influence helped shape the final budget measures and he worked with lawmakers to get several business tax incentive measures passed.