Gov. Ricketts vetoes bills on prairie dogs, land banks and social workers

Gov. Ricketts vetoes bills on prairie dogs, land banks and social workers
A prairie dog sticks its head up out of the ground at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge on April 15, 2015, in Valentine, Nebraska. (World-Herald News Service)

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed three bills Monday, including one that repealed a law allowing Nebraska counties to eradicate prairie dogs on private land.

Ricketts also rejected a bill that would have used private funds to hire a social worker in each of the state’s 17 regional educational service units and an omnibus bill from the Urban Affairs Committee that included a provision on the expansion of land banks.

Because the bills were passed by lawmakers last week on the final day of the legislative session, potential override votes cannot take place.

The vetoed bills:

» Legislative Bill 449, sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, would have ended a law that allowed counties to poison or otherwise eradicate prairie dogs on private land without the landowner’s permission if rodents are migrating across property lines. The bill passed by a vote of 26-13. Ricketts said he opposes the bill because it would allow property owners who want prairie dogs on their land to impact neighbors who don’t want the species.

» LB 998 by Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont would have assigned social workers in educational service units to help identify children in need of behavioral health services and connect those children and their parents with community resources. The $3.6 million program, passed by a vote of 31-15, would have been funded for three years with private donations. Among the reasons Ricketts said he opposes the bill is that it would have obligated the state to run a private program.

» LB 887, which the governor opposed because of a provision that allowed communities outside of Douglas and Sarpy Counties to create land banks, passed 25-15. Land banks are organizations that purchase vacant or condemned properties, clear the buildings and sell the lots for redevelopment. Ricketts said he is not convinced there is a need in rural Nebraska “for yet another layer of government vested with exceptionally broad powers.” The omnibus bill also contained language prohibiting local regulations of online room renting services such as Airbnb.