Nebraska lawmakers have voted to restore taxpayer-funded prenatal care benefits for illegal immigrants,despite the objections of Gov. Dave Heineman.
Lawmakers overrode the Republican governor's veto Wednesday on
the final day of this year's session.
Supporters of the bill breathed a sigh of relief as the tally went from 29 to 30. The final vote recorded 30-16. Then there were hugs and handshakes for bill's sponsor, Senator Kathy Campbell.
Campbell said, "It was amazing. We knew that one changed his his mind, we knew that going into today, but you just never know."
Heineman argued the state should not spend tax dollars to provide care to women who are in the country illegally.
In a written statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Governor Heineman said, "Today, the majority of the Nebraska Legislature decided their priorities are:
· Providing taxpayer funded benefits to illegal immigrants and
· Increasing the sales tax rate on the citizens of Nebraska.
"I strongly disagree with their decisions. Providing preferential treatment to illegals while increasing taxes on legal Nebraska citizens is misguided, misplaced and inappropriate."
Sen. Tony Fulton voted against the bill and told 10/11, "I disagree with the way it turned out, but my decision, I'm at peace with it."
The vote was also Fulton's last in the Unicameral, as he reached term limits.
Bill supporters and medical experts say a lack of prenatal care can lead to birth complications and developmental problems that cost the state far more than the expense of providing care to women.
But those against the bill including Senator Dave Bloomfield said, "I do believe it to be an immigration issue, not a right to life issue."
About 870 illegal immigrants and 750 legal residents lost coverage in 2010, when the federal government ordered Nebraska to stop offering benefits through Medicaid. The bill would allow coverage through the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Campbell said, "I think that you will see a return to pretty much the same program that we had before. Now my hope is that moms don't wait, that they will go in and get prenatal care and we can cut down on the costs in the NIC-U [Neonatal ICU]."
Senators also passed the appropriation version of the bill 31-14.