Last Thursday, Nebraska legislators failed for a second time to override Governor Heineman's veto of Senator Ernie Chambers' Legislative Bill 671 which banned mountain lion hunting.
Coming one day after the first attempt to override the veto fell six votes short, Thursday's 28-21 vote drew an angry response from Senator Chambers who believed he had secured the necessary 30 votes needed to enact the measure into law.
Calling them "sniveling, knock-kneed, pigeon-toed cowards," Chambers blasted other Senators for bowing to pressure from hunting groups that oppose the bill.
Two Senators in particular, Russ Karpisek and Tom Carlson, drew Chambers' ire for switching their promised vote at the last moment.
Senator Russ Karpisek of Wilber acknowledged Thursday that he had agreed to vote in favor of the veto-override so that Chambers wouldn't try to block some of his bills. Karpisek said he voted against the proposal when it appeared that it was going to fail regardless, but he apologized for reversing course.
"I blew it," Karpisek said. "I don't like the bill, but I did give my word, and I broke it. I'm pretty ashamed of myself. I don't like to win that way, and I don't think I've ever done that before. I made a split-second decision. It was wrong."
The second Senator that Chambers had thought was a "yes" vote was state Senator Tom Carlson, of Holdrege. Senator Chambers said Carlson initially agreed to support the measure, but later backed away.
Carlson, a Republican candidate for governor, said he had agreed to "reconsider" his opposition to Chambers' bill before the override vote, so that Chambers wouldn't oppose other legislation. But Carlson said he never told Chambers he would support it, and he ended up deciding to maintain his opposition.
Mountain lions are native to Nebraska, but were eradicated by early settlers sometime around 1890. The first modern-day sighting of a lion occurred approximately one hundred years later. There have been no verified mountain lions attacks on humans, pets or livestock since the species returned in 1991.
Nebraska approved its mountain lion hunting season in 2012, even though fewer than two dozen mountain lions are believed to currently reside in the state.