Articles of Interest

OIL'S SHARP SWINGS ARE A SYMPTOM OF A CHANGING MARKET

WASHINGTON - Computerized trading is playing a greater role in the oil market, helping to amplify the volatility that has accompanied crude’s recent downward lurch.

While geopolitical tensions and economic concerns have sent oil prices spiraling, analysts and traders say the shifting makeup of the market has exacerbated swings, with traditional players like supply-and-demand focused hedge funds, market makers and banks scaling back.

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PROBATION OFFICE, INSPECTOR GENERAL AGAIN QUESTION OVERSIGHT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Oversight questions have again returned to the center of a debate between Nebraska Probation Administration officials and the inspector general's child welfare office.

Nebraska Ombudsman Marshall Lux contacted state senators last month over concerns that that the Probation Administration won't allow Child Welfare Inspector General Julie Rogers to investigate juvenile justice cases as she sees fit, the Lincoln Journal Star reported . He said that Rogers' investigations of death and serious injuries are about protecting vulnerable children and preventing future tragedies.

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NEBRASKA PROBATION LEADER RETIRING AFTER 43 YEARS CALLS IT A PASSION

LINCOLN - Ellen Brokofsky was 25-years-old, divorced and raising two kids on her own when she took a probation job working with teenagers who got in trouble in Sarpy County.

She never imagined she’d still be part of the system 43 years later. Let alone at the top of it, where she’ll retire at the end of the year.

Brokofsky said those early days as Nebraska State Probation Administrator were tough. So tough she didn’t know if she was going to make it. But she had ambitious plans.

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SCHOOLS AND POLICE SEEK TO ADDRESS 'RAMPANT' TEENAGE VAPING

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — All the middle school students raised their hands.

Autumn Sky Burns had just asked roughly 25 high-ability learners from the three Papillion-La Vista middle schools whether any of them had friends who used e-cigarettes.

Burns, the Sarpy County coordinator of Tobacco Education & Advocacy of the Midlands, had asked the same question of students the year before. She estimates that only 10 percent of a similar group had raised their hands last year, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

"I'm nervous that people won't really understand what's happening until we have an entire generation of kids addicted to nicotine because of e-cigarettes," Burns said.

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SALES TAX CONSIDERED TO HELP PAY OFF $28.1M JUDGEMENT

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — Gage County officials are looking at imposing a county sales tax to help pay off the $28.1 million owed six people who were wrongfully convicted for the murder of a 68-year-old Beatrice woman.

County supervisors chairman Myron Dorn said during a Wednesday briefing to the board that he plans to introduce legislation for a voter-approved sales tax. He was elected in November to represent District 30 in the Legislature.

Counties can put sales tax measures on electoral ballots, he said, but there are limitations on where funds may be collected, including in the city of Beatrice.

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NEBRASKA LAWMAKERS SEEK WARNING SYSTEM FOR CITY BUDGET WOES

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Local governments saddled with costly pension obligations, state mandates and aging roads could face tough financial times over the next few decades, and some Nebraska lawmakers want to make sure they're ready for it.

Sen. John Stinner of Gering, chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, is looking to create a state-run "early warning system" to let state officials know when city and county budgets are at risk. Lawmakers will convene a hearing at the Capitol on Thursday to consider the issue, and Stinner said he may introduce a bill in the legislative session that begins next month.

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JUDGE DENIES TRANSCANADA REQUEST FOR PRE-CONSTRUCTION WORK ON KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

MONTANA - The company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline can't begin digging, building camps or any other pre-construction field work until the government's environmental review is completed, a federal judge in Montana ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris’ ruling was a clarification of his Nov. 8 decision, which halted construction by TransCanada but allowed certain pre-construction activities. In that ruling, Morris said President Donald Trump's administration violated U.S. environmental laws when approving a federal permit for the pipeline.

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FOR SOYBEAN FARMERS, LULL IN U.S. - CHINA TRADE WAR MAY COME TOO LATE

WASHINGTON — The temporary truce in the trade war between the United States and China may come too late to reverse damage to the agricultural sector from existing tariffs that remain in place.

The Trump administration was set to raise levies from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports on Jan. 1. That increase is now off the table until March 1 under an agreement the two countries reached over the weekend.

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DON WALTON: DANGER OF LOSING NEBRASKA HOUSE SEAT GONE

LINCOLN - Not so long ago, Nebraska faced the possibility that it could be in danger of losing a House seat following the 2020 census and that set off alarm bells about declining representation and influence in Washington.

"We should be safe," numbers-cruncher David Drozd told participants in the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry's economic development summit in Lincoln last week.

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STATE AGREES TO $35.8 MILLION CHILD WELFARE CONTRACT EXTENSION WITH OMAHA ORGANIZATION

LINCOLN — PromiseShip of Omaha will manage metro-area child welfare cases for a little longer under a $35.8 million, six-month contract extension.

Matthew Wallen, director of children and family services at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, announced the extension Friday.

It will move the contract expiration date to Dec. 31, 2019.

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STATE LAWMAKER HOPEFULS APPLY FOR TWO VACANCIES IN LEGISLATURE

LINCOLN — A former mayor, a retired county administrator, a legislative employee and a father and son are among the 24 people who submitted applications by Friday’s deadline to fill a pair of upcoming vacancies in the Nebraska Legislature.

They responded to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ invitation to apply for two legislative seats that will become vacant in early January, when the incumbents take on new elected offices.

But, as he has done before, Ricketts may choose someone who didn’t apply. That was the case for his last two legislative appointments.

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NEBRASKA DEMOCRATIC PARTY VOTES TO DISCONTINUE CAUCUSES AND RETURN TO PRIMARY SYSTEM

LINCOLN - Caucuses are officially no more in Nebraska after the state Democratic Party voted to go back to the primary system.

The state’s Democrats had been choosing their presidential nominee by caucus since 2008 in a system similar to Iowa’s. With caucuses, voters gather in place and discuss the candidates, as opposed to a primary, in which voting is done privately like any other election.

But Nebraska Democratic Party’s State Central Committee voted at its meeting in Ord on Saturday to discontinue the system and go back to regular primary voting. The change was overwhelmingly approved on a voice vote following about 90 minutes of debate.

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SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE A PATENT CASE WITH BIG IMPLICATIONS FOR SMALL DRUG MAKERS

In a few months, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide a closely watched case that could lead to patents being canceled more easily and, therefore, chill deals that small drug makers may pursue in hopes of finding larger partners to get their medicines to market.

The case turns on disputed language in U.S. patent law, which was overhauled in 2011, that prohibits a company from patenting an invention if it was for sale for more than a year before filing a patent application. The court, which heard oral arguments on Tuesday, must decide whether Congress intended the law to apply only to agreements that are publicly known or also encompasses confidential transactions out of the public eye.

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DESPITE TRADE DISPUTES, CATTLEMEN CELEBRATE RECORD BEEF EXPORTS

Kearney, NE — Despite challenges with trade, the beef industry is holding its own with record exports in 2018, which brings benefits to the Beef State.

The Nebraska Cattlemen organization is meeting this week in Kearney, where they’re celebrating the growth in international beef sales.

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NEBRASKA NONPROFITS CONCERNED ABOUT BUDGET CUTS AS NEEDS INCREASE

GRAND ISLAND - Nonprofits from Grand Island and Central Nebraska heard Thursday about possible cuts to the state budget that would impact their funding at a forum sponsored by the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands that covers Nebraska and parts of Iowa.

Briefing the nonprofits was Renee Fry, executive director of the Open Sky Policy Institute. Fry had a detailed presentation of state finances and what impact it could have on nonprofits if their funding is cut by state lawmakers.

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IOWA'S FIRST MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES OPEN SATURDAY, INCLUDING ONE IN COUNCIL BLUFFS

COUNCIL BLUFFS - The walls are all painted, with an ombre band of bright green running around the bottom. Front counters and displays have been installed, including the neon green lights framing the wall-mounted glass cases.

Saturday, the former restaurant — most recently a barbecue joint — just off Interstate 29 in Council Bluffs will reopen as Have A Heart Compassion Care, one of Iowa’s five new medical marijuana dispensaries. The shops were authorized as part of a law approved last year by the Iowa Legislature; licenses were awarded earlier this year.

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HACKER'S RANSOM PLOT EXPLOITS OMAHA HOSPITAL AND OTHERS, COSTS VICTIMS $30 MILLION, FEDS SAY

OMAHA - OrthoNebraska, an Omaha hospital, was one of more than 200 victims targeted in a years-long computer-hacking plot, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The Justice Department has indicted two Iranian men in connection with a scheme known as “SamSam” that since 2015 has caused more than $30 million in financial damage to city governments, universities, hospitals and others.

The information technology director at OrthoNebraska, Paul Hakenkamp, told The World-Herald that the hospital paid about $2,000 in ransom.

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FARM BUREAU PRESIDENT: PROPERTY TAXES STILL NEBRASKA'S NUMBER ONE ISSUE

KEARNEY — Nebraska Farm Bureau’s top state issue hasn’t changed: Resolving property tax issues.

“I’ve talked about property taxes every year since I’ve been president (since 2011),” said Steve Nelson of Axtell during his annual president’s address Monday the Nebraska Farm Bureau Convention in Kearney. “And I know some of you will hear this and question what we’ve gotten done.”

Nelson said progress has been made, but isn’t “where we want to be.”

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NEBRASKA AND IOWA LEADERS RESPOND TO FEDERAL CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT

WASHINGTON - The National Climate Assessment, produced by 13 federal agencies, paints a dire picture for the future of the United States, including Nebraska and Iowa.

Both states are in regions that the report says will face rising temperatures, wetter weather in some places and changes in extreme weather that will force agricultural producers to adapt. And it’s far from the only analysis warning about climate change: A recent United Nations report gives society a little over 10 years to make drastic cuts to emissions in order to avoid serious effects.

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GOV. RICKETTS DEFENDS WITHHOLDING OF REPORT ON DEADLY TECUMSEH PRISON RIOT

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts defended the Nebraska Corrections Department for not releasing a less-than-flattering report on a Tecumseh State Prison riot back in 2015, saying that agencies can’t release all the reports they order, but if people ask for them, they will be provided.

“But we don’t publish everything that we do because the volume of work is so great,” Ricketts told reporters Tuesday.

Whether that is proper transparency for a taxpayer-paid report is something a group of state lawmakers now plans to explore during a special meeting called for Tuesday at the State Capitol.

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NEW BELLEVUE CITY ADMINISTRATOR TO BE NOMINATED, THE CURRENT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE LEADER

BELLEVUE - Bellevue Mayor-elect Rusty Hike said Monday he will nominate Jim Ristow to be Bellevue’s new city administrator.

Ristow is currently chief executive officer and president of the Greater Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce where he has served since 2012, with a brief interruption in 2015 when he worked several months for the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce before returning to the Bellevue chamber.

Hike said he will nominate Ristow at Monday’s council meeting where he hopes for quick approval so Ristow can be fully in place by the beginning of the new year.

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TRADE CONFLICTS HAVE COST NEBRASKA ECONOMY MORE THAN $1 BILLION, FARM BUREAU SAYS

WASHINGTON — Nebraska farmers have lost upward of a billion dollars in revenue from ongoing trade conflicts, according to a new report issued Monday by the Nebraska Farm Bureau.

The hit to agriculture from the ongoing tariff wars has been clear for some time, but the new report uses some eye-popping numbers to illustrate the pain.

“Retaliatory tariffs make our U.S. products more expensive for international customers, meaning they buy less or buy from someplace else,” Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said in a press release. “This report provides a clear picture of how much we’ve lost due to those tariffs and the need to improve our trade relations.”

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SOYBEAN FARMERS AREN'T CHEERING CEASE-FIRE IN U.S. - CHINA TRADE WAR YET

WASHINGTON - For a U.S. soybean farmer, it may be premature to celebrate the cease-fire in the trade war between the U.S. and China.

After all, there’s still no sign of any easing in the 25 percent retaliatory tariff that China levies on imports of American soybeans, and while the United States said China agreed at the summit in Argentina to immediately restart purchases of agricultural products, that wasn’t mentioned in the Chinese statement.

Market moves on Monday in reaction to news of the truce have so far only worsened crushing margins in China, with benchmark soybean futures rising in Chicago and soybean meal and soybean oil declining in Dalian.

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FORMER NU PRESIDENT RON ROSKENS SHARES FOND MEMORIES OF HIS TIME WITH GEORGE H.W. BUSH

WASHINGTON — George H.W. Bush would always ask Ron Roskens about his wife, Lois, by name when the two men would meet.

“He never forgot that, which I thought was pretty terrific,” Roskens said.

Roskens, 85 and retired today, and Lois live in Bennington. They were thinking fondly this week of their years knowing the Bush family.

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NEBRASKA'S DEATH PENALTY REPEAL WAS TEMPORARY, BUT IT CHANGED INMATES' SENTENCES, ACLU ARGUES

LINCOLN — Was the State Legislature’s repeal of the death penalty in effect long enough to give the members of Nebraska’s death row a new sentence of life in prison?

Yes, an attorney with a leading civil rights organization told the Nebraska Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Brian Stull, a North Carolina-based lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, told judges that the repeal went into effect on Aug. 30, 2015, and wasn’t suspended until Oct. 16, when petition signatures were verified as sufficient to force a voter referendum on the future of capital punishment.

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NEBRASKA LOOKS TO REPLACE VOTE-COUNTING EQUIPMENT; PAPER BALLOTS REMAIN 'GOLD STANDARD'

LINCOLN - Just like old computers need to be replaced, Nebraska’s vote-counting equipment is becoming obsolete and will need to be replaced.

Secretary of State John Gale, who is retiring this year after 18 years in the office, has estimated that new equipment for all of the state’s 93 counties would cost about $12 million. Though he’s leaving the office in January, he wants to see funding secured so that some or all counties can replace aging voting machines in time for the 2020 election.

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LEGISLATORS FROM BELLEVUE SEEK BROADER TAX EXEMPTIONS FOR MILITARY RETIREES

BELLEVUE - Bellevue-area legislators plan to push legislation next year that would expand and simplify state income-tax exemptions for military retirees.

Sen. Carol Blood briefed a group of veterans Thursday on a bill she plans to introduce that would exempt military retirement pay up to $28,000 for Nebraska military retirees over age 55. Retirees who make more than $28,000 would be able to exempt 40 percent of their income from state income tax.

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FORMER LINCOLN REGIONAL CENTER MANAGERS SUE OVER FIRINGS, ALLEGE RETALIATION AND DISCRIMINATION

LINCOLN - Two top managers fired last spring from the Lincoln Regional Center are suing the state, contending the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services retaliated and discriminated against them because they wanted to discipline two Regional Center doctors.

Dr. Natalie Baker-Heser, a psychiatrist who was medical director of the Lincoln center, and Stacey Werth-Sweeney, the center’s former chief operating officer, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Lancaster County District Court. 

Both administrators say they were thwarted in attempts to terminate or suspend a male physician who had a history of harassment, intimidation and hostility toward female personnel.

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MANGIAMELLI: CITY MUST ASK VOTERS FOR SALES TAX INCREASE

BELLEVUE - Bellevue cannot continue to fund development of thousands of acres south of Offutt Air Force Base without a half-cent increase in its sales tax, according to a Nov. 14 memo to City Council members and council members-elect.

Also endangered, the memo said, are plans to build a new public library and an aquatics facility in southwest Bellevue.

The memo, written by City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli, said a total of $2 million has been transferred from the city’s contingency reserve since the 2015-16 fiscal year. That money has been placed into an LB 840 fund, so named for the state law that enabled the creation of voter-approved development funds.

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FORMER OFFICIALS AT TROUBLED STATE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL SUE OVER FIRING, ALLEGE RETALIATION

LINCOLN — Former top officials at the state psychiatric hospital say they were fired this summer for trying to discipline two hospital psychiatrists.

Dr. Natalie Baker-Heser, the hospital’s former medical director, and Stacey Werth-Sweeney, the former facility operating officer, made the claim in a lawsuit filed in Lancaster County District Court.

The two were terminated from the troubled Lincoln Regional Center on June 12. The hospital treats patients with severe mental illnesses, as well as sex offenders with mental disorders.

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EMERGING FARM BILL SCRAPS HOUSE GOP'S PLAN FOR WORK REQUIREMENTS FOR FOOD STAMP RECIPIENTS

WASHINGTON — An emerging farm bill agreement would scrap both the new work requirements for food stamp recipients passed by the House, as well as Senate-approved restrictions on agriculture subsidy payments.

Many details remain unclear as negotiators work to finalize exact language and get an assessment of the deal’s budgetary impact, but the framework announced Thursday did not please Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The Iowa Republican has pushed hard for those tighter subsidy limits and he did not like hearing they would be abandoned.

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IN 1863, NEBRASKA TERRITORY HANGED A KANSAS LEGISLATOR IN ITS FIRST LEGAL EXECUTION

OMAHA - In 1863, the muddy little town of Omaha hanged a Kansas legislator convicted of robbing and killing his business partner.

Thousands gathered for the event, perhaps more people than Omaha’s population at the time. Crowds swelled so large that 40 cavalry troops from Iowa escorted the prisoner to the gallows.

It was the young Nebraska Territory’s first legal execution and, according to several historians, a sign that — at least in Omaha — vigilante justice soon would be ending.

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OMAHA-AREA TEENS ORDERED TO ADULT PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, HOUSED IN BUILDING WITH SEX OFFENDERS

LINCOLN — Juvenile court judges have ordered at least two troubled Omaha-area teenagers to the state’s adult psychiatric hospital in recent months, causing alarm among child advocates. The boys were placed at the Lincoln Regional Center despite opposition from the State Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the hospital, and without a youth treatment program in place.

The first youth, a 15-year-old, was sent to the hospital in July, according to court records. The second, a 16-year-old, moved in this month.

Once at the regional center, HHS officials put the teens in a building that houses adult sex offenders. The boys are kept in a separate, secure unit and, officials say, have never been alone with the adult patients.

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U.S. TO CONDUCT ADDITIONAL KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE REVIEW

WASHINGTON/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department will conduct another environmental review of TransCanada Corp's long-pending Keystone XL oil pipeline, a U.S. official said on Friday, a move that could lead to additional delays of the project.

The so-called supplemental environmental impact statement was ordered by Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana in his ruling on Nov. 8 that blocked construction of the pipeline planned to bring heavy crude from Canada's oil sands to the United States.

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ENROLLMENT IN VIRGINIA'S EXPANDED MEDICAID PROGRAM IS BEATING PROJECTIONS

RICHMOND — Virginia is on track to add 375,000 low-income residents to its Medicaid rolls by July 2020, outpacing projections made before the General Assembly agreed to expand the program early this year.

State officials had estimated 300,000 Virginians would probably enroll in the federal-state health insurance program in the first 18 months of expansion, which takes effect Jan. 1.

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IDAHO MEDICAID EXPANSION MAY BE DERAILED

Two thirds of Idaho voters approved Medicaid expansion.  I can’t find anyone who’ll admit they cast a vote of approval.

I’m reminded of the story about Lou Gehrig’s farewell.  Hundreds of thousands of people claim to have been there, which means an already big stadium violated fire code.  The game wasn’t even sold out!

Maybe all along people voting for expansion were virtue signaling and didn’t really think it would happen.

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FED REPORT INDICATES FARM DOWNTURN CONTINUES WITH BIG IMPACT ON SOYBEANS

A report from the Federal Reserve indicates the agricultural economy continues to sag.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has issued the 10th District Survey of Agricultural Credit Conditions, stating that farm income and credit conditions continued to deteriorate in the third quarter of 2018.

In other words, farm income has yet to rebound in the Midwest.

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POTENTIAL NEBRASKA SALES TAX INCOME IF LAWMAKERS TAX ONLINE BUYS

LINCOLN - The Nebraska Legislature will likely address the internet state sales tax issue in the upcoming session. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could implement a sales tax for online sales even if the company had no physical presence in the state Creighton University Economist Ernie Goss crunched the numbers on how much Nebraska could bring in if the sales tax is implemented.

Goss says, “About $105 million will come into the state and local tax coffers for Nebraska.”

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SENATORS FACE FISCAL CHALLENGE AHEAD OF SESSION

NEBRASKA CITY - On a recent crisp fall afternoon at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, inside a crowded conference room, senators and senators-elect in the Nebraska Legislature gathered to discuss the upcoming legislative session. It fell to Sen. John Stinner, chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, to give the first presentation.

Stinner told his colleagues it wasn’t his idea.

“I had nothing to do with the agenda -- putting the budget first. I did google up jokes for budgets. There (are) none,” Stinner said. “So you’re either going to be bored to death or angry or put into a state of depression. (Or) several of those.

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GAGE COUNTY PETITIONS U.S. SUPREME COURT IN BEATRICE 6 CIVIL CASE

BEATRICE - Gage County has asked the nation's highest court to hear its case for overturning a $28.1 million verdict awarded by a federal jury in 2016 to six people wrongfully convicted in a 1985 murder.

Lawyers for Gage County petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 14 to review the jury's decision to award the multimillion-dollar judgment to the so-called Beatrice 6.

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RICKETTS ELECTED TO LEAD REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS

Gov. Pete Ricketts was elected Thursday to be chairman of the national Republican Governors Association for 2019.

"The RGA is the most effective political organization in the country," Ricketts said, "and I am honored to serve as RGA chairman for 2019.

"Republican governors are delivering results, achieving meaningful reform, making government more efficient and effective, and moving their states forward," he added.

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PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED REPORT SAYS TECUMSEH STATE PRISON WAS PRIMED FOR REBELLION IN 2015

LINCOLN — A state prison was "primed" for a rebellion due to stricter rules, understaffing and other factors, according to a previously unreleased report on the 2015 Mother's Day riot at the Tecumseh State Prison.

The report — unlike a previous study of the riot that was released to the public — was more critical of the Nebraska Department of Corrections, and suggested that the Tecumseh facility hold less-dangerous inmates because of its rural location and less-experienced staff.

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STRESSED FARMERS SEEK HOTLINE SERVICES IN NEAR-RECORD NUMBERS

GRAND ISLAND - Nebraska farmers are putting the finishing touches to a record corn and soybean crop. But with poor farm income, phone calls to the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline from first-time, financially distressed farmers and ranchers continues at record or near-record levels, said John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union.

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska corn harvested was 94 percent, near 96 last year and 97 for the five-year average. Winter wheat condition was rated 2 percent very poor, 7 poor, 25 fair, 46 good, and 20 excellent. Sorghum harvested was 95 percent, equal to last year, and near 98 average. Pasture and range conditions rated 2 percent very poor, 3 poor, 22 fair, 66 good, and 7 excellent.

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HIGHER WIND TURBINE NOISE LIMITS GET INITIAL OK

LANCASTER COUNTY - Despite strong opposition from residents of southwestern Lancaster County, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission on Wednesday approved changes to the noise limits in its zoning code for wind farms.

The commission voted 8-1 in favor of a text amendment that would designate a higher noise standard for properties that choose to participate in a wind project than for those that don't.

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TRANSCANADA ASKS JUDGE TO ALLOW PRE-CONSTRUCTION TO WORK ON RESUME KEYSTONE XL

MONTANA - The company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline is asking a Montana judge to change his order blocking the project so that pre-construction work can continue.

Attorneys for TransCanada will argue on Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Brian Morris should clarify or amend his ruling to say the injunction does not apply to activities such as finalizing contracts, purchasing materials, conducting land surveys and discussing federal permits.

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SUPREME COURT RULING PUTS IMPORTANT LIMITS ON FEDERAL AUTHORITY UNDER ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that there are limits to how far the federal government can go in using the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to take people’s private property.

The case involved the endangered Dusky Gopher Frog. The USFWS had designated 1,500 acres of forest lands in Louisiana as critical habitat for the frog, although the only two known populations of the frog are at least 70 miles to the east in Mississippi. The land has been owned by the Poitevent family since the end of the Civil War and the impact of its designation could be up to $34 million in lost use and value of the property.

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OMAHA NOMINEE FOR FEDERAL JUDGESHIP TAKES POINTED QUESTIONS ON ABORTION FROM SENATE PANEL

WASHINGTON — Omaha attorney Brian Buescher faced pointed questions on Wednesday about his views on abortion, religious liberty and environmental regulations as senators consider his nomination to be Nebraska’s next federal judge.

Buescher appeared, alongside several other nominees, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Committee Democrats noted that Buescher has described himself as “avidly pro-life.”

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AFTER PRIVATIZING MEDICAID, IOWA SAVED $216 MILLION - HALF WHAT WAS PROJECTED

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa saved $126 million this year from privatizing its Medicaid system, half what former Gov. Terry Branstad projected when he forced the change in 2016, according to an audit released Monday.

The report by Auditor Mary Mosiman also found officials and lawmakers have failed to file quarterly financial reports as required by state law.

She said they "should have worked together to establish a method to estimate the program cost savings" when moving from state-managed Medicaid to a system managed by for-profit health care companies.

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PLATTE INSTITUTE HIRES STATE LAWMAKER TARGETED FOR DEFEAT BY RICKETTS

Omaha, NE.—Try this on for size.

An influential Nebraska think tank, founded by Governor Pete Ricketts, has hired a state senator who Ricketts targeted for defeat.

News Channel Nebraska has learned that soon to be former State Senator Laura Ebke—she lost her bid for re-election earlier this month—has been hired by the Platte Institute.

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DRIVERLESS GRAIN CART DEMOED

SCOTTSBLUFF — 21st Century Equipment demonstrated an autonomous grain cart in Scottsbluff on Nov. 15.

A tractor, installed with the system, was able to follow a combine as it harvested a corn field without a driver inside. Troy Randall, an integrated solutions consultant at 21st Century, said it works on a GPS system.

“We have StarFire receivers on the combine and the tractor,” he said. “Their system is completely third-party. It ties into the throttle control, the transmission control, and the steering control too.”

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HARVEST NEARLY FINISHED IN PANHANDLE

SCOTTSBLUFF — The corn harvest in the Nebraska panhandle is nearing completion.

John Thomas, Box Butte Extension educator, said the dry bean, wheat, and sugar beet harvests have been completed and estimated that 80 percent of the corn has now been harvested.

“It’s gone pretty well,” he said. “We’ve had some good windows for harvest. We’ve had a few moisture scenarios, like this weekend, but there’s been some good chunks of time where things have been good and dry.”

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CHI HELATH ST. FRANCIS EXCITED ABOUT NEW, LARGER CANCER TREATMENT CENTER

GRAND ISLAND - CHI Health St. Francis is currently building a new Cancer Treatment Center that will feature a TrueBeam linear accelerator, a healing garden and a bright, open design.

The 41,000-squre foot structure, larger than the current facility, is being built on the southeast corner of the hospital campus. Completion is planned for a year from now.

The new equipment will include a state-of-the art radiation therapy system.

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LA VISTA'S MULTISPORT COMPLEX BEHIND SCHEDULE, WITH SPORTS FIELDS NOW EXPECTED TO OPEN MID-2019

LA VISTA - Sports fields that had been scheduled to open this year at the proposed Nebraska Multisport Complex in La Vista are now expected to be open in mid-2019.

Mike Cassling, chairman of the group’s board of directors, said that the board has created “a more prudent approach” to building the complex in phases. Still, grading for the fields is ongoing and 95 percent complete, he said.

“The board of directors are pleased with the level of support received and the strong interest from families, area foundations and corporations toward capital construction and programming,” he said in a statement.

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TED TURNER SURPRISES AND FUELS SPECULATION BY BUYING ANOTHER SAND HILLS RANCH

LINCOLN — A decade ago, billionaire bison rancher Ted Turner said his appetite for buying more grazing land in Nebraska was likely satisfied.

But now the state’s largest private landowner, and second-largest individual landowner in the U.S., has surprised some people by purchasing another Sand Hills ranch, putting his holdings in Nebraska past the half-million-acre mark.

Turner’s ranching enterprise recently bought the 15,055-acre Kime Ranch, a Sand Hills spread surrounded on three sides by other ranches owned by the founder of CNN, including the first property he bought in Nebraska 23 years ago, the Spikebox Ranch.

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SENATORS PLEDGE TO MAKE IT HARDER FOR INVESTORS TO TAKE NEBRASKANS' HOMES THROUGH TAX DEEDS

LINCOLN — Several Nebraska state senators say they aim to strengthen advance warnings for people at risk of losing their homes, farms and businesses over delinquent property taxes.

The lawmakers said they were troubled by a story in The World-Herald last week that showed how investors buying treasurer’s tax deeds have been able to take properties from elderly Nebraskans without proof that the owners received advance notification.

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RELAX, FALLING OIL PRICES ARE MOSTLY A GOOD THING

NEW YORK - Is the big drop in oil prices going to be good or bad for the U.S. economy? Probably good, but getting to that answer isn’t as simple as it used to be.

It used to be straightforward: Falling oil prices were good. That is because the U.S. consumed far more petroleum than it produced. When prices fell, the U.S. spent less on imported energy, leaving consumers with more money to spend on other, mostly homegrown goods and services.

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NO REFUGE FOR INVESTORS AS 2018 ROUT SENDS STOCKS, BONDS, OIL LOWER

NEW YORK - Stocks, bonds and commodities from copper to crude oil to burlap are staging a rare simultaneous retreat, putting global markets on track for one of their worst years on record and deepening a sense of unease on Wall Street.

Data show global stocks and bonds could both finish the year in the red for the first time in at least a quarter-century, according to BlackRock Inc. BLK +3.99%

Major stock benchmarks in the U.S., Europe, China and South Korea have all slid 10% or more from recent highs. Crude oil’s tumble has dragged it well into bear-market territory, emerging-market currencies have broadly fallen against the dollar, and bitcoin’s price—which had a meteoric rally last year—crashed below $5,000 last week for the first time since October 2017.

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AMAZON NOW DELIVERING GROCERIES IN OMAHA

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - Beginning Wednesday, people in the Omaha area can use Amazon Prime Now's service to order groceries and other household items from Whole Foods for same-day delivery. 

To use the service, all you have to do is open the Prime Now app or go on Amazon Prime and pick a delivery time, which can be within the hour.

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FEDERAL RESERVE: FARM INCOME CONTINUES TO DECLINE THIS FALL

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Federal Reserve says farm income continued to decline across the Plains and western states this fall because crop prices remain weak.The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri, says more than half the bankers in the region say that farm income is lower than last year because the ongoing trade dispute has hurt crop prices.

The bankers say farmers are borrowing more money because their costs are increasing at the same time that they are bringing in less income.

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USDA AGENCY PLANS CROP PRODUCTION SURVEY

LINCOLN (AP) - A U.S. Department of Agriculture agency will be contacting farmers to gather year-end production and storage figures. The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service also will survey grain facility operators for information on off-farm storage.

The service's Northern Plains director is Dean Groskurth, and he says survey results are used in calculating county-level yields that have a direct impact on farmers. The USDA's Farm Service Agency uses the data in administering programs such as the Agricultural Risk Coverage and in disaster assistance program calculations.

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MEDICAID EXPANSION BACKERS FEAR MEASURE COULD BE SABOTAGED

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Now that voters have approved a proposal to expand Medicaid in Nebraska, groups that fought for the measure are gearing up to put the new law into effect and keeping watch for attempts to sabotage it.

Nebraska lawmakers still need to approve funding for the expansion, and Gov. Pete Ricketts' administration has to submit a request to the federal government to amend the state's current Medicaid plan so an additional 90,000 low-income citizens can qualify. Opponents in the Legislature acknowledged it’s highly unlikely they’ll get the 33 votes needed to amend the voter-approved law, but they promised a contentious debate over how to pay for it.

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STATE LAWMAKERS EYE TIGHTER OVERSIGHT AFTER BOTCHED COST PREDICTIONS YIELDED $462.5M IN UNEXPECTED MEDICAID COSTS

WILLIAMSBURG, VA — Flubbed predictions of Virginia’s Medicaid costs have lawmakers eyeing tighter oversight of the program’s forecasting process after a surprise $462.5 million tab landed on the statehouse with a thud just as the state began enrolling newly eligible Virginians.

The ballooning costs are unrelated to the expansion of Medicaid, but led state lawmakers on Friday to question the administration’s ability to effectively forecast program costs.

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STATE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE REMAINED STEADY, LINCOLN RISES

LINCOLN- The state unemployment rate remained steady in October, while the local rate ticked up slightly. According to information released Friday by the Nebraska Department of Labor, the state unemployment rate was 2.8 percent last month, unchanged from September but down from 2.9 percent in October 2017.

The rate for the Lincoln area was 2.5 percent in October, up from 2.4 percent in both September and October of last year.

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GROUP THAT RAN ADS CRITICAL OF MEDICAID EXPANSION DOESN'T INTEND TO FILE ELECTION REPORT

LINCOLN - The deadline for corporations, unions and limited-liability companies spending money in Nebraska's 2018 midterm election has come and gone.

But as of Friday, the nonprofit airing television and radio ads painting Medicaid expansion as harmful to the state's finances had not registered with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, leaving unanswered questions of how much was spent and who financed the effort.State statute requires companies operating in Nebraska to report election expenses over $5,000 within 10 days of the end of the month in which the spending happened.

On Oct. 24, Daley wrote to Marc Kaschke, one of the three people listed on Alliance for Taxpayers' filings with the Federal Communications Commission, advising him of the state's reporting requirements. Kaschke didn't respond, Daley said, and apparently forwarded the letter to Alliance for Taxpayers' legal counsel.

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OCCUPATION TAX INCOME FAR AHEAD OF PROJECTIONS TO PAY FOR PINNACLE BANK ARENA

LINCOLN - Eight years after city voters gave a green light to building a new city arena on an old rail yard, most of the money has been spent — $365.4 million for the arena, the new street system, parking garages and environmental cleanup.

And the plan for bringing in revenue to pay back the bonds and maintain the arena seems to be successful so far. At the end of the last fiscal year, on Aug. 31, the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency, the entity that built the arena and is paying off the bonds, had almost $39.5 million in its reserve. 

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HUSKER BALLOON FOUND ON NEW YORK BEACH; DID IT START ITS JOURNEY IN MEMORIAL STADIUM?

NEW YORK - New York marine biologist Alyssa Lefebvre often picks up trash from beaches when she tests ocean water across Long Island. She has found zip ties, straws and other plastic trash. On Tuesday, she found what she called “the holy grail” — a red balloon with an “N” on one side and “Huskers” on the other.

She has picked up remnants of balloons from graduation parties and birthday celebrations, but the Husker balloon was different because it may have come from so far away — 1,400 miles — and was still intact.

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BELLEVUE MAYOR, REP. BACON HELPED TO GET WAR TROPHY CHURCH BELLS RETURNED TO PHILIPPINES

BELLEVUE - For decades, the people of the Philippines have sought the return of the Bells of Balangiga, a set of church bells seized by American soldiers in 1901 and brought to the United States as a trophy of war. Now, they’re finally going home. And it took Nebraskans to help get it done.

"It’s very overwhelming. This is history, right?” said Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, who has family ties to the Philippines and whose efforts following a visit there last year helped get the bells returned. “It’s a somber event for many. But it’s a joyful event for everyone in the Philippines.”

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'LEGAL RIPOFF'? NEBRASKA MAKES IT EASIER FOR INVESTORS TO TAKE FARMS, HOMES FOR UNPAID TAXES

LINCOLN — The 73-year-old disabled veteran still struggles to understand how he arrived on the verge of homelessness over $500. It’s not like he didn’t have the money. That’s what haunts L.E. Moss — he could have afforded to pay the half a year in delinquent property taxes.

Moss and his wife always tried to keep an emergency fund to help with the unexpected costs of raising children, recovering from heart surgery and repairing the converted country school near Ravenna where they have lived for 31 years. Even though the law requires official notices of the impending deed transfer to be mailed to property owners, Moss said he never saw any until it was too late.

Six years ago, the Nebraska Legislature passed a law intended to give property owners clearer notice when they were in danger of losing their homes or farms to tax deed sales. The 2012 law required buyers of the deeds to deliver pertinent documents to the owner in an envelope stating “UNLESS YOU ACT YOU WILL LOSE THIS PROPERTY” in 16-point type.

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WENDY DEBOER EDGES OUT MATT DEAVER FOR LEGISLATIVE SEAT WITH NO RECOUNT

Democrat Wendy DeBoer has pulled far enough ahead of Republican Matt Deaver in northwest Omaha's Legislative District 10 so there will be no automatic recount.

The Douglas County Election Commission released its final round of unofficial results Friday with more than 5,000 new votes counted, including provisional ballots and some early votes.

In total, about 206,000 votes were counted in Douglas County.

In District 10, DeBoer received 8,306 votes compared to Deaver's 8,201.

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HOW DID THE BLUE WAVE PASS OVER NEBRASKA'S 2ND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT?

OMAHA - Before Nov. 6, progressive groups pointed to Kara Eastman as a case study for why the progressive wing of the Democratic Party can win in swing or even right-leaning districts.

Now, some establishment Democrats are pointing to her as a case study for why they can’t.

Eastman’s loss in a district that was once considered one of the best pickup opportunities for Democrats stands in contrast to Iowa’s 3rd District, right across the river, where Cindy Axne unseated Republican Rep. David Young.

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GRACE: COLUMBUS, NEBRASKA'S MEDICAID VOTE WAS A BATTLE OF 'PEOPLE NEED HELP' VS. 'GET OFF YOUR BUTTS'

COLUMBUS, Neb. — Finishing her beer at Nebraska’s oldest still-running tavern, a place that had been in her family for years, 74-year-old Cathy Hoops considered the state’s recent vote to expand Medicaid. And her own vote no. Cathy says she’s not against helping, not unsympathetic to hard luck. But after 44 years of working in the kitchen of Scotus Central Catholic Junior Senior High School, Cathy can’t shake the feeling that circumstances are tied to elbow grease.

“Maybe a lot of us aren’t fully understanding of this whole thing,” she said Thursday night at Glur’s as she pored over this newspaper’s stark front-page map. It showed the counties where Medicaid passed (just eight, including population centers in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy) and where it did not (85 Nebraska counties, including hers: Platte). “There’s just so many jobs!”

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FED TO FURTHER OVERHAUL BIG-BANK STRESS TESTS

WASHINGTON—The Federal Reserve plans to broaden its proposal to ease stress tests for the nation’s largest banks with changes that could reduce the chance they fail the annual assessments.

Fed Vice Chairman of Supervision Randal Quarles in a Friday speech said the agency was considering revisions that could make the test scenarios more consistent from year to year and give firms their results before they wrap up shareholder-return plans. Big banks must pass the Fed’s stress tests to be able to make shareholder payouts, although the timing of the test results means banks set those plans before knowing how they performed.

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U.S. OIL PRICES MARK LONGEST LOSING STREAK SINCE 1984

U.S. - Oil prices notched the longest losing streak in more than three decades on Friday as concerns about oversupply have rapidly returned to the market.

The recent fall has wiped out all of oil’s gains for 2018. Light, sweet crude for December delivery fell 0.8% to $60.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, closing at its lowest levels since February. Brent, the global benchmark, declined 0.7% to $70.18 a barrel.

U.S. oil entered a bear market Thursday and is down about 21% from its October highs. Friday’s close lower marked 10 consecutive sessions of losses, the longest since July 1984.

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NEBRASKA'S ALL-GOP HOUSE DELEGATION IS HEADED BACK INTO THE MINORITY

WASHINGTON — While the rest of the country was electing a wave of new Democrats to the House last week, Nebraska voters stuck with their all-Republican delegation.

But the state’s trio of GOP lawmakers will find a much different chamber when the 116th Congress convenes in January under Democratic control.

“It’s going to be a lot harder to get the things done that they’ve found very easy to do over the last however many years they’ve been in office,” said Randall Adkins, political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “It’s going to be a big adjustment.”

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CANADA'S CRUDE PROBLEM: PLENTY OF OIL BUT NOWHERE TO FLOW

CANADA - Canada, the world’s fourth-largest producer of crude oil, missed out on a recent global recovery in energy prices, and is now taking it on the chin as prices fall.

Crude prices in Canada briefly dropped below $16 a barrel on Friday, after a U.S. federal judge blocked construction of a key pipeline needed to transport oil from Alberta to Nebraska. That means Canadian crude is going for a fraction of supplies elsewhere, even as U.S. prices have tumbled 21% from last month’s highs to about $60 a barrel. In October, Canadian crude traded at its largest-ever discount to U.S. oil of more than $51, according to S&P Global Platts.

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MAYOR BUETLER EXPRESSES DISAPPOINTMENT WITH TERM-LIMITS VOTE, PRIDE IN HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS

LINCOLN - Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler issued a news release Friday expressing his disappointment with the term-limits vote that will keep him from running for re-election next year, pride in his accomplishments as mayor and hope for the city and country's future.

Though Beutler has appeared at several public events since the Tuesday election, this is his first comment on the term-limits vote. 

"While the result of the term-limits vote is disappointing, I believe the next mayor of our great city will share my commitment to moving the city forward with continued investments in public safety, infrastructure and the services that enhance our quality of life," the mayor said.

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NEBRASKA TAX COLLECTIONS DIP BELOW EXPECTATIONS IN OCTOBER

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska state government tax collections fell short of expectations in October.

The Department of Revenue reported Thursday that the state received $247 million in net revenue last month, roughly 7 percent lower than the certified forecast of $267 million. 

The downturn was driven by lower-than-expected income and miscellaneous tax receipts. That offset sales-and-use tax collections that were 1.4 percent higher than expected. 

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KELLY TARGETS 'UNAMERICAN' INHERITANCE TAX

SARPY COUNTY - Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly wants to change the state’s inheritance tax laws so counties have the option of not imposing the tax.

Kelly described the inheritance tax — often described by critics as a “death tax” — as “un-American” because it imposes a tax on property on which taxes have already been paid. 

Kelly originally declared his opposition to the inheritance tax in 2012 when he was first elected to the County Board. He has periodically raised the issue and did so again at the board’s Nov. 6 session. 

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GOV. RICKETTS' INAUGURAL BALL TO BE JAN. 12 AT PINNACLE BANK ARENA

LINCOLN - The Governor’s Inaugural Ball will take place Jan. 12 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Gov. Pete Ricketts and first lady Susanne Shore announced Thursday.

More information regarding time, tickets, parking and more will be announced in the coming weeks and will be available at neinaugural.com.

Shore said in a press release: “The Governor’s Inaugural Ball is about Nebraskans coming together to celebrate another new beginning for our amazing state. We wanted to announce the date and location of the event as early as possible to ensure that those Nebraskans who want to attend reserve the date on their calendars.”

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BALANCED STATE BUDGET 'DOABLE' EVEN WITH MEDICAID EXPANSION COSTS, KEY LAWMAKER SAYS

LINCOLN — Nebraska appears within “shouting distance” of balancing its next two-year budget even after incorporating the cost of Medicaid expansion.

New projections released Thursday show a smaller budget gap than earlier predicted in the period ending June 30, 2021.

The figures include $48 million to extend Medicaid coverage to more low-income Nebraskans, as required under a ballot measure approved by voters last week.

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OIL GIANTS START TO DOMINATE U.S. SHALE BOOM

TEXAS - Smaller, nimbler companies pioneered the U.S. shale boom. But as American production scales up, those frackers are losing ground to Big Oil.

Giant companies such as Chevron Corp. CVX +1.45% and Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM +0.37% are increasing shale production faster and with fewer complications than their smaller rivals. Their superior size and deeper pockets give them an edge in planning large drilling projects and locking in the pipeline and labor deals needed to ensure profitability.

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STATES GIVEN MORE LEEWAY TO EXPAND MENTAL HEALTH CARE; RICKETTS SAYS NEBRASKA WILL STUDY OPTION

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration Tuesday allowed states to provide more inpatient treatment for people with serious mental illness by tapping Medicaid, a potentially far-reaching move to address issues from homelessness to violence.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar made the announcement Tuesday in a speech to state Medicaid directors, who are confronting common, deeply rooted social problems.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Tuesday at a press conference in Lincoln that state officials will look at the new policy to see if it offers benefits to Nebraska.

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3 NEBRASKA SCHOOL DISTRICTS GET $9 MILLION TO HELP STUDENTS WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES

LINCOLN — State officials on Tuesday announced two new school-based efforts to help troubled students and their families.

In one, the Chadron, Hastings and South Sioux City school districts will share a $9 million, five-year federal grant aimed at strengthening connections between schools and local mental health services.

In the other, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Behavioral Health Division has put together a list of behavioral health information and resources for school staff.

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NEBRASKA MEDICINE, METHODIST DROP RED CROSS TO GET BLOOD FROM NEBRASKA-BASED SUPPLIER

OMAHA - With holiday blood drives starting up, metro-area residents will be seeing more of the mostly blue bloodmobiles operated by a Lincoln-based blood supplier.

Nebraska Medicine and Methodist Health System in October announced that they’d selected the Nebraska Community Blood Bank to supply most of the blood that their patients need under a new three-year contract. Previously, both had received most of their blood products from the American Red Cross.

Wendy Capetz, the Nebraska blood bank’s marketing director, said the organization has been holding some blood drives in Omaha and providing specialty products to Nebraska Medicine for about five years.

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MEDICAID EXPANSION APPROVAL LEAVES FUNDING QUESTIONS

LINCOLN - As results came in Tuesday night, supporters of expanding Medicaid, like state Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, were happy.

“I’m very pleased with the outcome – not just the results tonight, but what it means to folks who are in need of health insurance coverage all across the state,” Bolz said.

Opponents, like Gov. Pete Ricketts, were less pleased. In a live interview at a noisy election party with Omaha television station WOWT, Ricketts said, “If that passes, what we’re going to do is have to put it in the budget, less money for things like K-12 education, higher education, and property tax relief, and I’m not going to raise taxes, so we’re just going to make it work within the budget.”

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CONSUMER, BUSINESS CONFIDENCE RISE IN NEBRASKA

NEBRASKA - Consumer and business confidence both increased sharply in Nebraska during October, according to the latest monthly surveys from the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Results from the Survey of Nebraska Households indicate that consumer confidence rose to 108.3 in October, bouncing back from a subpar level of 97 during September and well above the neutral level of 100.

Business confidence also improved during October, rising to 117.3 according to the results of the Survey of Nebraska Business. Business confidence stood at 110.6 in September.

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ELECTION RESULTS PORTRAY TWO NEBRASKAS; REDISTRICTING WILL BE NEXT POWER PLAY

LINCOLN - Two Nebraskas emerged in last week's election results, but it remains to be seen whether what was visible Tuesday could be more of a peek ahead at the future rather than evidence of already settled reality.

In somewhat stunning fashion, voters in Lincoln and Omaha rejected the re-election bids of Gov. Pete Ricketts, Sen. Deb Fischer, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Rep. Don Bacon, all Republicans who were re-elected either statewide or in their congressional districts. 

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OMAHA POLICE WANT TO CHANGE LAW ON RELEASING GRAND JURY REPORT WHEN AN OFFICER IS INDICTED

OMAHA - Omaha’s police chief wants to tweak a law designed to make grand juries more open.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said a bill by State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha two years ago had the unintended consequence of making public a grand jury’s final report in cases when an officer is indicted. Evidence, including transcripts and exhibits, should be released, Schmaderer said, but not immediately. That information should be released after an officer’s criminal proceedings are over, he said.

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OMAHA COMPANY SENDING VOTING MACHINES TO FLORIDA TO HELP WITH RECOUNT

OMAHA - An Omaha company is sending vote-counting machines and other resources to Florida to help with the recounts there.

Election Systems & Software has deployed 15 additional high speed scanners, 12 technicians and 33 support associates to Florida to help with the recount, according to Kathy Rogers, ES&S senior vice president of Government Relations.

The company also sent spare parts for voting machines.

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ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAIL ANOTHER DELAY IN KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

LINCOLN — TransCanada says it remains committed to building the Keystone XL pipeline, but a federal judge’s ruling this week raised new questions about whether the $8 billion project will ever be built.

Officials with environmental groups said during a press conference Friday that Thursday’s ruling could delay the Keystone XL up to a year, and with prices for Canadian oil at record lows, investors and shippers might abandon the project.

“It becomes less likely as the days go by,” said Brian Jorde, an Omaha attorney who is handling a lawsuit against the project brought by some Nebraska landowners.

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DEMOCRATS TO PURSUE MOST AGGRESSIVE GUN-CONTROL LEGISLATION IN DECADES

WASHINGTON—Democrats say they will pass the most aggressive gun-control legislation in decades when they become the House majority in January, plans they renewed this week in the aftermath of a mass killing in a California bar.

Their efforts will be spurred by an incoming class of pro-gun-control lawmakers who scored big in Tuesday’s midterm elections, although any measure would likely meet stiff resistance in the GOP-controlled Senate. Democrats ousted at least 15 House Republicans with “A” National Rifle Association ratings, while the candidates elected to replace them all scored an “F” NRA rating.

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WITH MORE BALLOTS COUNTED, CAVANAUGH, BOGNER WIN AND DEBOER-DEAVER STILL TOO CLOSE TO CALL

DOUGLAS COUNTY - Two of three races in Douglas County that were too close to call got some clarity Friday after the County Election Commission counted about 7,300 early voting ballots that arrived by mail and drop box on Election Day.

But one legislative race is within the margin that typically triggers recounts in Douglas County, 1 percent of the votes received by the top vote-getter, and remains too close to declare a winner.

The midterm election results updated Friday afternoon also reflect a handful of regular ballots that were marked by hand on Election Day or during early voting but could not be read by vote-counting machines.

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IRAN SANCTIONS WON'T FUEL OIL PIRCES FOR LONG

IRAN - Anticipation of U.S. sanctions on Iran drove oil prices to multiyear highs last month, but the crude being pumped to replace Iran’s supply and easing demand growth from a slowing global economy could push them lower again.

Lower oil prices may be good for U.S. consumers and businesses at a time when inflation is starting to tick up, boosting inflation-adjusted income for households and profit margins for energy-consuming businesses. However, they could sting the nation’s energy producers who have become important drivers.

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STATE, FEDS RIGHTLY TACKLE OPIOID ABUSE

WASHINGTON - Opioid addiction has become such a serious problem that it can only be remedied through effective and coordinated measures. That’s why we are pleased to see the joint efforts at both the state and federal level in recent weeks to combat this crisis.

President Donald Trump signed the “Support for Patients and Communities Act” on Oct. 24, which promises $8.5 billion this year for opioid-related programs.

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LEGAL BATTLE CLOUDS OPENING OF NEW CARTER LAKE CASINO

CARTER LAKE - Just by opening its doors on Thursday of last week, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska’s Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake has beaten the odds.

The new gambling parlor had been pitched as a moneymaker for the Poncas for more than a decade, a way of bringing in money that can help the tribe rebuild after losing its federal recognition for a quarter-century. Along the way, though, the Poncas gathered some powerful adversaries.

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AFTER DEMOLISHING CONDEMNED HOUSES, LAND CAN LANGUISH. OMAHA LAND BANK, CITY WANT TO CHANGE THAT

OMAHA - For years, Marilyn Tunstall has dealt with troubled properties on either side of her well-kept home in north Omaha.The problems didn’t stop when the city demolished one of the long-vacant houses earlier this year. The house, near 42nd and Maple Streets, was replaced with overgrown weeds, some 8 feet high, and debris, Tunstall said.

“I want to live next door to neighbors who care about what they’ve got,” she said. City officials are hoping to do a better job reusing the vacant lots that remain after they tear down properties that have been deemed unsafe.

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FDA PLANS TO SHARPLY RESTRICT SALES OF FLAVORED E-CIGARETTES

NEW YORK - The Food and Drug Administration plans to sharply restrict the sale of most flavored pod-style e-cigarettes, effectively pulling them from most convenience stores and gas stations and requiring strict age verification controls for online sales, according to senior FDA officials.

The actions, expected to be announced as early as next week, are aimed at limiting access to the e-cigarettes most popular among children, whose use is surging.

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NEW YORK EYES BAN OF FLAVORED E-CIGARETTES

NEW YORK - The Cuomo administration is planning to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes as soon as next year—putting New York at the forefront of growing efforts around the country to rein in the products.

The state Department of Health posted regulations on Wednesday banning the sale or possession of flavored e-cigarettes, citing an “alarming increase of e-cigarette use among New York’s youth” and a desire to “protect our youth from a lifetime addiction to nicotine.”

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FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS TRUMP ADMINISTRATION'S KEYSTONE XL PERMIT

WASHINGTON - A federal judge in Montana on Thursday blocked the Trump administration’s permit allowing the Keystone XL pipeline and barred any construction of the long-delayed project until completion of a supplemental environmental review.

Siding with environmentalists and indigenous rights groups, U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris ruled that President Trump’s 2017 cross-border permit of the pipeline expansion by TransCanada Corp. to take oil from Alberta to Nebraska hadn’t considered all impacts as required by federal law.

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IRRIGATION COMPANY THAT BEGAN IN GARAGE HAS GROWN INTO ONE OF THE STATE'S LARGEST COMPANIES

LINDSAY — A lot of reminiscing and button-popping pride.

That’s what took place Thursday as Lindsay Corporation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the sale of the first Zimmatic center pivot machine on Nov. 6, 1968. The company was started by Paul Zimmerer and his sons, Art and Bernie, who were co-owners.

Paul Zimmerer opened a blacksmith shop in 1955 and sold modified car engines to be used on irrigation wells. His idea became the foundation of one of Northeast Nebraska’s largest companies, Lindsay Corp.

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U.S. OIL PRICES ENTER BEAR MARKET

U.S. - U.S. oil prices slid for a ninth straight session Thursday, hitting an eight-month low and entering a bear market amid worries over rising global output and signs of deteriorating demand.

Light, sweet crude for December delivery ended 1.6% lower at $60.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, putting the front-month contract about 21% below its recent high. Brent crude, the global benchmark, fell 2% to $70.65 a barrel, roughly 18% below its peak.

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RURAL-URBAND DIVIDE SHOWS IN NEBRASKA VOTE TO APPROVE MEDICAID EXPANSION

OMAHA - Yes, there was an urban-rural divide in the vote to approve Medicaid expansion. And there’s no doubt Democrats were far more supportive than Republicans.

But dig into the numbers behind the 53 percent victory for Initiative 427, and it isn’t so simple. Some figures offering insight into Tuesday’s vote. Rural Nebraska indeed went strongly against the measure, as only eight of the state’s 93 counties supported it. It passed in Douglas and Lancaster Counties with more than 60 percent of the vote. Sarpy County was solidly in favor with nearly 54 percent. It also passed in Dakota, Thurston and Burt, contiguous counties in northeast Nebraska, as well as Scotts Bluff and Dawes in the Panhandle.

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DEMOCRAT'S BIGGEST WINS ARE IN STATEHOUSES

Democrats pulled off a significant victory on Tuesday night. No, it wasn’t taking back the House in Congress. It’s what they did in state legislatures around the country.

Democrats made strides in a number of statehouses. They seized control of seven legislative chambers, flipping the State Senates in Colorado, Maine, and New York; the House in Minnesota; and both chambers in New Hampshire. Connecticut’s Senate, previously evenly split, is now held by Democrats. They broke Republican supermajorities in Michigan and Pennsylvania’s Senates and both chambers in North Carolina.

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RICKETTS SEEKS APPLICANTS TO NEBRASKA LEGISLATIVE SEATS

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Pete Ricketts is seeking qualified applicants for two Nebraska legislative seats that became available after the incumbents were elected to other offices. Ricketts announced plans Thursday to appoint replacements for state Sen. Dan Watermeier, of Syracuse, and Sen. John Murante, of Gretna. Watermeier was elected to the Nebraska Public Service Commission in Tuesday's election, and Murante was elected state treasurer.

Watermeier represents Legislative District 1 in southeast Nebraska, including Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee, Richardson and portions of Otoe County. Murante represents District 49 in Sarpy County.

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FIRST DEMOCRAT JOINS LINCOLN MAYOR'S RACE AFTER SUCCESS OF TERM-LIMITS AMENDMENT

With Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler unable to run for re-election because of the successful term-limits amendment, the field of potential mayoral candidates is growing larger, particularly among Democrats. City Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird announced on Facebook on Thursday morning that she would enter the race.

"Excited to announce I'm running for Mayor of Lincoln! More to come soon. Thank you to all who have encouraged me to take this step," her post said.

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20-YEAR PLAN TO DEVELOP CAPITOL CAMPUS CALLS FOR NEW OFFICE CONSTRUCTION

LINCOLN - A 20-year state government plan for the area around the Capitol recommends several new office buildings, including a Justice Center to house the Supreme Court and supporting agencies. 

The vision for the development of a Capitol campus, in the works since 2016, was led by architectural, real estate and engineering consultants with the Department of Administrative Services and the city of Lincoln. It was completed in May, but only recently released. The aim of the plan is to consolidate space, bring agencies and employees that are now somewhat spread out closer to the Capitol and provide a more attractive workplace to help in recruiting new staff to take the places of retiring state employees.

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ELECTION SHIFTS HEALTH-CARE LANDSCAPE

WASHINGTON - The midterm elections abruptly shifted the health-care landscape across the country, strengthening the position of the Affordable Care Act while resulting in a divided Congress that could mean most changes unfold on the state level.

Health care was the No. 1 issue among voters this election, according to an AP survey of about 90,000 people. The voting results suggested a rebuke to repeated Republican efforts to roll back the health law, and that many Americans care deeply about issues such as coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

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GOV. RICKETTS, WITH ELECTION BEHIND HIM, GETS READY FOR NEW TERM

LINCOLN - Gov. Pete Ricketts prepares for a second term with a new legislature coming to the Capitol and Medicaid expansion approved by the voters.

Ricketts says he observed some of the growing urban-rural split nationally during the campaign across Nebraska and says some of the split in the Unicameral breaks along urban-rural lines more than party lines. State lawmakers have resisted expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act even since the ACA became law. Former Gov. Dave Heineman opposed expansion. So did Ricketts. Voters, though, approved it, giving Initiative 427 53% of the vote Tuesday. Ricketts says expansion will have to fit within a strained budget, because he won’t raise taxes.

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U.S. RE-IMPOSES SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN OIL, BANKING AND SHIPPING SECTORS

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration issued waivers on Monday to eight governments, exempting them from sanctions on Iranian oil that took effect at midnight.

China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey received waivers that would allow them to continue “temporary” imports of Iranian crude without facing penalties, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday morning.

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NEBRASKA CORRECTIONS DIRECTOR NAMES NEW CHIEF OF STAFF

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's corrections director has appointed a new chief of staff who will oversee many of the department's operations.

Scott Frakes announced Friday that Laura Strimple began the job earlier this week. Strimple previously served as the department's communications director and an assistant Nebraska secretary of state under Secretary John Gale. Strimple began her career in broadcasting and worked in both Lincoln and Omaha for more than 15 years as a news producer. She fills a vacancy left by Dawn-Renee Smith, who was recently promoted from chief of staff to deputy director for programs at the Department of Correctional Services.

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CHALLENGE TO KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE ROUTE GOES BEFORE THE NEBRASKA SUPREME COURT

LINCOLN — Attorneys for opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and TransCanada squared off on the morning of November 1st before the Nebraska Supreme Court in a lawsuit that could erect a new roadblock to construction of the $8 billion project.

Landowners who oppose the pipeline, as well as environmental groups and Indian tribes, are seeking to nullify the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s 3-2 approval a year ago of a pipeline route across Nebraska.

The lawsuit claims, among other things, that TransCanada didn’t formally seek approval of the “mainline alternative” route that was approved, and didn’t prove that the pipeline is in the public interest of the state.

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TUESDAY'S MIDTERM ELECTION TURNOUT IN NEBRASKA IS HIGHEST SINCE 1994 BUT NOT HISTORIC

LINCOLN - Nebraska voters turned out at their highest level for a midterm election since the Republican "Contract with America" wave of 1994. But voter enthusiasm couldn't match that historic turn of the U.S. House. Nor could Nebraska's 56 percent turnout, as of Wednesday's vote tally, reach the level of a presidential election.

Nationally, Democratic enthusiasm in the 2018 election turned control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Across the country, Democrats are in line to gain about 28 seats so far in the House — more than enough to control the chamber.

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MAYORAL TERM LIMITS IN LINCOLN, IMMIGRATION ORDINANCE IN SCRIBNER ARE AMONG BALLOT MEASURES OK'D

LINCOLN —On Tuesday, Lincoln voters, by 53 percent to 47 percent, approved a ballot initiative that blocks Beutler, one of the state's highest-ranking Democrats, from seeking election to a fourth term next year. It would limit Lincoln mayors to three, four-year terms. Among those who had lobbied against the term limits proposal was Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, a Republican, who said it was wrong to target a specific elected official with such an idea.

The head of the Nebraska Democratic Party, Jane Kleeb, said Wednesday the party was assessing what steps are needed to put the issue on the ballot in Omaha in the wake of approval of a mayoral term limit referendum in Lincoln.

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FORMER SEN. LATHROP RETURNS TO NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE, TWO INCUMBENTS OUSTED

LINCOLN — In a night of upsets, a former legislative heavyweight returned to the Nebraska Legislature and two incumbent state senators were ousted Tuesday. incumbent state senators were ousted Tuesday. Former State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha became the second person to return to the Legislature after being term-limited out of office four years ago. The only previous returnee has been Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, although others have tried to come back.

Lathrop defeated the incumbent, Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston, in one of the most expensive and hard-fought legislative campaigns of the year. Riepe had succeeded Lathrop in the District 12 seat representing the Millard and Ralston areas.

Republicans lost one seat to Democrats while gaining one by defeating the sole Libertarian in the officially nonpartisan body. Two seats were too close to call at press time. Meanwhile, candidates backed by Gov. Pete Ricketts had decidedly mixed outcomes. Three who got money from the governor prevailed in their election battles while two candidates lost and two were in races too close to call.

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CLOSE 2ND DISTRICT HOUSE RACE GOES TO REP. DON BACON. KARA EASTMAN CONCEDES EARLY WEDNESDAY

SARPY COUNTY - The midterm blue wave hit a Sarpy County firewall as Congressman Don Bacon earned a second term in the House of Representatives by fending off a challenge from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. His opponent, 47-year-old Kara Eastman, conceded the election shortly before 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

"I will speak to Congressman Bacon this morning. I appreciate his service to our country. I hope this race highlighted the need to listen to the residents of the second district, and to put people first."

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PETE RICKETTS DEFEATS BOB KRIST TO RETURN TO GOVERNOR'S MANSION FOR SECOND TERM

OMAHA — Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts easily won four more years Tuesday to continue his work on slowing the growth of state government while seeing if he can deliver a big fix on property taxes. Ricketts never trailed in election returns Tuesday, turning back a challenge from State Sen. Bob Krist, the Democrat who billed himself as a bipartisan leader best positioned to solve prison overcrowding and high property taxes.

“I’m grateful to have the support of Nebraskans to continue building on our foundation the next four years” Ricketts said, delivering his victory speech to supporters at the Regency Marriott in Omaha about 90 minutes after the polls closed.

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NOT SO FAST IN CLOSE RACES: DOUGLAS, SARPY STILL HAVE THOUSANDS OF VOTES TO COUNT

DOUGLAS COUNTY - The candidates in a handful of extraordinarily close races Tuesday in Douglas County should wait to celebrate victory or concede defeat. As many as 11,000 votes are yet to be counted, said Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse.

About 6,000 to 7,000 early ballots that arrived to the office on Tuesday, either in drop boxes or by mail, before the 8 p.m. deadline will be checked for signatures and counted on Friday. Another 4,200 or so provisional ballots will be checked over the next week and tallied by Nov. 16.

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FORMER SECRETARIES OF STATE TROUBLED BY POLITICAL DISCOURSE

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Former presidential Cabinet members Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell said they're horrified by the anger, tribalism and distortions that stain current politics.

Albright joined the retired Army general during a lecture Tuesday at Creighton University in Omaha. The former secretaries of state blamed the nation's toxic discourse for the pipe bombs mailed last week to several of President Donald Trump's critics and for the massacre of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

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FIERY IOWA DERAILMENT CAUSED BY BROKEN RAIL, POOR REPAIRS

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Federal investigators determined that a broken rail caused the fiery 2017 train derailment in northwest Iowa that released 322,000 gallons of ethanol.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled Tuesday that Union Pacific's maintenance was inadequate before the March 2017 derailment near Graettinger, Iowa, and Federal Railroad Administration inspectors didn't do enough to identify flaws in the track.

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LINCOLN MOTHER SAYS MEDICAID EXPANSION 'WOULD CHANGE EVERYTHING' FOR HER AND HER CHILDREN

LINCOLN — Gaps in health coverage have haunted Lora Curry for the past several years. At times, the Lincoln mother of three has qualified for Medicaid. Once, she made enough to afford private insurance through the federal health exchange. Other times, the 52-year-old has had to get by without coverage, relying on low-income clinics and praying for good health.

“It means I need to stay well,” Curry said.

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RICKETTS FIRES ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES DIRECTOR FOR ALLOWING BULLYING, HARASSMENT IN AGENCY

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts fired the state's director of administrative services Thursday for failing to take action against a problem employee.

The governor announced the action against Byron Diamond during a press conference call. 

He said he terminated Diamond because the director had not dealt with a temporary employee who had been bullying, sexually harassing and discriminating against women in the workplace. The temporary employee also was fired Thursday.

Ricketts said Diamond had tried to resign but he refused to accept the resignation.

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NEBRASKA 'FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS' AGAINST OPIOID ADDICTION, BUT CONCERN REMAINS FOCUS OF FEDERAL ROUNDTABLE

GAGE COUNTY - The misuse of the potent painkilling opioids in rural Nebraska requires continued proactive attention, though fatal overdoses from the drugs aren't as prevalent here as in other states, a USDA official said Tuesday. 

Opioids are being prescribed at a higher rate here than the national average, said Karl Elmshaeuser, the USDA's state director of rural development. 

In 2015, prescribers here wrote 1.4 million opioid prescriptions, a rate of 72.8 prescriptions per 100 people, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That compares to a national rate of 70 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons. 

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EPA ALLOWS FARMERS TO KEEP USING BAYER'S CONTROVERSIAL WEEDKILLER

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency will continue to allow farmers to spray crops with a controversial weedkiller, while tightening restrictions, the agency said.

The EPA extended by two years its approval of XtendiMax, a version of the herbicide dicamba made by Bayer AG, which some farmers and researchers have blamed for damaging millions of acres of crops over the past two years.

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ELECTION OUTCOME WILL LIKELY DETERMINE FATE OF FARM BILL

Grand Island, NE — The Farm Bill hangs in the balance, as Americans go to the polls. And even though the federal policy recently lapsed, the check is still in the mail for some farmers, as part of the federal safety net.

Ag Economist Brad Lubben said there’s been no consensus on the Farm Bill.

He said, “We seem to be in a stalemate and there's not much give and take on negotiations because each side is perhaps hoping its leverage will get better, well -- one of those will get better and one won't and we'll see if that triggers a final conclusion to the Farm Bill.”

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KAWASAKI DISCUSSING RESTRUCTURING RAILCAR DIVISION AFTER HUGE LOSSES

LINCOLN - The parent company of Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing reported huge losses in its rail car division — largely because of issues at its U.S. operations based in Lincoln — and the head of the company suggested it could exit the business altogether.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries on Tuesday reported an overall loss of 3.5 billion yen, or about $31.6 million, for the first two quarters of its fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

However, its rolling stock division, which is the one that makes train cars, lost more than $78 million during the six-month period, much of it because of cost overruns and other problems at its U.S. operations, which are based in Lincoln and employ several hundred people.

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THEOBALD, SMITH OFFER DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES FOR 3RD DISTRICT

Every two years voters in Nebraska’s 3rd Congressional District head to the polls to select the person they want to represent them in Congress. On Nov. 6, 3rd District voters will choose between Republican Adrian Smith, who is seeking his sixth two-year term in Congress, and Democrat Paul Theobald, who is making his first run at representing the 3rd District.

During the primaries, Theobald was unopposed. Smith faced three opponents but came out on top with 65.7 percent of the vote.

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HERE'S HOW MUCH CANDIDATES FOR NEBRASKA'S LEGISLATURE ARE SPENDING IN HOPES OF GETTING ELECTED

LINCOLN — By early this month, legislative candidates from greater Nebraska had spent more than $1.06 million campaigning for seats in the Legislature, according to reports filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.

Thirteen legislative seats outside the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas are on the Nov. 6 ballot, and three of them are held by uncontested incumbents. Snapshots of campaign spending for each of the legislative races are listed, based on reports filed by the campaigns that reflect campaign finances through early October.

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CLOSE TO 30 PEOPLE SPEAK AT HEARING ON INITIATIVE 427

Supporters of Nebraska Medicaid expansion believe it’s an easy choice. Why not bring coverage to people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, especially when the federal government will pay for most of it?

Opponents say Medicaid already serves the people it was meant to serve, and that expanding coverage would put the state’s fiscal future in jeopardy. Members of both groups spoke at a hearing Tuesday night that drew about 80 people to College Park. Close to 30 people spoke at the event, which was hosted by Secretary of State John Gale. It was the third such hearing in Nebraska. One was held in each of the three congressional districts.

On Tuesday, voters will have the opportunity to vote on Initiative Measure 427.

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PLATTE INSTITUTE SAYS RAISING OTHER TAX REVENUES IS THE KEY TO PROPERTY TAX CUTS IN NEBRASKA

LINCOLN — An Omaha-based free-market think tank has come out in favor of raising other tax revenues to achieve property tax reductions in Nebraska.In a new policy brief, the Platte Institute concluded that it would be politically impossible to cut state and local spending enough to provide significantly lower property taxes.

Instead, the brief, “Get Real About Property Taxes,” suggests broadening the sales tax by covering more services and eliminating some exemptions. The increased revenue would be used to reduce an equal amount of property taxes, so that Nebraskans are not paying more total taxes.

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TARIFFS MAY CROWN CORN AS KING AGAIN

American farmers hit by the U.S.-China trade battle are preparing to reshape the U.S. Farm Belt by planting more corn and less soybeans next year over a land mass potentially equal to the size of Connecticut.

For decades, corn was U.S. farmers’ crop of choice, its tall stalks carpeting the Midwestern landscape. Soybeans, shorter and bushier, began decades ago as a niche crop raised on less acreage but came to rival corn in recent years because of growing demand from China.

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NEBRASKANS ALREADY ARE PAYING $250 MILLION OF EXPANDED MEDICAID - IN OTHER STATES

NEBRASKA - Much of the opposition to expanding Medicaid in Nebraska has been based on its cost to state taxpayers — and it is sizable at roughly $50 million a year. But Nebraskans are already paying more than 10 times that for Medicaid expansion — in other states. That’s what a World-Herald analysis found is Nebraska taxpayers’ share of federal dollars paid to expand Medicaid for people in other states — including Iowa — that have already expanded the program.

Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether Nebraska should join 33 other states and expand its Medicaid program to cover about 90,000 more adults.

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NEW NEBRASKA TAX REVENUE FORECAST COULD MAKE TAX CUTS, RESTORATION OF SERVICES HARDER TO DO

LINCOLN — A Nebraska tax revenue forecast issued Friday could dampen hopes for cutting property taxes and restoring services in the next state budget. The new forecast leaves the state with a $232 million shortfall between projected revenues and estimated expenses through June 30, 2021. But State Sen. John Stinner of Gering, the Appropriations Committee chairman, said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the state’s fiscal picture.

But State Sen. John Stinner of Gering, the Appropriations Committee chairman, said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the state’s fiscal picture. He said the shortfall is based on estimates that state spending will grow at 4.8 percent during the two-year budget cycle ending June 30, 2021. Stinner said he expects lawmakers to hold that growth to a “more reasonable level” when they craft the state budget. Lawmakers will undertake that duty during the 2019 legislative session, which begins in January.

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LOCAL VIEW: NO EASY PATH TO REDUCE PROPERTY TAXES

NEBRASKA - It seems like everyone has an answer to Nebraska’s property tax problem, especially in campaign season. But in a new report on property tax reform, we find that many frequently proposed solutions have been attempted at least once before in Nebraska’s history.

Perhaps most dramatically, voters actually repealed the statewide property tax in 1966, and senators replaced the levy with income and sales taxes.

Fifty years later, even after adjusting for inflation, property tax collections per person in Nebraska are higher than ever. Plus, the state has added and increased many taxes.

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BUSINESS OWNERS CAN TEAM UP ON INSURANCE, IF STATE ALLOWS IT

NEW YORK — As small business owners shop for 2019 health insurance, some will for the first time have the chance to join forces and buy cheaper insurance — depending on which state they're in.

New rules that began going into effect last month allow sole proprietors and other business owners without employees to form what are known as association health plans, or AHPs. But while the Trump administration has touted the rules as a breakthrough, many owners will be disappointed to learn their states' insurance laws will limit their ability to join the plans.

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AREA OFFICIALS DISCUSS CHALLENGES OF KEEPING MENTALLY ILL OUT OF JAIL

FREMONT - Lieutenant Kurt Bottorff of the Fremont Police Department says that a growing number of the department’s calls deal with situations where he believes mental health plays a role—incidents ranging from drug use to violent situations.

“What we’re seeing out there is a lot of stress on the community, times are hard for certain people — the stress builds up and that’s where some mental health breakdowns can take place,” Bottorff said. “Their behavior ends up being a law violation and they’re sometimes jailed because of it instead of addressing the core problem.”

With the help of Lutheran Family Services, the Fremont Police Department has recently attempted to take aim at the problem, by becoming one of only two departments in the entire state of Nebraska to hire a crisis response co-responder—a licensed mental health practitioner who works directly in the police department two days per week, responding to 911 calls alongside officers when she believes mental health may be playing a role.

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ALTRIA TO PULL ITS E-CIGARETTE PODS FROM MARKET

RICHMOND, VA - Tobacco giant Altria Group Inc. is pulling its pod-style e-cigarette devices from the market and discontinuing the sale of many e-cigarette flavors to combat underage use—a move that puts pressure on upstart Juul Labs Inc., which has grown rapidly by selling such products.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned of a public-health crisis from widespread use of e-cigarettes by children, and threatened to ban a broad swath of flavored products.

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PONCA TRIBE'S NEW CASINO IN CARTER LAKE IS SET TO OPEN NOV. 1

CARTER LAKE - The Prairie Flower is getting ready to bloom.

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska’s new casino in Carter Lake will open at noon on Nov. 1, said Larry Wright Jr., the tribe’s chairman, following a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. Tribal members will get an advance tour Wednesday.

The 9,500-square-foot Prairie Flower Casino is on 5 acres of land at Ninth Street and Avenue H, about 3 miles north of downtown Omaha. It will feature 200 slot-style machines, a full-service bar and a snack bar but no table games for now, at least. It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for people 21 and older.

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LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR EDITORIAL: KOLTERMAN, HANSEN, DORN, EBKE BEST FOR LEGISLATURE

Four of the six Lincoln-area seats in the Nebraska Legislature that are up for election this year feature contested races.

Incumbent Sens. Adam Morfeld and Patty Pansing Brooks are running unopposed in their districts, which cover much of central Lincoln. To join them in the Capitol, the Journal Star editorial board endorses Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman (District 24), Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen (District 26), Gage County Commissioner Myron Dorn (District 30) and Crete Sen. Laura Ebke (District 32).

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BOB KRIST EMPLOYS GRASSROOTS CAMPAIGN TO TRY TO UNSEAT RICKETTS

OMAHA -- From the patio of his house in northwest Omaha, Bob Krist can see the No. 1 tee box for The Players Club, with its rolling fairways, sculptured bunkers, natural waterways and wetlands.

Every once in a while a golf ball thumps into Krist's backyard, but he hasn't played the course much himself in the past year. He's been busy traveling the state on a grassroots campaign to become Nebraska's 41st governor, limiting Gov. Pete Ricketts to one term. 

At the same time, Krist is nearing the end of what will be 10 years in the Nebraska Legislature representing northwest Omaha's and northern Douglas County's District 10. With what he has learned through law-making and the inner workings of the state in that time, he says, he's ready for the administrative side of politics. 

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GOV. RICKETTS POINTS TO CONSERVATIVE RECORD, FISCAL RESTRAINT

LINCOLN - Gov. Pete Ricketts has been a governor-on-the-go, crisscrossing the state for speeches, community events and business and agricultural tours, leading trade expansion missions to China, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Denmark and Belgium.

On a personal level, Ricketts has displayed seemingly boundless energy, enthusiasm and optimism during the four years since he was elected in November 2014. 

His explosive laugh has become a signature trademark across the state.

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DEAD ANIMAL ALLEGEDLY LEFT AT EASTMAN CAMPAIGN ADDRESS

OMAHA, Neb. — With just over a week to the election, Kara Eastman said her campaign was targeted: a dead animal was left at the home of her finance director. She said the entire campaign is upping security amid attacks on elected officials around the country.

“I opened it up and there was the murdered possum,” Dave Pantos, Eastman’s finance director, said.

Pantos said he is shaken after a disturbing drop off at his home. As Eastman's finance director, his home is the mailing address for her campaign.

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GOP PLANS GET OUT THE VOTE RALLY NEXT WEEK

LINCOLN — Luminaries of the Nebraska Republican Party, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse and Rep. Adrian Smith, will be making stops across the state late next week as part of a Get Out The Vote Rally Tour.

The party announced the tour begins 7:30-8:30 a.m. Friday at 4th Avenue Coffee at 612 Fourth Ave. in Holdrege. The tour also is scheduled at 4:45-5:35 p.m. in the corporate hangar at Kearney Regional Airport at 4845 Airport Road.

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OMAHA WORLD HERALD EDITORIAL: TIMM, NEARY ARE STRONG CANDIDATES FOR THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Nebraska’s elected State Board of Education has important duties. It helps chart the state’s course of a range of issues including testing, accountability and school safety. The eight-member board oversees the state education commissioner and the state Department of Education, which carries out regulatory and administrative functions.

Two board seats are up for election. We recommend Patricia Timm, the incumbent in District 5 (southeast Nebraska), and Deborah Neary, the challenger in District 8 (midtown Omaha westward in Douglas County).

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OMAHA FIRE UNION ENDORSES DON BACON IN NEBRASKA'S 2ND DISTRICT RACE

OMAHA - The Omaha fire union has thrown its support behind Republican Rep. Don Bacon over Democratic challenger Kara Eastman.

The group cited Bacon’s support for a cancer registry for firefighters at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the passage of a bill he sponsored, named after slain Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco, that would waive the residency waiting period to become a citizen for surviving family members of first responders who die in the line of duty.

“He’s a person who gets things done in a way that’s approachable with great civility,” said Fire Union President Steve LeClair. He praised Bacon for having “an open door and open mind.”

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OMAHA WORLD HERALD EDITORIAL: DEB FISCHER IS A SKILLED LEGISLATOR DESERVING RE-ELECTION TO THE SENATE

WASHINGTON - A recent observation from former Nebraska State Sen. Tim Gay of Papillion highlights a key strength of U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer.

“Those people like Deb, who don’t run to the cameras, that’s why they’re leaders in the Legislature and the Senate,” says Gay, a former committee chairman who served in the Nebraska Legislature at the same time as Fischer.

In short, Fischer — both during her two terms in Lincoln and now in Washington — has shown that she’s a legislative workhorse, not a show horse. Colleagues, across partisan lines, have long made that observation about Fischer’s legislative approach.

Her dedication and legislative skill serve Nebraska well and warrant her election to a second term in the Senate.

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OMAHA WORLD HERALD EDITORIAL: RICKETTS HAS PUSHED AGENCIES TO BETTER SERVE THE PUBLIC; HE DESERVES RE-ELECTION

LINCOLN - Changing state government’s operational culture for the better and achieving major gains in efficiency and customer service are complex, difficult tasks. Gov. Pete Ricketts, to his credit, has carried out big improvements in the operations of Nebraska government during his first term.

Governors often come up far short in that regard, but Ricketts, in many cases, has achieved notable successes. He generally has handled budget-tightening well in the face of the state’s major revenue challenges. These are central reasons why he’s worthy of a second term.

Ricketts’ administration turned around the performance of AccessNebraska, which handles applications for a variety of services and was long beset with major problems. The program now ranks eighth-best for payment accuracy. The federal government recently awarded the state a $639,063 bonus for its performance, the first such payment to the state in seven years.

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OMAHA POLICE OFFICERS BACK FORMER STATE SEN. STEVE LATHROP AFTER OUTSIDE AD ATTACKS HIM ON CRIME

OMAHA - The last image the attack ad offered was the familiar tattooed face of Omaha quadruple murderer Nikko Jenkins.

The spot, a rare television advertisement in a local legislative race, by an outside group, criticized the criminal justice bona fides of former Omaha State Sen. Steve Lathrop, a lawyer who, until he was term limited in 2014, served as vice chairman of the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Its message sped up an endorsement Monday from the union that represents Omaha police officers. The Omaha Police Officers Association endorsed Lathrop, matching endorsements from the unions that represent Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies and Nebraska State Patrol troopers.

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CHUCK HAGEL ENDORESES REP. DON BACON IN OMAHA-AREA HOUSE RACE

WASHINGTON — Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., has landed the backing of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

While both men are Republicans, Hagel was known for bucking his party on particular issues — most notably the Iraq War — during his two terms representing Nebraska in the U.S. Senate. In addition to Bacon, Hagel is supporting some Democratic candidates this cycle, including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. Hagel worked with both senators during his time as defense secretary. He described all of the candidates he’s supporting as individuals committed to bipartisanship and civility at a time when those qualities are desperately needed.

“I see what’s happening to our country, I see what’s happening to our politics,” Hagel said. “I’ve never seen this country so divided — so bitterly, bitterly divided. And I was in Washington during Watergate.”

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NEBRASKA'S ES&S AMONG ELECTION FIRMS QUESTIONED IN AP REPORT

OMAHA - The ultimate gatekeepers of U.S. election integrity may well be its weakest security link. A trio of privately held companies sells and services more than 90 percent of U.S. election systems. But the companies have long stressed convenience for their customers over product security, according to security experts and election officials.

That complicates efforts to detect a repeat of Russia's 2016 election meddling, or other intrusions by sophisticated hackers.

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VOTER TURNOUT IN NEBRASKA EXPECTED TO TOP 50 PERCENT

BEATRICE – Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale, overseeing his final Nebraska election, today predicted a 56% voter turnout, in next Tuesday’s General Election.  Gale said Nebraska has set a record of nearly 1.22 million voters registered. Gale spoke before a Beatrice Rotary Club Lunch audience on Thursday.

Gale said there are significant races and issues to decide….and he urged voters not to get complacent.  More than 70,000 early ballots issued had not been returned, as of Thursday, out of a total of some 213,000.

Gale says issues or races at all levels can generate interest for an election.

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LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR EDITORIAL: MEDICAID EXPANSION IS RIGHT FOR NEBRASKA

LINCOLN - When the first house of state government, the Nebraska Legislature, has been unable to pass meaningful policy changes, the second house has increasingly had its say on the ballot.

This year, one statewide measure awaits voters: Initiative 427, which would put Nebraska in the company of 33 other states that have expanded Medicaid. The end result would make an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans eligible for Medicaid and allow the state to receive hundreds of millions in federal funds – which it currently pays into without receiving any – with a smaller state investment.

An examination of the ballot initiative’s numbers and impact show that it will clearly benefit Nebraskans without breaking the bank. Given the data and the anticipated benefit for hospitals in rural areas, the Journal Star editorial urges voters to say yes to Initiative 427.

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JESSICA MCCLURE: 'WE CAN'T WIN IF WE DON'T TRY'

LINCOLN - Jessica McClure is at work in her space on the second floor at Turbine Flats on Y Street, where a warren of small and start-up businesses occupy offices that spread into an entrepreneurial beehive. 

McClure's task is not unlike a start-up as she attempts to revive Democratic fortunes in eastern Nebraska's 1st Congressional District, challenging a seven-term Republican congressman in a district that hasn't elected a Democrat in 54 years. 

Campaign finance reports help define the challenge: McClure has raised about $57,000 for her campaign; Republican Jeff Fortenberry had almost $1.9 million in cash on hand in his campaign war chest at the end of September and will have most of it still there untouched after Election Day.

McClure's cash on hand entering October totaled $1,142.77.

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STATE LAW ALLOWS EMPLOYEES TO LEAVE WORK ON ELECTION DAY TO VOTE

LINCOLN, Neb. - Two weeks from today is Election Day. Today, 1011 learned some teachers were worried whether they'd be able to vote, after Lincoln Public Schools scheduled parent teacher conferences at three elementary schools on Election Day.

Nebraska Statute 32-922 requires employers to give employees a two hour consecutive window to leave and vote on Election Day if they want to do so. Lincoln Public Schools was getting around that by encouraging the affected teachers to vote early. 

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FORTENBERRY SAYS HIS SENIORITY BENEFITS CONSTITUENTS

LINCOLN - Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, the senior member of Nebraska's congressional delegation with almost 14 years in Washington under his belt, believes he is better positioned now than he's ever been to effectively represent the interests of his constituents.

The 1st District Republican congressman points to growing seniority, a key House Appropriations Committee assignment along with a subcommittee chairmanship that puts him at the appropriations leadership table.

And a Republican president in the White House whose administration is accessible and responsive.

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LAST FINANCE REPORTS SHOW KARA EASTMAN NARROWING CASH GAP WITH DON BACON

OMAHA - Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., entered the last few weeks before Election Day with $650,000 in the bank, while Democratic challenger Kara Eastman had about $400,000 for the final stretch.

From Oct. 1 to Oct. 17, Bacon had raised about $120,000, compared with about $325,000 for Eastman, according to the last campaign finance reports.

He’s still ahead of her in overall fundraising, though — $2.7 million to $2.4 million

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Q&A WITH THE TWO CHALLENGERS RUNNING FOR SEN. JOHN KUEHN'S SEAT

KEARNEY — A farmer and an attorney are campaigning to replace incumbent state Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell as the representative of District 38 in the Nebraska Legislature. Dave Murman farms near Glenvil and Marsha Fangmeyer practices law in Kearney. District 38 encompasses southwest Buffalo County and all of Clay, Franklin, Kearney, Nuckolls, Phelps and Webster counties.

Murman and Fangmeyer answered questionnaires from the Kearney Hub. 

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WHERE IS THE MONEY COMING FROM? DIGGING INTO DON BACON KARA EASTMAN'S CAMPAIGN FINACE REPORTS

OMAHA - Nebraska's 2nd District congressional candidates have drastically different fundraising strategies, and both say what they're doing shows they have grassroots support. Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican, has tapped into the traditional donors: some individuals but also a healthy dose of companies, industry groups and congressional leaders.

Democrat Kara Eastman, a former nonprofit executive, has not taken the traditional path to fundraising. She's rejected contributions from for-profit corporations, instead leaning heavily on progressive groups to connect her with donors from around the country.

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INCUMBENT AUDITOR CHARLIE JANSSEN SEES CHALLENGE FROM MILLENNIAL CANDIDATE JANE SKINNER

Nebraskans will make a choice for state auditor in the Nov. 6 general election between an incumbent who's had some bad publicity of late, and an Omaha librarian who has never been elected to a political office. 

Incumbent Charlie Janssen, who also served in the Nebraska Legislature, had to apologize in September when an investigation by the Omaha World-Herald revealed he took long lunches, eating and drinking beer in a Lincoln bar and grill during work hours. Sometimes the lunches lasted as long as three hours, the report said. 

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EDITORIAL, 10/24: VOTERS SHOULD RE-ELECT RICKETTS

During the last four years, Nebraska has endured its share of difficult times – many of which resulted from a downturn in agriculture, the state’s largest industry.

In that time, Gov. Pete Ricketts shepherded the Cornhusker State through multiple years of belt tightening and across-the-board cuts. The job was far from easy, yet Nebraska has emerged in a strong position to thrive.

Because of his performance during this challenging time, Ricketts is receiving the Journal Star editorial board’s endorsement for his re-election campaign.

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EDITORIAL, 10/25: RAYBOULD IS BEST CHOICE FOR SENATE

In Lincoln, we’ve seen both candidates for the U.S. Senate seat up for election this November in action.

Deb Fischer was an effective senator and committee chair in the Nebraska Legislature before winning election to Congress six years ago. Jane Raybould has served on the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners and Lincoln City Council while unsuccessfully seeking the post of lieutenant governor in 2014.

In this election between two qualified women, the decision comes down to whether the incumbent or the challenger offers the best vision for Nebraska going forward.

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MYSTERY ORGANIZATION AIRING ADS OPPOSING MEDICAID EXPANSION

LINCOLN- Television commercials supporting a Nov. 6 ballot initiative to expand Medicaid for an estimated 90,000 low-income Nebraskans hit airwaves across the state more than a week ago.

Insure the Good Life, the political action committee backing Initiative 427, purchased more than 900 time slots on television stations in Lincoln, Omaha and central Nebraska to air the 30-second spot by Election Day, according to Federal Communications Commission records. 

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NEBRASKA VOTERS TO DECIDE MEDICAID EXPANSION

Grand Island, NE — Whether or not to expand Medicaid comes before Nebraska voters, and it could have far reaching consequences. It's an issue retired hospital administrator and former state senator Mike Gloor knows well, and he says it would help tens of thousands of working poor.

“These are people that we know, thank goodness there aren't lots and lots of them. But there are enough that this particular initiative can make a difference,” Gloor said, saying these aren’t people sitting around home, but people in low pay jobs, or working part time jobs.

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PROPERTY TAXES ARE HIGH PRIORITY FOR CANDIDATES

COLUMBUS - The rural and urban split gets brought up a lot when it comes to decisions made by the Nebraska Legislature. It also could be an issue in some of the individual legislative districts given the background of the candidates, such as District 22.

Former longtime Columbus Mayor Mike Moser and Pilger area farmer Doug Oertwich, who also is a longtime member of the Stanton County Public Power District board, are facing each other.

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CORN, SOYBEAN HARVEST STILL AHEAD OF SCHEDULE

NEBRASKA - Despite a weather setback that has kept farmers out of the fields, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said the corn and soybean harvest in Nebraska continues to be ahead of schedule.

The USDA said corn condition rated 2 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 13 percent fair, 48 percent good and 32 percent excellent as of Sunday. Corn mature was 95 percent, near the 91 percent both last year and for the five-year average. Harvested was 25 percent, ahead of the 16 percent last year, and equal to the average.

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EDITORIAL: U.S. ECONOMY IS GREAT AGAIN

Competitiveness: It might not make a lot of mainstream newspapers, so let us inform you: The World Economic Forum just ranked the U.S. as the world's most competitive economy for the first time since 2008. A lot has happened since then, but mostly the U.S.' No. 1 ranking is a result of the surprise election of Donald Trump.

It's also yet another bit of evidence for why policies truly matter. The last time the U.S. stood atop the WEF global ranking of 140-plus countries, President Obama had just been elected. But he had yet to sign the growth-killing Dodd-Frank and ObamaCare bills, or a wasteful "stimulus" of nearly $1 trillion. For the next eight years, the U.S.' competitiveness ranking slid, pretty much until Trump was elected 

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U.S. STEEL INDUSTRY GETS WHAT IT WANTS ON TARIFFS

U.S. steel producers, which prevailed in their push for the Trump administration to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, have also proved equally effective—and far more effective than many other industries—at avoiding tariffs they don’t want.

Steel producers petitioned the U.S. Trade Representative in September for relief on 132 tariff lines, primarily for raw materials and chemicals used in the steelmaking process that members of the Steel Manufacturers Association import from China. They were able to get 66, or half, of them removed from the final list. 

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OPPD PROPOSES GOALS OF 50% RENEWABLES, 20% CUT IN 'CARBON INTENSITY'

OMAHA - The Omaha Public Power District board is stepping in to stop the fight over OPPD’s next major environmental policy — and trying to send both sides home as winners. The utility’s updated proposal weaves together the competing approaches of customers who want OPPD to set specific goals for how much renewable energy it uses and those who would rather the district reduce its carbon footprint, however possible.

The board’s latest draft of Strategic Directive 7 does both, setting a “long-term goal” of OPPD providing at least 50 percent of its retail electricity from renewable sources while also aiming to reduce the utility’s overall “carbon intensity” by 20 percent from 2010 to 2030.

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JUDGE REDUCES JURY AWARD AGAINST BAYER'S ROUNDUP TO $78.5 MILLION

SAN FRANCISCO - A California judge on Monday reduced by more than $200 million a jury verdict linking Bayer AG’s BAYRY -3.23% Roundup weedkiller to cancer but upheld the jury’s findings that the company acted with malice.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos said the $250 million in punitive damages awarded by the jury must be slimmed down to match the $39.25 million in compensatory damages that the jury found appropriate. If the plaintiff agrees to the reduction by Dec. 7, no new trial is needed.

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FRACKERS' NEXT BOTTLENECK: OIL EXPORT TERMINALS

TEXAS - As pipeline bottlenecks crimp the U.S. shale boom, some companies are racing to address the next potential constraint on American oil output: the terminals to export crude to foreign markets.

Oil exports have been a key release valve for U.S. producers in the three years since Congress lifted a longtime ban on overseas crude sales. Exports topped 2.1 million barrels daily in September and are projected to approach four million barrels within two years, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

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LEARNING COMMUNITY COUNCIL SETS UP NONPROFIT FUNDRAISING ARM

OMAHA - The Learning Community will be passing the hat to expand its programs. It will be a small hat, at first, says Lorraine Chang, chairwoman of the Learning Community Council. Eager to expand programs for disadvantaged kids, but under a tax cap, the Learning Community Council on Thursday night approved creating a nonprofit fundraising foundation. The vote means the council can file the paperwork and appoint a foundation board of directors. Once a foundation is set up, it can begin to identify donors and projects, she said. The council will go slow at first, to “get the basics down” and do it right, she said.

”We have a long way to go before we can say we’ll go to this donor or that donor,” We really won’t know that for a while. My sense is we’re going to start small, just like when we created the Learning Community. It’s taken us 10 years to get to where we are. Hopefully it won’t take that long.”

She said she’s not concerned that the foundation will compete against area school foundations for funding. Many school districts have foundations that raise money to supplement their budgets.

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STATE BELIEVES NEW POLICY WILL IMPROVE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM

GRAND ISLAND - A new practice from the state Division of Children and Family Services seeks greater engagement from parents and other family members in raising children. Under the system, Children and Family Services representatives will work with families to choose the right supports for the children.

“Is there an uncle that your children like to visit with? Is there an aunt that spends Saturday afternoons with the children?” CFS Director Matt Wallen said.The goal is to find “natural supports” in a family or neighborhood. The family can safely turn to those people if there’s a crisis or a concern, Wallen said. The new system, which was discussed at a Tuesday meeting in Grand Island, is called Safety Organized Practice. The three-hour meeting, part of a statewide tour, was attended by children and family specialists, supervisors, attorneys, judges, educators and service providers.

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TESLA TO BRING PORTION OF MODEL 3 PRODUCTION TO CHINA NEXT YEAR

Tesla,  which reported its first quarterly profits in two years Wednesday, is looking to extend its earnings streak by bringing its new Model 3 to customers beyond North America. And part of that plan involves accelerating its manufacturing plans in China. 

Tesla  saw its revenue skyrocket to $6.8 billion in the third quarter (and a $312 million profit) thanks to sales of its new Model 3 vehicle, despite production bottlenecks and more recent issues with delivery logistics. The company was able to achieve that profitability milestone just through sales in the U.S. and Canada. That leaves two other massive markets on the table. Cue Europe and China. Tesla said Wednesday it will start to take orders for the Model 3 in Europe and China before the end of 2018. Tesla said it will begin deliveries of the Model 3 to Europe early next year. 

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ROTARIANS HEAR FROM STATE CHAMBER, BLUEPRINT NEBRASKA ON LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

GRAND ISLAND - Rotarians were able to hear about the upcoming legislative session as it related to business at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry gave an update to members of the Grand Island Noon Rotary Club on where they stand on legislative issues. Joseph Young, executive vice president of the Nebraska Chamber, said the organization tracks between 250 and 400 bills every legislative session. He said these bills primarily affect either workforce development or the Nebraska business community.

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LOTTO SALES SURGE MEANS MORE CASH FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS, SCHOLARSHIPS, NEBRASKA STATE FAIR

NEBRASKA - There’s only a tiny chance that a lucky prize winner from Nebraska or Iowa will end up claiming the Mega Millions or Powerball jackpots, which this week ballooned to a combined $2.2 billion. What is certain, though, is that some of the cash Midlanders plunked down for lotto tickets in the past week — or any week, for that matter — will be recycled back to worthy causes in the two states.

About $1.50 out of every $2 lotto ticket is plowed back into prize money or covers the administrative costs of operating the lottery. The remainder is dedicated to specific needs as is set out in state statutes.

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LINCOLN STATE SENATOR TO PROPOSE LETTING 16-YEAR-OLDS VOTE IN NEBRASKA

LINCOLN — Nebraska already allows 16-year-olds the freedom of the open road. Now, a Lincoln state senator wants to give them the chance to choose state and local leaders and decide ballot issues. 

State Sen. Anna Wishart created a buzz Wednesday when she announced that she plans to offer a constitutional amendment next year that would lower the state's voting age to 16.

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NEBRASKA'S ECONOMIC FORECAST DIMS SLIGHTLY FOR FIRST TIME IN 11 MONTHS, UNL INDICATOR FINDS

LINCOLN - A University of Nebraska-Lincoln index that predicts the state's future economic growth has declined for the first time in nearly a year.

Nebraska’s leading economic indicator fell 0.35 percent in September, its first decline since October 2017. Because the indicator predicts economic conditions six months in the future, the decline "suggests that Nebraska’s economic growth, which is currently quite strong, will slow in the coming months,” economist Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at UNL, said in a news release.

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LINCOLN SENATORS IDENTIFY PRIORITIES; NEBRASKA CHAMBER OUTLINES GROWTH STRATEGY

LINCOLN - Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln said Wednesday that one of her top priorities for the 2019 legislative session will be "making up for lost ground" in terms of funding for the University of Nebraska and programs administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bolz is a member of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee.

Workforce development will also be high on her list next year, Bolz said during a state legislative forum breakfast hosted by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce that featured remarks by Lincoln senators. 

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SARPY COUNTY BOARD, ASSESSOR TAKE DISPUTE TO LINCOLN

SARPY COUNTY - A longstanding dispute between the Sarpy County Board and the Sarpy County Assessor’s Office is headed to the Nebraska Tax Equalization and Review Commission in Lincoln. Sarpy County Assessor Dan Pittman has filed an appeal with the commission concerning 51 valuation reductions granted by the Sarpy County Board acting in its role as the Sarpy County Board of Equalization.

The board voted 5-0 to grant the reductions to owners of rural agricultural land who protested the “first acre” rule used by Pittman to assess their land values. Under that rule, Pittman assesses the “first acre” of their land, on which a house typically sits, at a higher rate than their unimproved agricultural acres

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PETE RICKETTS COMMITS TO FULL TERM IF RE-ELECTED; CRITICS SAY HIS WEALTH SHIFTS POWER AT CAPITOL

LINCOLN — Some past Nebraska governors have been cagey when asked about their political futures. Pete Ricketts has opted for the direct approach.

The first-term Republican governor says questions about where he will office, at least until 2023, may cease.

“If the people of Nebraska will vote me in for a second term, I’m staying,” he said in a recent interview with The World-Herald. “All four years.”

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COUNCILWOMAN CYNDI LAMM WILL RUN FOR MAYOR

LINCOLN - City Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm has officially announced her intention to run for Lincoln mayor.

Lamm announced her decision early Sunday online and by video on her website and social-media accounts, describing her teenage years, when she dropped out of high school and her later decisions to return to school and to college.

“I’ve lived in Lincoln a lot of years and I’m living proof of what we can accomplish in our city,” Lamm said in a news release about her candidacy. “There’s so much more we can do. That’s why I’m running to be your mayor.”

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BACKERS RAISE NEARLY $3 MILLION FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION VOTE

LINCOLN - Backers of a ballot issue expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income Nebraskans have raised nearly $3 million, dwarfing the minimal spending of opponents. The Insure the Good Life campaign as of Oct. 2 reported raising $1.7 million for the Nov. 6 ballot measure that would provide health insurance coverage for more than 90,000 low-income Nebraskans, most of them among the working poor.

But Adam Morfeld, a state senator from Lincoln who is serving as a paid consultant for the campaign, said the organization has since collected an additional $1.1 million in contributions.

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EDITORIAL: NEBRASKA STATE AUDITOR CONTEST IS PROBLEMATIC THIS YEAR

LINCOLN - The World-Herald, on rare occasion, has refrained from endorsing in a particular election contest when we find that both candidates fell short of the needed standard. That’s our stance on this year’s race for state auditor.

State Auditor Charlie Janssen indulged in inexcusable behavior by repeatedly spending long hours at a Lincoln sports bar during work hours. Through such selfish, unprofessional action, he showed tremendous disrespect to the public and to his staff. Such behavior was the very opposite of what Nebraskans should expect from a highly paid state official and, indeed, from any adult.

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BOB KRIST'S POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE DRAWS PRAIS FROM SOME, CHARGES OF FLIP-FLOPPING FROM OTHERS

LINCOLN — State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha took less than six months to assert his political independence after being appointed to the Nebraska Legislature. At issue was a politically explosive proposal to cover prenatal care for the unborn children of illegal immigrants.

Then-Gov. Dave Heineman fought the idea vigorously, saying taxpayer dollars should never be used for illegal immigrants.

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EDITORIAL: WATERMEIER, SCHRAM WORTHY CANDIDATES FOR PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

LINCOLN - The Nebraska Public Service Commission oversees a wide range of state regulatory action. The five-member commission makes major decisions affecting telephones, Internet service, taxicabs, grain elevators and pipelines.

Two PSC seats are on the November ballot in their respective districts, and we find that two Nebraskans with extensive public service backgrounds — State Sen. Dan Watermeier in District 1 in southeast Nebraska, and Commissioner Tim Schram in District 3 in the Omaha area — offer the strongest capabilities for service on the commission.

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ALL FOUR NATIVE TRIBES ENDORSE KRIST, RAYBOULD

All four Native tribes in Nebraska have announced their support for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bob Krist, Democratic Senate nominee Jane Raybould and three other Democratic candidates. It's the first time the four tribal nations, the Ponca, the Omaha, the Santee Sioux and the Winnebago, have jointly endorsed a slate of Democratic candidates.

The endorsements followed a tribal meeting at the Winnebago Reservation.

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FREE SPEECH, CONTROVERSIES AT CENTER OF NU DEBATE

LINCOLN - Restrictive and byzantine policies governing free speech and expression on University of Nebraska campuses helped instigate a high-profile incident between an undergraduate and a graduate student lecturer last year, free speech experts said Saturday.

A new "Commitment to Free Expression" adopted by the NU Board of Regents in January did nothing to solve the problem, the panel at the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska's annual meeting said, with some members adding it may in fact lead to more problems in the future.

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ROUT TO TEST PENSIONS' CRASH PROTECTION

NEW YORK - Large pension funds are snapping up Wall Street protection against a market crash, but it isn’t clear the products will help limit losses in the current pullback. Worried their portfolios were too risky, public-pension managers in California, Hawaii and Rhode Island have shifted more than $25 billion over two years or so into "crisis-risk offset" strategies, while others are in the process of such moves. 

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SAUDI ARABIA HALTS $200 BILLION SOLAR PROJECT - IER

RIHYAD - Saudi Arabia has put on hold a $200 billion project to build the world’s biggest solar-power-generating station. The project would have generated about 200 gigawatts of electricity by 2030—more than three times what the country needs every day—beginning with about 7.2 gigawatts within two years.

 The project had not gotten off the ground before it was halted because of high costs and logistical issues. Saudi energy officials had not decided on the solar project’s key details—the land that would be used, the structure of development, or whether it would receive subsidies from the state.  The project’s first phase was expected to cost up to $1 billion. The Saudi kingdom is currently working on a broader, more practical strategy to increase renewable energy that it will announce in late October.

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UNION PACIFIC WILL CLOSE NEBRASKA PANHANDLE LOCOMOTIVE REPAIR SHOP

MORRILL, Neb. (AP) — Union Pacific plans to close its locomotive repair shop in the Panhandle’s Scotts Bluff County.

Company representatives say the shop just southeast of Morrill will close by the end of January. They say the decision was based on business needs. The company is working with unions on what the closing will mean for workers. The facility has a staff of 68.

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SHORTAGE OF QUALIFIED WORKERS IS HAMPERING NEBRASKA'S ECONOMIC GROWTH

LINCOLN- Nebraska’s job growth slowed in 2016 and 2017 to nearly zero and is flat again this year, partly because many jobs are going unfilled. That’s one reason the state is ranking 49th out of 50 in economic growth this year.

Nebraska requires about 50,000 new and “improved” workers — those with the knowledge, skills and experience to qualify for higher-paying jobs — each year to fill potential job openings, but the state’s post-high school education system issues about 24,000 degrees and certifications.

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LEADER OF STATE'S LARGEST AGENCY LEAVES BEHIND ACCOMPLISHMENTS, COMPLAINTS

LINCOLN- The leader of the state's largest agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, worked her last official days this past week in Nebraska. As Chief Executive Officer Courtney Phillips leaves the state for a similar job in Texas, she counts among her accomplishments development of business plans for the department; more mental health services for children, youth and families; and improvements to the call center system for Nebraskans to access public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid.

But she also leaves behind an agency emptied of many longtime public employees who had worked their way up over 10 to 30 years to be managers or administrators. Over the past couple of years they have been fired, asked to resign or retire, or left, they said, to preserve their own mental health.

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PARTNERSHIP FOR HEALTHY LINCOLN: GRANT WILL HELP REDUCE HEALTH DISPARITIES AMONG MINORITIES

LINCOLN- A five-year, $3.3 million federal grant will allow Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln to continue its work to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in Lincoln.

The grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will build on a similar-sized grant aimed at reducing health disparities among low-income residents, said Bob Rauner, president of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln. The organization partners with community agencies to send common messages about healthy lifestyles, such as being more active, eating healthy foods and the benefits of breastfeeding, Rauner said.

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GOVERNORS OFFICE RELEASE: CUTTING RED TAPE FOR FARM FAMILIES

LINCOLN - With new technology and innovative farming techniques, modern day agriculture is more critical than ever to growing opportunities in Nebraska.  Whether you work in a biotech lab, operate a combine in a field, or refinance loans at a bank, agriculture reaches into nearly every aspect of our economy, accounting for about a quarter of the jobs in Nebraska. 

 Right now, Forbes ranks Nebraska the fourth best state for business and fourth best state for regulatory climate.  Building on this strength is key to continuing the momentum we have experienced in growing Nebraska.  To this end, I have been working to make state government more customer friendly for our farm and ranch families and to cut red tape at the federal level.

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MEDICAID EXPANSION WOULD CREATE JOBS AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS, STUDY FINDS

LINCOLN — Expanding Medicaid in Nebraska would create almost 11,000 jobs and generate $1.3 billion annually of new economic activity, according to results of a study released Monday.

In the study, economics professor Allan Jenkins and management professor Ron Konecny of the University of Nebraska at Kearney updated their cost-benefit analysis of Medicaid expansion from 2015. Jenkins said the new analysis incorporated findings from the 33 states that have expanded their Medicaid programs since 2014.

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NEBRASKA REVENUE PICTURE LOOKING UP AFTER FIRST-QUARTER TAX COLLECTIONS ARE HIGHER THAN EXPECTED

LINCOLN — A new state report shows that Nebraska’s financial picture brightened considerably during the first quarter of the state’s fiscal year, and one official credited federal tax cuts.

The Nebraska Department of Revenue released figures Monday showing that the state collected $63.3 million more tax revenue than expected from July 1 through Sept. 30. Net receipts for the three months were up 5.5 percent for the period. Last month alone, the state collected $45 million — or 9.9 percent — more than had been projected.

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NEBRASKA DEMOCRATS HAVE NO ATTORNEY GENERAL CANDIDATE

LINCOLN-Nebraska voters will see only one name on the ballot under attorney general: Republican incumbent Doug Peterson. Democrats had nominated attorney Van Argyrakis, but he stepped down after he was charged in connection with an attempted strangulation of his father. Argyrakis pleaded guilty in September to abuse of a vulnerable adult and was sentenced to three years of probation.

Democrats had said that they planned to find a replacement. But the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office said no name was submitted before the deadline.

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FIRST DISTRICT CANDIDATES HAVE DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO SUPPORTING NEBRASKAN FAMILIES

LINCOLN- It’s all about family for each candidate in the First District U.S. House of Representatives race this fall. For incumbent Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln, a Republican, supporting families produces a more united society.

“The strength of our nation ultimately depends upon the strength of our families and communities,” he said.

Democratic opponent Jessica McClure of Lincoln said her motivation for entering the race is to make sure families in eastern Nebraska, including her own, get the representation and rights they deserve.

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2ND DISTRICT CAMPAIGN ON TRACK TO BE MOST EXPENSIVE AFTER KARA EASTMAN RAISES $1.25 MILLION

OMAHA-Democrat Kara Eastman raised an eye-popping $1.25 million during this year’s third quarter in her bid to unseat Republican Rep. Don Bacon.

That amount nearly triples the amount that she’s raised so far and surpasses the amount that all recent 2nd Congressional District challengers had raised at this point in their campaigns. In fact, the candidates are on track to spend more than any two candidates combined in any previous 2nd District race. That doesn’t include money that outside groups are spending separately from the campaigns.

Bacon raised about $550,000 during the same third quarter, July 1 to Sept. 30.

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HOUSE CANDIDATES DON BACON, KARA EASTMAN FIND LITTLE TO AGREE ON IN WORLD-HERALD DEBATE

OMAHA-Republican Congressman Don Bacon and Democratic challenger Kara Eastman found almost no common ground in their first debate of the political season.

They clashed over every issue, including Russia and taxes.

The candidates also repeated their disagreement over the future of health care in the country, one of the major differences between the two campaigns. Eastman repeatedly sought to portray Bacon as unable to stand up to national Republicans to fight for the district. Bacon said that her statements were examples of problematic vitriol in politics today.

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DEMOCRATIC SUPER PAC BYPASSES KARA EASTMAN TO SUPPORT IOWA'S CINDY AXNE

WASHINGTON — A key Democratic super PAC has opted to devote its final-stage Omaha ad spending in support of Iowa House candidate Cindy Axne rather than Kara Eastman. The House Majority PAC is set to spend $228,000 on broadcast advertising and $18,000 on cable advertising in the Omaha market in the coming weeks.

Those ads could have supported Eastman, the former nonprofit executive running against incumbent GOP Rep. Don Bacon in Nebraska’s 2nd District.

Instead, the PAC has decided to spend its ad money on Axne, who is running against incumbent GOP Rep. David Young in Iowa’s 3rd District, which includes Council Bluffs.

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DEB FISCHER IS A TEAM PLAYER IN PUBLIC AND A FIGHTER BEHIND THE SCENES

LINCOLN — Two words still chill the spines of those who stood between U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and her political goals, whether on the school board, in the Legislature or in the Senate.

“Listen, honey.”

That’s when you knew the discussion was done, said Fischer friend and former Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk. Her mind was made up. People soon learned what Fischer meant, whether they were on her side or tangling with her: Support her idea, help her improve it or get ready to fight her for votes.

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TWO SEATS UP FOR GRABS IN NEBRASKA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION RACE

LINCOLN-With longtime Public Service Commissioner Frank Landis retiring, the district that includes Lincoln will have a new representative for the first time in 30 years.

Political newcomer Christa Yoakum is facing off against former state Sen. Dan Watermeier to represent District 1, which covers Lancaster, Gage, Cass, Otoe, Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee and Richardson counties.

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AFTER BACKING RICKETTS 4 YEARS AGO, NEBRASKA TROOPERS UNION NOW ENDORSES BOB KRIST FOR GOVERNOR

LINCOLN — Lingering vacancies in the ranks of the Nebraska State Patrol and concern over what many considered an unjust disciplinary firing last year prompted the nearly 400-member trooper union Thursday to endorse Bob Krist for governor.

"Our state troopers work hard in a dangerous, demanding job," said Brian Petersen, president of the State Troopers Association of Nebraska. "They deserve leadership that is accountable and responsible, not a governor who passes the buck and tries to place the blame on rank and file."

The same union endorsed Pete Ricketts four years ago when he was the Republican nominee for governor. The governor's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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PETE RICKETTS, WHO PUTS NET WORTH AT ABOUT $50 MILLION, HAS KEPT MANAGING INVESTMENTS AS GOVERNOR

LINCOLN — The top gun in Nebraska politics saw a financial opportunity in a company that markets the skills of former fighter pilots.

Tactical Air Support Inc., which has an office in Omaha, supplies aviators and aircraft to play the role of the enemy in training missions with U.S. military squadrons. Rather than maintaining a separate fleet of adversarial aircraft and pilots, the Pentagon finds it easier to buy “red air.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts held the investment — and more than 100 others — through his first term in office. Despite the complexity and breadth of the governor’s investment portfolio, a state ethics commission says the governor’s stakes in things like red air have so far raised no red flags.

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GOVERNOR, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES APPEAR AT JEWISH COMMUNITY CANDIDATE FORUM

Several candidates for Nebraska’s top offices answered questions about Israel and anti-Semitism on Sunday in a first-of-its-kind forum at Temple Israel.

About 400 people were in the crowd on the campus of the Tri-Faith Initiative as Rabbi Brian Stoller moderated a gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional forum.

Legislative candidates in Douglas County were also allowed to make a speech to the crowd.

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EDITORIAL: MORE ENDORSEMENTS FOR LEGISLATURE: MURMAN, PEDERSON, HUGHES

Property tax relief, K-12 funding, business incentives, balancing the budget — those are among the difficult challenges the Nebraska Legislature will need to address next year. We’re encouraged by the overall strength of candidates running for the Legislature this fall; many districts have two capable contenders. Here are our recommendations in the final three contests.

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KIRST ON GOP VIDEOS: RICKETTS SHOULD HAVE 'WATCHED' BEFORE RELEASING

Omaha, NE.—Gov. Pete Ricketts should have “watched that video” before releasing it.

That’s just part of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist’s first public and on-camera comments regarding three videos and charges by the Nebraska Republican Party that Krist, a state senator for the past ten years, has a drinking problem and has been drinking on the job.

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UNFAMILIAR NATIONAL FACE TARGETS FORMER LAWMAKER LATHROP

Omaha, NE.—TV attack ads are nothing new but there’s an unfamiliar face on the attack in one key Nebraska race.

It’s the Lathrop-Riepe legislative battle in Ralston and southwest Omaha. And that unfamiliar face belongs to the little known Washington D.C. based Republican State Leadership Committee.

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NORTHEAST LINCOLN 'LOCALLY FOCUSED' ON LEGISLATIVE RACE, CANDIDATES SAY

State Sen. Matt Hansen said he's spent his first term ensuring the priorities of voters in Lincoln's 26th District are represented on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature.His challenger, Robert Van Valkenburg of Lincoln, said he'll bring honesty and integrity to the seat if elected to represent most of northeast Lincoln, plus a swath of Lancaster County.

Hansen, a registered Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, easily defeated the Republican Van Valkenburg in May's primary election, earning 77 percent of the vote.

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EDITORIAL: MORE ENDORSEMENTS FOR LEGISLATURE: MCCOLLISTER, KOLTERMAN, HANSEN, DORN

The Nebraska Legislature will need to address complicated issues next year, striving for consensus on property tax relief, K-12 funding, business incentives and balancing the budget. We’re encouraged by the overall strength of candidates running for the Legislature this fall; many districts have two capable contenders. Here are more of our recommendations

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EDITORIAL: MORE LEGISLATURE ENDORSEMENTS: CLEMENTS, HILKEMANN, HUNT, ARCH, HASSEBROOK, LINDSTROM

There are 19 contests in this fall’s election for the Nebraska Legislature. Here are more of our recommendations in those state legislative contests.

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FIVE OF OUR ENDORSEMENTS FOR THE LEGISLATURE: THIBODEAU, DEBOER, LATHROP, EBKE, GRAGERT

The Nebraska Legislature has a lot on its plate for the 2019 session. Issues include property tax relief, K-12 funding changes, addressing Medicaid expansion if approved by voters this fall and revamping business incentives — all while balancing the state budget at a time of limited revenue growth.

It’s crucial that the Legislature be solutions-focused. Nineteen state legislative seats will be on the Nov. 6 ballots in their respective districts. We’re encouraged by the overall strength of candidates this year; many legislative contests feature two worthy contenders. In editorials starting today, we offer our recommendations.

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RICKETTS, KRIST MEET WITH NO OPPORTUNITY TO ENGAGE

OMAHA — Gov. Pete Ricketts and Democratic challenger Bob Krist met on the same stage Sunday, probably for the last time, and the result featured less fireworks and more a controlled burn.

The Republican governor and the Democratic nominee stood at separate podiums before a polite audience that was largely composed of members of the congregation of Temple Israel in west Omaha to separately answer a few prepared questions with no opportunity for interchange or rebuttal.

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BOB KRIST - WITH NET WORTH OF ABOUT $350,000 - FALLS IN MIDDLE CLASS

LINCOLN — State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, the Democratic candidate for governor, lives a solidly middle-class life.

Krist himself estimates his net worth at “roughly $350,000,” considerably less than his Republican opponent for the state’s top office.

As required by state law, he has filed a statement with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission every year since he became a state senator in 2009. The statements show little change from year to year.

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LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR CANDIDATE QUESTIONS RICKETTS' RECORD ON DISCRIMINATION, HARASSMENT AGAINST WOMEN

LINCOLN — The Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor said Thursday that Gov. Pete Ricketts is “out of touch with the women of Nebraska and indifferent to claims of discrimination and harassment” in state government.

Ricketts’ campaign rebutted the charges.

State Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont made the statements during a press conference in the State Capitol, flanked by several women and a few men.

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CANDIDATES IN SOUTH-CENTRAL NEBRASKA LEGISLATIVE RACE SEEK TO EASE RELIANCE ON PROPERTY TAX

Voters in south-central Nebraska’s 38th district this year have a choice of who will represent them in the Legislature for the first time since 2006. In the two elections since, the candidate ran unopposed.

Dave Murman, a Republican, and Marsha Fangmeyer, a Democrat, are hoping to represent the U-shaped district that includes Clay, Franklin, Kearney, Nuckolls, Phelps and Webster Counties and part of rural Buffalo County.

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OMAHA, LINCOLN MAYORS UNITE AGAINST TERM LIMITS; STOTHERT SAYS PROPOSAL 'DIRECTLY' TARGETS BEUTLER

Republican Mayor Jean Stothert of Omaha came out swinging Thursday against a term-limits campaign in Lincoln that is widely viewed as being aimed at the capital city’s Democratic mayor, Chris Beutler.

“Our work as mayors of Nebraska’s two largest cities is nonpartisan,” Stothert said in a joint appearance with Beutler. “I have sincerely appreciated working with you, mayor, on many issues that we share common interest. ... I am here to encourage the voters of Lincoln to reject the so-called mayoral term-limit proposal that is on your November ballot.”

Stothert, who is considering seeking a third term as Omaha mayor and could potentially face a term-limits challenge in her own city, called the Lincoln effort “a slick way to kick Mayor Beutler out of office at the end of this term.”

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BACON, EASTMAN AGREE SOCIAL SECURITY IS RUNNING OUT OF MONEY. HERE'S THE DIFFERENT WAYS THEY'D FIX IT

Republican Rep. Don Bacon and Democratic challenger Kara Eastman don’t even agree on the extent of the Social Security system’s solvency problems.

Bacon argues that Social Security will become “insolvent” by 2034 and that something needs to be done now to fix it. He suggests making some cuts to benefits, including increasing the full retirement age for people who are currently younger than 40.

Eastman calls the solvency issue a “modest funding gap” and wants to solve it by lifting the cap on incomes subject to Social Security taxes. She said if anything, Social Security benefits should be increased, not decreased.

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IN SOUTHWEST NEBRASKA, STATE SEN. HUGHES, CHALLENGER MALCOM DIFFER ON TAXES, MEDICAID

Stephanie Malcolm wants to offer voters in her southwest Nebraska legislative district a choice on the ballot. Her opponent, Dan Hughes, would have run unopposed if not for her efforts.Hughes is a well-funded Republican incumbent in District 44, which covers 10 counties and includes the cities of McCook, Imperial and Curtis. 

Malcolm, a registered independent from Palisade, said she hopes she inspires others to get involved through her “grassroots extreme” campaign. “You don’t have to be a superhero to get involved in the process,” she said. Hughes said he offers experience in handling legislative procedures and building coalitions. A farmer from Venango, Hughes is chairman of the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee.

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IN WEST OMAHA LEGISLATIVE RACE, THIBODEAU AND CAVANAUGH HAVE SIMILAR BACKGROUNDS, OPPOSITE POLITICS

LINCOLN — The candidates battling over west-central Omaha’s District 6 legislative seat look very similar on the surface.

Both are professional women with varied career backgrounds. Both are married, have three children and are Catholic. Both are Omaha natives related to well-known politicians.

But Machaela Cavanaugh and State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau disagree on almost every political issue confronting Nebraska, including Medicaid expansion, tax cuts, the death penalty and abortion.

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RICKETTS WAGING $3M RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Gov. Pete Ricketts appears to be waging a $3 million campaign in his bid for re-election to a second term.

As the latest campaign finance filings began to stream into the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, the governor's campaign reported nearly $2.4 million in expenditures and $892,000 in cash on hand as of Oct. 2.

The governor's campaign war chest includes a $930,000 loan from Ricketts. 

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UNDER OPPD PROPOSAL, CLEANER AIR COULD COME QUICKER - BUT IT MAY COST MORE

Local air could be cleaner quicker, and electricity could cost more when natural gas prices climb if the Omaha Public Power District adopts a proposed shift next week in its long-term approach to environmental stewardship.

Instead of aiming its long-term goal at generating a certain percentage of local electricity from renewable sources, as it has since 2015, OPPD is considering a policy that would reduce the amount of carbon released while producing each megawatt of electricity for ratepayers.

This might sound like a distinction without a difference. It’s not.

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PART OF SARPY COUNTY HAS SAT UNTOUCHED FROM DEVELOPMENT. A NEW LINE WILL CHANGE THAT.

Sarpy County is poised to lay the underground work that will eventually open up a wide expanse of land to development — residential, commercial and industrial.

The project — installing sewer lines in an area that previously had none — has been a long time coming. Now county leaders hope it keeps Sarpy booming.

After all, without a humble sewer line, there can be no housing subdivisions, mixed-use destinations or data centers. You might say all life in this part of the county will flow from these new sewer lines.

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TRUMP RALLY CROWD CHANTS 'LOCK HER UP!' ABOUT SEN. FEINSTEIN

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Chants of "Lock her up!" rang once again throughout an Iowa arena as President Donald Trump rallied supporters Tuesday night.

But this time, the staple of Trump's 2016 campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton had a new target: California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

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THE "KAVANAUGH EFFECT" ON MIDTERMS

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - We are now exactly one month out from midterm elections and both sides seem increasingly fired up. The newest reason: the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U. S. Supreme Court.

Will it change how men and women traditionally vote?

President Trump certainly believes so as he hits the road Monday to Iowa among a handful of other stops this week.

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EXXON PUTS UP $1 MILLION TO BOOST CARBON TAX

Exxon Mobil Corp. , once a powerful skeptic of global warming, will now be among the first oil companies to put money into the fight to make climate change a political priority in Washington.

The U.S.’s largest energy producer will commit $1 million over two years to promote a national tax on carbon as a way to address the environmental issue. The funding will back an initiative designed to appeal to the Republicans who now control Washington, and may open the door for Exxon’s peers in the oil industry to follow.

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KEYSTONE XL OPEN HOUSE DRAWS COMMENTS FROM BOTH SIDES, COMPLAINTS FROM OPPONENTS

After putting their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline on the record, Bold Nebraska pipeline fighters walked out of a U.S. Department of State open house Tuesday, calling the process a sham because it wasn't a true public hearing.

The State Department instead planned a three-hour, open-house format public meeting on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement on the proposed "mainline alternative" route approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission on a 3-2 vote last year.

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TRUMP TO ALLOW YEAR-ROUND SALES OF HIGH-ETHANOL GASOLINE; 'GREAT NEWS FOR NEBRASKA,' RICKETTS SAYS

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is moving to allow year-round sales of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol, a boon for Iowa and other farm states that have pushed for greater sales of the corn-based fuel.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce he is lifting a federal ban on summer sales of high-ethanol blends during a trip to Iowa on Tuesday.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, the Nebraska Ethanol Board and commodity organizations in the state hailed word of the pending announcement. 

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A NEBRASKA PAROLE BOARD GAVE AN INMATE ANOTHER CHANCE. THEN A WOMAN WAS KIDNAPPED AND KILLED

A female runner threatened by a gunman years before had no intention of speaking at his November 2017 Nebraska Board of Parole hearing.

In an email to the board, the Omaha woman wrote that she suffers lasting effects from the encounter with Jeremiah Connelly and did not want to devote “time and energy” to him.

“You had no right,” she wrote in the email, read aloud at the hearing by a Parole Board member. “I fear things now that I did not fear before. You stole my positive view of the world and how I thought people should act to one another. You deserve to stay in jail.”

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IN JAIL FOR TRESPASSING, MENTALLY ILL OMAHA WOMAN NEVER MADE IT OUT

Susan Kiscoan refused to leave a doctor’s clinic just north of downtown on Sept. 14, 2017.After directing her to get out several times, Omaha police arrested her for trespassing — a misdemeanor that typically results in a $25 fine or a day in jail.

For Kiscoan, it effectively became a death sentence.

Over the next two weeks, the schizophrenic 45-year-old Omaha woman sat in jail, sometimes desperate, sometimes defiant, sometimes despondent.

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MASSIVE $84 MILLION STATE COMPUTER PROJECT HALTED TO FIND OUT IF IT WORKS

LINCOLN — The State of Nebraska has suspended work on a massive new social services computer system, opening the possibility that the project that has already cost nearly $60 million could be scrapped.

The legal counsel of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services last month gave a cease and desist letter to the contractor working on a new Medicaid eligibility and enrollment system and ordered its workers to vacate their work space in a state office building.

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A YEAR AFTER SUPREME COURT SEALED FATE OF WHITECLAY BEER STORES, REFORMS STILL NEEDED, ACTIVIST SAYS

A year after the Nebraska Supreme Court closed the door to further alcohol sales in Whiteclay, activists think reforms are still needed in and around the village in northwest Nebraska.

Among their concerns: the ongoing effects of alcoholism and fetal-alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD) on the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, several unexplained deaths in Whiteclay, and possible bootlegging in surrounding communities.

Last week, on the anniversary of the court's decision, activists gathered in Whiteclay to discuss their next steps.

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TRUMP ADMINISTRATION REPEALS TRAIN SAFETY RULE; CRITICS CALL ACTION 'RECKLESS'

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has repealed a safety regulation governing trains that carry large quantities of oil, sparking new fears among state officials and environmental activists that devastating oil spills could be more likely.

The Department of Transportation announced last week that trains carrying flammable liquids such as crude oil and ethanol would no longer be required to install electronically controlled pneumatic braking systems, an Obama-era rule instituted to decrease the chance of derailments.

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BELLEVUE MAN DOESN'T USE GASOLINE OR PAY FOR ELECTRICITY AND HASN'T SET OUT TRASH FOR 3 YEARS

Planet Earth doesn’t know Don Preister exists.

He uses no gasoline, pays the Omaha Public Power District nothing, mows his lawn with one of those once-ubiquitous hand-pushed manual mowers, puts out recyclables but no trash or yard waste, and that small amount of puzzling trash — like used plastic pens — gets placed into orange “energy bags” that are delivered to a Kansas agency that breaks down petroleum-based products for re-use as “plastic lumber.”

“I have not set out trash for three years,” Preister said last month.

“I set out a recycling container every other week. I don’t ever set out any kind of yard waste. I don’t ever set out trash now, so, essentially my carbon footprint is zero.”

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NEBRASKA EARNS ANOTHER $1.7 MILLION IN FEDERAL BONUSES AFTER FIXING STATE'S FOOD STAMP SYSTEM

LINCOLN — Nebraska has earned another $1.7 million in federal performance bonuses after regaining its top-tier ranking in processing food stamp applications.

Officials announced Thursday that the state will get nearly $1.35 million for fiscal year 2017 and $335,846 for the previous year.

Nebraska earned the money for above-average accuracy in denying applications and ending benefits to households that do not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The state ranked second-best nationally in 2017 and fourth-best in 2016.

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UNMC HELPS CREATE ROAD MAP TO TREAT STAPH INFECTIONS THAT CUT ANTIBIOTIC USE

One of the challenges of treating patients with staph bacteria in their bloodstreams, a potentially deadly infection, is to figure out the “sweet spot.”

Too little antibiotics, and the drugs won’t get the job done, said Dr. Mark Rupp, professor and chief of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s infectious diseases division. Too much, and they can not only cause side effects but also drive antibiotic resistance.

So researchers, including a team at UNMC, tested a clinical algorithm that helps doctors sort patients by the complexity of their infections and determine what course of drugs they need. Rupp described the algorithm as a kind of road map to help guide clinicians down the treatment pathway.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP NOMINATES BRIAN C. BUESCHER AS FEDERAL JUDGE FOR DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump nominated Brian C. Buescher of Omaha, Nebraska to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Nebraska Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) recommended Mr. Buescher to the president for this judgeship.

“Brian Buescher has had a successful legal career. His background, experience, and judicial philosophy are the reasons I recommended him to President Trump for this judgeship. I look forward to a fair and swift Senate confirmation process so that Mr. Buescher can soon serve on the Nebraska federal bench,” said Senator Fischer. 

Currently, Buescher is a partner at Kutak Rock LLP where he leads the firm’s agribusiness litigation team. He also practices in the areas of environmental, food law, real estate, product liability, and banking. Buescher graduated from the University of Nebraska Lincoln with a B.A. in Political Science and Economics. He received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

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DEMOCRATS' FUED ESCALATES, FINDS CRUCIAL VOTES IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Omaha. NE.—The feud between two top Democratic officials, first reported by News Channel Nebraska, is now bleeding into an early voting controversy with threats of potentially dire Election Day consequences for Democrats up and down the ballot, most significantly Congressional hopeful Kara Eastman.

In an email to her party’s candidates in Douglas County, Democratic County Chair Crystal Rhoades accuses Democratic State Chair Jane Kleeb of “jeopardizing every single candidate in this county.”

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SEWER AGENCY PICKS PAPILLION AREA AS FIRST BENEFICIARY

The Sarpy County and Cities Wastewater Agency voted unanimously Sept. 5 to designate an area bounded roughly by 60th and 84th streets south of Highway 370 as the first place that sewer infrastructure will be installed.

Don Kelly, chairman of the Sarpy County Board, who also serves as chairman of the wastewater agency, said the area was chosen because it offers the best opportunity for rapid growth.

“This first segment alone will add 760 acres for industrial development and 1,760 acres for residential development,” Kelly said in a news release.

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VOTERS WILL DETERMINE MEDICAID COVERAGE FOR 90,000 NEBRASKANS

Nebraska voters will decide next month whether Medicaid coverage should be extended to an estimated 90,000 adult Nebraskans, most of whom work in low-paying jobs.

They include food service and retail sales workers who do not qualify for Medicaid assistance now and cannot afford to purchase private health care insurance. After seven years of frustration and failure in the Legislature, supporters launched an initiative petition drive that collected more than 100,000 signatures statewide to place the issue on the November ballot and hand the decision over to Nebraska voters. 

While supporters argue that the proposal would fuel an economic boom in the state by accessing more than a billion dollars in federal funding while extending needed health care coverage to Nebraskans described as the working poor, opponents contend that state matching fund costs would disrupt the state budget and crowd out other spending priorities.

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NONPROFIT THAT AIMS TO LOWER DRUG PRICES IS 'DISRUPTION' THE INDUSTRY NEEDS, CHI HEALTH EXEC SAYS

First hospitals had to hunt down or find work-arounds for certain types of IV fluids that were in short supply. More recently, some pain medications have been hard to get.

To address shortages and high prices for some older drugs, a group of seven large health systems and three philanthropic groups recently launched a new nonprofit generic drug company called Civica Rx.

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NEBRASKA'S STATE COLLEGES HAVE A NEW LEADER

A South Dakotan with ties to Nebraska received the nod Monday to serve as chancellor of Nebraska’s state college system.

The State College Board of Trustees named Paul D. Turman its next leader late Monday afternoon. The trustees oversee Wayne, Peru and Chadron State Colleges, and Turman will be the CEO of that system.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity,” Turman, 46, said in a brief interview.

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THE FUTURE OF ELECTRIC CARS IS BRIGHTER WITH ELON MUSK IN IT

Elon Musk’s decision to settle fraud charges against him — by paying a $20 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission and agreeing to step down as the chairman of Tesla, the company he co-founded — is the best possible outcome for both investors in Tesla and anyone who cares about the future of electric vehicles.

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Links of Interest

Nebraska Government

nebraska congressional delegation

National Organizations

Nebraska Newspapers

Nebraska Elections

National Lobbying Resources