Articles of Interest

SASSE TEMPTS TRMP'S WRATH BY REFUSING TO BOW

Ben Sasse has so far been spared the public floggings that Donald Trump inflicted on two since-vanquished GOP critics in the Senate, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker.

But that could soon change. As the “never Trump” faction of the Republican Party dwindles to a lonely few, the Nebraska senator has shown little interest in backing down – leaving him vulnerable to a Trump-fueled primary challenge in 2020, when he’s up for reelection.

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PETE RICKETTS DENIES RUMORS OF POSSIBLE RUN FOR BEN SASSE'S SEAT

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts denied speculation on Monday that he might challenge U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse in two years.

The governor also ruled out running for the office even if Sasse decides against seeking re-election in 2020.

“If I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected, I plan to be governor for the whole term,” Ricketts told reporters, adding later that he has the “best job in the world.”

The Republican governor is running for a second term in the state’s top office this year. If he wins, he would be barred by the Nebraska Constitution from seeking a third term in office.

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MINNESOTA PIPELINE THREATENS 'STANDING ROCK' REPEAT

Weeks after Minnesota regulators approved the replacement of an oil pipeline that crosses the state, Native American and environmental groups are starting to oppose the project with a similar playbook to a failed effort to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

"All of us were at Standing Rock,” the site of the Dakota Access pipeline protests, said Ms. LaDuke, a co-founder of Honor the Earth, a Native American environmental group. “They’re a long ways from getting a pipe.”

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NEW EPA HEAD VOWS TO BE 'STABILIZING FORCE' AFTER PRUITT TURMOIL

Energy companies and trade groups harbor one big hope for the new leader of the Environmental Protection Agency: a steady hand.

Gone is Scott Pruitt, an outsider who became famous for multiple scandals, political ambition and antagonizing the agency he led. His acting replacement as EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has been a Washington insider for almost 30 years. Before becoming Mr. Pruitt’s deputy in the spring, Mr. Wheeler was a behind-the-scenes adviser, lobbyist and policy wonk, known for being friendly even to junior staffers and strident political foes.

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BIG BANKS RESHAPE LOBBYING

On Monday, two trade groups representing some of the largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., joined forces to seek regulatory relief for an industry that remains tainted by the 2008 crash and more recent sales-practice scandals at Wells Fargo & Co.

The new Bank Policy Institute—merging the Clearing House and Financial Services Roundtable—will represent 48 of the largest banks, a group that notched a limited win in the banking bill signed by President Donald Trump in May, which was more focused on regulatory relief for medium to small banks.

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LOOSER GUN RESTRICTIONS AMONG NEW NEBRASKA LAWS SLATED TO GO INTO EFFECT ON THRUSDAY

Nebraska will see a flurry of new state laws take effect this week, including safeguards to fight prescription painkiller abuse, looser gun regulations and a policy that will make it easier to massage horses for money.

The 117 laws will go into effect Thursday, three months after this year's legislative session adjourned and the end of the normal grace period for new state statutes.

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NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE CANDIDATE MACHAELA CAVANAUGH HAS A BABY BOY

LINCOLN — In what may be a first for Nebraska, a woman running for the State Legislature had a baby during the campaign.

Machaela Cavanaugh and her husband, Nick Brotzel, announced the birth of their son on Monday. Barrett Lee Brotzel was born July 10 and weighed in at 8 pounds, 15 ounces, according to a statement from the campaign. He joins sisters Della, 4, and Harriet, 3.

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nEBRASKA LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES SPENT COMBINED $2 MILLION IN PRIMARY, SMASHED OLD RECORDS

LINCOLN — Nebraska legislative campaigns shattered spending records during this year’s primary election.For the first time ever, candidates’ combined spending topped $2 million.

Average spending per candidate hit $34,020 — more than double the average from just eight years earlier. And the top spending candidate, State Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, poured $164,311 into this year’s primary, more than twice as much as she spent during the whole election cycle in 2014.

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WHY DO PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS NOT ALWAYS TAKE THEIR MEDICATION

In Nebraska, more than 17 percent of adults are affected by mental illness in a given year, which translates to about 325,000 people. And many of them are on some type of medication, medications that frequently create other problems, different problems that can be major or minor. 

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oPIOID PRESCRIPTION RATE AMONG SOME NEBRASKANS DROPS NEARLY 20%, BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD SAYS

The opioid prescription rate fell nearly 20 percent among Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska members from 2014 to 2017, as the medical community nationwide responded to an epidemic of abuse and overdoses on the potent painkillers, the company says.

“There has been a lot more attention given by providers to their patients who may be misusing the drugs, filling too frequently, filling before they’ve run out, or maybe having symptoms of withdrawal,” said Dr. Debra Esser, the insurer's medical director. “Doctors are sitting down and having a frank discussion with their patients about opioid misuse disorder so that they can get into the proper treatment programs.”

In the Lincoln area, that rate dropped nearly 25 percent, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield, which serves more than 700,000 Nebraskans and is the state's biggest health insurer. 

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u.s. aND ALLIES CONSIDER POSSIBLE OIL-RESERVE RELEASE

U.S. and Western officials are considering an eventual emergency release of stockpiled oil if new supplies can’t prevent another sharp rise in prices, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Trump administration is actively assessing whether to dip into the country’s emergency oil stocks while it simultaneously pushes other countries to boost their output, according to people familiar with the matter. The discussions are part of a broader effort to ensure oil markets remain well supplied amid a host of production disruptions around the world, and rising global demand.

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NEBRASKA BEAT EXPECTATIONS, COLLECTED $4.567 BILLION IN TAXES LAST FISCAL YEAR

LINCOLN — Nebraska closed out its fiscal year with more money than expected in the state coffers.

State revenue officials reported Friday that state tax collections for the year ended June 30 topped the most recent revenue forecast by $37 million. Net tax receipts for the year were $4.567 billion.The report brought good news following three tough budget years, and Gov. Pete Ricketts hailed the report.

“Rising incomes for Nebraska’s families and businesses are the highlight of this year’s revenue report, which is more evidence of the growth Nebraska has been experiencing,” he said. “Continued growth will allow us to continue our work on property tax relief.”

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rAYBOULD RAMPS UP FUNDRAISING TO FIGHT BETTER-FUNDED FISCHER IN NEBRASKA'S SENATE RACE

Democratic candidate Jane Raybould raised more than $500,000 from April 1 to June 30 for her race against U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska.

That leaves her with $480,000 in cash on hand heading into a fall campaign in which Fischer starts with built-in advantages in name ID and support. Raybould’s campaign says she expects to have enough money to compete. Her campaign manager, Hilary Nachem, said many Raybould donors have given in smaller amounts and can be tapped again to give as needed.

Fischer, as incumbents usually do, outraised her opponent in the year’s second quarter, gathering $722,000. Fischer heads into the fall with $2.75 million in cash on hand, her campaign says.

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bRAD ASHFORD SAYS HIS EMAILS WERE HACKED, TOO, SHOWING HOW DEEP RUSSIAN MEDDLED IN 2016

WASHINGTON — Then-Rep. Brad Ashford got the call in the summer of 2016, shortly before Congress headed home for its August break.

Hackers had broken into the computer network of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and stolen materials — including emails between the group and Ashford’s re-election campaign.

The Omaha congressman could already see the political environment was souring for his side, with Democrats deeply divided over the presidential primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

And now on top of that, the Russians know my strategy, he thought.

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sENATORS BEGIN DEEP DIVE INTO SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA

The chairman of the Legislature's Education Committee called together a working group of state lawmakers who have introduced property tax reduction packages, with the goal of studying Nebraska's school funding formula. 

Friday, the working group of senators, legislative staffers and those with a perspective on the history or the shortcomings of the formula huddled in a committee room at the Capitol for its first meeting.

There, Legislative Fiscal Office staffers Tom Bergquist and Sandy Sostad walked through the function and history of the state aid formula, from the state's revenue crisis in 1967 to a snapshot of how Nebraska schools are funded today.

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tRANSCANADA TO MOVE MATERIALS, PREP SITES FOR KEYSTONE XL

PIERRE, S.D. — The Keystone XL oil pipeline developer said in a letter this week to a Native American tribal chairman that the company will start moving materials and preparing construction sites for the project in Montana and South Dakota.

TransCanada Corp. said in the letter to Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier, of South Dakota, that the work would start in July and go through the fall. The chairman Thursday tweeted copies of TransCanada's message and his response on the tribe's letterhead: "We will be waiting."

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pRISON CHIEF SHOULD BE FIRED, SAYS NEBRASKA'S DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR, BOB KRIST

LINCOLN — The Democratic challenger for Nebraska governor called upon Gov. Pete Ricketts to fire the prison director Thursday, laying blame for an overcrowded correctional system that has produced deadly riots, officer assaults and high rates of staff turnover.

But corrections officials refused to allow State Sen. Bob Krist to make his announcement from the parking lot of the Tecumseh State Prison as the candidate had intended. So Krist moved the press conference to a driveway leading to the prison property.

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TRADE DISRUPTIONS ARE PUTTING NATION'S HEALTHY ECONOMY AT RISK, UNION PACIFIC'S CEO SAYS

WASHINGTON — From the threat of NAFTA withdrawal to the ongoing tariff battles, trade disruptions are threatening to undermine an otherwise robust economy, the head of Union Pacific said Thursday.

“The decisions made here in Washington about trade affect my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and all of our citizens,” Lance Fritz said at the National Press Club. “It affects the 7,300 communities that Union Pacific serves.”

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'aGRICULTURE IS OUR ECONOMIC ENGINE IN NEBRASKA': SEN. DEB FISCHER TALKS TARIFFS, BROADBAND, FARM BILL

KEARNEY — U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer said she is “pushing” President Donald Trump to protect agriculture producers.

“My message is always, ‘This doesn’t just affect our ag producers in Nebraska. It affects our entire state because agriculture is our economic engine in Nebraska,” Fischer said about her ongoing conversations with the president about trade agreements, specifically North America Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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gRAND ISLAND CHAMBER SAYS TRADE WAR WOULD HURT LOCAL ECONOMY

The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, along with the United States Chamber of Commerce, has expressed concerns that new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration could spark a global trade war and threaten to derail Grand Island’s and the nation’s economy.

“We are very concerned about it,” said Cindy Johnson, president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce. “We do not need to look any further than our community to see what the impact of tariffs would be on our businesses that export.”

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STATE LAWYER SEEKS TO AVOID GIVING RECORDS TO AG IN ACLU'S NEBRASKA PRISON SUIT

LINCOLN — A state lawyer who investigates prison complaints for the Nebraska Legislature has asked a judge not to make him reveal records in an inmate overcrowding lawsuit.

State Ombudsman Marshall Lux recently filed the motion to quash a subpoena issued by the office of Attorney General Doug Peterson. The attorney general is defending corrections officials in a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Nebraska aimed at reducing the state’s severely overcrowded prison population.

In his capacity as public counsel, Lux investigates complaints against state governmental agencies, including corrections. In addition, Lux oversees the inspector general for the Department of Correctional Services, which also conducts investigations and files reports with the Legislature.

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lINCOLN COUNCIL OKs LIQUOR LICENSE FOR COSMIC EYE BREWING; STILL NEEDS FINAL OK

Cosmic Eye Brewing, a new Lincoln brewery that hopes to open in August, got approval for its license from the Lincoln City Council at Monday’s meeting.

The potential legal stumbling for selling and serving alcohol — being within 300 feet of a college — does not exist.

The brewery, at 6800 P St. in East Park Plaza, is less than 300 feet from Joseph’s College of Beauty, but the private school does not meet the state’s definition for a college under liquor-licensing laws.

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oIL'S NEW TECHNOLOGY SPELLS END OF BOOM FOR ROUGHNECKS

After 20 years in the oil-and-gas industry, Eric Neece was used to its booms and busts. He wasn’t surprised when he was laid off by GE Oil & Gas in Conroe, Texas, in 2015 after oil prices plummeted. He figured his job would come back when prices crept back up.

He was almost right. The work came back. But Mr. Neece’s former job as a well logger—measuring well conditions thousands of feet underground—was gone. Those duties are increasingly being overseen remotely and handled by automation.

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AVERAGE GAS PRICE NEARS $3 A GALLON, RAISING WORRIES FOR U.S. ECONOMY

The highest retail gasoline prices in years are the latest development to raise concerns about one of the longest-running U.S. economic expansions on record.

Drivers across the U.S. in May paid as much as $2.96 a gallon on average, the most since 2014. Prices have climbed to $3.63 in California and $3.39 in Washington, states where prices tend to be higher because of factors such as higher taxes, environmental regulations and a lack of pipelines that transport oil west. As of Monday, the national average was $2.86 a gallon.

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DUST BOWL ECONOMICS

EDITORIAL OPINION- When pork prices collapsed amid a global trade war during the Great Depression, the Roosevelt Administration in 1933 had an idea—slaughter six million piglets. Put a floor under prices by destroying supply. It didn’t work. Now the Trump Administration may try its own version of Depressionomics by using the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to support crop prices walloped by the Trump tariffs: Hurt farmers and then put them on the government dole. How about not hurting them in the first place?

That’s the question as Mr. Trump escalates his trade war, on Wednesday proposing 10% tariffs on $200 billion in additional Chinese goods. China says it is “shocked” by the new border taxes and will look to retaliate again—and no doubt U.S. agriculture will again be one of its main targets.

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OIL TUMBLES ON LIBYA'S RETURNING SUPPLY

U.S. crude had its worst day in a year Wednesday despite a larger-than-expected weekly drop in inventories after Libya indicated it would resume export activities at its eastern ports, potentially easing fears of a global supply shortage.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery fell $3.73, or 5%, to $70.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange—its largest one-day percentage drop since June 2017 after it rose in eight of the 10 sessions entering Wednesday. Brent crude, the global benchmark, dropped $5.46, or 6.9%, to $73.40, its worst day since February 2016.

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oN ANNIVERSARY OF SETH RICH'S DEATH, FAMILY FOCUSES ON SERVICE OVER CONSPIRACY THEORIES

WASHINGTON — It’s been two years since Omaha native Seth Rich was gunned down near his home in the nation’s capital.

While police have suggested that Rich was most likely the victim of a botched robbery, his work at the Democratic National Committee quickly spawned a host of Internet conspiracy theories that eventually found their way on to Fox News.

His grieving parents, Joel and Mary Rich, meanwhile, have sought to keep the focus on their son’s life, highlighting his caring nature and devotion to civic causes.

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MCCOLLISTER SEEKS SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION TO COLLECT ONLINE SALES TAX

Sen. John McCollister of Omaha has acquired the signatures of 10 state senators that are required to attempt to summon the Legislature into a special session to enact legislation to begin collecting state sales taxes already owed on online purchases.

But McCollister acknowledged that "it's a long shot to get the 33 signatures" that would then be needed in response to a survey of all of his 48 colleagues to summon the Legislature back to Lincoln to deal with the issue.

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tRUMP ADMINISTRATION SLASHES FUNDS FOR ACA OUTREACH

Most of the funding for an Affordable Care Act outreach program is being cut by the Trump administration, a move announced late Tuesday that touched off an angry response from Democrats who called it another attempt to sabotage the health law.

The program, which provides money to outreach groups urging people to sign up for plans on the ACA exchanges, will get $10 million in federal funding for the 2019 open enrollment period, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees implementation of the ACA. That is down from $36 million in 2018 and almost $63 million in 2017.

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NIOCORP NOW SAYS IT WON'T NEED TO PUMP SALT WATER INTO MISSOURI RIVER

he company working to build a rare metals mine in Southeast Nebraska now says it will not need to build a pipeline to the Missouri River to discharge salt water.

Niocorp Developments Ltd. said Tuesday that ongoing engineering work shows the pipeline is no longer needed. Niocorp, which is based in Centennial, Colorado, is in the process of raising money to construct a mine to extract niobium, scandium and titanium at a site near Elk Creek in Johnson County, about 70 miles southeast of Lincoln. The company needs about $1 billion to get the mine up and running and has said it would produce pre-tax cash flow of more than $400 million a year and employ several hundred people.

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SENATORS FILE SUIT TO BLOCK MEDICAID EXPANSION FROM APPEARING ON BALLOT

Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft and former Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial filed a lawsuit Tuesday attempting to block Nebraska's proposed Medicaid expansion initiative from reaching the general election ballot.The lawsuit, filed in Lancaster County District Court after Medicaid expansion supporters completed a petition drive that appears to have gathered sufficient signatures to win a slot on the November ballot, raises a number of claims that the petitions have failed to meet all legal requirements.

Brasch, Nebraska's Republican national committeewoman, is listed as a plaintiff who is "opposed to the Medicaid expansion petition because of the negative impact it will have on property taxes in Nebraska."

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u.s. eXPORTERS WILL BE A SURPRISE LOSER FROM TARIFF FIGHT

Who’s the biggest loser when tariffs are imposed on imports? The surprising answer: exporters.

Though completely counterintuitive, theory and evidence show that taxes on imports act just like a tax on exports.Though it’s early, the Trump administration’s recent round of tariffs is already rippling out to exporters: Soybean farmers face plunging prices as China raises tariffs, Harley-Davidson will move production of motorcycles destined for the European Union out of the U.S., and BMW says foreign retaliation may hit exports from its South Carolina plant.

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PAPILLION SENATOR JIM SMTIH RESIGNS FROM LEGISLATURE EARLY TO TAKE O NEW ROLE WITH ECONOMIC GROUP

LINCOLN — A Papillion senator has resigned from the Legislature early to lead a new organization dedicated to setting a unified course for the state’s economic future.

Blueprint Nebraska said Monday that Jim Smith will be the organization’s first executive director.Smith, who is term-limited, was first elected to the Legislature in 2010. During his time in Lincoln, Smith served as the chairman of the Revenue Committee and the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

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SARPY COUNTY, CITIES TAKE FIRST STEPS IN $220 MILLION SEWER EXPANSION

An agency tasked with bringing sewer service to the southern half of Sarpy County has been busy since it began meeting last November. The Sarpy County and Sarpy Cities Wastewater Agency hired legal counsel, selected a financial institution, formed a draft of its roughly $367,000 budget and hired planning and engineering consultants. The county is providing all of the funds to start.

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tRUMP ADMINISTRATION COULD FREEZE ACA RISK-ADJUSTMENT PAYOUTS

The Trump administration is expected to suspend an Affordable Care Act program that plays a key role in the health law’s insurance markets, a move that could deal a financial blow to many insurers that expect payments. The suspension of some payouts under the program, known as risk adjustment, could come in the wake of a recent decision by a federal judge in New Mexico, who ruled that part of its implementation was flawed and hadn’t been adequately justified by federal regulators, people familiar with the plans said.

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HIGHWAY 275 SEGMENT ON STATE'S PRIORITY LIST FOR 2019

Gov. Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska Department of Transportation revealed Thursday a record-setting $600 million in infrastructure projects slated for construction across the state.

And more than a few Northeast Nebraskans were pleased to see that 20 miles of Highway 275 expressway construction Scribner to West Point was on the list for the coming year. For example, Josh Moenning, executive director of the 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska coalition based in Norfolk, said, "After decades of inaction on a state promise to taxpayers, we're pleased to see concrete plans for expanding Highway 275.  We need to make sure the momentum continues to complete the entire stretch and finish -- once and for all -- Nebraska's longest unfinished expressway project."

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ACTING EPA CHIEF VOWS TO STAY COURSE ON PRESIDENT'S PRIORITIES

The acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday he plans to stick with President Donald Trump’s priorities, including changing the Clean Power Plan, de-emphasizing climate-change initiatives and improving how the agency deals with polluters and environmental crises. The agency’s new chief, the former coal and energy lobbyist and ex-EPA staffer Andrew Wheeler, said in an interview that the agency won’t shift from the direction established by Scott Pruitt, who resigned the post a day earlier.

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TARIFFS HIT TRUMP COUNTIES HARDER

The fallout from President Donald Trump’s tariffs and China’s countertariffs—which formally went into effect on Friday—will have the greatest impact on the U.S. counties that voted Mr. Trump into office. The U.S. tariffs on China will initially hit about $34 billion of goods, with plans in place to raise that total to $50 billion. The tariffs will fall mostly on Chinese aerospace products, information technology, auto parts and medical instruments. 

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NEBRASKA'S CATHOLIC BISHOPS COME OUT AGAINST STATE'S EXECUTION PLANS

Nebraska’s three Catholic bishops don’t want to see the state resume executions. Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln and Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island issued a joint statement Friday opposing the execution of convicted murderer Carey Dean Moore. Instead, the bishops said, the state should respond to violence “with an act of mercy that does not endanger public safety or compromise the demands of justice.

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TRAFFIC SIGNALS ON HIGHWAY 370, WEST MAPLE REPAIRS: RICKETTS ANNOUNCES $600 MILLION FOR ROADS

Speaking over the sounds of cars and trucks zooming on the highway behind him, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced $600 million will be invested in Nebraska’s infrastructure system in fiscal year 2019.The amount is a record for the state, and the money will go toward more than 90 projects in rural and urban areas.The projects are outlined in the Department of Transportation’s Program Book for fiscal years 2019-2024. Some of the projects will be new, others will preserve current assets and some money will go to new technology.

The $600 million comes from state and federal funding.

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NATION SHORT OF TRUCKERS TURNS TO YOUNG VETS UNDER FEDERAL PILOT PROGRAM ANNOUNCED IN OMAHA

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao visited Omaha on Tuesday to announce a new pilot program to help qualified young veterans get jobs in the trucking industry without additional training.

State transportation officials also gave Chao and her hosts, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and Rep. Don Bacon, both Nebraska Republicans, an update on construction of the Lincoln South Beltway, a project to help some truck traffic avoid driving through Lincoln.The federal pilot jobs program would allow 18- to 20-year-old veterans and reservists with the military equivalent of a commercial driver’s license to drive large trucks across state lines, a job typically limited to those age 21 and older.

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NEBRASKA'S CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER AND PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR WILL RETIRE IN AUGUST

LINCOLN — Dr. Tom Williams announced Thursday that he will retire as Nebraska’s chief medical officer and public health director. His last day will be Aug. 3.

Gov. Pete Ricketts praised the job Williams has done leading the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health during the past year and a half.

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oMAHA STRIP CLUBS OWNER SUES OVER NEW LAW, CALLS IT UNCONSTITUTIONAL

LINCOLN — As promised, Omaha strip club owner Shane Harrington has sued the State Legislature and several other state officials, claiming that they conspired to shut down nude dancing at his establishments for moral and religious reasons.

In his lawsuit, Harrington maintained that a state law passed this spring to regulate “bottle clubs” like his was not only unconstitutional, but based “entirely upon rumor, innuendo, false and misleading speculation, ignorance, outdated, inaccurate, and sexist stereotypes, and discrimination ...”

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OIL PRICES SETTLE HIGHER ON SUPPLY CONSTRAINTS

Oil prices closed higher after a volatile session Tuesday, as supply disruptions lifted the market to three-year highs before reversing on anticipation of higher production.

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IS TELEHEALTH THE ANSWER TO NEBRASKA'S MENTAL HEALTH CARE SHORTAGE?

Nebraska won't erase its shortage of mental health care providers outside the state's major cities by simply trying to attract them to rural communities.The answer, said Dr. Thomas Magnuson, is telehealth, a secure videoconferencing technology that links patients and providers.

"I just think that there's no other way that this could be solved," said Magnuson, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who has used telehealth for 14 years to reach patients as far from Omaha as the Panhandle. Nearly one-third of the state's 93 counties have no mental health care providers, and 88 counties have a shortage, according to UNMC.

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MORE STUDENTS ARE GETTING SPECIAL HELP IN GRADES K-12

More students are getting extra help for a range of issues including ADHD and anxiety, data show, with a disproportionate amount of those receiving support attending schools in wealthier districts.

From the 2009-10 school year to 2015-16, the number of public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade granted accommodations known as 504 plans more than doubled, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data.

504 plans are designed to level the academic playing field for K-12 students who face a variety of physical and emotional challenges by providing services such as extended time for tests, including college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT.

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rICKETT'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER SELLS HER BUSINESS, BUT STILL WILL WORK TO RE-ELECT GOVERNOR

LINCOLN — Jessica Flanagain, the campaign manager for Gov. Pete Ricketts’ 2018 re-election campaign, has taken a new job as a senior vice president at a nationwide political consulting company. But Flanagain said her new position with Kansas City-based Axiom Strategies won’t change her role with the Ricketts campaign“My primary focus is Gov. Ricketts and his re-election,” she said Thursday. “I’m excited about the opportunity to work with the other professionals at Axiom, but my responsibilities and commitment to the governor’s re-election don’t change.”

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gRACE: 'WE ARE ALL AMERICANS'- ON FOURTH OF JULY, NEIGHBORS FIND COMMON GROUND DESPITE POLITICAL DIVIDE

Before the Field Club neighborhood’s annual Fourth of July parade Wednesday down an Omaha street so Americana it would make Norman Rockwell weep, neighbors will be preparing. They’ll be tying ribbons onto bicycles, squeezing kids into costumes, setting up lawn chairs and, for at least two families here, making a pledge to not let the political division roiling the nation bleed onto Woolworth Avenue.

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VANDALISM AT STATE GOP HEADQUARTERS IN LINCOLN FUELS CONSPIRACY THEORIES

The facts of Tuesday’s $1,200 political vandalism of the Nebraska Republican Party headquarters in Lincoln are a conspiracy theorist’s dream. Two bricks. Multiple strikes of a window. A Pikachu-shaped hole in the front glass of the GOP office. Graffiti on the sidewalk screaming a rising call of immigration advocates: “ABOLISH ICE.”Security cameras at the business where the bricks were likely stolen, out of service. No immediate arrests. Police still seeking videos and witnesses.

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DON WALTON: REPUBLICANS DOMINATE DEMOCRATS IN HARDBALL

Redistricting U.S. House seats to favor, if not actually ensure, GOP majority control; tightening and shaping voter eligibility requirements; rushing to fill the courts with conservative judges young enough to serve for decades after slow-walking former President Barack Obama's list of judicial nominees.

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NEBRASKA'S LEADERS IN CONGRESS PRESS AIR FORCE FOR ANSWERS ON OFFUT'S AGING RECON PLANES

Nebraska’s congressional delegation is seeking answers about safety and maintenance at Offutt’s 55th Wing following a World-Herald investigative report. Several members of Congress including Rep. Don Bacon, a retired brigadier general who commanded the 55th Wing in 2011-12, signed a letter to the Air Force Secretary asking for clarification on what the plan is to maintain these assets.

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POLICE: MENTAL HEALTH INVESTIGATIONS IN LINCOLN INCREASING

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Lincoln police are struggling to respond to more mental health calls as mental health services are at or near capacity, according to police officials. The Lincoln Police Chief told City Council about an officer who was forced to drive 100 miles to get someone the mental health resources they needed. 

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UNMC'S MUNROE-MEYER INSTITUTE WILL MOVE TO FORMER FIRST DATA SITE AFTER $85.1 MILLION RENOVATION

The Munroe-Meyer Institute works out of a 60-year-old building, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center plans to give it a new home. MMI is a program for people with disabilities and complex health needs. The institute won the right to move from the NU Board of Regents vote last week. As for the funding about $68 million will be private funding and $10 million will be state money. 

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TRUMP ASKS SAUDI ARABIA TO PUMP MORE OIL, CITING HIGH PRICES

The intervention comes as global demand is rising, inventories of stored oil are falling and a number of supply disruptions—in Canada, Iran, Libya and Venezuela—have tightened markets.

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AMAZON'S PILLPACK DEAL GIVES IT ACCESS TO SENSITIVE HEALTH DATA

Last week’s acquisition of online pharmacy startup PillPack will give Amazon insight into people’s prescriptions, putting the tech company into the highly regulated realm of health information with more restrictions than it is accustomed to on data-mining. Amazon paid roughly $1 billion for the company, beating out Walmart, and will now be able to send prescription drugs through the mail in 49 states. 

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LPS WORKS TO PINPOINT MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS, PROVIDE THERAPY TO KEEP CHAOS OUT OF CLASSROOMS

Child Guidance has had therapists working in Lincoln Public Schools for more than 15 years; Family Service for 14. Today, therapists from both organizations have offices in 30 LPS schools. Family Service also has therapists in five schools in Saunders County and therapists from both agencies have group therapy programs at certain high schools and middle schools. 

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MEDICAID EXPANSION PETITION NEARS FINISH LINE, SETTING UP NOVEMBER VOTE

Lincoln - Backers of a Medicaid expansion petition drive expressed confidence Thursday that they will get the proposal before Nebraska voters this fall. To make the ballot the proposal needs 85,000 total signatures and must have 5% of the total registered voting population in 38 different counties. The proposal is called 'Insure the Good Life' and if passed would spread Medicaid to about 90,000 low income Nebraskans. 

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ELON MUSK RACES TO EXIT TESLA'S 'PRODUCTION HELL'

FREMONT, Calif.- Tesla has about 40,000 employees and a market value of $58 billion, rivaling General Motors Co. but has not been able to reach its production quotas. Musk hopes he is close to solving the problem and getting to his goal of producing 5,000 S3's a week. 

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LINCOLN SALES TAX REVENUE COULD GROW BY A MILLION OR MORE

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision authorizing states to collect sales tax on online purchases made by local residents could benefit Lincoln city government, which has a 1.5 percent city sales tax. There are no set plans for the up to $2.4 million per year in revenue this new tax could bring in. 

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BH MEDIA CEO AND WORLD-HERALD PUBLISHER TERRY KROEGER WILL LEAVE, SEEKS 'OUR NEXT ADVENTURE'

Terry Kroeger is stepping down as chairman and chief executive officer of BH Media Group as a result of a new management agreement with Lee Enterprises, ending a 33-year career with the Omaha World-Herald. Kroeger will remain with the newspaper for a short transition period and then plans to find another job preferably in the civic leadership sector of Omaha. 

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MECA REFUSES TO NAME OTHER COMPANIES THAT BID TO RENAME CENTURYLINK CENTER

When it comes to renaming the CenturyLink Center as the CHI Health Center, MECA says it accepted the highest bid and for the longest term, although it wouldn’t say what other companies bid on the rights to rename the city-owned facility. CHI Health had the best offer at $23.6 million for 20 years MECA said while claiming releasing anymore information would "chill" other companies from bidding in the future.

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'HONOR RESTORED' CEREMONY SALUTES FIRST GRADUATES OF DIVERSION PROGRAM FOR VETERANS

The first four people to complete Nebraska’s first problem-solving court program for military veterans graduated Wednesday in Omaha in a ceremony that treated them like champions. There are 220 such courts in the country and this one was the first one in Nebraska, founded in 2016 under a two year pilot. 

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NU DEFENSE RESEARCH A POINT OF PRIDE FOR ALL NEBRASKANS

The University of Nebraska recently announced that it had won a $92 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to continue its research in combating weapons of mass destruction and keeping our servicemen and women safe.

"The government has the University of Nebraska on speed dial in the fight against terrorism" said NU President Hank Bounds

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LINCOLN OFFICIALS SEEK SOLUTIONS TO KEEP PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS OUT OF JAIL, PRISON

The county's Mental Health Diversion program, started in August 2016 as a pilot program aimed at keeping people with serious mental illness from entering or returning to court for nonviolent, misdemeanor crimes.

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AG'S GOODWILL PROBE FAULTS EXCESSIVE PAY THAT HARMED MISSION BUT SAYS NONPROFIT IS BACK ON TRACK

LINCOLN — Even as Goodwill Omaha drifted from its mission, the number of needy clients served fell and employee morale plummeted, the inattentive trustees of the nonprofit continued to heap bonuses and other excessive pay on CEO Frank McGree.

AG Doug Peterson was able to convince the nonprofit to reduce its governing board from 20 to 13 and to change some of their business practices.

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NEBRASKA COULD START COLLECTING ONLINE SALES TAXES WITHOUT SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION

LINCOLN — The speaker of the Nebraska Legislature said Tuesday that he supports calling a special session, if it is necessary, to allow the state to begin collecting sales taxes from Internet retailers. An extra session could cost up to $100,000 for what could potentially be solved with a simple letter to online retailers. 

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SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY RETIRING; TRUMP WILL GET 2ND HIGH-COURT PICK

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (81 yrs old) announced his retirement Wednesday, giving President Donald Trump the chance to cement conservative control of the high court. Kennedy's retirement will take place at the end of July and will make room for President Trump to appoint another justice. 

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IN BIG SETBACK TO LABOR UNIONS, SUPREME COURT RULES GOVERNMENT WORKERS CAN'T BE FORCED TO PAY FOR COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that government workers can't be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining, dealing a serious financial blow to organized labor.

"There is no sugarcoating today's opinion. The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation's law - and its economic life - for over 40 years." said Justice Elena Kagan

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OMAHA-BASED VOTING MACHINE VENDOR ES&S TREATED ELECTION OFFICIALS TO TRIPS TO VEGAS, ELSEWHERE

WASHINGTON — The nation’s largest voting equipment vendor has for at least nine years coaxed state and local elections officials to serve on an “advisory board” that gathers twice annually for company-sponsored conferences, including one last year at a ritzy Las Vegas resort hotel. This arrangement has led many to worry about the ethical dilemma and potential for interference with elections. 

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NEBRASKA DEMOCRATS TAKE PLATFORM ON THE LEFT ON ABORTION, GUNS, AND HEALTH CARE

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Democratic Party pushed its platform to the left Saturday, adopting new sections supporting abortion rights, raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 and a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system. The party had a statewide convention this weekend where they discussed several issues as well as electing chair positions.

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SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN ENDORSES KARA EASTMAN FOR OMAHA-AREA HOUSE SEAT

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the most prominent leaders of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, has endorsed Kara Eastman.

“Our country needs strong, compassionate leaders like Kara,” Warren said

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JANE RAYBOULD SHARPENS KNIVES FOR SEN. DEB FISCHER ON AG TRADE, TARIFFS, TRUMP

BLAIR, Neb. — Democratic Senate nominee Jane Raybould sharpened her attacks on Republican Sen. Deb Fischer on Wednesday from the gravel drive of a Nebraska farm. Fischer, she said, has been ineffective in protecting Nebraska agriculture from President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and actions on trade.

“This is a Washington-made trade crisis that is hurting Nebraska farmers,” Raybould said. 

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REP. DON BACON SAYS TRUMP HAS BEEN TRANSPARENT ON ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION

Many Omaha-area voters expressed frustration Saturday with President Donald Trump and his policy of detaining immigrant children along the southern U.S. border. Bacon held a town hall meeting in Springfield which was dominated by questions about Trumps immigration practices

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STATES CAN REQUIRE INTERNET SALES TAX COLLECTION, SUPREME COURT RULES

The U.S. Supreme Court freed states and local governments to start collecting billions of dollars in sales taxes from internet retailers that don’t currently charge tax to their customers.Siding with states and traditional retailers on a 5-4 vote, the court overturned a 1992 ruling that had made much of the internet a tax-free zone. That decision had shielded retailers from tax-collection duties if they didn’t have a physical presence in a state.

Writing for the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the 1992 ruling, which involved catalog sales, was "unsound" and obsolete in the e-commerce era.

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GOV. PETE RICKETTS' APPOINTEES NOW DOMINATE NEBRASKA SUPREME COURT

LINCOLN — With the appointment of a county court judge, Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday filled the last vacancy on the Nebraska Supreme Court, he has now appointed 4 of the 7 supreme court positions.

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EDITORIAL: EFFECTIVENESS IN NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE REQUIRES INDEPENDENT JUDGEMENT,RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING

In partisan politics, it’s common to think of those in the other political party as the enemy — foes to be mocked, sometimes vilified, and opposed at every turn. That kind of thinking is common in the world of social media and is on display nightly on bombastic cable TV chat shows. However, with only 49 senators it takes 25 to pass a bill and 33 to override a filibuster which means passing a bill cant always be left vs. right. 

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RECORDS IDENTIFYING NEBRASKA'S LETHAL INJECTION DRUG SUPPLIER MUST BE RELEASED, JUDGE RULES

LINCOLN — Documents revealing the identity of Nebraska's lethal injection drug supplier are public and must be released, a judge said Monday in a ruling that delivered a partial victory for government transparency. The Omaha World-Herald, the Lincoln Journal Star and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska filed the public records lawsuit after a prison official refused to release the records.

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NEBRASKA HHS OFFICIALS CLARIFY ABORTION REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

LINCOLN — State officials have clarified when some family planning clinics must report emergency abortion referrals to the state and allow private patient records to be reviewed.

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GROUP OF NEBRASKA LAWMAKERS AIMS TO CREATE PROPERTY TAX BILL THAT 'WE CAN ALL AGREE ON'

LINCOLN — A group of state lawmakers hope to find this summer what eluded them during the legislative session — a property tax bill that can pass the Nebraska Legislature.

“We want people to know that we are working on it and we have learned our lesson, the goal is a bill we can all agree on at the end of the day.” said Sen. Mike Groene
 

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LATEST IN 'CONSTITUTIONAL TURF WAR': NEBRASKA SENATORS REFUSE OFFER TO SETTLE FIGHT OVER LETHAL INJECTION TESTIMONY

LINCOLN — More than Nebraska’s execution protocol was at stake on Monday when two branches of state government square off in what’s been called “a constitutional turf war.” Attorney General Doug Peterson claims the group of 16 senators abused their power when they issued the subpoena of Scott Frakes, director of the Department of Correctional Services, in relation to new lethal injection procedures. 

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NEBRASKA LAWMAKERS, AG ARGUE OVER SUBPOENA POWER IN DEATH PENALTY 'TURF WAR'

LINCOLN — Lawyers for the Nebraska Legislature and the attorney general traded blame Monday for allowing a constitutional showdown over the death penalty to end up in court.

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NPPD DISCOUNT FOR LONG-TERM POWER CONTRACTS UPHELD BY NEBRASKA SUPREME COURT

The Nebraska Public Power District was well within its rights to offer local and regional wholesale power customers discounts off of shared labor costs for signing long-term contracts, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday. The NPPD rate plan for 2016 set out to increase rates 0.6 percent for customers who signed long-term contracts and 3.8 percent for those who didn’t. Many felt the power provider was forcing them into a commitment which forced the case to be taken to the states highest court.

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RICKETTS, GUBERNATORIAL CHALLENGER KRIST TO FACE OFF IN DEBATE AT NEBRASKA STATE FAIR IN AUGUST

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist will face off in an hour long debate Aug. 30 at the Nebraska State Fair. The debate will be 3-4pm and sponsored by The Omaha World Herald and KMTV.

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Links of Interest

Nebraska Government

nebraska congressional delegation

National Organizations

Nebraska Newspapers

Nebraska Elections

National Lobbying Resources