Nebraska News

Nebraska state budget bills advance after spending debate
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have given initial approval to an $8.6 billion budget, with new spending for property tax reductions, education and a controversial dental-school project in Omaha. The first-round vote Thursday on this year's budget bills came after lawmakers learned that they will likely have more money at their disposal than expected. The two-year budget would increase annual state spending by an average of 3.1 percent. That's one of the lowest rates in three decades, but the percentage could increase if other spending bills pass. Lawmakers gave the main budget bill first-round approval on Thursday but continued to debate individual spending items into the evening.

Nebraska revenue forecast gives state another $9.7M
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers will have another $9.7 million at their disposal for legislation in this year's session. The revenue estimates approved Thursday came despite predictions that the state would collect less money than expected for its two-year budget. If the new estimates hold, lawmakers will have a total of $58.7 million available. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board projected that state revenue will grow 5 percent during the fiscal year that starts on July 1st, and 4.3 percent in the following year. Board members said Nebraska's unemployment remains low and the state economy appears to be holding strong. The state is expected to collect an additional $12 million in the current fiscal year, which will go to the cash reserve.

New CEO of Nebraska DHHS promises greater accountability
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The new CEO of Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services is promising to hold the department accountable to state lawmakers and the public. Courtney Phillips said Thursday that she plans to dig into the specific causes of problems with services such as ACCESSNebraska, the system that Nebraskans use to apply for and renew their public benefits. Phillips told a legislative committee that a new performance-tracking system will help the department make improvements. Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed Phillips to the job in February, but she has to be confirmed by lawmakers. She previously worked as deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Phillips says she also wants to recruit more department employees from Nebraska high schools, colleges and universities, and reduce turnover.

Arguments made in lawsuit over immigrant driver's licenses
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A judge has heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by several young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children because Nebraska refuses to issue them driver's licenses. The Lincoln Journal Star says an attorney for the immigrants argued Wednesday that the Department of Motor Vehicles has been unlawfully denying licenses to immigrants authorized to live and work in Nebraska under a federal program. But the Nebraska Attorney General's Office defended the practice, saying that while those young immigrants might have a lawful presence, "they lack lawful status." Both sides rested Wednesday and agreed to submit closing arguments in writing within two weeks. Nebraska is the only state in the nation that continues to deny licenses to youths who qualify for the Obama administration's deferred-action policy.

City of Lincoln threatens legal action against K2 sellers
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The city of Lincoln is threatening legal action against stores that sell synthetic marijuana unless they agree to stop carrying the product. Mayor Chris Beutler announced Thursday that the city attorney sent letters to five known Lincoln retailers that sell the drug, commonly known as K2. Lincoln public safety and health officials say more than 100 people have overdosed on synthetic marijuana in the past couple of weeks. Members of law enforcement say the chemical compounds cause violent and unpredictable reactions. K2 is legal unless smoked or otherwise ingested. Letters were sent to Island Smokes, Wicked Smoke, Dirt Cheap and Aladdin Tobacco's two Lincoln locations. City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick says he hopes to have the letters signed by May 15th.

Lincoln man accused of breaking officer's thumb in struggle
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Police say a Lincoln man has been accused of breaking an officer's thumb during a mental health check. The Lincoln Journal Star reports 51-year-old Joseph Tyree was charged Tuesday with felony assault on an officer. He remained in jail on $5,000 bond as of Wednesday night. The Lincoln Police Department says Officer Frank Foster arrived at Tyree's home Monday after someone concerned about the man's mental health requested a visit. He was outside his apartment when Foster arrived. A police report says Tyree refused to talk to Foster and tried to go inside, but Foster grabbed him from behind to stop him. A physical altercation ensued, during which Foster reported pain in his right thumb. Both men were treated at a hospital, and Tyree was arrested upon his release.

Warren Buffett's firm will report 1Q earnings Friday
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway will release its first-quarter earnings report Friday afternoon on the eve of the conglomerate's annual shareholders meeting. More than 40,000 people are expected to attend Saturday's annual meeting to hear Buffett and his investing partner Charlie Munger answer questions. The report will give investors a sense of how Berkshire's more than 80 subsidiaries performed in the first three months of the year. Berkshire owns BNSF railroad, several major insurance companies, utilities and numerous other firms. Buffett urges investors to pay more attention to the company's operating earnings because the paper value of Berkshire's derivative contracts and investments can cause big swings in its bottom-line profit. The four analysts surveyed by FactSet expect Berkshire to report operating earnings per share of $2,387.79 per Class A share.

Doctors keep mom's body functioning so baby could survive
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Omaha doctors say they kept the body of a brain-dead woman functioning for nearly seven weeks so the baby she was carrying could survive. The tiny boy, Angel, was delivered earlier this month at Methodist Women's Hospital. His mother, 22-year-old Karla Perez, had collapsed at home in Waterloo in early February. Doctors discovered a brain bleed and determined that she'd suffered brain death. Her family agreed to keep Perez's body alive. Doctor Todd Lovgren told television station WOWT the fetus was just 22 weeks along and couldn't survive outside of the womb, so "we were going to have to prolong Karla's pregnancy as long as possible." On April 4th her condition worsened, and doctors performed a cesarean section. Perez was pronounced dead, and her organs were donated to other people.

Nebraskan gets 10 years for sex assaults on stepdaughter, 12
SCHUYLER, Neb. (AP) — A 42-year-old Colfax County man has been given 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting his 12-year-old stepdaughter. The Columbus Telegram reports that the man pleaded no contest and was convicted of three counts of sexual assault of a minor. On Wednesday he was given five years on each count. Two terms will served consecutively and the third term will be served at the same time as one of the others. The Associated Press is not using the man's name in order to protect the privacy of the girl. Court documents say the girl's mother contacted police in June 2014, after her daughter told her about being assaulted. The man later told an officer that he fondled the child on eight occasions.

Ex-Huskers RB Scott Baldwin dies; '92 shooting paralyzed him
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Scott Baldwin, whose promising career at Nebraska in the early 1990s ended because of injuries and his battles with mental illness, has died. Baldwin's family said through the Nebraska athletic department that he died of cardiac arrest Wednesday in New Jersey. He was 45. Baldwin in January 1992 was charged with felony assault for attacking a Lincoln woman but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Nine months later he was shot during an altercation with Omaha police, with the bullet lodging near his spinal cord and paralyzing him from the chest down. Baldwin ran for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas as a sophomore in 1990 but missed most of 1991 because of injuries. Doctors later diagnosed him with manic depression and other mental illnesses.

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