Nebraska News

2 states challenge Colorado marijuana legalization
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska and Oklahoma are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Colorado's legalization of marijuana unconstitutional. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning announced Thursday that the states are seeking a court order to prevent Colorado from enforcing a measure that was approved by voters in 2012. Bruning says Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is also a party to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that Colorado's Amendment 64 runs afoul of federal law. Washington state also has legalized marijuana, but Bruning says Nebraska isn't suing over that law because it doesn't share a border with Washington. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says in a statement that the lawsuit is without merit. He says his office will vigorously defend the marijuana law in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nativity scene at Nebraska Capitol draws criticism
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Chicago-based group will set up a Nativity scene inside the Nebraska Capitol this week, drawing criticism from those who say such displays amount to an unconstitutional endorsement by the state of a religion. Capitol administrator Bob Ripley tells the Lincoln Journal Star that the Thomas More Society applied and received permission to set up the display in the building's rotunda. The nonprofit's president and chief attorney said in a news release the display in a state building represents constitutionally protected free speech and expression of religious faith by residents in a public forum. State Sen. Ernie Chambers said he thinks the display pushes a particular religious view. The Thomas More Society has provided legal counsel for placing Nativity scenes in public places in 21 states.

Omaha company proposes vegetable oil plant in Iowa
SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (AP) — An Omaha, Nebraska soybean processing company plans to build a $90 million vegetable oil refinery in western Iowa. The Sioux City Journal reports that Ag Processing Incorporated plans to build the refinery at its complex near Sergeant Bluff, creating at least 20 new jobs. The information comes from documents by Ag Processing seeking nearly $1 million in Iowa loans and tax breaks released by the state Wednesday. The company's complex in Woodbury County currently includes a soybean processing plant, biodiesel plant and grain storage facilities. The vegetable oil refinery proposed for the same 85-acre site would be designed for 30 rail tank cars per day. Estimated project costs include $2.5 million for site preparation, $14.5 million for construction and $71.5 million for new machinery and equipment..

Hastings officials push for inmate treatment center
HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — Officials in Hastings are pushing for a proposed Behavioral Health Treatment Center — intended to transition prison inmates back into society — to be built in their central Nebraska city. The Hastings Tribune reports that state Senator Les Seiler of Hastings, and Mayor Vern Powers held a news conference Wednesday to lobby for the center's placement in Hastings. Architects, engineers and others visited the Hastings Regional Center in October to examine the property and see if some of its existing buildings could be renovated to house the center. A study released Tuesday said the buildings would likely not be suitable for the 200-bed facility that would treat male inmates for behavioral health and substance abuse issues. The study instead recommends building a new facility.

Nebraska jury finds man not guilty of vehicular homicide
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A jury has found a man not guilty of motor vehicle homicide in a fatal April car crash in Lancaster County. The Lincoln Journal Star reports jurors deliberated for more than four hours Tuesday before returning the verdict in the case of John Norbert. Norbert was driving a Jeep Cherokee in April when the vehicle slid out of control and crashed into a ditch. A woman in the car, 27-year-old Jessica Lyons, was thrown from the vehicle and later died. Her husband, another passenger in the car, survived. Norbert said the car spun out of control because of ice on the road.

Lincoln woman gets probation for embezzlement
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Lincoln woman has been given probation for stealing money from employees at her family restoration business. A federal judge sentenced Karen Gagner on Tuesday to five years' probation on charges of embezzlement and theft. She was ordered to pay more than $36,000 in restitution. Gagner was accused of transferring nearly $100,000 from employee 401(k) accounts between 2008 and 2011. She later admitted to using the money to help sustain Gagner Restoration. The Lincoln Journal Star reports the restitution will be paid to two employees.

Simants to remain in Nebraska psychiatric ward
NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) — A Lincoln County District judge has ordered a man who killed six members of a western Nebraska family nearly 40 years ago to remain in a state psychiatric hospital. The North Platte Telegraph says Judge Donald Rowlands ruled Wednesday that Erwin Charles Simants will stay in the Lincoln Regional Center, where he's been since being found not guilty of the killings by reason of insanity in 1979. Prosecutors say Simants shot and killed Henry and Audrey Kellie, their son David and three of their grandchildren in 1975 at the Kellies' Sutherland home. Doctors have testified that Simants is no longer mentally ill and should be moved to a supervised home. But the judge said Simants is still dangerous and would pose a threat to the public if released.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press