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Associated Press

Laurie Smith Camp, a longtime Nebraska attorney who became the first woman to serve on the state’s federal district court, died unexpectedly overnight at age 66. John M. Gerrard, the chief judge of Nebraska’s federal district court, said Thursday that Smith Camp died peacefully at her home. The cause of her death wasn’t disclosed. Smith Camp was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush in 2001 and was confirmed unanimously by the Senate. She assumed senior judge status in 2018, meaning she was semi-retired but continued to carry an active caseload.

Omaha World Herald

A special prosecutor says a white Nebraska bar owner who killed himself after being charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting a Black man during May protests had been waiting to “ambush” people who were breaking into businesses. Special Prosecutor Frederick Franklin on Wednesday detailed more of the evidence against Jake Gardner. Gardner killed himself Sunday, days after a grand jury indicted him in the May 30 death of 22-year-old James Scurlock. The evidence included text messages and videos of the encounter that Franklin said countered Gardner's claims of self-defense.

A Nebraska state senator who is running for a new term made an embarrassing error in a recent campaign mail piece attacking his opponent. The mailing by Sen. Andrew La Grone, of Gretna, criticizes his legislative challenger, Jen Day, of Omaha. But the photo that purports to show Day is actually an image of one of Day’s campaign staffers, Brooklynne Rosado. Rosado, of La Vista, called the ad humiliating and says someone didn’t do their due diligence. La Grone is seeking to win his first election after he was appointed to his seat by Gov. Pete Ricketts, a fellow Republican, in 2019.

An attorney for a white business owner who was charged in the fatal shooting of a Black man during civil unrest in Nebraska says the man has died by suicide. Police say Jacob Gardner's body was found Sunday outside a medical clinic in Hillsboro, Oregon. Attorney Stu Dornan said it was a suicide. Gardner was charged Tuesday in the death of James Scurlock. Police say 38-year-old Gardner shot Scurlock during a protest outside Gardner’s bar in downtown Omaha on May 30. Gardner had said the shooting was done in self-defense.

State officials are looking to clear up confusion over mail-in ballot requests sent out by a third-party organization. Scotts Bluff County Commissioners raised concerns after the Center for Voter Information out of Springfield, Missouri sent 228-thousand absentee ballot applications in Nebraska, calling the move "voter fraud." However, Secretary of State Bob Evnen says the applications are legal and a legitimate way to request a ballot. Evnen added that the mailers are "redundant," since every registered voter in Nebraska will receive an early ballot application this month.

Omaha World Herald

Nebraska Democrats have named their third choice to compete against the Democrat whose name will appear on the ballot in November. Omaha activist and professor Preston Love Jr. launched a write-in campaign Thursday against Omaha cupcake baker Chris Janicek.  Janicek won the Democratic primary in May but party leaders disavowed him after he sent lewd texts about a campaign staffer. Janicek pledged to stay in the race last week despite all the negative publicity.

Grand Island Independent

Nebraska voters won’t get the chance to legalize medical marijuana this year after the state Supreme Court ruled that the measure set to appear on the November ballot is unconstitutional. The court’s ruling was a win for social conservatives, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, who argued that the state shouldn’t legalize a drug that isn’t approved by federal regulators. Justices concluded that the medical marijuana proposal violated Nebraska’s “single subject rule” for ballot measures, which bars activists from bunching multiple issues into a single yes-or-no question for voters to address.

Nebraska has created a new state disaster response team to help local governments that are overwhelmed with massive wildfires and other disasters. The incident management team includes the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, the state fire marshal and the Nebraska state forester. The team is designed to help organize state resources that are already in place and allow for faster response times. Gov. Pete Ricketts says it will only respond if local governments request it. Western Nebraska saw a major wildfire in Banner County last month that burned more than 4,000 acres.

USA Today

Nebraska will apply for federal assistance to help workers who were laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing those who qualify to collect an extra $300 per week. Nebraska is the last state to confirm that it will seek the extra federal aid. Every other state has said it will apply, except for South Dakota, which refused the money. The payments are a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s lost wages supplemental payment program. People who qualify will receive $300 per week, along with their unemployment benefit, for a limited number of weeks. 

Norfolk Daily News

There have been no cases of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus so far this year in Nebraska. An insect-transmitted illness expert at Nebraska's health department told the Lincoln Journal Star that it's unusual to have no cases by this time. Disease scientist Jeff Hamik says a cool spring might have delayed mosquito breeding, resulting in the longest period without a pool of West Nile-positive mosquitoes in Nebraska history. But Hamik says West Nile cases will start cropping up soon. Most people with West Nile virus don't have symptoms.

KHGI

There are now nearly 36-thousand COVID-19 cases in Nebraska.  Officials reported 89 new cases yesterday bringing the total in the state to 35-thousand-975.  COVID-19 has claimed 404 lives in Nebraska during the pandemic. Nebraska hospitals are asking for more federal aid to help recover financially from the coronavirus. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Nebraska Hospital Association officials say the pandemic has meant increased costs and a decline in revenue for hospitals.

The former chief of finance for the Nebraska State Fair has been charged with theft following an investigation into the fair's finances. Court records show Patrick Kopke has been charged in Hall County with three counts of theft of more than $5,000. Earlier this year, the Nebraska State Fair Board hired a forensic investigation firm to look into the fair's finances after staff discovered suspicious activity during an internal review. Eight fair employees lost their jobs in December as officials took steps to firm up finances after a 2019 loss. Kopke is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept.

Norfolk Daily News

Nebraska is launching a new campaign to promote local agricultural companies to foreign countries, many of whom are the state’s biggest customers. The new campaign is called “Nebraska Straight from the Good Life” and will be managed by the state Department of Agriculture. Agricultural companies that are based in Nebraska or have a significant presence in the state will be allowed to participate for free. Agriculture is Nebraska’s largest industry, and many of its farm and ranch products go to Asian and European nations. Gov.

The Douglas County board has abandoned a plan to spend $1.85 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to buy a mobile command center for the county sheriff’s office. Sheriff Tim Dunning withdrew his request for the RV-like truck because he said his office couldn’t find a manufacturer who could build and deliver one in 2020, when the federal aid must be spent. Officials had argued that the command center could have helped officials respond to the coronavirus outbreak by supporting mass vaccination efforts in the area.

Omaha World Herald

Omaha police have revised a policy on arresting protesters following the mass arrest of more than 100 peaceful protesters last month. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Mayor Jean Stothert unveiled the policy change during a news conference Tuesday to discuss coronavirus relief funding. Stothert said the revised policy requires officers to use body cameras to get pictures of each individual they arrest rather than doing mass arrests.

Nebraska’s top elections official says he won’t put three measures to legalize casino gambling on the November ballot, arguing that the language they used was misleading and confusing. The decision announced Tuesday by Republican Secretary of State Bob Evnen means voters won’t get to decide the issue this year unless a court overturns his decision. Supporters of the ballot measures filed an immediate legal challenge, and the dispute is likely headed to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The interim director of Nebraska’s Division of Developmental Disabilities will assume the job full-time starting next week. Gov. Ricketts Pete Ricketts announced Friday that he has appointed Tony Green, of Omaha, to the position within the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Green has served as the division’s interim director since March 2020, and previously worked as its deputy director. He replaces Courtney Miller, who stepped down in April to take a new job in the federal government. Green began his career as a services coordinator within the division in 1990.

The owner of the defunct Nebraska Auto Auction business has been charged with fraudulently financing more than $1 million worth of vehicles. Prosecutors charged 63-year-old Mark Cooley with theft by deception and he made his initial appearance in court on Wednesday. Lincoln Police said in court documents that Cooley improperly financed 80 vehicles worth $1,0430,220 between 2017 and 2019 with fraudulent information. Police said most of the vehicles had already been purchased by dealerships or financed by another company before Cooley borrowed money on them.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has named an engineering firm executive as the new director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources. Thomas Riley, of Eagle, will head the agency starting Nov 1. Riley serves as president of the Flatwater Group, a company he founded with offices in Lincoln and Imperial. The firm specializes in water resources engineering, restoration design and environmental engineering. Riley is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he received a bachelor of science in civil engineering and a master of science in civil engineering.

Nebraska lawmakers have approved new tax credits for homeowners, farmers and businesses and put more restrictions on abortions as they finish a session marred by ugly public disputes and criticism that they didn’t do enough to address the coronavirus pandemic. The 60-day session ended after several last-minute, unsuccessful attempts to derail the tax and abortion bills. Lawmakers gave both measures final approval and sent them to Gov. Pete Ricketts, who’s expected to sign them. Lawmakers convened as normal in January but suspended their session in March out of concern about the pandemic.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Schools in the Omaha area are reporting new cases of the coronavirus, just days after opening classes to in-person attendance during a global pandemic. The Omaha World-Herald reports that officials disclosed two confirmed cases at Reagan Elementary School in the Millard Public Schools district. Ralston Public Schools also sent notice of a confirmed case in its Blumfield Elementary School. Officials in both districts said those infected and those who have been in contact with them have been told to self-quarantine, and that both schools are being deep-cleaned.

As parents nationwide prepare to help their children with more distance learning, a small but quickly growing number are deciding to take matters entirely into their own hands and begin homeschooling. Some are worried their districts are unable to offer a strong virtual learning program. For others who may have been considering homeschooling, concerns for their family’s health amid the coronavirus and the on-again, off-again planning for in-person instruction are leading them to part ways with school systems.

KLKN

Lincoln Police closed down a bowling alley this weekend for violating the city’s coronavirus restrictions after the owner vowed to fight the rules requiring people to wear masks in public places. On Saturday, Lincoln Police enforced the local health department’s order to close Madsen’s Bowling & Billiards for violating restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak. Officials have said that employees at Madsen’s Bowling & Billiards weren’t wearing face coverings, patrons were told that masks were optional and people weren’t far enough apart.

A bomb squad and military experts had to be called to a northeastern Nebraska museum after live ordnance — including a World War II grenade and two artillery shells — were found in a museum storeroom. The Norfolk Daily News reports that staff at the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk discovered the grenade, ammunition and ordnance on Wednesday, shut down the museum and called Norfolk police. Officers were unable to determine if the vintage ordnance was live and called the Nebraska State Patrol bomb squad.

The Douglas County board has approved spending $1.85 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to buy a mobile command center for the sheriff's office. The decision came despite objections from board members who said the money should be used for rent assistance and other human needs. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the board voted 4-2 Tuesday to approve the expenditure. Sheriff Tim Dunning and supporters said the vehicle could be used for mass vaccinations in rural areas. Coronavirus numbers continue to climb in Nebraska.

Nebraska’s meatpacking plants won’t have to worry about any new state-mandated safety restrictions this year, despite outbreaks of the coronavirus among their workers. A Nebraska lawmaker who wanted to add more protections on Wednesday failed to secure sufficient support for the idea. Sen. Tony Vargas, of Omaha, fell two votes short of the 30 he needed to introduce a bill this session. Bills can only be introduced during the first 10 days of each session, unless a super-majority of lawmakers agrees to suspend the rule.

KETV

Another Omaha area school district is revealing its reopening plans. Millard Public Schools emailed parents its back-to-school plan yesterday.  The plan calls for students with last names beginning with A through F to go to class August 10th, those with last names starting with G through L will go August 11th, M through R students will return to class August 12th, and S through Z students will attend class starting August 13th. Officials say during the first week of school, students will only attend class one day in person and masks will be required for children and staff members.

The owner of a pharmacy that provided drugs to Nebraska for use in a 2018 execution is expressing remorse for making the sale, but acknowledging that he knew that prison officials wanted them for a lethal injection. Public records released late Thursday show that Community Pharmacy Services, a pharmacy in Gretna, Nebraska, agreed to sell the drugs to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for two payments totaling $10,500. State officials had refused to identify their supplier until the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in May that they cannot withhold that information.

College athletes in Nebraska may soon be able to sign endorsement deals with sneaker companies, car dealerships and other sponsors under a bill approved by lawmakers. Lawmakers gave the measure final approval on Tuesday with a 37-6 vote. The measure would apply to student-athletes at the University of Nebraska and its smaller state colleges. It would cover athletes in all sports, although Nebraska’s football, basketball and volleyball players are likely to have the most money-making opportunities.

State auditors say a former finance chief for the Nebraska State Fair collected nearly $150,000 in undocumented payments through a company he created last year. Auditors say the review found two checks totaling $149,415.60 that were made out to RKBB Enterprises Inc. RKBB Enterprises was created in May 2019 by Brandon Kopke, the fair’s former chief of finance and administration. Kopke resigned in November after telling board members that the fair was headed for bankruptcy. State auditors say they identified the questionable payments during a review of the fair’s spending.

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