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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska lawmaker is proposing a state takeover of K-12 public education funding as a way to lower property taxes. Sen. Tom Briese, of Albion, introduced a constitutional amendment that would require state government to pay for local schools. Currently, public schools are financed through a combination of state aid and local property taxes. Briese says rising property taxes are driven by the state’s unwillingness to adequately fund schools. His proposal would place the issue on the 2022 general election ballot, where voters would decide whether to approve it.

Tyson To Offer COVID-19 Vaccinations At Meatpacking Plants

Jan 15, 2021

(Waterloo, IA)  --  Tyson Foods will be vaccinating its workers for COVID-19. Several Tyson meatpacking plants in Iowa experienced severe outbreaks last year which led to several lawsuits. The company is now providing mobile clinics to offer on-site vaccinations for workers at its plants. Iowa will start allowing meatpacking workers to receive COVID-19 shots next month.

Unicameral Update

A decades-old rule designed to promote transparency and accountability in the Nebraska Legislature could be in jeopardy. A proposed rule change would bar reporters from otherwise private “executive sessions” of legislative committees, where lawmakers discuss and vote on bills. The sessions are closed to the general public, but legislative rules allow reporters to attend and report what happened. Sen. Dan Hughes, of Venango, says he introduced the measure after getting quoted several years ago in what he believed to be a private, frank discussion with fellow lawmakers.

A 31-year-old southeast Nebraska man has been sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison for letting more than 200 cattle die and for selling livestock he didn't own. Aaron Ogren, of Exeter, was sentenced Tuesday on seven charges. He initially faced 43 counts after being arrested last April when sheriff's deputies found more than 200 dead cattle on land near Exeter. Ogren was supposed to be caring for the cattle. Several other cattle later died because they were in such poor condition when they were found. Authorities said Ogren also sold livestock he didn't own.

OPS Announces In-Person Learning Plan

Jan 13, 2021

(Omaha, NE)  --  The Omaha Public School District is working towards returning to in-person learning.  District officials say there will be phased transitions to in-person learning five days per week.  Elementary and middle schools will transition to five-days in-person learning per week on February 2nd, while high schools will transition to five days in-person learning per week on February 17th.  The district's Remote Learning Program will continue to be available.

Signs reading things like "the rich got bailed out, the poor got left out" and "EVICTION = DEATH" are piled in front of a backyard shed
Omaha Tenants United

 

 

At the beginning of 2020, things were looking up for Omaha resident Jolina Manley. She had a steady job at a call center; she was living in a townhouse subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and she was taking classes in culinary arts.

 

“The kids were all in school," Manley says. "Everything this year started off like, 'Okay, this is going to be great. I'm going to do something and everything's going to be great.'”

House Votes On Use Of 25th Amendment Against Trump

Jan 12, 2021
Jmarcosny

The U.S. House of Representatives is taking up a resolution that would call on Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and take over President Trump's duties. The effort comes as the House is also pursuing a second impeachment against the president over the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Watch or listen to the House proceedings live, beginning at 5 p.m., Tuesday, January 12th.

Nebraska.gov

A spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson says he did not have advanced knowledge of robocalls urging supporters of President Donald Trump to descend on the U.S. Capitol last week. The calls were reportedly issued by a Republican group to which Peterson belongs. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Suzanne Gage, spokeswoman for Peterson's office, said he first became aware of the calls made by the fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association on Thursday. Peterson is a member of the association. State Sen.

Lincoln Journal Star

Gov. Pete Ricketts says Nebraska will take steps to ensure public safety at the state Capitol on Inauguration Day, although he notes that last week’s rally in Lincoln to support President Donald Trump was peaceful. Ricketts made the comments as supporters of the outgoing president prepare for protests at state capitols throughout the country. A violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last week to try to stop Congress from certifying that President-elect Joe Biden had won the race.

WOWT

Omaha police and fire investigators say they have not determined the cause of an explosion that killed three people last year. Investigators said Thursday natural gas was leaking inside the south Omaha home in early December. Several sources, such as the furnace or pilot light, could have ignited the gas. Investigators do not have evidence to indicate if criminal activity was involved but will continue to investigate. Theresa Toledo and Angela Miller died. Toledo's grandson, Alexander Toledo, died a day later.

NET

The state law that allowed President-elect Joe Biden to win one of Nebraska’s Electoral College votes could once again be in jeopardy under a new bill introduced in the Legislature. The measure would reinstate the winner-take-all system in Nebraska, awarding all five of its Electoral College votes to the statewide winner in presidential races. Nebraska Republicans have tried for years to repeal the 1991 law that lets the state divide its votes. Nebraska is overwhelmingly Republican, and a Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won statewide since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska lawmakers have kicked off a new session with plans to redraw the state’s political districts and promises to minimize the dysfunction that has creeped into the Legislature over the last several years. The new session began on a cordial note, with newly elected Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers pledging to treat all senators equally and ensure full and fair debate on all measures that come before them.

Nebraska.gov

A new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus that has been discovered in five states is probably in Nebraska as well, but officials say they haven’t yet confirmed its presence. Dr. Gary Anthone says the new strain is concerning because it could lead to an increase in hospitalizations in Nebraska. Anthone says the state’s public health lab is purchasing its own equipment to test for the mutated virus. The new strain has led to a national lockdown in England, and the virus has been detected in California, Florida, New York, Georgia, and neighboring Colorado. 

Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer is planning to vote in favor of certifying the Electoral College results to elect Joe Biden as president.  Fischer announced yesterday that even though she voted for President Donald Trump, the president's legal team failed to make the case in court that there was widespread voter fraud sufficient enough to overturn election results in any state.  Fischer went on to say that if a state's results are not counted, millions of voters will be disenfranchised. 

No Vaccine For Undocumented Meat Packers, Says Ricketts

Jan 6, 2021
WOWT

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is saying only documented workers in meatpacking plants will get the COVID-19 vaccine.  Ricketts says people who work in the plants are supposed to be in the U.S. legally, and there will be no conflict since people need to be in the country legally to work in the food-processing program.  UFCW Local 293 officials tell WOWT that there are plenty of undocumented workers employed in the state's meatpacking plants, and that the best way to keep the plants running is to vaccinate everyone. 

Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska lawmakers will begin a new session Wednesday that’s likely to be scaled back because of the pandemic, but they’ll still have a lot of big issues to debate, including a proposed $230 million prison and the mandatory redrawing of the state’s political districts. High on this year’s priority list is the Legislature’s once-a-decade redistricting ritual, a bitterly partisan process where lawmakers redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts and others.

Monolith Materials and Nebraska Public Power District are working to bring a large renewable energy project to the state. Monolith announced Monday that it signed a letter of intent for NPPD to provide enough renewable energy to generate 2 million megawatt-hours every year. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that is enough power for Monolith to completely power a $1 billion expansion of a plant near Hallam with renewable energy. NPPD President and CEO Tom Kent said the utility will seek proposals for wind and solar generation in March and expects to have agreements by Sept. 1. 

Strictly Business Omaha

Nebraska restaurants that were allowed to start selling carryout cocktails amid the pandemic want to continue doing so even after it wanes. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the Nebraska Restaurant Association plans to push for the expansion during the upcoming 2021 legislative session. The group's executive director, Zoe Olson, said it's proposal would include a requirement for some sort of seal on carryout beverages that, if broken, would indicate that someone had opened their takeout drink in transit.

The Nebraska State Patrol plans to consolidate several Lincoln offices into one new headquarters building next year. The State Patrol said it expects to move into its new headquarters just northwest of where Interstates 80 and 180 meet in Lincoln next March. The move will allow the agency to have most of its Lincoln-based staff under one roof. After the move, the State Patrol’s headquarters staff, communications division, criminal investigation unit, carrier enforcement officers and most Lincoln-based troopers will all work out of the new building.

Brushbuck Wildlife Tours

Officials in central Nebraska are worried that next spring’s sandhill crane viewing season will be disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic just like this year’s was and hurt the area’s economy. The annual migration of sandhill cranes across central Nebraska normally draws thousands of visitors to the area who want to see the birds gather along the Platte River in the midst of their annual migration. Kearney Visitor Bureau Executive Director Roger Jasnoch told the Kearney Hub that there is little demand for the hotel rooms in the area that visitors normally fill.   

Pandemic or not, it's still the holidays with the Omaha Symphony, though a little different this year!  No live audience allowed due to the pandemic, but that won’t stop the Omaha Symphony from providing a holiday extravaganza…Free of charge to all of the Greater Omaha metro!

Conductor Ernest Richardson and Stage Director/Choreographer Parker Esse joined Mike Hogan for a three-part “Live & Local” interview to discuss how they tackled the Herculean task of adapting, restaging, filming, and editing this huge production in a safe, healthy, and entertaining manner.  The holidays will not be stopped, and these two tell the story of how the holiday show was saved.

Omaha Symphony has teamed up with WOWT Channel 6 to broadcast “Physicians Mutual Presents: Home for the Holidays with the Omaha Symphony” straight to your home!  The holiday program audiences have grown to love will feature a physically distanced orchestra, singers, and dancers filmed remotely.  It is with great pride and a team effort that Omaha Symphony brings this holiday tradition safely to the homes of Omahans completely free of charge as a gift to the community.  The program will air December 23rd at 7:00 p.m. and December 25th at 1:00 p.m. on WOWT. 

For more information on how you can join them for Christmas pop tunes, orchestral features, and exciting dance numbers, or to see a program of the numbers, you can go to http://www.omahasymphony.org/concerts/home-for-the-holidays

KLKN

Four Midwestern universities have formed a space-oriented academic and research alliance aimed at luring the U.S. Space Command headquarters to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The Omaha World-Herald reports that University of Nebraska President Ted Carter says the partnership with the University of North Dakota, Kansas State University and Purdue would develop new degree programs and research initiatives. Offutt is among the six finalists to become the headquarters.

KETV

Nebraska’s corrections department will propose to lawmakers a new, $230 million prison to reduce chronic overcrowding that the agency's director says is likely to get worse. Corrections Director Scott Frakes will present the plan in the upcoming legislative session with backing from his boss, Gov. Pete Ricketts. State officials have tried for years to ease crowding in Nebraska’s prisons by expanding parole, changing some sentencing laws and creating new diversion programs.

KWWL

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is urging everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine when it's available to them, after receiving her first dose over the weekend. The senator posted a series of tweets showing her getting vaccinated and saying that with the vaccine, we are one step closer to defeating the virus. She added that everyone should continue wearing masks, practice social distancing and continue to follow other protocols put in place to protect one another.

A 36-year-old Omaha man has been sentenced in federal court for distributing drugs out of a bar. Federal officials said Thursday that Brett Feder was sentenced to 10 years in prison on drug distribution charges, money laundering and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The U.S. Justice Department said in a news release the bar Feder managed, J.D.’s Circle In, was a front for illegal drug trafficking and illegal sports betting. Investigators used controlled buys and wiretaps to show Feder distributed methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and THC cartridges used in vaping devices. 

Photo of Leta Powell Drake
Leta Powell Drake

If you're a child of the 70s, you might know her as Kalamity Kate on "Cartoon Corral" on Channels 10/11 in Lincoln. Younger generations might recognize her as a Twitter sensation. Eighty-two-year-old Leta Powell Drake is a Nebraska broadcasting veteran with more than 40 years of experience. Last month, a compilation of Drake's celebrity interviews from the 1980s went viral.

Saint Francis Ministries

A whistleblower says a cash-strapped Kansas foster care contractor spent $80,000 on tickets to see the Chicago Cubs, a club owned by the Nebraska governor's family, as it sought new business in that state. St. Francis Ministries bought the tickets in 2019. That same year, the agency was awarded a $197 million, five-year contract from the state of Nebraska to oversee the care of abused and neglected children in the Omaha area. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services says St. Francis won the contract because it presented the best bid. 

4 Lanes 4 Nebraska

A coalition of Nebraska mayors is calling on state officials to finish a series of highway upgrades that were unveiled in 1988 but never completed because of a lack of funding. The mayors sent a letter to state lawmakers, urging them to make roads a top priority in the 2021 legislative session, and asking why Nebraska is one of two states that don't use bonding to finance highway projects. The mayors are pushing for the completion of the Nebraska Expressway System, which was designed to connect the state’s larger cities to one another and the interstate system with four-lane highways.

KOLN

The economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska has created a new gaming division to manage the three casinos it hopes to open starting next year. Ho-Chunk, Inc., says it has launched WarHorse Gaming, LLC, to develop the casinos at three state-licensed horse-racing tracks in Omaha, Lincoln and South Sioux City. The corporation has partnered with the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a horse racing industry group.

Omaha World Herald

Douglas County plans to spend $10 million in federal coronavirus aid on its new justice center complex. The county's board approved the expenditure Tuesday after hearing hours of debate. The $10 million will pay for additional costs for the center, which has an estimated $120 million price tag. Opponents say the federal funds should be used to to fight the coronavirus pandemic, not on the justice center project. Douglas County received $166 million in CARES Act money for certain COVID-19 relief expenses.

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