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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Prison visitors and inmates who are caught with cellphones inside a state prison could face a misdemeanor charge under a bill advanced by Nebraska lawmakers.

Lawmakers gave the measure first-round approval Wednesday as part of an omnibus prisons package.

The bill is designed to help state corrections officials, who confiscated more than 250 contraband phones last year. Nebraska corrections director Scott Frakes told a legislative committee in January that it's a major problem in the state prisons.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have kicked off a debate on a proposal to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes as activists push a much broader ballot measure that would place the issue before voters next year.

Supporters argued Wednesday that the legislative bill is narrowly tailored, with restrictions on how much users can possess and a ban on marijuana smoking.

Senators who oppose the measure say the drug is still illegal at the federal level and argue that its benefits and dangers haven't been fully studied.

(Lincoln, NE)  --  A state senator raises eyebrows by making a controversial comment about the American flag.  Earlier this week, Ernie Chambers compared the American flag with a Nazi swastika.  He went on to call the stars and stripes a quote "rag."  He made the remark during debate over a bill that would update school civics requirements.  Other lawmakers criticized Chambers, saying it's insulting to those who have sacrificed for the United States and also minimized the horrors of the Holocaust.    

(Lincoln, NE)  --  The Nebraska Senate is having its busiest year in more than a decade when it comes to introducing legislation.  The Senate had introduced 739 bills and seven proposed constitutional amendments as of yesterday.  That's the most proposed legislation since 2005.  Yesterday was the final day lawmakers could introduce bills during this session.

(Lincoln, NE)  --  A lawmaker is seeking to eliminate an old law that still allows the use of slavery in Nebraska in certain cases.  Nebraska's state constitution included a ban on slavery when it was ratified in 1875, but it still allowed slavery as punishment for a crime.  Nebraska State Senator Justin Wayne of Omaha announced plans yesterday to introduce a proposed amendment to the state constitution to remove the provision.  Wayne says the provision was used to arrest former slaves and force them into involuntary servitude.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A bill that would allow higher speed limits on Nebraska highways has won first-round approval in the Legislature, but it won't apply to Interstate 80.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A proposed new ammunition tax is drawing opposition from Nebraska gun-rights groups, business organizations and advocates for taxpayers and sportsmen.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska lawmaker known as an animal welfare advocate has failed in his quest to protect a prairie rodent that some ranchers view as pests, but is vowing to raise the issue again.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have kicked off debate on an industry-backed bill that would impose new regulations on fantasy sports websites.

Nebraska farmland owners who rent their property out to a veteran could get a bigger tax credit under a bill introduced in the Legislature.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers will begin their 2018 session with a looming state revenue shortfall that could make it harder to pass new spending measures or tax cuts.