29 Neb. senators lend support to Keystone XL
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A majority of Nebraska's state lawmakers have signed a letter in support of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was signed this week by 29 of Nebraska's 49 state senators. It urges federal approval of the pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.
Nebraska has been a stronghold for pipeline opponents, including environmentalists and some landowners. A district court judge last month invalidated a state law that was used to approve the project, but the state is appealing.
Senator Jim Smith of Papillion, who supports the project, gathered signatures for the letter. It was signed by 22 Republicans and seven Democrats in the officially nonpartisan, one-house Legislature.
Neb. lawmakers vote to expand homestead exemption
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A proposed expansion of Nebraska's homestead exemption program has won first-round approval from lawmakers.
Senators voted 34-0 on Thursday to advance the measure, which would allow more property owners to qualify for the tax-relief program. The exemption is given to seniors, disabled veterans and their spouses, and people with certain disabilities, depending on their home values.
Current state law allows married couples to receive at least a partial exemption until their household income reaches $28,501. The bill would increase that threshold to $46,901.
Senator Galen Hadley, chairman of the Revenue Committee, says the bill attempts to make it easier for retirees to stay in Nebraska.
Some lawmakers voiced concerns that the bill would shift residential property tax burdens onto younger homeowners as baby boomers retire.
The bill is LB986.
Bill to lower taxable value of Neb. ag-land stalls
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A proposal to lower the taxable value of Nebraska farm and ranchland has stalled in a legislative committee.
The Legislature's Revenue Committee voted 4-4 on Thursday on a bill that would phase in a reduction of taxable ag-land values, from the current 75 percent to 65 percent.
Opponents say they're concerned the bill would place additional financial pressure on rural, K through 12 public schools that use the land as a major part of their tax base.
The bill's sponsor, Senator Beau McCoy of Omaha, says he will attempt to secure additional support. McCoy, a Republican candidate for governor, says he doesn't believe lawmakers have done enough this year to reduce taxes.
The bill is LB670.
MORTGAGE COMPANY CUTBACKS
Texas-based lender eliminating 105 Nebraska jobs
SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) - A Texas-based mortgage company has announced it will be eliminating 105 jobs at its Scottsbluff office in western Nebraska.
Nationstar Mortgage spokesman John Hoffmann says the cuts will begin on March 28th and will leave 215 Nationstar workers at the loan servicing office, plus 50 contractor positions not held by Nationstar employees.
Hoffmann says the demand for mortgages has slowed so there's simple less work to be done by workers in loan origination and servicing.
In November the company announced it was eliminating 900 jobs companywide, including 300 employees who were working for a division that was sold to another mortgage company.
Hoffmann says the company announced last month it would eliminate loan origination jobs of 230 people based in St. Louis, Denver and the home office in suburban Dallas.
AIR QUALITY-DOUGLAS COUNTY
Douglas County issues air quality alert
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Omaha and other areas under Douglas County have been issued an air quality alert due to trapped particles close to the ground.
The Douglas County Health Department issued the alert Thursday after fog, lack of winds and a temperature inversion led to high levels of particulates trapped close to the ground. An inversion occurs when cool air near the ground is trapped by a layer of warmer air. Particulates can include dust and soot.
Officials say the air quality index is unhealthy for "sensitive groups" such as people with heart and lung disease, older adults and children. They advise that people with breathing problems avoid outside exercise.
Officials expect the alert will be over as winds pick up and the fog lifts.
OMAHA STABBING DEATH
Police say Omaha man stabbed to death overnight
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Police are investigating the stabbing death of an Omaha man and say they have arrested a suspect.
Police say officers were called to a north Omaha residence around 2:40 a.m. Thursday and found a 55-year-old man suffering from a stab wound. The man was taken to an Omaha hospital, where he died.
Police identified the victim as Larry Morgan.
Investigators arrested a 37-year-old man on suspicion of second-degree murder and using a weapon to commit a felony.
Omaha police investigate attempted child abduction
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Omaha police say they're investigating a 19-year-old man in connection to the attempted abduction of an 8-year-old girl.
The Omaha Police Department says Javier Rueda-Orozco was arrested Wednesday evening. He was taken into custody following a brief struggle with police.
Omaha television station KETV reports police received a report Wednesday afternoon about a man who allegedly followed a girl on the city's west side and grabbed her backpack. The girl's mother says her daughter was able to break away and run home.
Police identified Rueda-Orozco as a suspect in the case and located him in the area a short time later. He faces charges of resisting arrest and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police say additional charges are pending. Court records do not list an attorney.
BABY DIES-NANNY CHARGED
Taped statement plays at Omaha nanny's trial
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A taped statement from an Omaha nanny charged in connection to the death of a baby under her care has been played at her trial.
The Omaha World-Herald reports the tape was played Thursday, during 25-year-old Sarah Cullen's trial on a charge of child abuse resulting in death. Prosecutors say her actions in late February of 2013 led to the death of 4-month-old Cash Bell. Cullen has pleaded not guilty.
In the tape, an investigator repeatedly asks Cullen what may have caused two skull fractures on Cash. She insists she doesn't know.
Cullen later gives several explanations, including that the baby hit his head as she held him and walked through a door. She also says the baby fell from a swing.
CONSTRUCTION WORKER DEATH
Neb. construction firm fined $14,000 after death
HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - A Hastings-based construction company is facing $14,000 in fines for safety violations regulators found after a worker's death.
The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it found three safety violations when it investigated the death of a Werner Construction worker.
The 35-year-old worker died after being struck by a front-end loader at an asphalt facility in Albion, Nebraska. Werner specializes in asphalt and concrete paving projects.
Werner officials weren't immediately available to comment, so it's not clear if they plan to appeal.
OSHA says Werner failed to maintain safety features of the front end loader and failed to train someone to administer first aid. Those are both serious violations.
The company was also cited for failing to assess hazards related to personal protective gear.
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