Nebraska lawmakers are debating a bill that would have the state apply for a federal grant to increase the number of elderly people living in their own homes. But senators failed to reach a vote on the measure, and are expected to resume debate on Wednesday. The measure by Sen. Kate Bolz would direct the state to spend $8.5 million to qualify for $36 million in federal aid for existing home and community-based services. Services include adult day care or respite services. Some lawmakers say they're concerned about the cost. Bolz says she expects the cost of the bill to decrease after a review of the bill on Friday. The bill would also create a task force to examine the needs of the state's aging population. The bill is LB690.
Heineman open to different Neb. property tax bills
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has called on lawmakers to reduce the taxable value of farm and ranch land, but he's willing to embrace alternative proposals that would reduce property taxes. Heineman said Tuesday that he would also support proposals to increase funding for Nebraska's property-tax credit fund, which is used to offset property tax bills statewide. The Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska Cattlemen have argued that reducing the taxable value of ag land would help farmers and ranchers. Opponents say it would erode the local tax base for rural schools, and do little to benefit urban residents. The property tax credit fund has held steady at $115 million, while statewide property values have increased. Heineman says he wants to see "responsible and meaningful" income- and property-tax relief passed this year
A West Des Moines nonprofit insurance provider set up to sell insurance under nation's new health care overhaul plan says it has surpassed 50,000 individual and group members, a milestone that wasn't expected for at least two years. CoOportunity Health sells health care insurance in Iowa and Nebraska. It is one of 23 Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans set up nationwide. The cooperatives were designed to assure competition in insurance plans and provide consumers choices. The company says as of Feb. 24 it has already exceeded enrollment projections not expected to be met until 2016. Nearly 1,000 employer groups and more than 30,000 individuals in Nebraska and Iowa have purchased coverage from CoOportunity Health for January, February and March effective dates. Enrollment is open for individuals through March 31.
Amtrak's Exhibit Train to stop in Lincoln
An Amtrak exhibit train gives visitors a look at the history of the railroad will make a stop in Lincoln in April. Since the train's inception in 2011, new displays have been added including workable signals and interactive virtual sleeping accommodation. The rolling museum exhibit features photos, uniforms, vintage advertising and memorabilia from Amtrak's beginning in 1971 to today's modern-sleeping cars and high-speed rail service. The Exhibit Train includes two locomotives, three renovated baggage cars and one bistro car, all with historic paint schemes. Amtrak officials released a scheduled Tuesday which shows the train's Lincoln visit on April 26-27 at the Amtrak station.
FBI Director James Comey says he's authorized new hiring and is ready to order resumption of training new agents following last month's passage of a $1.1 trillion federal spending bill. The spending measure also scaled back automatic spending cuts that had led the FBI to eliminate more than 2,000 positions, institute a hiring freeze and suspended training of new agents at its academy at Quantico, Va. Comey said Tuesday at a visit to the FBI's Omaha field office that he has already signed off on opening 700 positions within the agency's field offices across the country. The Omaha field office covers Nebraska and Iowa. Comey, who took over the FBI in September, plans to visit all of the agency's 56 field offices in the coming weeks.
Neb. man dies after his truck collides with train
A 51-year-old Nebraska man has died after a Union Pacific train struck the propane truck he was driving. The accident happened Tuesday morning around 11 on a county road just west of U.S. 75 near the town of Union in Otoe County. Authorities say John P. Bruns of Elmwood was thrown from the truck and died at the scene. Some propane leaked, but the fuel did not catch fire. The train of 110 empty grain cars was traveling from Beaumont, Texas, to Central City. The crossing where the accident happened is marked, but it doesn't have automatic crossing arms that lower when a train approaches.
Lincoln high school booster club member arrested A former member of a booster club at Southwest High School in Lincoln has been arrested on felony theft charges. Lincoln police spokeswoman Katie Flood says 47-year-old Amy Luebbe is in custody. Police investigators believe Luebbe took gift cards and cash from the club's petty cash fund and altered deposits between October 2011 and October 2013. Reports say an audit revealed that more than $14,000 was stolen. Gift cards were sold by the booster club as a fundraiser and the club got to keep a percentage of the profit. An electronic message sent to parents Tuesday says the club reported a theft to the police and is cooperating. The case is not yet in online court records and it's unclear whether Luebbe has an attorney.
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