$9 minimum wage, tax breaks to go into effect in 2016

By GRANT SCHULTE

Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska residents earning the minimum wage will get a raise to $9 an hour when the new year begins, and farmers, businesses and zoos will get new tax breaks.

Eight state laws passed during this year’s legislative session will go into effect on Friday, as well as the final phase of the minimum wage ballot measure approved by voters in November 2014.

Here’s a look at the major changes and what they mean for the state:

MINIMUM WAGE

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Sidney’s former police chief continues to appeal verdict

SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) - Sidney’s former police chief has filed a challenge to his conviction and 30-day jail sentence for obstructing government operations.

The lawyer for Byron Wilkinson filed the appeal in the Nebraska Appeals Court earlier this month.

Wilkinson was convicted July 17, after pleading no contest. The charge stems from what state prosecutors said was Wilkinson’s failure to pursue a criminal case against then-city Public Works Director John Hehnke, after Hehnke’s ex-girlfriend

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South Dakota regulators won’t toss Keystone XL application

By JAMES NORD

Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - State regulators a dismissed request Tuesday to throw out an application for the South Dakota portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a decision as early as next month from the Public Utilities Commission on whether to re-approve the embattled project.

Pipeline opponents argued before the panel that President Barack Obama killed the project in November, which should put an end to the proceedings in South Dakota. But an attorney for

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Nebraska population keeps growing slowly to 1.896 million

By JOSH FUNK

Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s population grew modestly again this year, but it might not be enough to protect all three of the state’s U.S. House seats after the 2020 Census.

The new population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday show that the state’s population grew to 1.896 million by July 1 of this year. That’s an increase of 13,210 over last year’s estimate of 1.883 million. The state’s population increased roughly 0.7 percent over last

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Rapid City casino robbed for 3rd time since August

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Police are investigating another armed robbery at a Rapid City casino.

The Rapid City Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1JrcBRg) that two armed men robbed the business on East St. Patrick St. Monday night. Police say it’s the third time the casino has been robbed since August.

Police say the robbers on Monday showed their weapons and demanded money. The suspects fled with an undetermined amount of cash.

Police say no one was injured.

Authorities say Monday night’s

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Former state senator chosen as Nebraska tax commissioner

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A former state senator from Lincoln has been chosen to serve as Nebraska’s tax commissioner.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday that he has chosen Tony Fulton for the position in the Nebraska Department of Revenue. The 43-year-old Fulton served in the Legislature from 2007 to 2013, and was a member of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.

Fulton is the founder and owner of Guardian Angels Homecare, Inc., a business that provides housekeeping, companionship, and

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Serious crashes involving drugs are on the rise in Nebraska

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The number of serious crashes involving drivers who were under the influence of drugs is growing in Nebraska, and officials are concerned about the trend.

The Omaha World-Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1YpG9uS ) 28 Nebraska residents have died this year in crashes where one of the drivers had drugs in his or her system. That’s up from 22 last year, and before that the state averaged about a dozen drug-related traffic deaths.

Increased testing might be part of why drugs are

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Lawmakers push for broad-based property tax relief in 2016

By GRANT SCHULTE

Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers are gearing up for next year’s legislative session with a focus on broad-based property tax relief for city dwellers as well as farmers and ranchers.

Legislative leaders and Gov. Pete Ricketts have pegged property taxes as one of the top priorities for the session, despite a projected budget shortfall.

Sen. Mike Gloor, chairman of the Revenue Committee, said he expects an attempt to slow the sharp land value increases

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Nebraska ranks 32nd in how it runs food assistance program

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska says it continues to improve the way it runs its economic and food assistance programs.

The USDA says the AccessNebraska program ranked 32nd in the timeliness of how it handled applications for food stamps in the first half of 2015.

That’s up from 39th last year and 52nd in 2013.

Courtney Phillips is CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Phillips says it’s excited to see continued improvement in the state’s benefits programs.

Last month

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