Author

Paul Hammel

Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

Proposed state broadband office touted as more effective, creative in closing ‘digital divide’

By: - February 7, 2023

LINCOLN — With at least 80,000 to 90,000 locations in Nebraska still lacking quality broadband internet service, a legislative committee on Tuesday heard the latest proposal to close the state’s long-nagging “digital divide.” Gov. Jim Pillen has proposed the creation of a new state broadband office, supplanting the Nebraska Public Service Commission as the state’s […]

Hilgers joins 24-state coalition claiming that Yelp has ‘discriminated’ against crisis pregnancy centers

By: - February 7, 2023

LINCOLN — Attorney General Mike Hilgers has joined a 24-state coalition of red state attorneys general in objecting to Yelp’s “discrimination” against crisis pregnancy centers in its online consumer notices. In a letter to Yelp on Tuesday, the attorneys general objected to an advisory stating that the pregnancy centers “typically provide limited medical services and […]

Nebraska State Capitol Building

Dispute over inspector general powers appears headed for legal interpretation

By: - February 7, 2023

LINCOLN — Is it “constitutional overreach” to have special investigators assigned by the State Legislature look into problems, even deaths and injuries, involving state agencies? A long-running dispute over whether there’s a separation of powers problem with state “inspector general” offices was renewed Friday during a legislative hearing. It came during a public hearing on […]

Wilderness Park protest

Protesters arrested at site of housing development near Lincoln’s Wilderness Park

By: - February 6, 2023

Editor’s note: This has been updated to include developments on Tuesday.  LINCOLN — Five protesters were reportedly arrested Tuesday as Lincoln police intervened to allow tree removal to resume at a housing development planned near Wilderness Park. But by nightfall, Native American activists were still occupying a protest camp across the road from the proposed […]

Linehan

Battle over devoting public funds for private school scholarships returns to State Legislature

By: - February 3, 2023

LINCOLN — The annual battle over whether to devote public funds to private schools was renewed Friday at the Nebraska Legislature, with testimony extending into the evening. Nebraska is one of only two states that doesn’t allow “school choice” by extending public state funds to private schools. Backers of parochial and private schools said Friday […]

farming

Pillen plan to shift valuation of ag land gets static, even from farm groups

By: - February 3, 2023

LINCOLN — Gov. Jim Pillen’s plan to relieve property taxes paid by farmers and ranches got a rough reception Friday, even from some farm groups. The head of the state’s largest agriculture group, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, said Pillen’s plan to shift the valuation method from being based on recent sales of land to its […]

Pillen

Pillen tax-cut ideas win support of business groups, prompt criticism from community colleges

By: - February 2, 2023

LINCOLN — The lead sponsor of Gov. Jim Pillen’s proposal to cut state income taxes fended off doubts Thursday that such a $1.5 billion reduction in state revenue was affordable and wouldn’t harm state services. State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn said the state has more than a $2 billion surplus of state tax […]

State employees union approves labor contract granting raises of up to 10%-27%

By: - February 1, 2023

Editor’s note: this story has been updated to correct the percentages of the raises. LINCOLN — State workers have ratified a new labor contract that contains the largest salary increases in at least 35 years, a contract aimed at filling critical job vacancies. Gov. Jim Pillen and the Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE) announced […]

Pillen

School officials say governor’s revenue cap would harm education, efforts to fill staff vacancies

By: - February 1, 2023

 LINCOLN — Gov. Jim Pillen’s plan to further restrict spending by local school boards ran into opposition and concerns Wednesday from school district representatives. During a public hearing on Legislative Bill 589, education representatives, including Cheryl Logan, superintendent of the Omaha Public Schools, said his plan would take away local control of local education, place […]

prison

New prison report recommends not just one new prison, but another 1,500 beds in a decade

By: - February 1, 2023

LINCOLN — Before 2030, Nebraska will need another 1,500 prison beds, even after building a $350-million, 1,500-bed replacement for the aging State Penitentiary in Lincoln, a new report says. The long-awaited Facility Master Plan for the Nebraska Department of Corrections states that after the new prison is open, the state will be short about 1,300 […]

term limits

Virginia group sends postcards critical of proposal to amend term limits

By: - January 31, 2023

LINCOLN — The ink is barely dry on a proposal to extend state legislative term limits from two four-year terms to three, but a Virginia group is already attacking the idea. The group, called Liberty Initiative Fund, recently mailed hundreds of postcards to constituents of state senators who are supporting a proposed constitutional amendment to […]

Omaha woman says ‘heartbeat’ bill would inject politicians into ‘difficult’ private decisions

By: - January 31, 2023

LINCOLN — One by one, four women on Tuesday shared their traumatic, personal stories about abortion rights, urging Nebraska lawmakers to reject a proposal to further restrict the procedure. “This legislation takes away Nebraskans’ ability to control their bodies and their future,” said Abby Waller, a 37-year-old Omaha mother, who chose an abortion after doctors […]