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.

Lawsuit claims redistricting in Thurston County discriminated against Native Americans

By: - January 24, 2023

LINCOLN — Lawyers on behalf of the Omaha and Winnebago Tribes of Nebraska have gone to court to object to redistricting plans adopted by the Thurston County Board for its seven members. A lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court maintains that county supervisor districts were intentionally redrawn to dilute the vote of Native Americans, […]

State senator touts using military veterans to help address ‘crisis’ in teacher shortage

By: - January 23, 2023

LINCOLN — The number of teaching jobs in Nebraska left vacant or filled by less than fully qualified instructors rose significantly in 2022, according to a recent state survey. Many of those vacancies were because there were no applicants, or many fewer applicants, according to State Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair. On Monday, Hansen said […]

school hallway lockers

Senator says students become more ‘engaged’ when involved in school policies, poll work

By: - January 23, 2023

LINCOLN — High school students would become more civically engaged if they worked at polling places or helped decide school policy, State Sen. George Dungan said Monday. Dungan, a freshman senator from Lincoln, introduced a bill that would add a student member to the subcommittees that advise local school boards on proper social studies curriculum. […]

chicken barns

Bill aims to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits, restricting who can file and when

By: - January 23, 2023

LINCOLN — A proposed revision to Nebraska’s “right to farm” law, promoted as increasing protections for farmers, is being condemned by environmentalists as a way to eliminate nearly all nuisance lawsuits. Under Legislative Bill 662, introduced Wednesday by State Sen. Beau Ballard of Lincoln, only landowners who live within a half-mile of agricultural operation, and […]

Think tank says Pillen education, tax initiatives would ‘quickly drain’ state coffers if enacted

By: - January 23, 2023

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s $1.9 billion state revenue surplus would “quickly” disappear under proposals by new Gov. Jim Pillen to increase state aid to K-12 education and cut taxes, a Lincoln think tank said Friday. The OpenSky Policy Institute worked with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think tank, analyze Pillen’s proposals to […]

voting rights

Advocates say restoring voting rights for felons would improve public safety

By: - January 20, 2023

LINCOLN — Advocates for restoring voting rights of convicted felons said Friday that such a step would remove a “punitive” stigma and improve public safety. “People who are engaged are less likely to reoffend,” said State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, at a press conference sponsored by the Voting Rights Restoration Coalition. About 20,000 Nebraskans […]

Buffalo County Sheriff's Office

York County sheriff fined for appearing in uniform in political ad for Herbster

By: - January 20, 2023

LINCOLN — York County Sheriff Paul Vrbka will pay a $1,000 fine for violating a state prohibition on appearing in political advertisements in uniform. The Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Commission on Friday approved the civil penalty against the sheriff, who, along with three other Nebraska sheriffs, appeared in a televised campaign advertisement in February […]

Drone Shot of Nebraska State Capitol at Sunset

State employee labor union wins court ruling, upholds wearing of blue jeans

By: - January 20, 2023

LINCOLN — In a battle over wearing blue jeans, a state employees union has prevailed. On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a ruling that the State Department of Health and Human Services had overstepped its bounds by changing the dress code — and banning blue jeans and other casual dress — in violation of […]

Nebraska State Capitol Building

Watchdog group says State Capitol Bible study leader should register as lobbyist

By: - January 20, 2023

LINCOLN — Every Wednesday morning during Nebraska legislative sessions, a group of about a dozen state senators gather over breakfast for a Bible study led by a former pastor who used to be a county Republican Party chairman. Later in the day, over a provided lunch, Arin Hess, the chaplain and president of Capitol Studies, […]

Senator says bill luring semiconductor plant to Nebraska would have biggest economic impact ‘since corn’

By: - January 19, 2023

LINCOLN — Nebraska needs to tap into the federal push to increase domestic manufacturing of semiconductors, an effort that could create more than 4,700 jobs paying an average of $84,500 per year, State Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha said Thursday. This week, McDonnell introduced Legislative Bill 616, which would authorize the state to match any […]

Nebraska State Capitol Building

State senators complete bill introductions, fall short of record volume

By: - January 18, 2023

LINCOLN — State senators have wrapped up the bill introduction period for the 2023 session, falling short of filing a record number of proposals. A total of 812 legislative bills were introduced through Wednesday — the deadline for bill introduction — which is short of the record 885 bills introduced in 1997 for a similar […]

Jim Pillen

Pillen touts ‘historic’ package of tax cuts, saying ‘we have to compete better’ with other states

By: - January 18, 2023

LINCOLN — Gov. Jim Pillen unveiled a package of proposed tax cuts on Wednesday that he labeled as “historic” and making Nebraska more competitive with other states. The package includes a gradual reduction in state personal and corporate income tax rates to a flat, 3.99% — which mirrors the rate recently adopted in Iowa — […]