March 30, 2015

Omaha man arrested in fatal car accident

Police car lightsA 35-year-old Omaha man has been arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident in Omaha.

Omaha police arrested Justin Ayers after being alerted by a witness to the car wreck that killed 63-year-old Kathleen Benes of Valparaiso. According to police reports, a car driving an estimated 100 mph rammed into the back of Benes’ car. The impact pushed the car into the path of an oncoming pick-up. Benes was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the pick-up was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Police say Ayers fled the scene, but 69-year-old Stephen Grasso of Omaha man followed him, called 911 to report the car parked at an Omaha apartment complex. Grasso parked his car behind Ayers’ car until police came to arrest him.

Patient being monitored for Ebola has “cardiac issue”

Medical LogoOne of the five people being monitored in Omaha after possibly being exposed to Ebola has been hospitalized for a heart ailment.

Nebraska Medicine reports the person, who has not been identified, suffered a “cardiac issue” while jogging near the University of Nebraska Medical Center Saturday afternoon. Medical aid was administered on the scene by a health care worker. The person has been admitted to Nebraska Medicine and is listed in stable condition.

The medical condition, according to Nebraska Medicine, was unrelated to Ebola.

“It is important for everyone to understand this patient does not have Ebola,” Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, said in a written statement released by Nebraska Medicine. “Out of an abundance of caution, we ran an Ebola test immediately after the patient was admitted on Saturday. That test came back negative. There is no risk to hospital staff, patients, those assisting at the scene or the public.”

Nebraska Medicine is abiding by the privacy request by the five patients, not disclosing their names or gender. All five are being monitored twice daily on the medical center campus in a joint effort of Nebraska Medicine, the Douglas County Health Department, and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

All five served as health care workers on a medical mission in Sierra Leone with a colleague who tested positive for Ebola and is being treated at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

Nebraska Medicine says the five were brought to Omaha “out of an abundance of caution,” to be near the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit for treatment if necessary, which Nebraska Medicine says is unlikely.

Lincoln businessman sentence on drug charges

A 48-year-old Lincoln man has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on drug charges, money laundering, and being a felon in possession of ammunition.

Federal prosecutors say John Ways, Jr. sold drugs and drug paraphernalia through his Exotica stores in Omaha and South Sioux City as well as Council Bluffs, Iowa. Ways has also been ordered to forfeit more than one million dollars in cash as drug proceeds seized from multiple bank accounts, two vehicles purchased with drug proceeds, various computers and equipment, ammunition, and four gun safes. Ways will have to serve three years of supervised release.

“It does not matter whether drug dealers sell illegal drugs on the street, through the Internet or, like this defendant, under the guise of a legitimate business. It is still drug dealing,” United States Attorney Deborah R. Gilg said in a written statement released by her office. “With the help of our law enforcement partners such as the ATF, we will investigate and prosecute drug dealers no matter how they ply their trade. We will also seize and forfeit their illegitimate gains.”

State senators debating term limits, again (AUDIO)

Sen. Paul Schumacher/Photo courtesy Unicameral Information Office

Sen. Paul Schumacher/Photo courtesy Unicameral Information Office

State senators are debating whether voters should be asked to make an adjustment to their term limits.

Well, not exactly their term limits.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus tells colleagues his constitutional amendment, LR 7 CA, would have no effect on any of them, only future lawmakers who would see the limit of two, four-terms expanded to two, six-year terms.

“This question should be presented to the voters,” Schumacher tells colleagues during floor debate. “It’s their decision and it’s the only way they’re going to get to make it.”

Many senators back the change, stating experience is needed to be effective in the Unicameral. They argue a maximum of eight years doesn’t provide the time needed to adequately represent the people of Nebraska.

Others disagree.

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte notes he served as the treasurer of Nebraskans Against Amendment Three: Save Term Limits, which campaigned against the last proposed change to legislative term limits. Nebraskans defeated that measure by a 65% to 35% margin, though proponents of the latest suggested change are quick to point out that measure also had a salary increase attached to it.

Groene says he has become even more convinced that term limits work since becoming a member of the Unicameral.

“Eight years you stay closer to the people than you do the institution,” Groene tells colleagues. “Yes, this is a great institution, but it doesn’t exist for the sake of the institution. It exists for the sake of the citizens of Nebraska.”

Current legislative term limits limit state senators to two consecutive four-year terms. After serving eight years, senators can run for re-election after sitting out a term.

The controversy that erupted over remarks made by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha sidetracked debate on the issue. Legislators might well return to the issue today.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Nebraska unemployment rate drops to lowest in the nation

JobsThe state unemployment rate fell to 2.7%, the lowest in the nation.

The Nebraska Department of Labor announced the preliminary unemployment rate for February stood at 2.7%, seasonally adjusted, down two-tenths of a percent from January, down nearly a percent from February of last year.

The state unemployment rate for Nebraska also dropped below the rate in North Dakota, making it the lowest rate in the country. The North Dakota unemployment rate was 2.9%.

Gov. Pete Ricketts issued the following statement:

“Today’s announcement that Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation is great news for our state. We must continue to think strategically about the future. Growing Nebraska for the next generation requires careful planning so that our children and grandchildren have the opportunities they need to live, work, and raise a family here in Nebraska for generations to come.”

The unemployment rate for the Omaha metropolitan area was 3.2%, down from 3.6% in January. In Lincoln, the unemployment rate dropped to 2.4%, down from 2.8%.

The national unemployment rate is 5.5%