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Man accused of stabbing couple at I-80 rest area in Nebraska will have psych evaluation

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Man accused of stabbing couple at I-80 rest area in Nebraska will have psych evaluation


James Thompson Jr.
Courtesy: Hall County Department of Corrections

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — The man accused in a deadly stabbing at an Interstate 80 rest area was ordered to undergo a mental evaluation on Tuesday.

Hall County Judge Arthur Wetzel sent James Thompson Jr. to the Lincoln Regional Center, where doctors will determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Thompson, 22, of Ohio killed 72-year-old Gary Weaver and seriously wounded 71-year-old Mary Weaver on June 19 during a robbery attempt, court documents allege.

SEE ALSO: Man killed, woman seriously injured in knife attack at I-80 rest area in Nebraska

The Weavers, of Missouri, were traveling across Nebraska in their recreational vehicle, authorities said.

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They stopped at the I-80 rest area south of Grand Island, where authorities said Thompson tried to steal the Jeep attached to their camper.

He stabbed the Weavers multiples times, according to the Nebraska State Patrol, then left in a Ford Focus.

Thompson led state troopers on a chase, which ended when he drove into the Platte River, an arrest affidavit says.

He got out of the car and ran away, authorities said, but troopers quickly caught up to him.

Thompson faces 11 felonies, including first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

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The judge scheduled a hearing on Thompson’s competence for Aug. 6.

Categories: Nebraska News, News





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Nebraska governor issues a proclamation for a special session to address property taxes

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Nebraska governor issues a proclamation for a special session to address property taxes


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen issued a long-awaited proclamation on Wednesday calling a special legislative session to address the state’s soaring property taxes, ruffling some lawmakers’ feathers by giving them just a day’s notice.

Pillen warned lawmakers on the last day of the regular legislative session in April that he would convene a special session sometime in the summer after lawmakers failed to pass a bill to significantly lower property taxes. Last month, he sent a letter to Speaker of the Legislature John Arch saying he planned to call lawmakers back on July 25.

Property taxes have skyrocketed across the country as U.S. home prices have jumped more than 50% in the past five years, leading a bevy of states to pass or propose measures to rein them in. Nebraska has seen revenue from property taxes rise by nearly $2 billion over the past decade, far outpacing the amount in revenue collected from income and sales taxes.

Pillen’s proclamation calls for slew of appropriations and tax changes, including subjecting everything from cigarettes, candy, soda, hemp products and gambling to new taxes. It also calls for a hard cap on what cities and other local governments can collect in property taxes.

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Just as significant is what’s not included in the proclamation: Pillen didn’t direct lawmakers to consider a winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes ahead of this year’s hotly-contested presidential election.

Nebraska and Maine are the only states that split their electoral votes. In Nebraska, the three electoral votes tied to the state’s three congressional districts go to whichever candidate wins the popular vote in that district. Republicans who dominate state government in the conservative state have long sought to join the 48 other states that award all of their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins statewide, but have been unable to get such a bill passed in the Legislature.

Pillen said this year that he would include a winner-take-all proposal in a special session proclamation if the measure had the 33 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. He could still call another special session to consider a winner-take-all proposal if he thinks it has enough support to pass.

Pillen’s 11th-hour call for a special session to deal with property taxes drew testy responses from some lawmakers, who have to interrupt summer plans, find day care for children and put their full-time jobs on hold to head back to the Capitol. Even some of Pillen’s fellow Republicans joined in the criticism.

State Sen. Julie Slama, a Republican in the single-chamber, officially nonpartisan Legislature, slammed Pillen in a social media post as “an entitled millionaire.” She also dismissed his plan to shift a proposed 50% decrease in property taxes to a wide-ranging expansion of goods and services subject to the state’s 5.5% sales tax.

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Pillen “thinks the Legislature will pass the largest tax increase on working Nebraskans in state history because he snapped his fingers and ordered us to dance,” Slama posted on X.

State Sen. Justin Wayne, a Democrat from Omaha, called on fellow lawmakers to immediately adjourn the session Thursday and demand a week’s notice from Pillen before reconvening. Barring that, the Legislature should at least recess on Thursday until Aug. 1, Wayne said in a Tuesday letter to his fellow 48 senators.

Under Nebraska rules, governors can call a special session but must issue a proclamation that outlines specifically what issues the Legislature will address during it. There is no deadline by which governors must issue a proclamation before calling lawmakers back for a special session, but legislators have typically gotten that call a week or more ahead of time.

Wayne called the lack of a proclamation from Pillen with only hours before the planned special session “blatant disrespect.”

“We are not his slaves to be summoned at his whim,” Wayne said. “We have families and lives, and this lack of consideration is unacceptable.

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“It is time we assert our independence and demand the respect we deserve.”

Pillen’s office did not answer questions about why he waited until the day before the special session to issue the proclamation calling it.

Nebraska’s last special session took place in September 2021, when lawmakers convened to redraw the state’s political boundaries. That session lasted 13 days. Pillen has said he’ll call as many special sessions as needed and keep lawmakers in Lincoln “until Christmas” until a significant property tax relief bill is passed.





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Fact or Fiction: Nebraska could have a hot start to 2026 recruiting

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Fact or Fiction: Nebraska could have a hot start to 2026 recruiting


1. Michigan is the clear favorite for Andrew Babalola.

Andrew Babalola

Henschke: FICTION. Michigan may very well land Andrew Babalola but to say that he has a “clear” favorite might be a stretch at this point. I think the battle between the Wolverines and Stanford is too close to call at the moment but one that could end up being in Michigan’s favor. Credit to Babalola, he’s keeping this one close with a veil of mystery in a day and age where information is readily available.

Smith: FICTION. This has become one of the toughest recruitments to handicap in the region. It makes all the sense in the world that Michigan would be a clear favorite. The program tradition, having a former offensive line coach as head coach and academics are a powerful mix.

However, Stanford and Missouri should not be counted out. The Cardinal offer a tremendous life after football. Missouri has things rolling right now with coach Eli Drinkwitz. I give the Wolverines the edge now but it’s not a commanding lead.

*****

2. Nebraska can set the tone for 2026 defensive recruiting this weekend.

Matt Rhule

© Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Verghese: FACT. Nebraska’s upcoming visit weekend might not result in any imminent commitments, however it should set the table for what could be down the line for the Huskers in 2026. Top defensive targets such as four-star athlete Brandon Arrington, a defensive back on Nebraska’s board, four-star linebacker Keenan Harris, four-star safety Jayden McGregory and three-star defensive end Hunter Higgins are expected in town. This weekend will serve as an opportunity for the Huskers to establish themselves as top contenders in each recruitment. Regional targets JJ Dunnigan, Landon Bland and Jase Reynolds are high on the staff’s boards and while their offer list doesn’t match some other targets, there’s significant upside with all three that the staff hopes to tap into.

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This is a big weekend for Matt Rhule and the Huskers as a whole, but it’s a good opportunity for Tony White, Rob Dvoracek and new defensive backs coach John Butler to give Nebraska a head start in 2026.

Smith: FACT. Nebraska’s 2026 defensive visit list this weekend is sneakily very intriguing. The headliners are four-star outside linebacker Keenan Harris and four-star defensive back Jayden McGregory. Both are terrific athletes that would fit well into defensive coordinator Tony White’s scheme.

But there are others coming to campus who should have Nebraska fans excited. Kansas native Hunter Higgins is a potential riser as a DE/OLB. Nebraska also has a few athletic defensive backs to watch coming to campus too. Having a good showing with those defenders could go a long way for the future of the Blackshirts.

*****

3. Notre Dame is the out-of-state team to beat for Tai’Yion King.

Tai’Yon King

Hansen: FACT. But put that in pencil for now. The true indicator will be whether Tai’Yion King makes it back for an Irish home game this fall, something he indicated was a strong possibility after Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, linebackers coach Max Bullough and defensive coordinator Al Golden made a strong impression during an April 20 visit for the Blue-Gold Game.

Tennessee, which King is set to visit on Thursday, will be the only other out-of-state program the Texan has visited, but his offer list is growing.

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The Irish, however, are recruiting the position at a very high level and will play at least one freshman and two sophomores prominently in their positional rotation this fall. If they can reel in four-star prospects Madden Faraimo and Nathanial Owusu-Boateng in the 2025 class, it will give them six top-100 prospects at the position over a four-cycle stretch – the same number they signed in the previous 20 classes combined.

Smith: FICTION. In-state programs Texas and Texas A&M will certainly have a lot to say about this recruitment. But the four-star inside linebacker will have good options outside of the state, too. He’s been in good contact with the Notre Dame staff for a long time now so it is definitely one of the teams to watch. However, Tennessee could make a move for the Port Arthur (Texas) Memorial standout.

The Vols will get a chance to host him soon and have a huge opportunity in front of them.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Rivals.com, the leader in college football and basketball recruiting coverage. Be the first to know and follow your teams by signing up here.

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‘We are not his slaves’: Lawmakers demand respect before a property tax special session • Nebraska Examiner

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‘We are not his slaves’: Lawmakers demand respect before a property tax special session • Nebraska Examiner


LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers blasted Gov. Jim Pillen on Tuesday night for his “blatant disrespect” to the Legislature in not yet formally calling a special session to address what many have called the state’s property tax “crisis.”

Pillen has said for a month that he intends to call senators back to Lincoln this Thursday to iron out property tax relief ideas. Most recently, he has said the “Nebraska Plan” he’s worked on throughout the summer would result in major savings to taxpayers, with up to 50% savings in property taxes for the average Nebraskan. Many senators have questioned whether that would be the case or if property tax savings would be undercut by a broadened sales tax base.

Gov. Jim Pillen is joined by State Sens. Lou Ann Linehan and Rob Clements in unveiling a proposal to reduce local property taxes in three years. July 18, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Lawmakers were unsuccessful in passing a previous Pillen-backed property tax plan during the regular legislative session, which ended April 18, so Pillen immediately pivoted to a special session for the summer. However, he hasn’t yet issued a proclamation to do so, as he is required to do under the Nebraska Constitution

That document must specify when lawmakers are to return to Lincoln and for which topics legislation can be introduced.

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‘We are not his slaves’

State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha wrote in an email to all 48 of his colleagues shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday that state government is composed of three independent branches, which should respect each other’s roles. 

But with fewer than 48 hours until a special session, Wayne said, lawmakers didn’t have the necessary information to do their jobs.

“I am compelled to express my profound disappointment and frustration with the Governor’s blatant disrespect in failing to call a special session in a timely and responsible manner,” Wayne wrote.

“We are not his slaves to be summoned at his whim,” Wayne continued. “We have families and lives, and this lack of consideration is unacceptable.”

Wayne said that to solve the problem of rising property taxes, lawmakers must ensure they can collaborate effectively. He and other lawmakers, such as State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, have voiced concern that Pillen’s proclamation could exclude ideas they’re working on to overhaul the state’s tax system.

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Among those are ideas to legalize and tax online sports betting or marijuana sales, which Wayne said he is considering bringing.

State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar. April 18, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Slama has said she’s working on legislation but declined to share details.

Multiple senators have confirmed to the Nebraska Examiner that dozens of bills — more than 80 — are being prepped by legislative staff ahead of the special session.

Special session schedule

Pillen first issued a “save-the-date” on June 17 for the special session, to be held between July 26 and Aug. 15. A week later, he landed on July 25 as the starting date, and Speaker John Arch of La Vista offered a suggested schedule for the special session.

Under that schedule, lawmakers would introduce bills within the scope of Pillen’s call for three straight days this week, Thursday through Saturday. No bills could be introduced after that, per legislative rules.

Full-day hearings would start next Monday on the bills introduced.

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“This issue of property tax has been something we’ve been working on for a long time, and not this session of the Legislature, but for a long time,” Arch said.

Wayne, chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said that during regular legislative sessions, committee chairs provide a “basic level of respect” by working with other lawmakers to schedule hearings. Wayne said Arch also helps in providing advanced notice of daily agendas.

State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha. Jan. 6, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska News Service)

Regardless of if or when Pillen formally calls a special session, Wayne said, lawmakers should demand a week’s notice before a special session begins and otherwise should adjourn “sine die.” Such a vote requires a simple majority of those present to pass. If successful, it would send lawmakers home unless the governor chose to issue another call for a special session at a later date.

It’s unclear how many lawmakers will attend the first day of the session. Arch has been contacting lawmakers to ensure that at least 25 of the 49 senators show up to meet quorum.

Previous special sessions

Since 1940, considering 36 special sessions for the Unicameral, Nebraska governors have, on average, given at least seven days’ notice between when a proclamation is issued and the time senators are called to meet in Lincoln, according to the Legislature’s records. 

Previous governors called lawmakers back just one day after issuing the proclamation three times: Gov. Bob Kerrey, in 1988, and Gov. Val Peterson, for two special sessions in 1952. Gov. Kay Orr gave the longest notice in 1988, at 37 days.

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Former Gov. Pete Ricketts gave 17 days’ notice before the 2021 special session on redistricting; Gov. Dave Heinemann gave one week’s notice before a 2011 special session on oil pipelines.

“If that is too daunting for some,” Wayne continued, he suggested lawmakers should meet Thursday but at least recess until Aug. 1, giving senators one week to draft bills within the scope of the session.

“It is time we assert our independence and demand the respect we deserve,” Wayne said.

Speaker leaves scheduling door open

Arch agreed that any special session is a “serious sacrifice” for many senators who must earn a living outside of their elected duties as “citizen legislators” with annual salaries of $12,000.

Wayne, an attorney, noted that his trials and court hearings can’t proceed until an official “call” has been sent.

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“He has points in what he brings out,” Arch said of Wayne.

Speaker John Arch of La Vista addresses state lawmakers during a legislative retreat at Nebraska Innovation Campus on Dec. 7, 2023, in Lincoln. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Arch said lawmakers will “wait and see” for the proclamation, though they shouldn’t anticipate that the topics they’re working on related to property taxes will be excluded. Senators will police themselves in determining what is within the scope of the session, Arch previously told the Examiner.

Asked about Wayne’s suggested schedule, Arch left the door open. He wants to see what Pillen’s proclamation contains and what bills are introduced. He also wants to consider how any schedule change could further disrupt lawmakers’ lives.

“The further you push this out, the more weeks are impacted. We’ll have to make that call,” he said.

Arch described Pillen’s outlined property tax proposal as a “framework” that doesn’t have all the details and said that will certainly be part of the discussion in solving “the property tax crisis.”

The speaker said many Legislatures have come up to the plate to address that crisis but backed away because reforms always involve “very politically difficult decisions.”

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“Decisions that affect a large number of people that, unless you see the big picture, and if you’re only focusing on one piece of the plan and not the whole picture, it’s just very different,” Arch said. “It’s just very easy to just say, ‘No. No, that’s a bad idea.’”

But put together, Arch said, the ideas could provide a way forward.

“Maybe we can come together and have some significant impact,” he continued.

Lawmakers echo criticisms

State Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard was among a handful of lawmakers to voice support for Wayne’s suggestions, adding that “perhaps after Labor Day” would work to reconvene.

Five Omaha-area senators and two lawmakers from Lincoln and Bellevue host a listening session on property taxes in Omaha on Sunday, July 21, 2024. From left, State Sens. Carol Blood, Christy Armendariz, Jane Raybould, Merv Riepe, Terrell McKinney, John Cavanaugh and Machaela Cavanaugh. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha thanked Wayne “for expressing so clearly what many are feeling.” She led a group of lawmakers in hosting public listening sessions in Omaha and Lincoln last Sunday and Monday after Pillen hosted town halls in 26 smaller cities across the state.

“I would welcome the opportunity to adjourn after the first day until such time that our deliberative body had appropriate notice for undertaking a special session,” Cavanaugh wrote.

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Slama said she “entirely” agreed with Wayne and said the “lack of transparency and timeliness” had “compromised the integrity of the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government.”

“It is incumbent upon Speaker Arch, as the leader of this branch of government, to demand the minimal level of respect of having enough time to draft bills to properly conduct the special session,” Slama wrote back. “The integrity of the institution depends on it.”

State Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln joins a public listening session on property taxes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lincoln on Monday, July 22, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

State Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, who has served in three special sessions during her tenure, said the governor is “well within his legal right” to delay calling the session until the last possible moment, though it might not be a “recipe for success.”

She cautioned that now is not the time for “creative procedural distractions” that, while important, could reflect poorly on the institution. 

Conrad said procedural options should remain on the table for the future but told her colleagues they shouldn’t back away from a plan that she believes “will collapse naturally under its own weight when subjected to public analysis and engagement.”

“I look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that indeed our Founders were right to be skeptical of an all powerful Executive and democracy should remain inconvenient to bad ideas.”

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Pillen’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the emails.

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