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lottery scratch ticketRAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A group of quilters from Rapid City who for years have been paying $2 a week to buy scratch-off lottery tickets finally pocketed some winnings.

The 17 women won $55,000 on a $5 Cash Deluxe scratch-off lottery ticket last week, making each lady nearly $2,500 richer after taxes.

Quilter Betty Richards is affectionately known by her friends as “Elizabeth the Lottery Bookie.” She tells the Rapid City Journal that she had to get her husband to confirm she was reading the ticket correctly when she realized the group had won.

The group has been chipping in to the weekly lottery pool since April 2005. Richards says the win won’t buy them the quilting retirement dream home they’ve joked about for years, but they’re still thrilled.


Presidents Day-1   Monday is George Washington’s Birthday…Presidents Day in some states…a national holiday. Federal, state, and county offices are closed, there is no mail delivery, and banks and other financial institutions are closed. Some cities and school districts observe the holiday, others do not.

Although most people and most calendars refer to this as Presidents Day, the official federal designation is Washington’s Birthday…moved from his actual birth date of February 22nd to the 3rd Monday of the month in 1971 under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

About a dozen states have officially adopted the Presidents Day name…most to also recognize Abraham Lincoln, but some to honor all the men who’ve held the office.

Washington’s Birthday was the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, beginning in 1880 for federal offices in Washington, DC, then expanded 5 years later to include all federal offices.

Lincoln’s birthday…also in February…was never a federal holiday, although it was observed by many states until the 1971 federal law.


Dave Heineman-1    Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has scrapped his alternative tax reform plans of reducing or eliminating individual and corporate income taxes by ending up to $2.4-billion dollars in sales tax exemptions.

Heineman told reporters Saturday that he’d heard “loud and clear” the criticism by opponents…especially farm and business interests…that both of his proposals were threats to the state’s manufacturing industry and agriculture.

Omaha Senator Beau McCoy, a co-sponsor of the two bills making up the governor’s plan, says he’ll ask the legislature’s Revenue Committee…probably on Wednesday…two kill the bills and undertake a study of the state’s tax system over the next year.

A number of senators…including John Harms of Scottsbluff…had been calling for a comprehensive tax study before acting on any major reform proposals, the governor’s or anyone else’s.

McCoy says the governor’s proposals accomplished a lot by paving the way for a “much broader discussion” on taxes. He says public comments show that Nebraskans want to talk about expanding the sales tax to include services, reforming property taxes, and taking a careful review of existing economic development incentives.

Revenue chairman Galen Hadley of Kearney says he wants to create a tax study committee made up of his committee’s 8 members and other interested senators that would hire outside experts and use staffers from the Revenue Department and Legislative Fiscal Office.

There also a bill already introduced by Senator Paul Schumacher of Columbus…LB-613…to create a Tax Modernization Commission with a different makeup. It’s scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday before the Legislature’s Executive Board.


Photo: Billings Gazette
Photo: Billings Gazette

An officer in the company that owns Cheyenne’s landmark Hitching Post Inn hotel has pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the 2010 fire that heavily damaged the longtime bunkhouse and watering hole of Wyoming state lawmakers.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal on Friday set bond at $1 million cash for 51-year-old Ajay Jariwala, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and scheduled his trial for April 15.

A federal indictment charges Jariwala with hiring another New Mexico man to torch the hotel for insurance money after taking out a $13.6-million dollar policy on a building his company paid only a little over $1-million for.

The insurance company has refused to pay on the policy, saying the fire was arson. Jariwala’s company has sued the insurer to force payment, but the suit is on hold until after the trial of the accused arsonist.


Dave Heineman-3   LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Governor Dave Heineman is seeking applicants to fill the vacancy on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents created when Lavon Heidemann resigned to become lieutenant governor.

The governor’s office is accepting applications for District 5, an area that covers a portion of southeast Nebraska, through the close of business on March 8. The new regent will stand for election in 2014.

Heineman said Friday that his appointment will be based on the person’s views on agriculture, college affordability and the university’s role in spurring economic growth.

The new board opening has drawn the attention of abortion opponents, who want Heineman to fill the seat with a candidate who opposes embryonic stem cell research.

He says the stem-cell issue is important to him as well, but he plans to focus on a broader set of factors when making his decision…and that Heidemann will be his top adviser when deciding which applicant to pick.



Ogallala Comm Hospital     OGALLALA, Neb. (AP) – The Ogallala Community Hospital has announced a $2 million expansion plan that will provide additional space for specialists. The 18-bed hospital plans to add between 3,800 and 5,000 square feet.

Hospital CEO Sharon Lind says the facility is “running out of room,” and hopes the expansion will make it easier to recruit more doctors.

The hospital wants to add three family practice providers, four to six full-time support staffers and nearly double its number of specialists to almost 20.

Lind says the hospital hopes to break ground in April and complete construction by January 2014


Flu virus    SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota Department of Health officials say 30 people in the state have died from the flu, making it the deadliest winter in eight years.

Lon Kightlinger, the state epidemiologist, says the worst of the flu season is over but the virus is still circulating and people are still getting sick. Five people died from the flu last week.

The number of deaths is the highest since the 2004-05 season, when 42 South Dakotans died from the flu. All but two of the victims have been 75 or older.

Kightlinger tells the Sioux Falls Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/XRBlLq) there have been 821 confirmed flu cases this year. He says the total number could be 100 times greater because doctors are not required to report cases that don’t result in death.



Gov Matt Mead
Gov Matt Mead

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed into law Friday a bill that increases the state’s fuel tax by a dime to 24-cents per gallon for gasoline and diesel.

Mead has been pushing for a new source of funding for the Wyoming Department of Transportation since he took office two years ago, saying the state can no longer afford to subsidize the transportation department from general funds.

In remarks at Friday’s signing ceremony, Mead said road maintenance will to continue to be a long-term need in the state because the state’s highway system is vital to economic development.

The tax hike will raise about $70 million a year for street and road projects after it takes effect on July 1. The Wyoming transportation department will get about two thirds of that with the rest going to local governments.



Ice Fishing
Photo courtesy of Nebraska Games & Parks

LINCOLN, Neb. – Private pond owners are encouraged to report severe winter fish kills to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission following ice-out.

Winter fish kills occur when oxygen levels fall too low to support fish under the ice. Ice prevents the direct absorption of oxygen from the atmosphere, so oxygen produced by plant photosynthesis is crucial. Oxygen levels drop because of plant decomposition and respiration by aquatic organisms. Shallow ponds with heavy vegetation are particularly susceptible.

Once the ice is gone, pond owners should check their shorelines for dead fish and note the species, size and quantity. If hundreds of dead fish are observed, owners may call Jeff Blaser, Game and Parks’ private waters specialist, at 402-471-5435, to discuss options for restoring the fish community.

North American Fisherman Magazine


Gov Heineman, Robin Heidemann, Lt Gov Heidemann
Gov Heineman, Robin Heidemann, Lt Gov Heidemann

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has chosen former state Sen. Lavon Heidemann of Elk Creek as his new lieutenant governor, making the announcement Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol.

Heidemann, elected to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents last November, resigned that post shortly before taking the oath of office during a public ceremony that was part of the governor’s news conference announcing his selection.

The 54-year-old Heidemann served as chairman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee during his eight years in the Legislature…which he left last year because of term limits.  He is a farmer-rancher, and serves his community as a volunteer firefighter.

A Republican like the governor, Heidemann replaces Rick Sheehy…who resigned earlier this month following a newspaper report that he had made thousands of personal calls to women, other than his wife, on his state-issued cellphone.

Governor Heineman said at the combination news conference swearing-in ceremony that he’d gotten to know and respect the new lieutenant governor during Heidemann’s 6 years as chairman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee…calling him “a proven, dedicated public servant for the citizens of Nebraska.”

Heidemann said he was excited about becoming lieutenant governor because public service is something he believes in deeply, but admitted he hated to leave the Board of Regents after serving less than 2 months.

The governor will appoint the replacement for Heidemann on the Board of Regents, and that person will serve for two years, until the next election. The regents position is unpaid but the lieutenant governor is paid $75,000 annually.

The governor had said after Sheehy’s resignation that he wanted to appoint someone who would not be running next year to be his successor…calling it an unfair advantage over the other candidates. Heidemann says he agrees completely.

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