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Jeremy Daniel 

"The Sound of Music"


International Quilt Study Center and Museum volunteer Margaret Bunde admires the quilt "Reflection 1," by Erica Waaser, while taking in the Voltage exhibit during a break on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star

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Senator proposes $1B property tax relief plan: 'Here we go'

The countdown begins. 

Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard dropped his proposal for a billion dollars in property tax relief into the legislative hopper Thursday, as supporters of a backup plan prepared to launch a petition drive to place the issue on the November general election ballot. 

Next week, Gov. Pete Ricketts will come before the Legislature to outline an alternative tax plan that would combine property tax relief with personal and corporate income tax reductions.

"Here we go," Erdman said as he left his desk to present his bill for introduction on the second day of the 2018 legislative session. 

And so the stage is set for an election-year tax reduction debate. 

Erdman's bill (LB829) provides for property tax relief distributed through a state income tax credit or refund equal to 50 percent of local school property taxes paid by Nebraska taxpayers.

Erdman has estimated that will provide about $1.1 billion in property tax relief, beginning in 2019.

As the western Nebraska senator formally introduced his proposal, Trent Fellers of Lincoln completed preparations with the secretary of state for circulation of initiative petitions that would place the property tax issue on the November ballot for voter consideration if the Legislature does not act.

Fellers, who is executive director of Reform for Nebraska's Future, said he expects to begin circulating petitions within the next few weeks and gathering signatures.

Ricketts is planning to unveil some details about a renegotiated tax proposal that would add more property tax relief to a stalled bill (LB461) that is weighted more to personal and corporate income tax reduction.

That measure, as it now is framed, centers its property tax reduction feature on a new method of ag land valuation.

While raising strong concerns last week about the cost of the Erdman proposal, Ricketts has been engaged in negotiations to add more property tax relief to the pending legislation that he supported last year.

Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, chairman of the Legislature's Revenue Committee, suggested this week that, although he is encouraged, the revised proposal appears to have "a very, very narrow path" to legislative approval. 

Erdman said Thursday he has been encouraged by expressions of increasing support from urban homeowners for his own proposal. 

Courtesy photo 

State Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard

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FBI accuses white supremacist of terror attack on Amtrak train in rural Nebraska

Taylor Wilson

The FBI says an armed 26-year-old Missouri man who breached a secured area to stop an Amtrak train in southwest Nebraska in October has links to a white supremacist group and expressed an interest in "killing black people," according to court documents unsealed Wednesday.

Taylor Michael Wilson, of St. Charles, Missouri, is charged in U.S. District Court in Lincoln with terrorism attacks and other violence against railroad carriers and mass transportation systems.

In an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint, FBI Special Agent Monte Czaplewski said there was probable cause to believe that electronic devices possessed by Wilson and firearms owned by him "have been used for or obtained in anticipation of engaging in or planning to engage in criminal offenses against the United States."

Just before 2 a.m. on Oct. 22, an assistant conductor felt the train braking, searched for what was causing it and found Wilson in the engineer's seat of the follow engine "playing with the controls," Czaplewski wrote.

The conductor, and others, subdued Wilson, then held him and waited for deputies from Furnas and Harlan counties to arrive in Oxford, 23 miles southwest of Holdrege, where the eastbound California Zephyr with about 175 people aboard stopped.

No injuries were reported.

Czaplewski said Wilson, who has a permit in Missouri to carry a concealed handgun, had a loaded .38-caliber handgun in his waistband, a speed loader in his pocket and a National Socialist Movement business card on him when he was arrested.

He also had a backpack with three more speed loaders, a box of ammunition, a knife, tin snips, scissors and a ventilation mask inside.

Wilson, who was traveling from Sacramento, California, to St. Louis, later was charged in Furnas County with felony criminal mischief and use of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony.

In late October, a judge ordered Wilson to undergo a competency evaluation at his attorney's request. He later was found competent to proceed, according to court records.

His $100,000 bond was posted on Dec. 11 and he was released.

Two days later, according to the federal case, FBI agents searched Wilson's home in Missouri and found a hidden compartment with a handmade shield, as well as: "a tactical vest, 11 AR-15 (rifle) ammunition magazines with approximately 190 rounds of .223 ammunition, one drum-style ammunition magazine for a rifle, firearms tactical accessories (lights), 100 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, approximately 840 rounds of 5.45x39 rifle ammunition, white supremacy documents and paperwork, several additional handgun and rifle magazines, gunpowder, ammunition-reloading supplies, and a pressure plate."

Czaplewski said they also found 15 firearms, including a fully-automatic rifle, ammunition and firearms magazines, and a tactical body armor carrier with ceramic ballistic plates.

In the newly unsealed federal case, Czaplewski wrote that investigators had found videos and PDF files on Wilson's phone of a white supremacist banner over a highway, other alt-right postings and documents related to how to kill people.

He said an acquaintance contacted by the FBI said that Wilson had been acting strange since June and had joined an "alt-right" neo-Nazi group that he found while researching white supremacy forums online.

Czaplewski said agents believe Wilson had traveled with members of the group to the Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, where a woman was killed and 19 injured when a man used his vehicle to ram a crowd of counter-protesters.

An informant told the FBI that Wilson has expressed an interest in "killing black people" and others besides whites, and they suspect Wilson was responsible for a road rage incident in April 2016 in St. Charles where a man pointed a gun at a black woman for no apparent reason while driving on Interstate 70, Czaplewski said.

Wilson now is in federal custody. He was arrested Dec. 23, a day after the complaint was filed under seal in federal court in Nebraska.

Courtesy photo 

Taylor Wilson

The Associated Press