- Associated Press - Monday, November 13, 2017

Omaha World-Herald. November 8, 2017

Stability is key for the biofuel industry

Nebraska and Iowa elected officials have done well in securing commitments from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to set mandates that support the American biofuels industry.

All four U.S. senators met with Pruitt last month about his agency’s approach to the Renewable Fuel Standard. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds traveled to Washington to speak with Pruitt and President Donald Trump about the issue. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts lobbied the Trump administration, too.

Pruitt sent a letter to Sen. Joni Ernst, who sits on the Public Works Committee, stating the EPA’s commitment to adopt fuel volumes for the mandates by the end of November that are at or above levels proposed this year.

That’s good news for Nebraska and Iowa. Iowa is the nation’s top ethanol producer and Nebraska is second. Both states enjoy an economic impact of more than $5 billion a year from biofuels and related industries, including many high-paying rural jobs.

Agriculturally astute Midlanders had reacted with surprise and concern to earlier indications that Pruitt might significantly alter biofuels mandates, such as allowing imported ethanol to count toward domestic requirements. This seemed to contradict Trump’s commitments about the biofuels industry during the presidential campaign in Iowa.

Maintaining or strengthening the Renewable Fuel Standard gives needed stability to the biofuels market, which many workers and communities rely on in states such as Nebraska and Iowa. These elected leaders did the right thing by holding the president to his word.


The Grand Island Independent.  November 9, 2017

Clean Community System helping us protect our world

The Grand Island Area Clean Community System continues to do exemplary work as it endeavors to help our community develop and maintain an ecologically healthy and pristine environment. Founded almost four decades ago, its mission is to educate and interact with the public, encouraging beautification, a litter-free environment and waste reduction through recycling. A major focus is the proper management and disposal of hazardous household waste.

Its challenges are many. Consumers can buy a plethora of chemical products that are useful and safe when used as directed, but a big negative for the environment when disposed of in an unsafe manner. Many of us have used products that can unplug a drain, kill pests in our garden or lawn and clean our stovetop or oven. Many of us have used only a portion of the “product” and then were tempted to throw the remaining product in the trash and thus into a landfill. With the CCS Swap Shop, those unused toxic products can be recycled to new users, as can those partially used cans of paint and a myriad of other products that do not belong in landfills or road ditches.

The Swap Shop at 3661 Sky Park Road, Suite 2B in Grand Island is a place we all need to visit as part of any major home cleaning project or when you want to acquire quality products. The idea is for us to “use up” rather than “dump” hazardous household waste. Everyone wins and our environment stays healthier.

With a small staff, limited funds and many volunteers, Clean Community System has been very productive. Since 2015 it has taken in almost 300,000 pounds of hazardous waste, including 140,000 pounds this year.

Grand Island has the privilege and responsibility of hosting the Nebraska State Fair. Needless to say, we want to look our best and Clean Community System facilitates that effort. This year 1,026 volunteers cleaned 81 miles of roads and streets as well as 240 acres of common grounds. Trash collection totaled 18,420 pounds.

“Big ticket” electronics and computers are a big challenge for disposal. On Oct. 26, 2016, Clean Community System collected 19,750 pounds of electronics, including 259 televisions. Future collections are being planned.


Lincoln Journal Star. November 7, 2017

State wise to pursue online sales tax ruling

Nebraskans who purchase something online from out-of-state vendors that don’t automatically collect sales tax have broken the law, unless they’ve claimed the tax and paid it on a tax return.

Yes, we’re a state full of scofflaws. Our nation is brimming with them, too.

But efforts to mandate collection of online sales taxes have hit a snag, largely because of the current interpretation of a 1992 case by the U.S. Supreme Court that bars the practice unless a retailer has a physical presence in the state. In recent years, Nebraska is among the states that have begun to pursue a measure that would take in the required taxes that have for so long gone unpaid.

To that end, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has joined with 34 other attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court brief to urge the highest court in the land to again review whether businesses can be required to collect the sales tax on behalf of the states, based on South Dakota’s new statute on the topic.

The clarity Peterson and his colleagues seek is long overdue and highlights the problem with technology advancing faster than the laws governing it. For a quarter-century, brick-and-mortar stores have been obligated to charge customers for sales tax at a time when nearly all online retailers have refused to do so, with Amazon a notable exception.

All the while, virtually all of these legally required - but entirely self-reported - taxes have gone unpaid.

In a state such as Nebraska, which has grappled with tax revenues that have repeatedly fallen short of previous forecasts, those dollars would make a big difference. The looming $195 million budget gap won’t just close itself, and the state is estimated to lose between $30 million and $40 million annually to unpaid ecommerce sales taxes.

Syracuse Sen. Dan Watermeier introduced a bill in the Legislature that would mandate out-of-state retailers whose gross income in Nebraska exceeded $100,000 to collect state sales tax. Despite clearing its initial floor test, it lacked enough support to invoke cloture to end a filibuster in May.

Considering some of the stated opposition was on legal and constitutional grounds, a review by the Supreme Court would likely allay the fears of at least some senators who fought it in the spring. Even Gov. Pete Ricketts, who opposed Watermeier’s bill, supported Peterson’s effort in hopes the U.S. Supreme Court sets “clear parameters for this important issue.”

Here, the attorney general and governor are on the right page in asking for a review of South Dakota’s new law. The collection of sales tax from online purchases represents just the latest intersection between technology and laws that haven’t caught up - one that could have millions of dollars at stake for Nebraska.


McCook Daily Gazette. November 10, 2017

McCook residents step up to challenge of Big Give McCook

By any measurement, the Big Give concept is an unqualified success.

It’s appropriate to head into the Thanksgiving season by taking stock of our blessings, thinking about those we could help, and doing something about it.

Thursday’s Big Give, which brought in $110,865 from 655 donations, and counting, offered just that opportunity.

Part of its success can probably be attributed to the shift from a national organization and overhead, to the local Community Chest, where most of us rub elbows with someone associated with the charities it benefits - if we’re not part of the charities personally.

We’d speculate that each of the charities will probably benefit more from the Big Give than they would from individual fund drives.

Even if that is not true, the charitable emphasis that the Big Give provides cannot help but benefit all of the organizations in an efficient manner.

Congratulations to co-organizers Lisa Felker and Melissa Stritt and all the other volunteers that helped create what publicist Ronda Graff described as a “culture of giving” on page one today, as well as businesses and organizations that provided matching funds during various “power hours” at the giving stations.

As a reminder, the non-profits involved this year included the Community Chest and its agencies: Adult Basic Education, Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska, Domestic Abuse/Sexual Assault Services, Ed Thomas YMCA, Family Resource Center, Live Y’ers, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Prairie Plains CASA, Salvation Army and TeamMates Mentoring Program. Other participating organizations were Community Hospital Health Foundation, Fox Theatre, Hillcrest Nursing Home Foundation, McCook Arts Council, McCook Art Guild, McCook Community Foundation Fund, McCook Humane Society, Share the Heat, Southwest Nebraska Habitat for Humanity and St. Patrick’s School.

If you missed the Big Give, you can still give, of course. Contact the individual charities listed, or visit the McCook Community Foundation Fund here.

Planning is already underway for Big Give 2018, and all signs point to another successful effort.


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