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Nebraska (i /nəˈbræskə/) is a state located on the Great Plains of the Midwestern United States. The state's capital is Lincoln and its largest city is Omaha.
Nebraska probably gets its name from the archaic Otoe words Ñí Brásge, pronounced [ˌɲĩˈbɾaskɛ] (contemporary Otoe Ñí Bráhge), or the Omaha Ní Btháska, pronounced [ˌnĩˈbɫᶞaska], meaning "flat water," after the Platte River that flows through the state. American Indian tribes in Nebraska have included the Omaha, Missouria, Ponca, Pawnee, Otoe, and various branches of the Sioux.
Once considered part of the Great American Desert (actually highly biodiverse prairie land), Nebraska is now a leading farming and ranching state.
Nebraska is the only U.S. state with a unicameral legislature.
Long before the Lewis and Clark Expedition, French-Canadian explorers traversed the territory of Nebraska, including the Mallet brothers in 1739, on their way to trade in Santa Fe. European-American settlement did not begin in any number until after 1848 and the California Gold Rush. On May 30, 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act created the Kansas Territory and the Nebraska Territory, divided by the Parallel 40° North. The territorial capital of Nebraska was Omaha.
In the 1860s, the first great wave of homesteaders poured into Nebraska to claim free land granted by the federal government. Many of the first farm settlers built their homes of sod because there were so few trees on the prairies.
Nebraska became the 37th state in 1867, shortly after the American Civil War. At that time, the capital was moved from Omaha to Lancaster, later renamed Lincoln after the recently assassinated President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
The Arbor Day holiday began in Nebraska. The National Arbor Day Foundation is still headquartered in Nebraska City, with some offices also located in Lincoln.
Nebraska has a long history of civil rights activism, starting in 1912 with the founding of Omaha's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter.
The state is bordered by South Dakota to the north; Iowa to the east and Missouri to the southeast, across the Missouri River; Kansas to the south; Colorado to the southwest; and Wyoming to the west. The state has 93 counties; it occupies the central portion of the Frontier Strip. Nebraska is split into two time zones. The Central Time zone comprises the eastern half of the state, while the western half observes Mountain Time. Three rivers cross the state from west to east. The Platte River runs through the heart, the Niobrara River flows through the northern part of the state's region, and the Republican River traverses through the southern part of the state.
Nebraska is composed of two major land regions: the Dissected Till Plains and the Great Plains. The easternmost portion of the state was scoured by Ice Age glaciers; the Dissected Till Plains were left behind after the glaciers retreated. The Dissected Till Plains is a region of gently rolling hills; Omaha and Lincoln are located within this region. The Great Plains occupy the majority of western Nebraska. The Great Plains itself consists of several smaller, diverse land regions, including the Sandhills, the Pine Ridge, the Rainwater Basin, the High Plains and the Wildcat Hills. Panorama Point, at 5,424 feet (1,653 m), is the highest point in Nebraska; despite its name and elevation, it is merely a low rise near the Colorado and Wyoming borders.
A past Nebraska tourism slogan was "Where the West Begins"; locations given for the beginning of the "West" include the Missouri River, the intersection of 13th and O Streets in Lincoln (where it is marked by a red brick star), the 100th meridian, and Chimney Rock. Nebraska is in fact a triply landlocked state, as it does not border the ocean, nor do any of the states it borders, nor any that they border on.
Areas under the management of the National Park Service include:
Areas under the management of the National Forest Service include:
Two major climates are represented in Nebraska: the eastern half of the state has a humid continental climate (Koppen climate classification Dfa), and the western half of the state has a semi-arid continental steppe climate (Koppen BSk). The entire state experiences wide seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation. Average temperatures are fairly uniform across Nebraska with hot summers and generally cold winters, while average annual precipitation decreases east to west from about 31.5 inches (800 mm) in the southeast corner of the state to about 13.8 inches (350 mm) in the Panhandle. Humidity also decreases significantly from east to west. Snowfall across the state is fairly even, with most of Nebraska receiving between 25 and 35 inches (650 to 900 mm) of snow annually.
Nebraska is located in Tornado Alley; thunderstorms are common in the spring and summer months, and violent thunderstorms and tornadoes happen primarily during the spring and summer, though can also happen in the autumn. The chinook winds from the Rocky Mountains provide a temporary moderating effect on temperatures in western Nebraska during the winter months.
As of 2009, Nebraska has an estimated population of 1,796,619, which is an increase of 85,356, or 5%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 77,995 people (that is 187,564 births minus 109,569 deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 9,319 people out of the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 27,398 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 36,717 people.
The center of population of Nebraska is located in Polk County, in the city of Shelby.
As of 2004, the population of Nebraska included about 84,000 foreign-born residents (4.8% of the population).
The five largest ancestry groups in Nebraska are German (38.6%), Irish (12.4%), English (9.6%), Swedish (4.9%), and Czech (4.9%).
Nebraska has the largest Czech-American and non-Mormon Danish-American population (as a percentage of the total population) in the nation. German-Americans are the largest ancestry group in most of the state, particularly in the eastern counties. Thurston County (made up entirely of the Omaha and Winnebago reservations) has an American Indian majority, and Butler County is one of only two counties in the nation with a Czech-American plurality.
Eighty-nine percent of the cities in Nebraska have fewer than 3,000 people. Nebraska shares this characteristic with five other Midwest and Southern states (Kansas, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, and Iowa). Hundreds of towns have a population of fewer than 1,000.
Fifty-three of Nebraska's 93 counties reported declining populations between 1990 and 2000, ranging from a 0.06% loss (Frontier County) to a 17.04% loss (Hitchcock County). Other portions of the state have experienced substantial growth. In 2000, the city of Omaha had a population of 390,007; in 2005, the city's estimated population was 414,521(427,872 including the recently annexed city of Elkhorn), a 6.3% increase over five years. The city of Lincoln had a 2000 population of 225,581 and a 2005 estimated population of 239,213, a 6.0% change.
Regional population declines have forced many rural schools to consolidate.
The religious affiliations of the people of Nebraska are:
The largest single denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Catholic Church (372,791), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (128,570), the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (117,419) and the United Methodist Church (117,277).
Nebraska has a progressive income tax, with the rates as follow: 2.56%>$0 3.57%>$2,400 5.12%>$17,500 6.84%>$27,700
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates of Nebraska's gross state product in 2004 was $68 billion. Per capita personal income in 2004 was $31,339, 25th in the nation. Nebraska has a large agriculture sector, and is an important producer of beef, pork, corn (maize), and soybeans. Other important economic sectors include freight transport (by rail and truck), manufacturing, telecommunications, information technology, and insurance.
Nebraska has four personal income tax brackets, ranging from 2.6% to 6.8%. Nebraska has a state sales tax of 5.5%. In addition to the state tax, some Nebraska cities assess a city sales and use tax, up to a maximum of 1.5%. One county in Nebraska, Dakota County, levies a sales tax. All real property located within the state of Nebraska is taxable unless specifically exempted by statute. Since 1992, only depreciable personal property is subject to tax and all other personal property is exempt from tax. Inheritance tax is collected at the county level.
As of January 2010, the states unemployment rate is only 4.6%.
Kool-Aid was created in 1927 by Edwin Perkins in the city of Hastings, which celebrates the event the second weekend of every August with Kool-Aid Days. Kool-Aid is the official soft drink of Nebraska. CliffsNotes were invented in Rising City, Nebraska by Clifton Hillegass. His pamphlets were based on the original Canadian idea, "Coles Notes."
Omaha is home to Berkshire Hathaway, whose CEO Warren Buffett was ranked in March 2009 by Forbes magazine as the second richest person in the world. The city is also home to ConAgra, Mutual of Omaha, InfoUSA, TD Ameritrade, West Corporation, Valmont Industries, Woodmen of the World, Kiewit Corporation, and the Union Pacific Railroad. UNIFI Companies, Sandhills Publishing Company, and Duncan Aviation reside in Lincoln; The Buckle is based in Kearney. Sidney is the national headquarters for Cabela's, a specialty retailer of outdoor goods.
The world's largest train yard, Union Pacific's Bailey Yard, is located in North Platte. The Vise-Grip was invented by William Petersen in 1924, and was manufactured in De Witt until the plant closed in late 2008.
Lincoln's Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing is the only Kawasaki plant in the world to produce the Jet-Ski, ATV, and Mule lines of product. The facility employs more than 1200 people.
Nebraska has a rich railroad history. The Union Pacific Railroad, headquartered in Omaha, was incorporated on July 1, 1862, in the wake of the Pacific Railway Act of 1862. Bailey Yard, located in North Platte, is the largest railroad classification yard in the world. The route of the original transcontinental railroad runs through the state.
Other major railroads with operations in the state are: Amtrak; Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway; Canadian Pacific Railway; and Iowa Interstate Railroad.
Interstate Highways through the State of Nebraska
Nebraska's strict DUI laws help keep the roads safe. It is a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Sentences are harsher for cases involvind a BAC above 0.15%. A first DUI offense carries a mandatory 7-day jail term, a $400-$500 fine, and mandatory 6-month license suspension. A second sentence incurs a $500 fine, a 30-day jail term, and a license suspension for no less than 12 months. Third and fourth offenses result in fines from $600-$10,000, jail time ranging from 90 days to 5 years, and license suspension for 2-15 years.
Due to these laws, and other factors, including road conditions, Nebraska has some of the safest roads in the country, ranking number 8 on Readers Digest's 2010 list of best roads (ranking all 50 states).
Drivers can access information about road conditions on the Nebraska Department of Roads website.
Nebraska's government operates under the framework of the Nebraska Constitution, adopted in 1875, and is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The head of the executive branch is the Governor Dave Heineman. Other elected officials in the executive branch are the Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy (elected on the same ticket as the Governor), Attorney General Jon Bruning, Secretary of State John A. Gale, State Treasurer Shane Osborn, and State Auditor Mike Foley. All elected officials in the executive branch serve four-year terms.
Nebraska is the only state in the United States with a unicameral legislature. Although this house is officially known simply as the "Legislature", and more commonly called the "Unicameral", its members call themselves "senators". Nebraska's Legislature is also the only state legislature in the United States that is nonpartisan. The senators are elected with no party affiliation next to their names on the ballot, and the speaker and committee chairs are chosen at large, so that members of any party can be chosen for these positions. The Nebraska Legislature can also override a governor's veto with a three-fifths majority, in contrast to the two-thirds majority required in some other states.
The Nebraska Legislature meets in the third Nebraska State Capitol building, built between 1922 and 1932. It was designed by Bertram G. Goodhue. Built from Indiana limestone, the Capitol's base is a cross within a square. A 400-foot domed tower rises from this base. The Golden Sower, a 19-foot bronze statue representing agriculture, crowns the Capitol. The state Capitol is considered an architectural achievement. It has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects.
For years, United States Senator George Norris and other Nebraskans encouraged the idea of a unicameral legislature, and demanded the issue be decided in a referendum. Norris argued:
Unicameral supporters also argued that a bicameral legislature had a significant undemocratic feature in the committees that reconciled Assembly and Senate legislation. Votes in these committees were secretive, and would sometimes add provisions to bills that neither house had approved. Nebraska's unicameral legislature today has rules that bills can contain only one subject, and must be given at least five days of consideration.
Finally, in 1934, due in part to the budgetary pressure of the Great Depression, Nebraska's unicameral legislature was put in place by a state initiative. In effect, the Assembly (the house) was abolished; as noted, today's Nebraska state legislators are commonly referred to as "Senators".
The judicial system in Nebraska is unified, with the Nebraska Supreme Court having administrative authority over all Nebraska courts. Nebraska uses the Missouri Plan for the selection of judges at all levels. The lowest courts in Nebraska are the county courts, above that are twelve district courts (containing one or more counties). The Court of Appeals hears appeals from the district courts, juvenile courts, and workers' compensation courts. The Nebraska Supreme Court is the final court of appeal.
From 2008 to 2009, from when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the state's only method of execution, electrocution, was in conflict with the state's constitution, Nebraska had no active death-penalty law. (Prior to that ruling, Nebraska was the only place in the world that used electrocution as the sole method of execution.) In May 2009, the legislature passed and the governor signed a bill that changed the method of execution in Nebraska to lethal injection, enabling further capital punishment. However, executions in Nebraska had been infrequent; none had been carried out in the 21st century, and in the last few decades the state had strongly flirted with the idea of a moratorium on, or complete abolition of, capital punishment.
Nebraska's U.S. senators are Mike Johanns (R), the junior senator, and Ben Nelson (D), the senior senator.
Nebraska has three representatives in the House of Representatives: Jeff Fortenberry (R) of the 1st district; Lee Terry (R) of the 2nd district; and Adrian M. Smith (R) of the 3rd district.
Nebraska is one of two states that allow for a split in the state's allocation of electoral votes in presidential elections. Since 1991, two of Nebraska's five are awarded based on the winner of the statewide election while the other three go to the highest vote-getter in each of the state's three congressional districts. The only time Nebraska's electoral votes have been split was in the 2008 presidential election. In that election Democrat Barack Obama won the 2nd congressional district (which includes Omaha ) by a narrow margin of 3,325 votes, thus giving him that district's one electoral vote, while Republican John McCain won the rest of the state and its four electoral votes by nearly 15 percentage points.
For most of its history, Nebraska has been a solidly Republican state. Republicans have carried the state in all but one presidential election since 1940—the 1964 landslide election of Lyndon B. Johnson. In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush won the state's five electoral votes by a 33% margin (the fourth-most Republican vote among states) with 65.9% of the overall vote; only Thurston County, which includes two American Indian reservations, voted for John Kerry.
Despite the current Republican domination of Nebraska politics, the state has a long tradition of electing centrist members of both parties to state and federal office; examples include George Norris (who served few years in the Senate as an independent), J. James Exon, and Bob Kerrey. Voters have tilted back to the right in recent years with the election of conservative Mike Johanns to the US Senate and the re-election of Ben Nelson, who is currently considered the most conservative Democrat in the US Senate.
All population figures are 2008 Census Bureau estimates.
University of Nebraska system
Nebraska State College System
Nebraska Community College Association