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Thousands come out for first Celebration of Lights in two years
  • Updated

V isitors came out in droves Nov. 18 for the first Celebration of Lights in two years.

The thousands of people who lined Second Street, waiting for the countdown to turn on Christmas lights in downtown Hastings, were treated to temperate weather. Temperatures were in the 40s with no wind.

“We lucked out with the weather,” said Tammy Orthmann, director of the Hastings Downtown Center Association. “It’s been windy, it’s been cold. Mother Nature gave us a break tonight. The crowds are wonderful. You worry since we weren’t able to do it last year that we wouldn’t have the crowds we usually do, but I really feel like we have a good crowd of people from all over. It’s not just Hastings. It’s surrounding communities. I know people are here from Grand Island and Kearney. They just want to come down for the special events. You can do a lot, and it’s free.”

Shaun and Lindsey Robinson of Hastings visited Celebration of Lights with their daughters: Marley, 8; Quinn, 6, and Dylann, 4.

“It’s a chance to bring the kids out and do something fun with them for the night,” Lindsey said.

The family began their night with kettle corn and candy, before getting balloon animals with the plan to see Santa, as well as Elsa and Anna from Disney’s “Frozen.”

“They all love lights,” Shaun said. “Their grandparents decorate their house, and I decorate our house. We just wanted to come out and show them what the city does.”

Sisters Djinna and Brianna Kendall of Hastings were among Celebration of Lights attendees who visited Elsa and Anna at The Lark.

Members of the Adams Central National Art Honor Society also were doing face painting there.

“I really like watching “Frozen,” and I really like (Elsa and Anna),” 10-year-old Djinna said.

“In line they seemed really fun,” 8-year-old Brianna said.

Djinna also sang Christmas songs on the Second Street stage with the Longfellow Ambassadors.

The family also took a carriage ride downtown.

“It’s just fun getting out of the house…” the girls’ mother, Megan, said.

“And doing some stuff,” Djinna added.


Santa Boxes looking to bring joy during the holidays

The 2021 holiday season has arrived — and for anyone who attends Forge Christian Church in Hastings, it is the time of year to bring the gift of giving.

This the second year that Forge Church will be putting together “Ninja Santa Boxes” for those in need throughout the community.

The gift boxes help the people who are in need of basic hygiene items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, soap and floss. Recipients also are informed $50 is being applied to their home utility bill.

The church’s fundraising goal for this year is $7,000 — enough to cover the cost of 100 boxes.

To receive a box, people send names and addresses of individuals they think could use a little encouragement.

The recipients may never know who put their names down; they just know someone was thinking of them.

“The last couple (of years) has been tough on people. Last year was our first year doing this. As a church we want to be active trying to figure out how we can do some outreaching,” said Willie Tryon, pastor of the Forge congregation, who is heading up the Santa Boxes project.

“We want to show people that we love them. Since Christmas is approaching, we pondered and started thinking how can we reach out and help people.

People have been great in donating to the cause, he said.

“The idea was, at the end of the year, things seem to get tight — and while 50 bucks wasn’t going to change anything, this would give people some relief on their utility bill and not having to worry about as much about everything,” Tryon said.

“We wanted to have people give names and addresses of people who needs a little more bright thing in their life and to let them know that someone does care about them and that they are not doing this alone.”

According to Tryon, the $50 utility assistance for 100 box recipients will cost a total of $5,000 to provide. He hopes the church can go beyond the fundraising goal of $7,000 and make a bigger difference for people.

“This year we are trying to work with some of the local businesses and trying to get them involved,” he said. “Ultimately, we would like to give to as many people as possible. Who knows where this could go if it’s bigger than Forge? We would love it to be, down the road, something that Hastings does and it’s a community thing.”

The boxes are set to be sent out Dec. 19.

To contribute cash or hygiene items for the Santa Boxes, write to Forge Christian Church, 922 E. South St., Hastings, NE 68901 or visit www.forgechurchhastings.com. For more information, contact Tryon at 402-677-5030 or preachitfly@gmail.com.


House moves toward OK for Dems' sweeping social, climate bill
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — A divided House moved toward passage Thursday of Democrats’ expansive social and environment bill as new cost estimates from Congress’ top fiscal analyst suggested that moderate lawmakers’ spending and deficit worries would be calmed, moving President Joe Biden closer to a badly needed victory.

Final debate on the long-delayed legislation came after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would worsen federal deficits by $160 billion over the coming decade. It also recalculated the measure’s 10-year price tag at $1.68 trillion, though that figure wasn’t directly comparable to a $1.85 trillion figure Democrats have been using.

House approval would ship the legislation to the Senate and end — though just for now — months of battling between Democrats’ progressives and moderates over its costs and policies. While significant Senate changes are likely due to cost-cutting demands by moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., House passage would edge Biden closer to winning more of his domestic priorities at a time when his public approval is faltering badly.

The 2,100-page bill’s initiatives include bolstering child care assistance, creating free preschool, curbing seniors’ prescription drug costs and beefing up efforts to slow climate change.

“Too many Americans are just barely getting by in our economy,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “And we simply can’t go back to the way things were before the pandemic.”

Final passage, expected in late evening, was delayed indefinitely as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., spoke for over three hours criticizing the legislation, Biden and Democrats. Democrats sporadically booed and groaned and McCarthy glared back, underscoring partisan hostility only deepened by this week’s censure of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for threatening tweets aimed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

McCarthy, who hopes to become speaker if Republicans capture the chamber in next year’s elections, recited problems the country has faced under Biden, including inflation, large numbers of immigrants crossing the Southwest border and the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Yeah, I want to go back,” he said in mocking reference to the “Build Back Better” name Biden uses for the legislation.

House rules do not limit how long party leaders may speak. In 2018, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. — who was minority leader at the time — held the floor for over eight hours demanding action on immigration.

Key figures estimates of the bill’s costs by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office aligned closely with earlier figures from the White House. That included tax credits to spur clean energy development, bolstered child care assistance and extended tax breaks for millions of families with children, lower-earning workers and people buying private health insurance.

The measure would provide $109 billion to create free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. There were large sums for home health care for seniors, new Medicare coverage for hearing and a new requirement for four weeks of paid family leave. The family leave program, however, was expected to be removed in the Senate, where it’s been opposed by Manchin.

In one major but expected difference, CBO estimated that by spending $80 billion to beef up IRS tax enforcement, the agency would collect $207 billion in new revenue over the coming decade. That meant net savings of $127 billion, well below the White House’s more optimistic $400 billion estimate.

In a scorekeeping quirk, CBO formally estimated that the legislation would drive up federal budget deficits by $367 billion over the coming decade. The agency’s budget guidelines technically require it to not count IRS savings when measuring a bill’s deficit impact. But it acknowledged that the measure’s true impact would produce added shortfalls of the lower figure — $160 billion — when counting added revenue the IRS would collect.

Biden and other Democratic leaders have said the measure would pay for itself, largely through tax increases on the wealthy, big corporations and companies doing business abroad.

Republicans said the legislation would damage an economy already racked by inflation, give tax breaks to some wealthy taxpayers and make government bigger and more intrusive. Drawing frequent GOP attacks was a provision boosting the limit on state and local taxes that people can deduct from federal taxes, which disproportionately helps top earners from high-tax coastal states.

Two weeks after centrists’ objections forced Democrats to delay the measure, the party’s divisions seemed all but resolved, for now. Facing uniform Republican opposition, Democrats can lose no more than three votes to prevail in the House.

In a significant sign of movement, Florida Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a leading House centrist, said she would back the measure after the latest budget figures persuaded her the legislation “is fiscally disciplined.” She said the bill is flawed but “has a lot of positive elements.”

Biden this week signed a $1 trillion package of highway and other infrastructure projects, which he’s spent recent days promoting around the country. But he’s been battered recently by falling approval numbers in polls, reflecting voters’ concerns over inflation, supply chain delays and the persistent coronavirus pandemic.

After months of talks, Democrats appeared eager to wrap it up, shelving lingering differences to begin selling the package back home. House Democrats said they were planning 1,000 events across the country by year’s end to pitch the measure’s benefits to voters. They face 2022 midterm elections in which Republicans have strong hopes for capturing control of the House and Senate.

House passage of the social and environment bill would send it to the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats have zero votes to spare. That’s given enormous leverage to Manchin.

Senate talks could take weeks, and the prospect that Manchin or others will force additional cuts in the measure was making it easier for House moderates to back the legislation Thursday. The altered bill would have to return to the House before going to Biden’s desk.

When moderates delayed House passage of the bill two weeks ago, they said they wanted to make sure the CBO’s projections for its costs were similar to White House numbers, which showed the measure essentially paid for itself.

But some moderates said projections about IRS savings are always uncertain and would not cause them to oppose the measure. Others said the measure’s roughly $555 billion in tax credits and other costs to encourage cleaner energy need not be paid for in the bill because global warming is an existential crisis.

CBO estimated that language helping the government curb prescription drug costs would save $297 billion over 10 years. The savings would come from new constraints on pharmaceutical companies’ pricing, but also by blocking a rule on drug company rebates that was initiated by President Donald Trump but never took effect.

The bill also would let the government issue work permits to millions of immigrants that would let them stay in the U.S. temporarily. That seemed likely to be changed or eliminated in the Senate, where rules limit provisions allowed in budget bills.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which preaches fiscal constraint, estimated that the bill’s overall cost would be nearly $5 trillion if Democrats hadn’t made some of its programs temporary. For example, tax credits for children and low-earning workers, top party priorities, are extended for just one year, making their price tags appear lower, even though the party would like those programs to be permanent.

___

AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and reporter Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.


House moves toward OK of Dems' sweeping social, climate bill
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — Democrats brushed aside months-long divisions and approached House passage of their expansive social and environment bill late Thursday, as President Joe Biden and his party neared a defining win in their drive to use their control of government to funnel its resources toward their domestic priorities.

House approval, expected on a near party-line vote, would send the measure to a Senate where cost-cutting demands by moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and that chamber’s strict rules seemed certain to force significant changes. That will prompt fresh disputes between party centrists and moderates that will likely take weeks to resolve.

Even so, House passage would mark a watershed for a measure remarkable for the breadth and depth of the changes it would make in federal policies. Wrapped into one bill were far-reaching changes in taxation, health care, energy, climate change, family services, education and housing. That underscored Democrats’ desire to achieve their goals while controlling the White House and Congress — a dominance that could well end after next year’s midterm elections.

“Too many Americans are just barely getting by in our economy,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “And we simply can’t go back to the way things were before the pandemic.”

House passage would also give Biden a momentary taste of victory, and probably relief, during perhaps the rockiest period of his presidency. He’s been battered by falling approval numbers in polls, reflecting voters’ concerns over inflation, gridlocked supply chains and the persistent coronavirus pandemic, leaving Democrats worried that their legislative efforts are not breaking through to voters.

Biden this week signed a $1 trillion package of highway and other infrastructure projects, another priority that overcame months of internal Democratic battling. The president has spent recent days promoting that measure around the country.

The House moved toward a final vote after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the package would worsen federal deficits by $160 billion over the coming decade. The agency also recalculated the measure’s 10-year price tag at $1.68 trillion, though that figure wasn’t directly comparable to a $1.85 trillion figure Democrats have been using.

The 2,100-page bill’s initiatives include bolstering child care assistance, creating free preschool, curbing seniors’ prescription drug costs and beefing up efforts to slow climate change. Also included are tax credits to spur clean energy development, bolstered child care assistance and extended tax breaks for millions of families with children, lower-earning workers and people buying private health insurance.

Most of it would be paid for by tax increases on the wealthy, big corporations and companies doing business abroad.

Final approval, which had been expected in late evening, was delayed indefinitely as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., spoke for over three hours criticizing the legislation, Biden and Democrats. Democrats sporadically booed and groaned as McCarthy glared back, underscoring partisan hostility only deepened by this week’s censure of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for threatening tweets aimed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

McCarthy, who hopes to become speaker if Republicans capture the chamber in next year’s elections, recited problems the country has faced under Biden, including inflation, large numbers of immigrants crossing the Southwest border and the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Yeah, I want to go back,” he said in mocking reference to the “Build Back Better” name Biden uses for the legislation.

House rules do not limit how long party leaders may speak. In 2018, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., minority leader at the time, held the floor for over eight hours demanding action on immigration.

The measure would provide $109 billion to create free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. There are large sums for home health care for seniors, new Medicare coverage for hearing and a new requirement for four weeks of paid family leave. The family leave program, however, was expected to be removed in the Senate, where it’s been opposed by Manchin.

There is also language letting the government issue work permits to millions of immigrants that would let them stay in the U.S. temporarily, and $297 billion in savings from letting the government curb prescription drug costs. The fate of both those provisions is uncertain in the Senate, where the chamber’s nonpartisan parliamentarian enforces rules that limit provisions allowed in budget bills.

In one major but expected difference with the White House, CBO estimated that the bill’s added $80 billion to beef up IRS tax enforcement would let it collect $207 billion in new revenue over the coming decade. That meant net savings of $127 billion, well below the White House’s more optimistic $400 billion estimate.

In a scorekeeping quirk, CBO officially estimated that the overall legislation would drive up federal deficits by $367 billion over the coming decade. But agency guidelines require it to ignore IRS savings when measuring a bill’s deficit impact, and it acknowledged that the measure’s true impact would worsen shortfalls by $160 billion when counting added revenue the IRS would collect.

Biden and other Democratic leaders have said the measure would pay for itself, largely through tax increases on the wealthy, big corporations and companies doing business abroad.

Both parties worry about deficits selectively. Republicans passed tax cuts in 2017 that worsened red ink by $1.9 trillion, while Democrats enacted a COVID-19 relief bill this year with that same price tag.

Republicans said the latest legislation would damage the economy, give tax breaks to some wealthy taxpayers and make government bigger and more intrusive. Drawing frequent GOP attacks was a provision boosting the limit on state and local taxes that people can deduct from federal taxes, which disproportionately helps top earners from high-tax coastal states.

After months of talks, Democrats appeared eager to wrap it up and begin selling the package back home. They said they were planning 1,000 events across the country by year’s end to pitch the measure’s benefits to voters.

Facing uniform Republican opposition, Democrats could lose no more than three votes to prevail in the House, but moderates seemed reassured by CBO’s figures. Some said projections about IRS savings are always uncertain, others said the bill need not pay for it roughly half-trillion dollars for encouraging cleaner energy need because global warming is an existential crisis.

Florida Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a leading centrist, said she would back the measure after the latest numbers showed the legislation “is fiscally disciplined” and “has a lot of positive elements.”

Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote gives Democrats control of the 50-50 Senate. That leaves Democrats with zero votes to spare, giving enormous leverage to Manchin in upcoming bargaining. The altered bill would have to return to the House before going to Biden’s desk.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which preaches fiscal constraint, estimated that the bill’s overall cost would be nearly $5 trillion if Democrats hadn’t made some of its programs temporary. For example, tax credits for children and low-earning workers are extended for just one year, making their price tags appear lower, even though the party would like those programs to be permanent.

___

AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and reporter Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.


News
Quirky, cool sides of Kansas detailed in Adams Central grad's book
  • Updated

LEBANON, Kan. — A former Hastings area resident will make a stop here Saturday to promote her book outlining 100 must-see attractions in Kansas.

Author Roxie Yonkey will be signing copies of “100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die” 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Hoss’s Antiques, 309 Main St. Her book was published Oct. 31 by Reedy Press.

Yonkey, a 1980 Adams Central graduate, always has been an explorer.

“It’s part of who I am,” she said. “Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve gone around and tried to see what was there. I’ve been to a lot of places in Nebraska.”

She also has lived in Tennessee and Virginia where she spent a lot of time exploring.

“It’s part of what I do,” she said.

Yonkey has been writing about Kansas for more than 30 years. The book “100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die” is her second book. In 2020, she co-authored “Midwest Road Trip Adventures.”

That book includes road trip guides for all 12 Midwest states. Yonkey wrote the Kansas chapter and the Black Hills section of the South Dakota chapter.

Smith County has two entries in “100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die.”

The geographic center of the lower 48 states, near Lebanon, is No. 68.

The Home on the Range cabin northwest of Athol, where the Kansas state song was written, is No. 26.

Yonkey has lived in Goodland, Kansas, since 1990, moving there for a sportswriter’s job at The Goodland Daily News.

“Growing up as a Nebraskan, I don’t think I knew Kansas has such a fascinating history,” she said. “That it was just so quirky.”

Case in point: Lucas, Kansas east of Russell, Kansas, which is south of Hastings on U.S. Highway 281.

Lucas, Yonkey said, is full of “strange attractions.”

She said the strangest of those attractions is S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden, which was constructed by U.S. Civil War veteran S.P. Dinsmoor. The Garden of Eden opened in 1907.

“He decided to erect his political philosophy in concrete to the dismay of his neighbors,” she said. “So there’s all these strange statues in cement, and they are quite vertical.”

Dinsmoor was one of the first people in Lucas to get electricity.

He built his own mausoleum and was buried beside his first wife.

“He left his coffin open, so people could watch him decay,” Yonkey said. “It’s weird. Kansas is full of a lot of quirkiness.”

Kansas is also full of a lot of cool places like the Kansas City Taco Trail, which she also included in the book.

“I had no idea there were so many styles of tacos and that there is different taco cuisine. Who knew? But very fun,” Yonkey said.

She got the contract to write the book about a year ago and intended to write it when she returned from a conference in February.

“Instead I got COVID while I was in Mississippi,” she said. “When I got home I was sick as a dog and couldn’t do anything for a while.”

When she recovered, she proceeded to write her book in a month.

“The best part of visiting all these places is I get to revisit them in my mind,” she said. “I get to go back to wherever it was I was writing about and actually be there again.”

In writing the book, Yonkey tried to find a balance between rural and urban and represent all regions of the state.

The 100 things to do are separated into a handful of categories.

Yonkey is in the midst of a publicity tour across Kansas.

“I get to meet a lot of interesting people and talk about the state and talk about the book,” she said. “It’s great.”

Throughout her travels, Yonkey gets to talk a lot about Hastings.

“I’ve had a lot of people ask me ‘where are you from?’ I’m from the place that invented Kool-Aid,” she said.

Yonkey’s book can be purchased at Hoss’s Antiques or at RoxieontheRoad.com/Shop.

Additional signings are scheduled throughout the state. Yonkey’s schedule is available at RoxieontheRoad.com/signings.


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