Nebraska is a Great Plains state of the United States. Nebraska gets its name from a Native American (Oto) word meaning "flat water", after the Platte River that flows through the state. Once considered part of the Great American Desert, it is now a leading farming state. Nebraskans have practiced scientific farming to turn the Nebraska prairie into a land of ranches and farms. Much of the history of the state is the story of the impact of the Nebraska farmer. Nebraskans are sometimes colloquially referred to as "Cornhuskers" (which is derived from the state nickname).
The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854; it established the U.S. territories of Nebraska and Kansas. 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 out of sod because they found so few trees on the grassy land.
Nebraska became the 37th state in 1867, shortly after the Civil War. At that time, the capital was moved from Omaha to Lancaster, later renamed Lincoln after the recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
Arbor Day began in Nebraska, and the National Arbor Day Foundation is still headquartered in Nebraska City.
Prohibition in the U.S. was adopted in 1918, with Nebraska as the thirty-sixth state necessary to make the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Nebraska, in common with five other Midwest states (Kansas, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, and Iowa), has experienced a decades-long population decline in rural areas, although Nebraska is the fastest growing of the five. Eighty-nine percent of the cities in those states have fewer than 3000 people; hundreds have fewer than 1000. Between 1996 and 2004, almost half a million people, nearly half with college degrees, left the six states. "Rural flight", as it is called, has led to offers of free land and tax breaks as enticements to newcomers. As an example in Nebraska, Monowi, which in the 1930s had a population of 150, now has a population of one (as of 2005).
Nebraska is the only state in the United States with a unicameral legislature; that is, a legislature with only one house. Although this house is officially known simply as the "Legislature", and more commonly called the "Unicameral", its members still call themselves "senators". Nebraska′s Legislature is also the only one 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 (and often are) 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.
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:
- …The constitutions of our various states are built upon the idea that there is but one class. If this be true, there is no sense or reason in having the same thing done twice, especially if it is to be done by two bodies of men elected in the same way and having the same jurisdiction.
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 Nebraska delegation to the US Congress is dominated by the Republican Party, whose presidential nominee has carried the state in all but one election since 1940--the 1964 landslide of Lyndon Johnson. Since 1991, two of Nebraska′s five electoral votes are awarded based on the winner of the statewide election; the other three go to the highest vote-getter in each of the state′s three congressional districts. However, in the four presidential elections held since then, a Democrat has not won a single electoral vote in the state. In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush won the state′s five electoral votes by the overwhelming margin of 33 percentage points (the fourth most Republican vote among states) with 65.9% of the vote; only Thurston County 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 Norris (who served his last few years in the Senate as an independent), J. James Exon, and Bob Kerrey. This tradition is illustrated by Nebraska′s current United States senators: Republican Chuck Hagel is considered a maverick within his party, while Democrat Ben Nelson is the most conservative member of his party in the Senate. However, all three of the state′s congressional districts are held by Republicans.
The Nebraska legislature is housed in the third Nebraska State Capitol building, which was built between 1922 and 1932.
Nebraska has 25 official state symbols, including the Platte River, the mammoth, and John Neihardt.
Kool-Aid was created in 1927 by Edwin Perkins in the city of Hastings.
The world′s largest train yard, Union Pacific′s Bailey Yard, is located in North Platte.
In the town of Blue Hill, Nebraska, there is a law which states that no female wearing a ′hat that would scare a timid person′ can be seen eating onions in public.
The Vice-Grip was invented and is still manufactured in DeWitt, Nebraska.
Arbor Day was founded by J. Sterling Morton. The National Arbor Day Foundation has its headquarters near his home in Nebraska City.
A ranch situated just west of Kearney, Nebraska is located exactly halfway between Boston and San Francisco.
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