Lawmakers pass sales tax bill for 'Beatrice Six' payoff

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A bill that would let a rural Nebraska county raise its sales tax to pay off a $28.1 million legal debt has won final approval from lawmakers.

Lawmakers passed the measure Wednesday on a 43-6 vote despite objections that it would let Gage County supervisors impose the tax without getting voter approval.

The bill lets a two-thirds majority of the county board approve a half-cent sales tax increase, which could only be used to pay the six people wrongfully convicted in a 1985 Beatrice murder.

The Beatrice Six spent years in prison for the death of 68-year-old Helen Wilson until DNA evidence exonerated them in 2008.

The bill is designed to help farmers who are a minority in the county but pay most of the property taxes.