Snowmobiler Died Skiing Into Tree
A snowmobiler died after a crash in northern
Wisconsin. The Vilas County Sheriff's
Office got a 911 call reporting the crash in the Town of Phelps late Saturday
night. An initial investigation found
the snowmobiler was driving on the roadway off of the marked snowmobile
trail. He struck an embankment at an intersection
and then struck a tree. Authorities say
the victim was following one other person.
The name of the victim was not immediately released.
Skier Died Skiing Into Tree
A 24-year-old woman died after she struck a tree
while skiing in south-central Wisconsin.
The Columbia County Sheriff's Office dispatch was notified around
10:30am Saturday that an injured person needed medical assistance at Cascade
Mountain Ski Hill. The sheriff's office
and emergency medical workers responded, along with the ski patrol from Cascade
Mountain. The injured woman was
pronounced dead at a Portage hospital. The victim's name has not been released.
The sheriff's office is investigating but says the incident apparently
was an accident.
Feb 5, 2016
Wis. Residents Enrolled In
Obamacare Up 16%
The third open-enrollment period for the
Affordable Care Act ended with 239,034 people in Wisconsin enrolled in health
plans sold on the federal marketplace, a 16% increase from the same point last
year, the federal government said Thursday.
The increase for Wisconsin outpaced the average for the country.
Nationally, 12.7 million people enrolled in
health plans sold on the federal or state marketplaces set up through the
Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, according to the US Department of
Health and Human Services. That's an 11%
increase from the roughly 11.4 million people who bought or were re-enrolled in
the plans at the end of the open-enrollment period last year.
The penalty for not having health insurance
increases this year to $695 or 2.5% of taxable income, whichever is higher, for
More than 90% of the country now has health
insurance — the highest percentage ever.
That percentage could increase in future years as more states expand
their Medicaid programs and more people sign up for coverage.
DNR To Sell 82 Land Parcels
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
has identified 82 land parcels, totaling 5,900 acres, that it wants to put up
for sale, as ordered under the state budget bill. The department says the properties they
selected might be better managed by county forest programs, or have no access
to a public road, or are isolated from larger DNR property and do not contribute
much to protecting natural resources or providing outdoor recreation.
The DNR's Doug Haag said the list has been put
together carefully. He said the DNR
wants to keep 35 other parcels that were considered and study 32 additional
properties. The DNR Board will review the plan later this month.
CDC New Guidelines For Drinking
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
has long warned women not to drink during pregnancy, and now the agency is
focusing its efforts on those who might get pregnant. New recommendations released this week urge
women of childbearing age to avoid alcohol if they're not on birth control. That's especially relevant in Wisconsin,
where the rate of excessive drinking before getting pregnant is particularly
high. Previous data from a national
survey of new mothers shows that Wisconsin ranked first in the percentage of
women who binge drink in the three months prior to pregnancy.
According to Anne Schuchat, the CDC's principal
deputy director, rates of drinking and binge drinking among young women are on
the rise, meaning it's quite common for women who could become pregnant to be
consuming alcohol. She said those most
likely to drink are between the ages of 25-29.
With half of all pregnancies in the U.S.
unplanned, the CDC estimates more than 3 million women of childbearing age are
at risk of exposing a developing fetus to alcohol if they drink, have sex and
are not using birth control. The CDC
says alcohol use during pregnancy can cause physical and intellectual problems
for children. According to estimates, 8
percent of Wisconsin women drink during pregnancy.
Feb 2, 2016
Most Retailers Not Selling Tobacco
Seven percent of retailers in Wisconsin in 2015
were caught selling tobacco to minors in 2015, meaning 93% of the tobacco
retailers across the state are in compliance with the law. Western Wisconsin Working for Tobacco-Free
Living completed the compliance checks in Burnett, Pierce, Polk, Rusk and Saint
Croix counties. Overall between the five
counties, 23 retailers sold to minors during our checks this year, which means
90% of the establishments checked within the five counties are in compliance
with the law which prohibits sales of tobacco to anyone under the age of 18.
Burnett County had no sales to minors, Pierce
County had 10 sales to minors, Polk County had 5 sales to minors, Rusk County
had 1 sale to minors, and St. Croix County had 7 sales to minors.
Jan 27, 2016
Appeals Court Upholds Library Porn
A state appeals court says David Reidinger did
not have a constitutional right to view pornography on a University of
Wisconsin-Eau Claire library computer.
UW-Eau Claire police cited Reidinger for disorderly conduct in 2014
after a couple of students reported he was watching pornography on a library
computer. Reidinger argued he has a
First Amendment right to view legal adult pornographic material at a public
library. He also alleged UW System
administrators, campus police and Eau Claire County prosecutors conspired to
harass him. The 3rd District Court of
Appeals rejected his arguments Tuesday, ruling that the evidence showed
Reidinger's conduct tended to provoke a disturbance. The court opted not to address his harassment
allegations, calling them unsupported and undeveloped.
Gov. Walker Will Seek Third Term
Governor Scott Walker made comments yesterday
that he will seek a third term as governor.
Walker says he will wait until late 2016 or after the end of the year to
make a formal decision, but he says he feels good about the progress he's made
and thinks he can
build off it.
FBI Arrests Man in Mass-Shooting
Federal officials in Milwaukee say they've
arrested a 23-year-old man who planned to attack a Masonic temple. Samy Mohamed Hamzeh was charged Tuesday with
weapons-related counts. Federal
officials said they had been investigating him since September. Authorities said the FBI was tipped off that
Hamzeh had planned to travel to Israel to attack Israeli soldiers and citizens
in the West Bank. They say Hamzeh abandoned the plan as too difficult and later
decided on a domestic attack. Court
documents say Hamzeh toured a Masonic center in Milwaukee on January 19th and
was recorded discussing his plans to attack it in the name of "defending
Muslim religion." Documents say
Hamzeh was arrested Monday after buying machine guns and silencers from two
undercover FBI employees.
Verso Corp. Files For Bankruptcy
Verso Corporation, a Memphis, Tennessee-based
company which operates paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point, filed
for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A news
release stated that the filing will “have virtually no impact on the day-to-day
operations of the company.” The filing
comes after The Great Lakes Timber Professional Association in Rhinelander
received reports of Wisconsin timber suppliers not being paid for wood
delivered to Verso's mills in the state.
The filing will allow Verso to develop a plan to eliminate $2.4 billion
of outstanding debt. Verso’s president
and CEO, David Paterson, said it will exit the Chapter 11 “in a short
timeframe.” He said the January 2015
acquisition of NewPage Holdings, as well as a decline in demand for the
company’s products and other financial obligations, contributed to Verso’s
Jan 26, 2016
Public School Open Enrollment
Begins Feb. 1
Wisconsin’s public school open enrollment
application period for the 2016-17 school year runs from February first to
April 29th. This allows parents an opportunity to send their
children to any public school district in the state. Traditionally, children in Wisconsin are
assigned to public school districts based on the location of their parents’
home. Open enrollment is a tuition-free
opportunity for parents to apply for their children to attend a public school
in a school district other than the one in which they live.
With public school open enrollment, parents may
apply during the three-month application period to the school district they
wish their children to attend using the online application website. Application
deadlines are firm. Early and late applications are not accepted. Districts will notify parents by June 10th
whether their open enrollment applications have been approved or denied.
Warrant Issued for Forest Woman in
A warrant was issued Friday for a woman accused
of possessing birds used in cockfighting at her home in Forest. Saint Croix County Prosecutor Megan Kelly
told the court that Teresa Silva, age 59, had left the country. Silva was due to appear Friday in Saint Croix
County Circuit Court on six felony counts of instigating fights between animals
and 12 counts of mistreating animals, a misdemeanor offense. Her husband, 60-year-old Jesus Silva, faces
an identical set of charges and is due in court later this week. The Silvas were charged in November 2015
following an investigation into activities at their home in the town of Forest.
Saint Croix County Sheriff’s deputies executed a
search warrant at the home on June 2, 2015, when they found hundreds of
chickens living on the property.
Authorities were aided in the investigation by members of the American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Experts from the ASPCA performed examinations
on 16 of the confined male birds, two confined hens and eight of the dead
males. Examination of the chickens
revealed evidence that they had been disfigured in a manner that was consistent
with using them for fighting. Some of
the animals were found starved and with little access to food and water.
Jan 18, 2016
Fatal Snowmobile-Tree Crash
A man died in a snowmobile crash in Lake
Tomahawk, according to the Oneida County Sheriff's Department. Officials say the crash happened around 6pm
Saturday. According to authorities, Paul
Burger, age 45 of Lockport Illinois, was killed when his snowmobile hit a
tree. They say he was already dead when
they arrived on scene. The Oneida County
Medical Examiner's Office and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are
investigating the events surrounding Burger's death.
Bill Would Make Spitting on
Prosecutors a Felony
Wisconsin state Assembly committee approved a bill that would make it a felony
to spit or throw bodily fluids at a state prosecutor. The bill passed 9-4 in a party-line vote,
with support from Republicans and opposition from Democrats. Under current law, throwing bodily fluids at
first responders like police, firefighters and medical personnel is a felony
while committing the offense against others is considered a misdemeanor.
State Representative Evan Goyke of Milwaukee,
said boosting the penalty for spitting at prosecutors ignores the fact that
most who commit the crime are mentally ill prison inmates. "I can't go along with adding more
felonies on to the backs of folks that are tortured by their mental illness and
incarcerated," Goyke said.
Republicans argue the higher penalty should
deter the spitting, and is justified because of the risk that bodily fluids
thrown at a prosecutor could contain dangerous communicable diseases. State Representative. Joel Kleefisch of
Oconomowoc said there's strong evidence prosecutors are spit on frequently and
punishing the perpetrators more harshly should deter the behavior.
State Representative Fred Kessler of Milwaukee
said that, if it becomes a felony to spit on prosecutors, it also makes sense
to boost the penalty for spitting on legislators and judges. He said he's opposed to creating a privileged
class of victims instead of using the current misdemeanor penalties for
spitting on anyone.
Jan 14, 2016
Bill Would Allow Guns On School
A newly-introduced bill would allow guns on the
grounds of Wisconsin schools. The bill,
from Senator Mary Lazich and Assemblyman Rob Brooks, would permit anyone with a
concealed carry license to have a firearm on school grounds and it would be up
to school districts whether to allow concealed carry within school buildings.
In a statement, Senator Lazich writes, “The
Wisconsin School Zone Empowerment Act is a technical fix to an unintended
consequence created by the adoption of the concealed-carry law. The bill expresses the intent of the federal
Guns Free School Zone law by permitting concealed-carry licensees to carry on
school grounds. Simultaneously, it
grants each school district the authority to establish policy about
concealed-carry within school buildings. Wisconsin is home to over 242,000 concealed-carry licensees. These are well-intentioned individuals
licensed by the state to carry a weapon. This bill clarifies the duties of concealed-carry licensees, while
allowing school districts to create policies within school buildings.”
Fatal Accident On Highway 8 Last
One person was killed in a crash on Highway 8
just east of Barron last night. The
crash occurred around 5:15pm. First
responders extricated the victim from a small two-door sedan, which had heavy
front end damage and was resting in the middle of the roadway at the
intersection of 17th Street. The victim
was loaded into an ambulance, and later pronounced dead at the scene. A semi truck and tanker showing damage to its
rear wheels on the driver's side was parked on the shoulder of the eastbound
lane nearby as first responders worked at the scene. The truck was from Ritchie Lakeland Transport
Incorporated of Minocqua. Barron County
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said at the scene that there was one fatality but the
victim’s family would be notified before more information would be released.
Northern Long-eared Bat To Be
Listed As Threatened
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized
protections for the northern long-eared bat, a species found in Wisconsin. The federal agency has gone along with a 2016
decision to put the bat on the federal threatened species list, after proposing
the year before to go further and list the bat as endangered. After additional objections from timber
companies and other landowners, the service removed some limits on killing bats
as part of a lawful activity. Service
Director Dan Ashe said his bigger focus is on protecting the bats from the
disease white-nose syndrome.
Farmers Sue State Over Homemade
A group of Wisconsin farmers is suing state
agricultural officials in hopes of lifting the ban on selling homemade baked
goods. Under current law, selling baked
goods that were made in a home kitchen can lead to six months of jail time and
up to $1,000 in fines.
Three Wisconsin farmers who are suing the state,
along with the Institute for Justice, are calling the ban
unconstitutional. Their lawsuit comes a
day after the Senate passed a so-called
“Cookie Bill,” which would overturn the ban. The Assembly has yet to vote on the measure.
Critics like Dan Schmidt, executive director of
the Wisconsin Bakers Association, say lifting the ban could hurt brick-and
The bill would only allow for up to $7,500 in
sales each year. All products would need
to be labeled with the name and address of the baker.
Wisconsin and New Jersey are the only states
that ban the sale of home baked goods.
Jan 12, 2016
Assembly To Vote on Lifting
The Wisconsin State Assembly is poised to take
up a bill this Tuesday afternoon that would lift Wisconsin's ban on new nuclear
power plants. Right now, state
regulators can't approve a new nuclear power plant unless a federal facility
for storing waste from nuclear plants nationwide exists and such a plant
wouldn't burden ratepayers. No central
federal repository exists, leaving nuclear plants to store their waste on-site.
The bill to be considered today would erase the
storage facility and ratepayer clauses from state law, clearing the way for new
plants. The bill's author, Republican
Representative Kevin Peterson, maintains nuclear power is an affordable option
as the state faces new federal rules on greenhouse gas emissions.
Gov. Walker Announces Affordable
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced a
series of legislative proposals Monday aimed at making college more
affordable. His plans include removing
the cap on tax-deductible student loan interest, increasing need-based
assistance programs at Wisconsin technical colleges and bringing on more
internship coordinators across the state. Walker touted his record on keeping costs down, saying his moves to
freeze tuition for four years have halted years of increases.
The Governor also mentioned a proposal being
pushed by some Democrats which would allow students to refinance student loans
through a new state panel; Walker said similar plans have not worked in other
states. But State Senator Jennifer
Shilling of La Crosse, says Walker has refused to meet with Democrats to
discuss the plan.
Walker says the best way to keep college
affordable is to keep costs down.
Governor Walker will be at UW-Eau Claire this Tuesday morning to talk
about the plan.
Difficult For Wis. Paper-Makers To
At a time when a federal agency is examining the
competitiveness of US paper products, Wisconsin's paper companies say they are
at a disadvantage due to other countries' ability to sell paper cheaply here.
The International Trade Commission heard
testimony last week about alleged paper dumping in the US. Some unions allege countries including China,
Indonesia, and Australia are able to make paper cheaply because of government
subsidies. They also say the countries
ship the paper, especially coated paper, to the US. Coated paper is used in magazines and
circulars. The International Trade
Commission has the power to levy tariffs against countries that are found to
have "dumped" paper into this country.
Jeff Landin, the president of the Wisconsin
Paper Council, said the current system puts Wisconsin companies at a
disadvantage. "It is hard to imagine
being able to produce a product where they have to bring in the raw materials —
because they don't have a lot of wood in the Far East — produce it, ship it all
the way to the United States. And they
can do it for less cost than it would somebody in the state of Wisconsin to
produce and put it on the market here," said Landin. "We've seen several mills that produce
coated paper that have closed in the state of Wisconsin," he said. "I can't say 'A and B are directly
related,' but I don't think it's beyond the pale to suggest that one of the
reasons is because the demand went down but also the supply of coated paper was
State Board Reverses Policy on
Public Records Access
Wisconsin's Public Records Board has rescinded a
new policy used by Governor Scott
Walker's administration to shield text messages from the public. The board's new policy, adopted last August,
concerned so-called transitory records, which are supposed to be documents of
low importance like scheduling emails.
The Walker administration used the policy to thwart a records request
for text messages about a state economic development award. The same policy change was also cited to deny
access to visitor logs at the governor's mansion.
The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
filed a lawsuit in December against the board, contending it had violated open
While the Public Records Board did vote to
revoke its decision, that left in place a 2010 policy that Chairman Matt
Blessing said was vague and open to too much interpretation. He said the policy was never meant to be
specific to text messages. He said the
Board would revisit the issue in the future.
Jan 8, 2016
Tribal Council Opposes Wis. Bill
On Native American Graves
The Board of Directors of The Great Lakes
Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC) claims the state of Wisconsin is directly opposing
the federal Native American Graves and Repatriation Act with new proposed
legislation. The Board of Directors is
calling on the legislature to stop considering AB-620, which it says violates
the protection of Native burial and religious sites.
The council is against the AB-620 bill because
it says the opening of pre-historic burial mounds for exploration, mining and
other commercial purposes is, in “the strongest terms a shameful ignorance and
abuse of Native history, culture and religious practice. The proposed legislation would permit any
landowner throughout the state to dispute the significance of mounds or other
works, and to excavate, explore, exploit, and for that matter privately and
covertly remove or destroy artifacts or human remains without oversight by
independent archaeological experts,” the council said.
The council supports the Ho-Chunk Nation by
trying to help them protect specific mounds in Wisconsin within territory
historically occupied by tribal ancestry. The council says if the legislation passes, it will turn to the Federal
Trustee in the hopes they will intervene.
Jan 7, 2016
Bills Address Prison Staffing
Issues of staffing and safety in Wisconsin state
prisons have been on the rise for the past several years, with vacancy rates
increasing by more than 20%. Democratic
Senators Jon Erpenbach and Kathleen Vinehout have proposed nine bills that are
working to fix those safety and staffing concerns throughout the state. “Depending on what institution you are
working at, vacancy rates are as high as 20%.
As a result of that, there are people who are forced into overtime
situations, pulling double shifts two and three times a week and that is bad
for all sorts of reasons,” says Erpenbach.
According to the department of corrections
vacancies have increased from 2%-10% in parts of the state. “We have people with 25 years of experience
walking out the door because they just don't want to deal with it anymore. Then we go out and recruit a new class to
come in to work as correctional officers and we can only hang on to about half
of (those) who (are) hired,” says Erpenbach.
The amount of correctional officer overtime pay
has steadily increased to reach $36-million in 2016 alone.
New St. Croix River Bridge
The new Saint Croix River bridge won’t open
until late 2017, a full year after originally planned, because of equipment
problems, material shortages and weather delays, Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation
agencies said Wednesday. Just how the
delay might affect the overall cost of the bridge project — budgeted for as
much as $676 million — won’t be known until the state agencies complete
negotiations with the general contractor. The road portions of the project remain on track, Beer said. Improvements to Highway 36 in Minnesota and
Highway 64 in Wisconsin, which will connect to the bridge, are on schedule and
January 7 is Christmas for Many
Many Orthodox Christians are celebrating the
birth of Jesus Christ today, following the older Julian calendar. Last night, many believers in Russia,
Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Ethiopia and elsewhere, including émigrés from those
countries who live in Minneapolis and elsewhere in the United States, gathered
in temples for traditional services; as they also do today. They follow the Julian calendar, and today is
Family-owned Mills Fleet Farm has agreed to sell
to New York-based KKR, one of the country’s largest investment businesses that
has holdings in various industries totaling about $100 billion. Terms of the deal are expected to be
announced today and are expected to include a price tag of more than $1.2
billion, including debt.
Nate Taylor, a KKR executive who runs the retail
businesses within KKR’s private-equity portfolio, said that KKR has acquired
majority control of the stock but the Mills family will retain a small
ownership stake in the 61-year-old company.
Several Mills family members are expected to leave company management
but will maintain offices and contribute in an advisory capacity. Taylor said the company will be operated
independently of KKR’s other retailers, which include Toys ‘R’ Us and US
Foods. He added that deep-pocketed KKR
plans to invest in a Mills Fleet Farm expansion that could transcend its
four-state Upper Midwest region.
Mills Fleet Farm, which doesn’t publicly
disclose sales or results, operates stores in rural towns and suburbs of
Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and North Dakota.
It employs 6,500 full- and part-time workers, including about 75 at its
corporate office in Brainerd Minnesota.
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