Hmong Rally in Wausau May 31
Next Tuesday May 31st, demonstrators from
Wisconsin, Minnesota and California plan to converge on Wausau for a march for
peace, according to Hmong community leader Mao Khang.
The march was organized to rally the community
after a fatal stabbing. Dylan Yang, age
16, who is Hmong, was convicted of reckless homicide in adult court for the
stabbing death of 13-year-old Isaiah Powell during a fight between two groups
of young people in 2015.
Khang said the case has affected many in the
Hmong community. "This march has
affected not just Hmong in Wausau, but it's across the nation. It's a peace march for healing, reflecting,
and bringing community together and then addressing anti-bullying, violence
prevention and a fair criminal justice system," he said. Khang questions whether juveniles should be
tried in adult court.
The march has been publicized by Hmong leaders
in Minneapolis and Fresno, California.
May 11, 2016
Tyson Plant to Close in July
The Tyson Foods plant in Jefferson will permanently
close on July 9. According to a release
from the State Department of Workforce development, 248 jobs will be
eliminated. Tyson plans to eliminate the
jobs over time, ending in July.
In November, the company announced plans to shut
the facility down. It said the closure
was due to changing product demands, the age of the facility, and the cost of
Wis. Delays $101-million Debt
The State of Wisconsin has delayed repaying
$101-million in debt. It's the second
year in a row that Wisconsin has taken such a step. Last year, $108-million in debt repayment was
delayed in order to balance the books.
Department of Administration spokeswoman Laurel
Patrick called the move "a prudent financial management tool that takes
advantage of historically low interest rates." But state Representative Gordon Hintz of
Oshkosh, who sits on the Legislature's budget committee, said steps like these
wouldn't be necessary if the state's fiscal house was in order. "We're continuing to dig ourselves a
hole," Hintz said. "I think
it's a sign that we can't afford the tax cuts that we passed and maybe there's
some concern about future revenue being there."
Governors from both parties have in the past
delayed debt payments to balance the books, though the tactic is typically used
more during bad financial times. Such
moves carry extra costs for taxpayers. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said that this latest delay
will likely increase interest costs on Wisconsin by roughly $2.3-million.
New FDA Regulation Over
The US Food and Drug Administration announced a
new rule that regulates e-cigarettes and vape pens, all cigars, hookah (water
pipe) tobacco, pipe tobacco and nicotine gels, among others. The FDA received more than 135-thousand
comments on their initial proposal. The
rule also looks to restrict youth access to tobacco. Starting in ninety days, tobacco products
cannot be sold to minors under the age of 18 (both in person and online), age
verification by photo ID is required for all tobacco sales, tobacco products
covered by the rule cannot be sold in vending machines unless in an adult-only
facility, and the distribution of free tobacco product samples is not allowed
In addition, tobacco manufactures must show that
their products meet the applicable public health standard set forth in the law
and receive marketing authorization from the FDA, unless the product was on the
market as of February 15, 2007. Tobacco
companies with products on the market have two years to comply.
While health advocates expressed excitement for
the new rule, they noted a few key missing pieces, like flavoring restrictions
for e-cigarettes and hookah.
Jarchow & Tiffany Plan Wolf
Representative Adam Jarchow of Balsam Lake,
together with Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst, will convene a Great Lakes
wolf summit this fall involving public officials, scientists and citizens from
Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan to push for state management of wolves. The legislators are calling for the summit in
the wake of a federal court decision in December 2014 that returned the wolf
population of the western Great Lakes to the protection of the Endangered
The legislators noted that wolves have killed or
injured livestock or pets in 14 cases so far in 2016, according to records of
the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The most recent example occurred last week in Shawano County when a
young female cow, ready to have her first calf, was killed. That "showcases the unfortunate results
of a wolf population being allowed to run rampant in Wisconsin," Tiffany
and Jarchow said.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., in 2014
struck down the federal government's 2012 decision to remove gray wolves in
Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan from the federal list of endangered
species. The suit was brought by the
Humane Society of the United States. The
decision ended Wisconsin's wolf hunting season.
This has meant that Wisconsin has lost its ability to use lethal means
to address wolves considered to be problem animals.
May 9, 2016
New “Alice in Dairyland” Selected
Ann O’Leary of Evansville has been chosen as
Wisconsin’s 69th Alice in Dairyland.
O’Leary will work as a communications professional for the Wisconsin
Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Her job will be to educate the public about
the importance of agriculture in Wisconsin.
O’Leary grew up showing Jerseys and Holsteins at
the county, district and state level.
She was heavily involved in the Rock County Junior Holstein Association
and the Rock County 4-H Program and served as the 2009 Rock County 4-H Fair Queen. O’Leary studied Biology and Neuroscience at
Carthage College and graduated with All College Honors in May, 2014. She currently works at Epic as a corporate
recruiter, volunteers with the Rock County 4-H Program and serves on the
Carthage College Alumni Council. In her
spare time, she enjoys reading, water skiing and spending time with family.
O’Leary was selected at the culmination of three
days of final interview events in Dodge County.
The events included agribusiness tours, speeches, a public
question-and-answer session and media interviews.
May 4, 2016
Wis. 2015 Graduation Rate
Wisconsin had 57,698 students graduate from high
school with a regular diploma in 2015, a graduation rate of 88.4 percent that
bests the national rate of 82.3 percent for the Class of 2014. Wisconsin’s 2015
graduation rate remained largely unchanged from 2014, down two tenths of a
Suburban Milwaukee Manhunt Ends
With Interstate Shootings
A man wanted for a Sunday morning murder in
suburban Milwaukee is under arrest after a police chase along Interstate 94 in
Dane and Columbia counties, and a drive by shooting south of Wisconsin Dells in
Sauk County. Authorities reported that a
20-year-old West Allis man shot and killed a fellow resident of his apartment
building, 42-year-old Gabriel Sanchez -- and other law enforcement agencies
which were told about the killing tracked the suspect down. Officials said that the police chase later
resulted in the drive by shooting near the Dells, where three people in the
shooter's vehicle were arrested, including the West Allis murder suspect. There was also a report of one woman being
injured during the episode, but details were not immediately available. One report says the woman was hospitalized in
critical condition at last word at U-W Hospital in Madison.
April 27, 2016
12 Wisconsin High School students have been
named semifinalists for the 2016 Presidential
Scholars Award, considered the nation’s highest honor for graduating
high school seniors.
The state’s 12 semifinalists are among 689
semifinalists for 2016.
The high school senior in our area, selected as
a semifinalist, is Tiffany A. Moskal of Clayton High School.
The Commission on Presidential Scholars will make
the final selection of the nation’s 121 Presidential Scholars – one male and
one female from east state, the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto
Rico and from families of U.S. citizens living abroad, and up to 15 students
chosen at large.
The chosen receive a Presidential Scholars
medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House. Scholars are asked to
identify one teacher who was most influential in their education. That teacher
will also be invited to the nation’s capital for National Recognition Week and
will receive the Presidential Scholars program Teacher Recognition Award.
Congratulations to Tiffany Moskal of Clayton
High School for being named a semifinalist.
Wis. Right-To-Work Ruling Not On
A Dane County judge declined Monday to put on
hold his ruling that found unconstitutional a Wisconsin law barring unions and
businesses from reaching labor deals requiring workers to pay union fees.
Attention now turns to the Court of Appeals as
judges there consider whether to restore the measure advocates call the state's
Governor Scott Walker and the Legislature last
year approved the law, becoming the 25th state to bar labor contracts that
require workers to pay union fees. Since
then, West Virginia has passed a similar law, bringing the number of
right-to-work states to 26.
Supporters argue that no one should be forced to
pay union fees if they don't want to belong to a labor group. Unions contend such contracts should be
allowed because federal law requires them to represent all employees in a work
unit — meaning that they all benefit from the protections and higher wages
Unions sued soon after the law was passed, and
this month Dane County Circuit Judge C. William Foust ruled the law violated
the state constitution because it took something of value from unions without
April 20, 2016
Wis. Man Killed In Hunting Accident
Authorities said that a Janesville man has been
fatally shot by a member of his turkey-hunting party in an apparent
accident. A statement from the Rock
County sheriff's office said that officials responded Sunday morning to a
report of a man with a gunshot wound in a field in the Town of Johnstown. The deputies found the victim, a 37-year-old
who had been turkey hunting with family members. Life-saving efforts were unsuccessful, and he
was pronounced dead at the scene. An
initial investigation shows the man was trying to retrieve a wounded turkey
when he inadvertently ran into the field of fire of another member of his hunting
party. He was shot in the back. The sheriff's office says the incident appears
to be "an unfortunate hunting accident." An autopsy will be performed.
National Park Service Prescribes 4
The Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway plans
to conduct four prescribed burns in the Riverway corridor sometime between
today and May 20th, depending on weather conditions. The National Park Service
will conduct these prescribed fires to improve prairie and savanna habitat
along the Saint Croix and Namekagon rivers.
The areas to be burned are: Peaslee Island, which consists of 140 acres
in Polk County, three miles west of Dresser, a site that will being restored to
native prairie and oak savanna; Springbrook Savanna, which consists of 91 acres
along the Namekagon River, about one-quarter mile northeast of Springbrook, in Washburn County, where a
savanna restoration and the adjacent prairie will be burned at the same time,
stimulating the native prairie plants throughout the entire burn site; Olson
Prairie, which consists of 17 acres on
the Namekagon River, north of Highway 77 between Danbury and Minong, in
northeast Burnett County, a remnant prairie that has a number of native plants
which are less common elsewhere; and Barker’s Farm, 96 acres on the Namekagon
River, just northwest of the Olson Prairie burn site, also in Burnett County,
where native prairie plants have returned to a former homestead.
April 15, 2016
Wis. Unemployment Rate Down
New preliminary data show that Wisconsin's
unemployment rate dropped slightly in March.
The state Department of Workforce Development released a report Thursday
that put the unemployment rate last month at 4.5 percent, down from 4.6 percent
The national unemployment rate was 5 percent in
March, up from 4.9 percent in February.
The report found that the state added 11,500
nonfarm jobs in March. The private
sector gained 13,100 jobs but the government sector lost 1,600 jobs across the
federal, state and local levels.
Law Changes Managed Forest Program
Governor Scott Walker signed legislation
yesterday that will allow landowners to keep the public from using more of
their forest property while still receiving a break on their property tax. Senate Bill 434 makes major changes in the
state's managed forest law, including limiting the amount of land available to
the public as well as turning over millions of dollars to local units of
government now earmarked for the Department of Natural Resources. The law regulates practices on more than
3-million acres. Managed forest
properties provide about a quarter of the timber used by Wisconsin's
$22.9-billion forest industry, according to the governor's office.
Supporters say the changes will help ensure a
steady supply of timber for the paper mills and wood processors of the
state. The law traditionally allowed
property owners to pay lower property taxes if they agreed to periodically cut
timber in a sustainable manner. In
exchange for the property tax break, the law also required owners to manage the
land for timber production and allow members of the public to use the property for
fishing, hunting, hiking, sightseeing and other recreational uses.
For landowners to get the best tax break, they
had to allow public access.
Traditionally, property owners were allowed to set aside 160 acres for
private use. The bill signed by Walker
would lift that cap and allow property owners of nonindustrial timber land to
restrict all public access. Under the
new law, property owners who close their land would not get as large of a tax
cut. But their tax bill would be sharply
lower than land not in the program.
Erros Don’t Preclude Unemployment
A Wisconsin appeals court has ruled that
employees cannot be denied unemployment benefits for inadvertent errors, even
if they are repeated after warnings.
Thursday's ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeals is its first
brush at interpreting "substantial fault," a new threshold the state
Legislature established in 2013 tightening eligibility for unemployment
benefits. Employees cannot receive
benefits if they're terminated for "substantial fault," defined as
acts that violate reasonable employer requirements. Under the law, substantial fault does not
include inadvertent errors.
In this case, Lela Operton was a full-time clerk
at Walgreens who made eight "cash handling errors." Walgreens terminated her employment and
objected to her request for unemployment benefits. The court ruled that Operton's actions were
inadvertent errors and that errors don't constitute substantial fault, even if
repeated after a warning.
Illinois Death Tied to Wis.
A death in Illinois has been tied to the
Elizabethkingia bacteria outbreak that started in Wisconsin and has left state
and federal health officials searching for the source of the issue. The Illinois case, reported Tuesday, involves
the same strain of the bacteria. No other details were provided. Last month,
officials said a death in Michigan was tied to the outbreak. Sixty-three cases have been confirmed in
Wisconsin, including 18 deaths and one suspected death. It is not known if the deaths were caused by
the infection or other serious health problems, which existed in many of the
Elizabethkingia bacteria are found throughout
the environment and usually are not harmful.
Infections are rare, and outbreaks are even rarer. This is the largest known outbreak of this
particular strain of Elizabethkingia.
The US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention is working with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to find
a source of the outbreak. Last month, US
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin sent a letter to the CDC, seeking answers to a
series of questions. In a response,
released yesterday, CDC officials said investigators have confirmed that those
who have died, or have been sickened, shared no common water source and had no
common exposure to a health care or personal care product.
April 8, 2016
Trial Ordered in 2011
Three federal judges will hold a trial on
whether Wisconsin's 2011 redistricting was illegally gerrymandered in favor of
the G-O-P -- and whether a Democratic standard should apply in drafting future
legislative districts. The judges denied
the state's request to throw out the Democrats' lawsuit yesterday -- and they
decided to hear testimony instead of just reviewing legal briefs. Another federal court panel upheld the state
Senate and Assembly maps drawn by majority Republicans in 2011, but ordered two
Milwaukee Assembly districts to be re-aligned.
The state Justice Department says it's disappointed the latest challenge
wasn't thrown out, but they're confident they'll win a trial that's due to begin
May 24th. Sachin Chheda of the Fair
Elections Project says it's the first time in 30 years that a partisan
gerrymandering challenge has made it to the trial stage, as Democrats seek to
adopt a national standard on how much a party can reshape districts to include
as many of its own voters as possible.
April 6, 2016
Unemployment Claims Now Made
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce
Development has launched dramatic improvements to help more Unemployment
Insurance claimants start and complete their weekly claims for unemployment
benefits conveniently through the Internet.
The latest updates to the Department of Workforce Development's
eight-year-old Unemployment Insurance online services coincide with customer
service industry-led changes to the state's 1990s-era automated telephone
filing system. In calendar year 2015,
over 76% of the UI claimant population logged into the Unemployment Insurance
online benefit services system at least once.
The online enhancements that launched on March
30th allow more claimants to file weekly claims for Unemployment Insurance
benefits seamlessly and conveniently.
Highlights of the online improvements include: the discontinuance of
toll-free numbers to file initial and weekly claims and instead directing
callers to file online or, if they still prefer to file by phone, to access the
Department of Workforce Development's telephone-based automated filing system
through local Madison or Milwaukee phone numbers. The department’s call center will continue to
deliver individualized service by phone to claimants who need to speak to a
March 30, 2016
Walker Orders Flags to Half-Mast
For Deceased Veteran
Governor Scott Walker has ordered flags to fly
at half-staff today in honor of Hudson
veteran Duff Gordon. The Chief Petty
Officer served in the US Navy and was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor
in 1941. His remains have recently been
identified. A memorial service and
burial is also set for today in Hudson.
Trumpeter Swan Numbers Soar
The number of trumpeter swans in Wisconsin has
zoomed from zero to 4,695 a generation after the Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources and partners launched recovery efforts, according to national
surveys. Population estimates from
aerial surveys of interior North America put Wisconsin's number of adult and
"sub-adult" trumpeter swans at 4,695 birds in 2015, more than six
times as many as the 672 estimated during the last survey five years ago, and
up from 24 in 1990.
Market hunting and demand for the feathers of
trumpeter swans nearly eliminated these
birds from Wisconsin and other upper Midwest states by the 1880s. Wisconsin put the species on the state's
endangered species list in the 1980s, which made it illegal to kill, transport,
possess, process or sell them, and launched a recovery effort that collected
eggs from the wilds of Alaska, hatched them at the Milwaukee Zoo, and reared
the young in the wild using decoys, and in captivity, before releasing them.
Trumpeter swans reached the recovery goal early
-- more than doubling the 20 breeding pairs hoped for by 2000 --and Wisconsin
removed it from the endangered species list in 2009. Trumpeter swans remain protected under the
federal Migratory Bird Treaty, which celebrates its centennial this year.
March 29, 2016
69 Frac-Sand Workers Layed Off
A frac-sand company has layed off 69 workers in
Barron County, according to a notice filed with the Wisconsin Department of
Workforce Development. Superior Silica
Sands is laying off workers from mines sites in the towns of Arland and Sioux
Creek and processing plants in the towns of Arland and Clinton and in New
Auburn. Employees will be paid regular
wages through May 31, according to the notice.
Low oil prices have hampered the once-booming
local frac sand industry. Superior
Silica Sands closed its mine and wet plant, used to wash and sort sand, in the
Chippewa County Town of Auburn in July of 2015, affecting 58 workers. Chieftain Sand, located south of Chetek, laid
off 63 workers in December. Superior
Silica Sands, which began operations in New Auburn in 2011, is a subsidy of
Emerge Energy Services, based in Southlake, Texas.
March 21, 2016
Four Rescued From Vehicle Trapped
Around 10pm Saturday night, four people were
driving in the town of Peru near Meridean, in Dunn County when their car was
trapped in flood waters that came over the road and swept their car off the
road and into a flooded ditch. Durand
Fire Chief, Jamey King, said the people in the car called 911 as the car was
filling with water. Then they climbed on
the roof. King says the cell phone
service in the area isn't very good and the people were lucky the 911 call went
through. "They were probably
outside for 20 minutes,” King said. “Nobody would've seen them down there.
There's probably no traffic that was going to go down there. They could've been out there for hours." The Durand Fire Department and multiple first
responders were able to bring the people to safety. The Dunn County Sheriff plans to release the
names of the rescued people later today.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
has made a decision to replace the Little Falls dam at Willow River State
Park. This decision will result in a
refilled Little Falls Lake once the dam's reconstruction is complete. The department made this determination after
reviewing the recommendation and background information presented in a final
alternatives analysis for addressing the Little Falls dam, as well as
considering the public input to the draft recommendations. Changes were made to the draft alternatives
analysis in response to public comments and other updated information.
In the weeks to come, the DNR project team will
work with the Department of Administration to prepare the project request for
consideration and approval at the State Building Commission. The state legislature has currently allocated
$8 million for the project.
For more information, search the DNR website for
March 18, 2016
River Falls Dams Allowed Another
The debate to keep or remove the two dams on the
Kinnickinnic River in River Falls will continue, as the city received a five
year federal extension for the dams’ licenses.
The city says the dams produce enough energy to power 170 homes and
removing the dams would cost up to $5-million. Those who support removing the dams want the river’s natural beauty
Headlights Required in Rain, Snow,
Any time you're driving in bad weather, you
should turn on your headlights. A new
state law says if it's raining, snowing or foggy out, you must turn them
on. Under the previous law, you only had
to have them on in the dark.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says
more than 300 people have been hurt in crashes over the past five years where
drivers didn't have their headlights turned on.
Wisconsin is one of the final states to enact a headlights law for
adverse weather conditions or reduced visibility.
DNR Fired Equipment Operator Over
Conflict Of Interest
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
fired an equipment operator last year for using agency resources to help his
habitat restoration company. A
termination letter The Associated Press obtained through a records request
shows the agency fired Robert Herman in April 2015. According to the letter, Herman has owned a
company called Quality Habitat Improvement since the late 1990s but did not
have DNR approval for outside employment since 2003. The letter said Herman acknowledged during an
investigatory interview that a conflict of interest existed.
The company received $5,573 in DNR grants for
work on six stream projects between 2008 and 2013. Herman was involved as a DNR employee on all
the projects. On three occasions he used a DNR truck on company projects.
Another Death Linked to Elizabethkingia
Another death has been linked to an outbreak of
a bloodstream infection in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says 17 people with
suspected cases caused by Elizabethkingia bacteria have died since the outbreak
began in November. That's an increase of
one since last week. The department said
Wednesday that the number of reported cases also has increased, from 48 to 54.
The cases are spread across 12 counties, mainly
in southern Wisconsin. Most of the
Wisconsin cases involve people over the age of 65, and all those who have died
also had severe chronic conditions.
Department spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said that
disease detectives are "working diligently" to find the source of the
outbreak. Federal, state and local investigators are involved in the search.
March 11, 2016
Bradley Claims No Ethics Violation
As a private attorney, Rebecca Bradley
represented in a child placement case the former chief operating officer of the
law firm where both had previously worked — and with whom she acknowledged
having had an extramarital affair, according to court records. At the time, the ex-wife of J. Andrew Bednall
objected to Bradley's representation based on her relationship with Bednall,
the records show. The court-appointed
attorney overseeing the interests of Bednall's son in the 2005 placement case
agreed with those concerns.
Bradley, now a state Supreme Court justice and
candidate for a full term, responded in a January 2005 affidavit that she could
remain on the case. "At one time I
had a romantic relationship with (Bednall), which we both believed might result
in marriage. We broke off that
relationship in November 2002, although we have continued to date on a
nonexclusive basis since that time," wrote Bradley, who was divorced in
The circumstances of the child placement case
are surfacing amid Bradley's campaign for a 10-year term on the state Supreme
Court against Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg.
The election is April 5. The
state supreme court is responsible for policing the professional conduct rules
of attorneys, and much of the justices' time is spent on determining whether
lawyers treated their clients appropriately.
March 9, 2016
Walker Signed Voc. Ed. Teacher
Governor Scott Walker went to the Brown Deer
School District yesterday for the signing of new legislation that will let
school districts hire vocational education teachers who do not hold traditional
teacher licenses. Brown Deer had been
among the districts that championed the "experience-based"
licenses. They were approved, first
through the 2015-'17 budget for technical education teachers and then, through
legislation, for a broader range of voc-ed posts from agriculture to business
Critics, including the state Department of
Public Instruction, the state's largest teachers union and university schools
of education have raised concerns, saying the measure would lower the bar on
teacher standards and create an uneven licensing system around the state.
But districts point to a critical shortage of
voc-ed teachers and say they need the flexibility to lure experienced
professionals to the classroom or discontinue popular courses that prepare
young people for work or continued training at the state's technical schools.
Deadly Infection Outbreak in
Wisconsin Gaining Urgency
The US Centers for Disease Control has identified
two more suspected cases of deadly blood infections and sent additional
investigators to Wisconsin. It is the
largest outbreak of its kind and the finding of the source is urgent. Investigators have not been able to find a
medical product, single facility, food source or other means of exposure that
could explain how dozens of people — mostly elderly residents of central and
southeastern Wisconsin — have become ill from a bacterium named Elizabethkingia
anophelis. Isolated tests from the two
suspected cases had not yet been confirmed, and officials would not say whether
the individuals were sickened or had died. As of Tuesday, the outbreak was tied to 44 confirmed cases, including 18
Thus far in Wisconsin's outbreak, the only known
commonalities are that the majority of people are 65 year or older and have had
serious underlying health conditions — although those conditions vary. Many have had recent contact with some type
of medical facility, but others have not.
Elizabethkingia is a gram-negative bacterium —
meaning it's resistant to multiple drugs, including many antibiotics. It's found throughout the environment and is
prevalent in soil and water. It can
survive on skin — though it is not well-adapted to do so. Instead, it needs warm, moist places to
thrive. This specific strain, E.
anophelis, is also known to live in the guts of certain mosquitoes.
March 2, 2016
Wis Has 4th Worst Roads in Nation
The US Department of Transportation has ranked
Wisconsin roadways the fourth worst in the nation. It says 71% of Wisconsin roads are in poor
conditions, 14% of Wisconsin roads are structurally deficient, and vehicle
owners spend over a billion dollars (or $281 per motorist) in extra repairs due
to poor road conditions. The agency
reported that 56 of 72 Wisconsin counties replace their roads every 75 years,
rather than their intended life span of 30 years.
Some experts believe that while the state has
lost transportation funding, other states have increased their funding. They say that most likely added to our
state's low ranking.
New law Requires Headlights When
Governor Scott Walker signed into law on Monday
a bill that requires drivers to turn on headlights when weather conditions
limit visibility. The Wisconsin State
Patrol said limited visibility means you can't see something 500-ft away, which
is a little less than two high school football fields. State patrol said they've always recommended
using headlights in poor conditions to keep everyone on the road safe.
"It's important to be visible, not only
visible for you to illuminate something in front of you to see so you don't
strike it, but also for oncoming traffic to see you," Sgt. Bill Berger
said. "And it's especially
important in heavy rain, snow and dense fog."
For the next six months, officers will only
issue warnings, but after that a ticket could cost $160.
VA Inspector General Clears
Minneapolis VA Of Wait-Time Allegations
The Inspector General of the Veteran’s
Administration, which is the “internal independent watchdog” of the US
Department of Veterans Affairs, has announced that it has cleared the
Minneapolis VA Health Care System of allegations of manipulations of patient
appointments. The report, which was
released Monday, concluded that the allegations were not substantiated. The three cases involved in-depth
investigations, including interviews with the accusers and many other VA staff,
as well as reviews of scheduling calendars, phone records, emails, and patient
charts. A summary of the report is
available online at
March 1, 2016
Gov. Walker Signed 46 Bills Into Law
Governor Scott Walker signed 46 bills into law
on Monday afternoon. Walker signed the
bills privately in the state Capitol.
On the bills he signed into law prevents county
executives from concurrently serving as legislators. It was a particularly controversial piece of
legislation. Its enactment means that Democratic Senate candidate Mark Harris
would have to quit his job as Winnebago
County executive, which pays an annual salary of almost $103-thousand, if he's
elected. In the Senate, he would make
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott
Fitzgerald had said Harris' candidacy prompted the bill. Fitzgerald has said
he's concerned about a county executive drawing two salaries from taxpayers,
and about the conflicts of interest that would arise from holding two
Another bill Walker signed into law expands the
legal options which libraries have in collecting fines: exceptions were created
to privacy laws protecting borrowers' identities so that libraries can report
them to collection agencies and police.
According to the Wisconsin Library Association, people fail to return
$3-million worth of taxpayer-owned library materials each year.
Another bill Walker signed Monday creates
statewide regulations barring violent sex offenders from living within
1,500-feet of any school, day care, youth center, church or public park.
Maple Syrup Producers See Strong
Start to Season
Wisconsin's maple syrup producers are off to an
early start and expect a good season, if the weather cooperates. The warmer-than-average winter means the sap
is flowing sooner than usual.
According to Theresa Baroun, executive director
of the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association, the state is the
fourth-largest producer of maple syrup in the United States. "We have commercial producers, we have
small producers we have those that are right in the middle," Baroun said,
adding she expects it will continue to be a good season for maple syrup if
temperatures continue to drop below freezing at night and warm up during the
Wisconsin has 3-thousand maple syrup
producers. Baroun said commercial
producers use plastic tubing and vacuum pumps to carry sap away from maple
trees. But she says there still are some
smaller producers who use pails and bags.
Feb 29, 2016
Wis. Joins Lawsuit Challenging FCC
Prison Phone Call Charges
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has
filed a motion to join an Oklahoma lawsuit challenging a new federal rule that
lowers the cost of phone calls for prison and jail inmates. In October, the Federal Communications
Commission capped the cost of inmate phone calls at 11-cents per minute for
prisons and 22-cents per minute for jails. Before that cut, inmates in some states were paying as much as $14 a
In a press release about his motion to join the
lawsuit on Friday, Schimel called the rule an unconstitutional federal
overreach that prevents state prisons and local jails from recouping the cost
of expensive phone security systems.
Seven other states are joining Wisconsin in
challenging the FCC cap on inmate phone calls.
The case is pending in federal appeals court in the District of
House Approves Amendment to Remove
Protected Status On Grey Wolves
A Wisconsin congressman is trying once again to
get the gray wolf off the federal endangered species list in the western Great
Lakes region. Representative Reid Ribble
of Green Bay, has won US House approval of an amendment that would restore a
Fish and Wildlife Service decision to de-list the grey wolf in the Upper
Midwest. That decision in 2012 led to
hunting of wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. A federal court over-ruled that decision in
2014, blocking the hunts.
Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the
United States said Congress ought to let an appeal of that court ruling play
out. "It's just not right for Congressman
Ribble to kind of cherry-pick wolves off of the list and undermine this
judicial review of an executive agency decision," said Pacelle.
Ribble said his amendment attempts to protect
the Endangered Species Act by discouraging judges from overruling the Fish and
Wildlife service to knock a species out of a protected category. Ribble's proposal still needs the Senate's
Feb 25, 2016
Boyceville Teen Dies in Crash
The driver of a Ford Ranger pickup died in a
crash in the village of Boyceville yesterday.
The Dunn County Sheriff's Office and Boyceville Ambulance were called to
the scene of the crash on County Highway “O” on the southern limits of
Boyceville at 7:53am. Within minutes,
rescue workers arrived and found that a 19-year-old Boyceville man had died
from injuries suffered in the crash. The
Sheriff's Office investigation determined that the driver was heading north
when his pick-up left the road on a curve and collided with a tree, perhaps as
a result of falling asleep at the wheel. The driver was pronounces dead at the scene by the Dunn County Medical
Examiner’s Office and his name is being withheld until his family and friends
can be notified.
Man Trapped For Hours With Arm
Pinned In Logging Accident
A man was trapped for more than six hours
Tuesday after getting his arm pinned in a logging accident, according to the
Shawano County Sheriff's Department. The
man was hired to do logging work on a hillside in the Town of Grant, when a
large piece of equipment malfunctioned. The 53-year-old's arm was pinned between the equipment and a log. The accident happened between Noon and 1pm
Tuesday. The man was trapped until a
neighbor heard his screams for help at about 6:30pm and called
authorities. Rescue crews were able to
locate the man a short time later. He
suffered severe arm injuries, and was transported to a local hospital.
Feb 16, 2016
Man Killed In Tractor Accident
Deputies say a 49-year-old man has been killed
in a tractor accident in Taylor County.
It happened just after 1pm. yesterday, southwest of Lublin. The Taylor County Sheriff's Office says Brian
Knusta, of Gilman, was using a tractor to pull down a cut tree when the tree
fell on top of him. He was pronounced
dead at the scene. Investigators say
Knusta was using the tractor for logging in the area.
Primary Election Today
Today Wisconsin voters have the chance to vote
in the non-partisan Supreme Court primary election. Voters must bring proper identification to
the poll. Acceptable forms of
identification include: a Wisconsin driver’s license, a state Department of
Transportation-issued ID card, a US passport, a US military ID and a free
state-ID card issued for voting purposes.
The polls are open today from 7am to 8pm.
Assembly to Vote on Bill Limiting
The Wisconsin Assembly is poised to vote today
on an amendment to a school voucher bill that could cut public school revenue
by millions next year. The state voucher
program subsidizes private school tuition and includes about 2,500 students
across the state. To pay for it, the
state reduces aid to districts that lose students to voucher schools, but it
allows them to compensate for that loss by raising property taxes.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' proposal
would limit the amount of money districts can raise, cutting the revenue limit
authority of 142 districts by about $14.2 million in 2016-2017, according to
the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Districts
could recoup those losses over the subsequent two years.
Man Struck While Filling Gas Tank
Authorities say an 18-year-old man putting
gasoline in his disabled vehicle was fatally struck by another vehicle in the
Wisconsin city of West Bend. The
Washington County Sheriff's Office was notified yesterday of a crash on US
Highway 45. The man from West Bend died
at the scene. The sheriff's office said
the man was alongside his vehicle outside the lane of traffic when he was
struck by the other vehicle, which had traveled over the fog line. According to the release, a 34-year-old
Palmyra man driving the other vehicle was not hurt. Investigators are trying to determine why the
Palmyra man's vehicle left the roadway. The sheriff's office says alcohol or drugs do not appear to be factors.
State Consumer Act Changes
Today the state Senate is scheduled to take up
changes to the Wisconsin Consumer Act that opponents say would encourage
predatory lawsuits against consumers.
The bill would lower the burden of proof for debt-buying companies looking
to sue Wisconsin consumers. The
businesses are known as "debt buyers" and they purchase old debt from
creditors for pennies on the dollar.
Those businesses have increasingly filed state lawsuits against
consumers in pursuit of payment.
Vicky Selkowe, the legislative director for
Legal Action of Wisconsin, said the bill weakens consumer protections. "We're really concerned that this bill
will make it easier for these predatory lenders to prey on Wisconsin's
consumers, she said."
Proponents, however, say the bill closes a
loophole exploited by people running from debt.
The bill has already passed in the
Assembly. If approved by the Senate, it
will go to Governor Scott Walker's desk for his signature.
Feb 12, 2016
135 Private Schools Register for
Parental Choice Program
The Valley Christian School in Osceola and 134 other
private nonsectarian and religious schools and school systems registered with
the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by the January tenth deadline to
accept students for the 2016-17 school year through the Wisconsin Parental
Choice Program. There are 31 new private
schools applying to participate in this statewide voucher program.
Wisconsin Parental Choice Program allows students who reside outside of the
Milwaukee and Racine Unified school districts to use a taxpayer-funded subsidy
to attend participating private or religious schools. To qualify for the program in the 2016-17
school year, a new student must have a family income equal to or less than 185
percent of the federal poverty level. In
addition, all students applying for the program must meet one four attendance
requirements for 2016-17. Eligible
students in grades kindergarten through eight may attend the private school
with no charge for tuition. Eligible
students continuing in grades nine through 12 may be charged tuition if their
family income exceeds 220 percent of the federal poverty level.
A change to state law in 2015 eliminated the
previous program cap of 1,000 full-time equivalent students. Enrollment in the voucher program in 2016-17
remains limited to 1 percent of a given school district’s student population.
Internet Tax Banned Beginning 2021
Wisconsin state government stands to lose about
$125 million a year starting in 2021 under legislation passed by the US
Congress which will permanently bar state and local governments from taxing
access to the Internet. The U.S. Senate
Thursday gave final congressional approval to a wide-ranging bill that included
the Internet tax ban and a revision of trade laws. The White House said President Barack Obama
will sign the bill, The Associated Press reported.
Until now, the seven states that imposed
Internet access taxes have been allowed to continue. Wisconsin, Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota,
Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas have been collecting a combined $563 million
yearly from Internet access taxes, according to information gathered by the
nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. Now those states, including Wisconsin, would have to phase out their
Internet-access tax. "Wisconsin is
grandfathered in until June 30, 2020, which means we will stop collecting the
tax with the start of fiscal year 2021," said Stephanie Marquis, Wisconsin
Department of Revenue communications director.
The money goes into the state's general fund as
general program revenue. For fiscal year
2016, it is estimated at $125.8 million, with counties and other local
jurisdictions with sales taxes collecting about $10.3 million, according to the
Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Feb 9, 2016
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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