Afternoon State News Briefs: U.S. Humane Society files lawsuit against state wolf hunting season
WASHINGTON D.C. - If the Humane Society of the United States has its way, there will never be a repeat of Wisconsin's wolf-hunting season. The animal rights-and-preservation group filed a lawsuit in Washington this afternoon against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and President Obama's Interior Department.
The lawsuit asked the courts to put Upper Midwest grey wolves back on the federal endangered species list. It said the government's decision to de-list Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan wolves threatens the animals' overall recovery. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Friends of Animals, Help Our Wolves Live, and Born Free USA. Wisconsin has been above its wolf population quota for years - and the excess animals have killed farm livestock and damaged crops. That's why Wisconsin adopted a wolf hunt, in which 117 animals were shot and trapped in just over two months. The season was supposed to end this month, but the hunting quota was reached in late December. Humane Society lawyer Jonathan Lovvorn said the hunts took place quote, "hostile state management programs that encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations." He said the removal from the endangered list was quote, "the only line of defense for wolf populations" which are being pushed to the "brink of extinction." The Fish-and-Wildlife Service said the wolf population had recovered - and as a result, it did what was required by law.
Governor Scott Walker is expected to clear up tomorrow what he plans to do about Wisconsin's Medicaid health programs. Walker is supposed to decide whether or not to expand tax-funded programs like Badger-Care and Senior-Care, and get federal money that's been promised for virtually the entire expansion. Earlier today, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Christian Schneider said he learned that Walker would turn down the expansion and the money. Instead, the word is that the governor will tighten eligibility limits, and place those above the limits into the federal health purchasing exchanges that will be available starting in 2014 under the Obama health reform package. Based on the sketchy reports, Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families told the Journal-Sentinel that he expects to reduce Badger Care eligibility to adults at-or-below the poverty line, allowing more uninsured adults to go into Medicaid without having to worry if the federal aid will dry up sometime. The governor recently said he didn't believe that Washington would give take-it-or-leave-it options for handling Medicaid. He expects variations in what the federal government will eventually do.
Governor Walker said today he would budget six-million-dollars over the next two years to force those arrested for felonies to give their DNA to the police. And Walker said he would budget another three-million to expand GPS-monitoring, so the police can track high-risk offenders who are under restraining orders. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen joined the governor on a quick tour of the state's major TV markets, to plug the major law enforcement initiatives to be sought in the budget that Walker will submit to the Legislature a week from tomorrow. Right now, only those convicted of felonies and sex crimes are required to submit the DNA to a database that police use to solve past, present, and future crimes. Walker said the estimated 68,000 additional DNA samples would help police solve even more crimes. And criminals would help pay for it with surcharges of $200-to-250. Walker also hopes to get federal grants.
The GPS expansion is the result of last October's slayings of three women in a Brookfield spa by Radcliffe Haughton - who was under a restraining order against seeing the estranged wife he murdered before he killed himself. But it's the police taking DNA from those not convicted that has attracted controversy. It was first rejected three years ago, when Democrats ran the Legislature. State ACLU director Chris Ahmuty calls it a "government intrusion that undermines the presumption of innocence." On another matter, Walker rejected Van Hollen's to divert money from other justice programs to pay for the DNA collection. But the governor did agree to move nearly all duties of the Office of Justice Assistance to the attorney general's wing. No services would be cut - like helping sex assault victims.
The Wisconsin state Assembly voted 82-13 this afternoon to prevent the state transportation fund from being raided for other things. Former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle took one-point-three billion dollars from the gas tax fund when he was in office to prop up public schools and other programs. Republicans put a stop to those raids when they took control of the Legislature just over two years ago. What the Assembly approved today was a constitutional amendment which both houses passed a year ago. The Senate is expected to take it up later this month - and if it's passed, the amendment would go to the voters for final approval in November of 2014. Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi says the measure assures taxpayers that funds are spent the way they're supposed to. But Sun Prairie Democrat Gary Hebl said it's ridiculous to prevent raids from one fund and not others. He said it was like making roads a higher priority over health care and education. Delafield Representative Chris Kapenga was the only Republican to vote no. He said other designated funds should have been protected in the same way as the transportation fund.
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) says he doesn't expect much from tonight's State of the Union address by the President. Ryan says there are a lot of proposals on tax reform and balancing the budget that centrist Democrats agree with the GOP on, but President Obama has rejected every one of them. Ryan serves as the House Budget Committee Chairman. He says he fears the President will move even farther to the left and start even more political fights. Ryan says he would like the President to start working on getting the two parties to cooperate.
Madison police are responding to a complaint from a concerned citizen about a driver trying to make contact with grade school-aged girls. The witness reported seeing the man along Meadowlark Drive Monday afternoon at about 2 p.m. The girls were walking home from Kennedy Elementary School. The man is described as white, in his early 20s, wearing a black hooded jacket and driving a dark, four-door SUV. The school's principal says a letter has been sent home to parents about the possible threat.
Black Earth Meats has reported doubling its business in each of the last three years. That growth is causing concerns from people living nearby. Neighbors say the butcher shop is causing problems like bad odors, excess noise, the presence of rodents and traffic delays. One neighbor says people can't leave their homes because cattle trucks block the streets. Village leaders say they have been working on some of the issues they've heard. Black Earth Meats says most of the complaints were either taken care of, or were never really an issue at all. The village says it is waiting on a plan from Black Earth Meats to see what it needs in terms of a facility and how the village could help the business so it won't move. The owner says a move is a possibility, but it isn't what he wants.
Years after eight year old Artis Echoles died, his mother has finally convinced a Jefferson County judge to order an investigation. At the time the coroner ruled the boy died due to accidental drowning. Carmin White never believed the ruling. Her son was in foster care when he died. His foster mother had told authorities her daughter's fiancé took the boy swimming in the Bark River, saying he disappeared. The body was recovered by divers. As she issued her ruling, Jefferson County Judge Jennifer Weston pointed out that three young witnesses at the Bark River Campground had said they saw a man throwing a boy into the water and holding his head under. That happened in 1988.
A Milwaukee attorney was given a public reprimand today for sending suggestive e-mails to a low-income woman he represented. Donald Dudley was a public defender for a female who was trying to fight off three involuntary terminations of her parental rights. He said he would give her foot rubs, be her servant, and take care of quote "that wonderful body of yours." When the woman showed the e-mails to a social worker, Dudley's boss was also notified - and he withdrew from the case. A referee for the state Office of Lawyer Regulation found that Dudley was engaged in a conflict-of-interest with a very vulnerable client - and he committed sexual harassment. In court records, Dudley admitted that the e-mails were wrong. Today, Dudley said he was not strong enough in one of the most trying points of his life. He did not elaborate.