POLITICAL AND GOVERNMENT ROUNDUP: State trying to give a man $90K after being in prison for a crime he didn't commit
State lawmakers are trying again to give a Milwaukee man an extra 90-thousand dollars, after he spent 23 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. The State Claims Board voted in 2010 to compensate Robert Stinson 25-thousand-dollars -- the maximum allowed for a wrongfully-convicted inmate unless the Legislature approves more. The board asked lawmakers to grant the additional 90-thousand, but a bill to that effect never went anywhere in the 2011 session. Now, Senate Democrats Lena Taylor of Milwaukee and Dave Hansen of Green Bay, and Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend are sponsoring a second bill to give Stinson the extra compensation. The Senate's judiciary committee will hold a public hearing on it tomorrow morning. Stinson was convicted of raping-and-killing 62-year-old Ione Cychosz of Milwaukee in 1984. Stinson was freed almost five years ago with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at U-W Madison. That group said it obtained a signed confession and D-N-A evidence showing the Moses Price committed the slaying. Last year, Price was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for killing Cychosz. That in addition to time he was given earlier for another homicide.
Former state Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder was reportedly offered a free two-day fishing trip from the United Sportsmen, just days before the group won a half-million-dollar state grant. Suder went on the trip in August -- but he tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he paid his own way. Group lobbyist Scott Meyer confirms it. By that time, the governor and Legislature had included a state budget item which prevented some other outdoor groups from applying for the grant -- something which critics said gave the United Sportsmen an inside edge. Suder had not yet taken another state job when he went on the group's fishing trip, which came before the state's Sporting Heritage Committee approved the group's funding. Governor Scott Walker later rescinded the grant, after questions were raised about the United Sportsmen's tax status.
Milwaukee's mayor wants to hire a top official to be in charge of clearing out hundreds of foreclosed and abandoned houses. Tom Barrett has asked the Common Council to approve a "foreclosure czar" as part of next year's city budget. The mayor is proposing almost 12-million dollars, to start a long-running effort to clean up over a-thousand residential properties the city has taken over by foreclosures. Barrett's goal for next year is to tear down 100 city-owned houses, plus 200 others that were abandoned or foreclosed upon. The mayor also wants to start a new rehab effort on blighted properties. Barrett spokesman Jeff Fleming says the "foreclosure czar" would be the main person dealing with Milwaukee's foreclosure issues. That official would work with other key people both in-and-out of city government.
Wisconsin drivers will get their say tomorrow on a bill to raise the speed limit to 70-miles-an-hour on most four-lane freeways and expressways. The Assembly Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the measure at 11 tomorrow morning at the State Capitol. Republican Speaker Robin Vos is among the most vocal supporters of raising Wisconsin's long-time 65-limit. Twenty-two Assembly members, mostly Republicans, have co-sponsored the Assembly bill. Senate Republicans Glenn Grothman and Mary Lazich also favor it, but their party's leadership has no plans to consider it any time soon in the upper house. Governor Scott Walker has not taken a position on it. After tomorrow's hearing, the Assembly transportation panel will make recommendations on several other bills -- including De Pere Republican Andre Jacque's bill to create a specialized license plate to promote the pro-life movement.
A congressional game of chicken will be played between now-and-midnight, to determine if the federal government will have a limited shutdown at this time tomorrow. The Republican-controlled House forced the Democrats' hand by voting early yesterday to delay key parts of the Affordable Care Act, and repeal the Obama-care tax on medical devices. All five Wisconsin House Republicans supported that. They also voted to keep the rest of the government funded when the new fiscal year begins at midnight, going on record against a shutdown. The Democrat-controlled Senate was scheduled to meet this afternoon. Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to reject the House package, which was voted down by all three Wisconsin Democrats in that chamber. Funding would continue for the health law -- and therefore, the law's purchasing exchanges would still take effect tomorrow as planned. Wisconsin officials say they're ready. Federal employees would not be paid if there's a shutdown. Wisconsin would be affected the least by that, since the state ranks last in its numbers of federal workers with around 15-thousand.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments October 23rd in a legal challenge to the state's four-year-old registry for same-sex domestic partners. The Wisconsin Family Action group has tried three times to get the justices to consider throwing out the registry. The Supreme Court finally decided in June to hear the case. The registry gives domestic couples about one-fifth of the legal benefits of married couples -- including hospital visits and end-of-life decisions. Same-sex couples register at county clerk's offices, similar to the way married couples get their licenses. Family Action says the registry is too much like traditional marriage, and therefore it violates the state's 2006 constitutional amendment against gay marriage and civil unions. Fair Wisconsin, which is now defending the registry, says it gives same-sex couples only a fraction of what married couples get. A Dane County judge and a state appeals court have both ruled the domestic partner registry as constitutional. Former Governor Jim Doyle and his fellow Democrats created the domestic partner registry in 2009. When Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans took control of the State Capitol, they stopped defending the registry -- leaving Fair Wisconsin to take over that challenge.