Saturday State News Briefs: 'Packer Houses' in Green Bay might be taxed
GREEN BAY - A hotel tax commission in the Green Bay area is considering the idea of making those who rent "Packer party houses" near Lambeau Field pay the area's 10-percent tax on regular hotel rooms.
Lawry Larson of the area's Room Tax Commission says the houses provide overnight beds, just like hotels - so it's only fair that their users pay the tax. The houses are tucked into neighborhoods close to the stadium. They're decorated in Packer green-and-gold, and groups pay up to four-thousand-dollars to rent the houses on Game-Days. Owners of the party houses say they'd be tougher to rent if the tax had to be applied. City laws require the tax for those places, but officials say they have not properly enforced it. Rental owner Nick Cialdella said if they have to pay the tax, the houses should also get other benefits that hotels have - like special zoning, parking lots, and signs. He said their close residential neighbors wouldn't want that.
Wisconsin's Scott Walker is among four governors attending this weekend's meeting of the Council of Great Lakes Governors on Mackinac Island. The council is trying to find common ground of the effort to stop more invasive species from making it into the Great Lakes. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says there could be some private talks about the Asian carp, but he thinks it's important to reach agreement on a broader policy about invasive species. The meeting started yesterday and runs through tomorrow.
The latest version of the proposed state budget appears to be in jeopardy at the moment. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says 11 majority Republican Assembly members have told their leaders they will not vote for the budget as it's written now. If all 11 hold, it means the budget would only get 49 GOP votes - one short of the simple majority of 50 needed for passage in the Assembly. There's no indication that any of the Democrats will break ranks from their leaders who oppose the budget. Therefore, it appears that some major deal-making will be on the horizon. The letter from the 11 Republican opponents say they'll need a larger income tax cut - a reduction of $500-million in borrowing, not the $250-million passed yesterday by the state legislature's Joint Finance Committee - and rejecting the idea of taking DNA from alleged felons who are arrested but not yet convicted. Meanwhile, there appears to be a breakdown in talks on a compromise plan to expand Wisconsin's private school voucher program. There's been a reported GOP compromise that would expand state aid to public schools, while expanding school vouchers statewide on a much more limited basis than what Governor Scott Walker proposed. Senate GOP finance chair Alberta Darling of River Hills told the Journal-Sentinel she withdrew her support for the deal, after conservative lawmakers brushed it aside. She said a compromise can be accepted but quote, "the details are very, very fluid."
Wisconsin's governor has signed a law gutting the powers of the Milwaukee County Board, but that action may face a court challenge. The bill signed yesterday increases the power of the Milwaukee County executive, cuts the terms for county supervisors in half and calls for a binding referendum at the polls next year on slicing supervisor pay by more than half. Some Democrats call the move a power grab. The board has authorized the hiring of an outside legal counsel to analyze the new legislation.
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson says he remains open to a comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform bill which includes a parth to legal status. The Wisconsin Republican from Oshkosh says the bill being considered in the chamber right now has, in his words, "major shortcomings." Johnson says immigration reform should secure the borders, reform the legal immigration system and provide a "potential path to legal status for those whose only crime was entering or staying in America illegally. Johnson says he attended several of the 16 listening sessions on immigration held by his staff in the last week.
A vice president of the Wisconsin-and-Southern Railroad asked the State Claims Board today to reimburse his company $160,000. That's how much the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad said it spent on preliminary plans for a new high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison before Governor Scott Walker scrapped the project. Railroad vice president Timothy Karp said his company started negotiations in 2010 with Amtrak on sharing existing rail lines for the high-speed train. The state promised to pay the railroad its costs related to the negotiations - but that was when Jim Doyle was still the governor, and he was rushing to get the project going before the November election that year. Walker won - and before he even took office, Walker rejected millions in federal funds that were approved for the train. Karp said much of the agreements involved in the project were verbal. Claims Board members questioned that, saying things should have been in writing. The panel did not make an immediate decision on reimbursing the rail company.
Wisconsin ranks 20th among the 50 states in the health of its senior citizens. That's according to a new report from the United Health Foundation. The state has a higher-than-normal percentage of seniors who actively manage their diabetes. Wisconsin also has a higher than average prevalence of able-bodied seniors, with a low percentage of hospital intensive care. On the other hand, smoking by seniors is a problem - and the Badger State is the 38th worst in terms of obesity. Doctor Rhonda Randall of United Health says 80-percent of Wisconsin seniors have four-or-more chronic conditions - and it puts a big financial drain on the health care system. The group says one of every eight Americans is now 65-or-older - and their ranks will more than double by 2050. As a result, the group's trying to get seniors to start thinking about getting healthier, in order to assure a healthy society in the middle of the century. Randall suggests being more physically active, getting preventive care, and seeing a doctor for a physical at least once a year.
Dane County is about to get a second plant that would convert raw waste from cows into electricity for area residents. Media reports say a new community manure digester will be built west of Middleton at the Ziegler Dairy Farms. Construction began earlier this week. Dane County's first digester opened two years ago near Waunakee. It holds up to three-million gallons of cow manure, which is made into electricity and compost for bulk fertilizer. Another goal of both digesters is to keep phosphorus out of Dane County's lakes.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wants to add almost 150 river segments, streams and lakes to its list of impaired waters. Bodies of water on the list don't support fish and aquatic life, recreation or public health. Federal statute requires the DNR's list be updated every two years. The state agency says the list of 147 water bodies was formed with the help of public comments from Wisconsin residents and federal environmental regulators. The DNR is accepting more public comments through the end of this month.
Five babies in Milwaukee County have died this year, after getting crushed while sleeping with an adult. The medical examiner's office said today that a three-month-old boy shared a bed with his father on Wednesday night for about four hours - and when he woke up, the child was cold and unresponsive. The father told authorities he had sleep apnea and did not normally sleep with the infant. However, he said the baby's mother often slept with him - as well as with the couple's other two kids. Milwaukee officials say sleep-related deaths are the leading cause of infant mortality for those under one-year-old.
The mother of a five-year-old Milwaukee boy was sentenced today to three years in prison, for not getting her son to a hospital in time to save his life after he was beaten. 21-year-old Alyssa Banda pleaded guilty last month to child neglect while causing death. Her ex-boyfriend, 22-year-old Marcus Colin, was sentenced earlier this month to 19 years in prison, with 14 years of extended supervision. Authorities said Colin killed Jayden Banda-Goodman last October while Colin was waiting to be sentenced for attacking Banda. She told a social worker that the youngster fell down a flight of stairs while helping carry groceries into her Milwaukee apartment. Doctors said a fall was not enough to explain the child's extensive injuries, which included a blood infection. The mother later told police that Colin was boxing with Jayden to try and make him tougher - and he played too rough. She also admitted a delay in getting her son to a hospital for help.
A second charge of second degree sexual assault of a child has been filed against a Milwaukee Messmer High School teacher Megan Garland. The 28 year old made her initial court appearance in Milwaukee County Circuit Court today. A preliminary hearing has been set for June 10th. The amended complaint filed today accuses Garland of having sexual contact with a 15 year old male student in her science class. There is a connection to a 14 year old boy Garland has been accused of having sexual contact with, as well. She could spend up to 40 years in prison on each charge, if convicted. She has been suspended by the school and was to be transferred to the Milwaukee County Jail today.
A 28-year old man from Windsor has a court appearance scheduled in Columbia County to face charges of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle. Authorities say Brian Moore was driving 24 miles an hour over the 45 mile an hour speed limit when he slammed into a second car at an intersection near Prairie du Sac. Seventeen year old Kyle Caraher was killed in that July 2012 wreck. A reconstruction of the accident led to the charges. Moore will return to court in Portage June 19th.