STATE GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Knudson in the running to be new majority leader
Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly are expected to elect a new majority leader today. Representatives Bill Kramer of Waukesha and Dean Knudson of Hudson hope to replace Scott Suder of Abbotsford. He officially stepped down yesterday, after Governor Scott Walker made him a division administrator in the state’s utility-regulating Public Service Commission. The majority leader’s post is the second-most powerful in the Assembly, behind the speaker. Kramer is leaving his post as the Assembly’s Speaker pro tem to seek a higher leadership position. Republicans Tyler August of Lake Geneva and Andre Jacque of De Pere are running to replace Kramer. Now that Suder’s gone, Governor Scott Walker will call a special election to replace him in the Assembly. That hasn’t happened yet, but three Republicans have already announced that they’ll run in a primary – former Marshfield alderman and state Senate candidate Scott Noble, Stratford businessman Bob Kulp, and Clark County G-O-P chair and Dorchester trustee Debra Koncel. By announcing now, they were able to woo prospective voters during the Labor Day Weekend at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield.
Wisconsinites could no longer protect relatives who commit serious crimes, under a bill that’s up for a public hearing tomorrow. The state Senate’s Public Safety Committee will take testimony at the Capitol on a bill that makes it a felony to hide wanted relatives, destroy evidence, and mislead police in their criminal investigations. Shirley George of Waupaca is trying for the fifth time to get lawmakers to pass the measure, which she calls “Joey’s Law.” Her grandson Joey was murdered outside a tavern in Oak Creek in 2000, and authorities said three suspects were protected by relatives – including the son of former Milwaukee police union leader Brad DeBraska. Former Assembly Democrat Peggy Krusick of Milwaukee used the sponsor the bill each session. She was defeated last fall, and Senate Republican Luther Olsen of Ripon is now taking up the cause. This time, victims of domestic violence would not be forced to rat on spouses who’ve been convicted of abuse in the past – thus opening themselves up to even more abuse. That was a sticking point last time. Milwaukee prosecutor Mark Williams opposes the exception. He says it’s a loophole that anyone could claim.
A group that was awarded a controversial state grant does not have the federal non-profit status it claims to have. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, newly-released documents show that the United Sportsmen Foundation misrepresented its tax status, when it sought a half-million dollars in tax money to promote hunting-and-fishing. The group applied for a federal non-profit tax designation on March first – and state officials were told the tax status would be confirmed later. On August 22nd, the paper said the I-R-S rejected the group’s request to speed up its application. The grant – and who does and doesn’t qualify for it – were spelled out by the governor and G-O-P legislators in the new state budget. Because of that, the D-N-R says it will award the grant to the United Sportsmen anyway. The group was the only one to apply for the money, and critics accused Republicans of greasing the skids to make sure the United Sportsmen won the award. Assembly Republican Al Ott of Forest Junction, who voted for the grant in a committee last week, said he understood that the tax status was not required to win the funding. Still, Ott said he’s disappointed the group misled lawmakers and its potential donors. For now, at least, those donors will not be able to write off contributions to the United Sportsmen on their income tax returns.
For only the fifth time, the state D-N-R has chosen the same artist for two annual conservation wildlife stamps. 30-year-old Caleb Metrich of Lake Tomahawk won the state’s design contests for both the pheasant and waterfowl stamps. Virgil Beck of Stevens Point won the top honors for the wild turkey stamp, with a woodland scene of strutting gobbler. Metrich had the winning turkey stamp in the past, and has been named as Ducks Unlimited’s artist-of-the-year. He describes himself as a mostly self-taught artist with a love of the outdoors. Metrich’s father is a taxidermist, and he used to draw scenes where his dad worked. He says he takes many photos which help in his painting. Metrich tried painting for the first time at age 13. He’s been especially active the past five years. Metrich said he tried eight times to win the state’s duck stamp print – and he notes that some artists get discouraged and quit. Metrich said he has used trial-and-error to hone his craft. His advice to newcomers is not to force things, and just paint what comes naturally.
About 10-thousand-500 unemployed Wisconsinites will soon lose up to nine weeks of extended benefits. That’s because the state’s jobless rate has dropped below seven-percent. After September 14th, those who exhaust 54 weeks of total jobless benefits will not get a previously-granted extension of up to nine weeks. Wisconsin normally offers a maximum of 26 weeks of jobless benefits – but the federal government approved a number of extensions to help people cope during the Great Recession. All extended benefits are scheduled to expire on December 28th.