STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: All House Reps. voted yes, all Dems no in new Farm Bill that passed
All five Wisconsin Republicans voted yes, and all three Democrats voted no when the House approved a new five-year package of federal farm programs yesterday. Majority Republicans removed food stamps from the farm package on a near-party line vote of 216-to-208. It raised fears by Democrats that the G-O-P would push for bigger cuts in food aid than the three-percent reduction in the previous Farm Bill that was defeated in the House a month ago. Indiana Republican Marlin Stutzman said a separate food stamp bill would quote, “give taxpayers an honest look at how Washington spends our money.” Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern said some Republicans believe this is their chance to end the food stamp program as we know it and quote, “The question is whether they will succeed or not.” Democrats are against any cuts in food stamps. Senate Democrats have indicated they will not consider a split in farm-and-food aid measures. The White House has threatened to veto what the House approved.
Folks in the Madison area will not have to budget for higher electric bills next year. The state Public Service Commission has endorsed a proposal by Madison Gas-and-Electric to freeze its rates for 2014. Those customers pay the highest rates of Wisconsin’s five major investor-owned utilities – just over 94-dollars a month for 600 kilowatt hours. Officials said Madison Gas-and-Electric overbilled customers for fuel costs last year, when it had six-million dollars in savings. Those savings will off-set rising costs for a coal-fired power plant it owns with two other power firms. Commission chairman Phil Montgomery says electric customers need a break from rising rates, in light of the slow economic recovery. He said three other large utilities have had rate freezes in recent years, and it’s Madison’s turn. The P-S-C said Madison Gas-and-Electric will still get a rate-of-return of just over 10-percent – the same return that’s been in place since last year. The utility says its rates for natural gas will also stay unchanged next year.
An eight-year-old child was hurt in a freak accident in Sheboygan County. Sheriff’s deputies said the youngster was playing in a front yard when a car slammed into a utility pole – and it knocked down power lines which struck the child. Deputies did not say if it was a boy or a girl. The youngster was taken to Milwaukee Children’s Hospital, and a condition report was not immediately released. The mishap occurred around 8:30 last night on Sheboygan County Trunk E-H in the town of Rhine. Deputies said the vehicle was going east when it lost control, veered into a ditch, hit the stop sign, and then the utility pole. As the wires fell, the car drove into the front yard and hit a parked vehicle. Investigators said alcohol appeared to be a factor.
A U-W Madison doctor who was injured when an ambulance crashed in Fond du Lac County has died. 32-year-old Stanley Phillips was one of four medical workers injured, when their ambulance lost control on a curve and overturned. It happened Wednesday afternoon on Highway 26 near Rosendale. They were picking up a baby in Appleton for a non-emergency medical procedure, when their ambulance crashed. Officials at Madison Meriter Hospital said the vehicle was not speeding at the time. A nurse practitioner and a respiratory therapist were both treated at hospitals and later released. Officials said nurse Marianne Davidson was having surgery yesterday. A 62-year-old man who drove the ambulance was not hurt. Phillips was a newborn care specialist on a pediatric fellowship following his residency program.
An ethanol plant in Oshkosh expects to re-open this fall, after a new owner has been approved for it. Ace Ethanol of Stanley was one of five bidders for the old Utica Energy plant, which closed last fall after drowning in 30-million dollars of debt. A Winnebago County judge yesterday approved Ace Ethanol’s bid of 16-and-a-half million dollars to buy the shuttered plant. Ace says its shareholders must approve the purchase before it can be finalized. Company co-founder Robert Sather said Ace has 40-to-45 employees at Stanley, and a similar number will be needed at Oshkosh. Former Utica workers are expected to apply. Ace Ethanol opened its Stanley plant in 2002, and it expects the Oshkosh plant to be profitable in short order. Wisconsin now has nine ethanol production facilities.
A man injured in a house explosion in Beloit died yesterday. The Rock County coroner said 37-year-old Todd Purdy died from second-and-third degree burns and smoke inhalation. Purdy and his 33-year-old wife Tara were both hospitalized in Madison, after the home they rented blew up last Sunday night. Tara Purdy was in fair condition at last word. Authorities said the couple was installing a new gas stove, and they did not realize that a natural gas line in the basement was uncapped. The basement became filled with gas, and investigators said something ignited it.