STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: Braun on an apology tour with Brewers fans
Ryan Braun is calling Milwaukee Brewers' baseball fans to personally apologize for taking performance-enhancing drugs, and then denying it for almost two years. Braun was the first to be suspended in late July for reportedly taking part in a P-E-D performance program laid out by the former Bio-Genesis clinic. A dozen other players were later punished. Brewers' executive Rick Schlesinger tells W-T-M-J Radio in Milwaukee that it was Braun's idea to call ticket buyers, listen to their concerns, and discuss his situation. He didn't want publicity, but hardly anything about Braun's case appears not to have been leaked out. Schlesinger said Braun is concerned that his mistakes don't discourage people from attending Brewers' games and being a fan. Some people don't believe it's him on the phone -- but most do recognize him eventually, and give him credit for calling. In public, Braun has relied on carefully-crafted written statements to get his message out. Hardly any players caught with P-E-D's have publicly identified their drugs -- and we don't know whether the Bio-Genesis players received immunity from possible prosecution so they could give fans the whole story if they choose. Schlesinger said Braun has said nothing about calling a news conference, where he could answer questions without a script.
A politically-connected group will not get a state grant to encourage more Wisconsinites to go hunting-and-fishing. Governor Scott Walker last night canceled the half-million-dollar grant awarded eight days ago to the United Sportsmen Foundation. That was after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel learned that the group's leader, Andy Pantzlaff, was fined in 2005 for hunting with an improper license in Langlade County. D-N-R Secretary Cathy Stepp, who gave final approval to the grant last Thursday, said Walker wants her agency to find other ways to promote the state's sporting heritage. They agreed that any group which gets state tax money needs to have the public's trust in being able to produce results. The Journal Sentinel said the United Sportsmen never had experience in training people to hunt, fish, or trap -- and some training groups were not allowed by Republican lawmakers to apply, while others didn't know the grant existed until it was too late. The United Sportsmen were the only ones to apply. On Wednesday, the group apologized for a misunderstanding. That was after Pantzlaff told the state committee his group received tax-exempt status from the I-R-S, while it's actually in the process of doing that. Meanwhile, some Democrats are crying foul after the D-N-R told the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation to stop operating the state's MacKenzie Environmental Education Center at Poynette. The agency said the center was the only bidder for the project when it was approved in 2006. The D-N-R said it would start running the center itself next year.
New York Cardinal Tim Dolan told Milwaukee area Catholics last night to embrace their church as a spiritual family, and oppose secular efforts to destroy the religion. Dolan spoke to about four-thousand people at the downtown Milwaukee Theatre, in the 10th annual Pallium Lecture series. Dolan started the event when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002-to-'09. He said one of the biggest problems in the church is the large number of people who identify themselves as former Catholics -- those who left because of what they call the "sinful behavior" of priests and other top church leaders. Dolan did not specifically mention the sex abuse by Catholic priests, but he did say people have left the church because they were quote, "shocked, saddened, and nauseated" by the behavior of its members. Dolan said Catholics should not hide from it -- and they should quote, "fess up to the sinful side of the church." He said those who love the Catholic Church do so despite its problems, and he asked members quote, "Are you prepared to defend your faith from those who would take it from us?"
The Walker administration admits making a mistake by giving State Capitol Police Chief David Erwin a retroactive pay raise. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained a memo from the administration's chief lawyer, saying it will take back 720-dollars given to the chief. Last month, Walker's people insisted they followed the rules when they gave the retroactive raise to Erwin by transferring him to a fake job, then putting him back into his real post with the large raise added on. That raise totaled almost 12-thousand dollars a year. In state government, retroactive raises can only be given in limited circumstances such as posting errors. The administration said it erred in posting the maximum salary for Erwin's job. The correction put the chief on par with his predecessor, Charles Tubbs. Assembly Democrat Jon Richards of Milwaukee said he's glad the administration admitted a mistake on Erwin's retroactive pay. Still, Richards said wanted a review of the entire process -- including the use of phantom jobs to facilitate large raises for officials. Richards' fellow Democrats have used the tactic in the past, too. In the Jim Doyle years, some appointees were moved into civil service jobs for a day-or-two, which guaranteed they'd have state jobs even when losing their political appointments.
Midwest Republicans are meeting in Kohler this weekend to talk about policy matters, and helping more G-O-P candidates get elected. About 150 legislators, aides, and party supporters are expected for an event put on by the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. The group's leaders say other Midwest states can learn from G-O-P accomplishments made in Wisconsin since Scott Walker was elected governor in 2010, and his fellow Republicans took control of both houses of the Legislature. Matt Walter of the Republican State Leadership Committee says the real lessons from Wisconsin are getting strong leaders willing to make controversial decisions. Walter said the fact that Governor Walker survived his recall election last year show that people will accept quote, "innovative and bold reforms."
You might need to crank up that air conditioner the next couple days. The National Weather Service says temperatures will return to the mid-to-upper-80's today in the western half of the state, while the mercury should stay around 80 in the eastern half with only a slight chance of rain. Tomorrow, 90-degree weather is predicted for both La Crosse and Eau Claire, before a cold front brings a better chance of rain throughout Wisconsin. Cooler-and-less humid weather is predicted for Saturday night and Sunday. Warmer and more humid conditions are due back in on Monday, along with a chance for more rain. Most of Wisconsin is in the 50's this morning. Oconto was the cool spot at six o'clock with 43.
State lawmakers and U-W officials agree that the current funding system for the university no longer works -- and they must find ways to keep the quality high, in the face of fewer state dollars and tuition pressures. The Board of Regents held a summit yesterday with state legislative leaders, after last spring's report that the U-W was sitting on 650-million dollars in reserves while ordering maximum tuition increases year-after-year. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he lost trust in the Board of Regents, and it will take a long time to get it back. Assembly Republican Pat Strachota of West Bend said the U-W should not expect future increases in state funding, because the state has so many other pressing needs. Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said Michigan subsidizes its in-state students by charging out-of-staters 14-thousand-dollars more per year than Wisconsin does -- and she wonders why the U-W is not quote, "importing" more dollars from out-of-state. Federal research funds make up 30-percent of the revenues at U-W Madison. Blank told lawmakers not to put that money in jeopardy, by forcing faculty members to teach in classes a lot more.
Hundreds of Wisconsin grocery stores have removed Chobani Greek yogurt from their shelves, after a moldy production process in Idaho caused the product to go bad. The company said this week that mold at its plant in Twin Falls caused yogurt to spoil before its expiration date -- and some customers say they've had containers explode as a result. The cause of the mold has not been determined. The U-S Food-and-Drug Administration has the complete list of affected products on its Web site. Dozens of Wisconsinites have complained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about bloated and exploding Chobani containers. Brookfield school student Natalie Neals said her Strawberry Flip yogurt blew up while it was in her lunch box yesterday. Emily Gellings of Franklin said she had several Chobani yogurt packs burst in her refrigerator.