STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: Wisconsin woman was steps away from the Washington Navy Yard Monday
A northeast Wisconsin woman was just steps away from the Washington Navy Yard, when former reservist Aaron Alexis opened fire and killed a dozen people before he was shot dead. Valynn Kuhns, a native of Oconto County, was heading to work yesterday morning when she missed a bus and got to the office late -- after the shooting began. The 49-year-old Kuhns said she was literally 15 steps from entering the complex when people were running out and screaming "shooter, shooter." She told WFRV TV in Green Bay that once she realized the massacre was for real, she and other workers scrambled to safer ground. Kuhns' parents, Glen and Letha Seering, told the T-V station they were immediately concerned once they heard of the incident. Letha said she contacted her daughter on Facebook, and she immediately called to say she was okay. Kuhns has worked in the Washington Navy Yard for about five years. Now, she says it's scary just to think about going back to work. It was not immediately known when the offices would re-open. Kuhns has been told it won't be today.
Governor Scott Walker is open to letting Wisconsin farmers sell raw milk -- if the dairy and medical industries end their stiff opposition to it. The Republican Walker commented on the issue yesterday, when the Senate Rural Issues committee held a public hearing in La Crosse on letting farmers sell unpasteurized milk directly to customers. A similar hearing was held in Madison last week. Walker said he'd listen to the dairy industry and public health professionals -- and if they believe that consumer safety can be guaranteed, he'd approve the measure. Jim Mulhern of the National Milk Producers Federation says there's no way that would happen. He said it's disheartening that Wisconsin is even considering a bill which he says would "damage public health." Shawn Pfaff of the industry's Safe Milk Coalition says his group opposes any new raw milk legislation -- and science does not allow them to compromise. Trempealeau Democrat Chris Danou, who's sponsoring the raw milk bill in the Assembly, says the proposal basically reflects what's already happening. He says there's a black market out there -- and it's not a good idea to keep it unregulated. Supporters say eight of the nation's 10 top dairy producing states, including California, allow sales of unpasteurized milk. West Bend Republican Glenn Grothman is the chief sponsor of the Senate version.
Wisconsin's Lemon Law would offer fewer legal protections under a bill that's up for a vote in the state Senate today. Those who buy defective new cars could no longer win double-damages from automakers in court. The time limit for filing a lawsuit after buying a faulty vehicle would be reduced from six years to three. Also, car manufacturers would have 45 days instead of the present 30 either give refunds or replacements for defective vehicles. The state's largest business group, automakers, and car dealers have lined up to support the bill. It passed the Assembly 88-to-8 in June. Sponsors said they were targeting Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney Vince Megna, who won 880-thousand dollars in damages, interest, and legal fees in a dragged-out court case involving a Waukesha businessman's defective sedan. The bill's opponents say it would hurt consumers.
The Milwaukee Public Schools are the latest in Wisconsin to drop "A"-to-"F" letter grades for kindergarten-through-eighth-graders. Instead, those kids are under a new evaluation system, which shows how proficient they are in meeting standards for their particular grade levels. Milwaukee school officials say the idea is to get a better handle on a student's academic performance, by leaving disciplinary factors out of the equation -- things like zeroes for turning in homework late, or bad behavior in class. The disciplinary factors will have their own grades, on a scale of 1-to-4. The new system is called "standards-based" grading. Among other things, it's designed to be aligned with the new Common Core educational standards that Wisconsin is adopting. District spokesman Tony Tagliavia says it's a better way to assess student learning, so they can stay on track for college and career training. It's more difficult for high schools to drop the "A"-to-"F" system, because it determines grade-point averages needed to apply for college.
The author of a bill to cut off public recreational access near the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine says he doesn't have the votes to pass it. The Wisconsin Senate is meeting today for the only time this month -- and Hazelhurst Republican Tom Tiffany got his measure pulled from the agenda. He still believes the measure is needed to protect mine workers from violent protestors like those who damaged Gogebic Taconite's equipment and stole a worker's camera in June in Iron County. However, Tiffany says some of his fellow Republicans believe the cut-off of recreational access is too restrictive. Green Bay Republican Rob Cowles (coles) says it closes too much land -- and the bill is moving so fast that many of his colleagues have not had a chance to review it. As a committee chairman, Tiffany rammed his bill through a public hearing and a panel vote on back-to-back days a couple weeks ago. Gogebic Taconite has mineral rights on land that's in the state's managed forest program, which gives landowners tax breaks for providing access for things like hunting-and-fishing. Last Saturday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the bill would have given the property's owners a 900-thousand dollar break on its property taxes even with the cut-off of recreational access. Tiffany says he'll try again to get his measure passed in October -- possibly with a compromise to let deer hunters use the land in November.
Parents can find out today how their public schools are doing. The state Department of Public Instruction will release a second year of report cards, which show how well schools are meeting performance standards. This year's version includes more data, plus more details for individual schools. There were changes in the way some figures were calculated. That means this year's grades might not be comparable to the first ones issued last year. Local school officials should be ready to answer questions from parents. Schools were given their data about a month ago. Last year's first report cards showed that 86-percent of Wisconsin schools met-or-exceeded expectations. Seventy-six schools, or three-and-a-half percent of the total, failed to meet expectations. The D-P-I's John Johnson cautions that the report cards are still a work-in-progress. In the spring, state Senate Education Committee chairman Luther Olsen said it was too early to use the report cards to reward or punish schools with things like increases-or-decreases in their state aid.