WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Wisconsin State Fair now underway
WEST ALLIS - The 162nd Wisconsin State Fair is now underway. Spokeswoman Kristi Chuckel says the fair will run until August 11 and features plenty of entertainment, farm animals and – of course - food.
One food item that will continue a strong tradition at this year’s fair is the cream puff, a staple since 1924. Chuckel says over 375-thousand cream puffs were sold at last year’s 11-day event. For more information on what’s going on during this year’s State Fair, visit www-dot-W-I-STATEFAIR-dot-com (www.wistatefair.com).
Several fast food and restaurant workers walked out of their jobs today in Milwaukee, protesting low hourly wages. The strike is part of a national movement from employees fed-up with low paying jobs, including retail workers. Back home, workers are asking for a $15-dollar an hour wage and the right to form a union. Organizers for “Raise Up Milwaukee” say people have been forced to take low-paying jobs at fast-food and retail locations, mainly due to the loss of manufacturing jobs. The group says over 37,000 people work in low-paying retail and fast-food jobs. The group says they have several demonstrations planned, including one this afternoon. Organizers believe workers in other Wisconsin cities will soon follow.
A state appeals court ruled today in favor of six employees who said they should be paid for the time they put their protective clothing and other gear on-and-off. The six went to court after the Tyson Foods plant in Jefferson refused to pay for that time. The company said the time spent putting protective gear on-and-off was not indispensable to the employees’ work activities. The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Madison disagreed this morning, and said the workers should be paid for that time. The Tyson Jefferson plant mainly produces pepperoni for pizza.
Wisconsin’s public employee unions are not spending nearly as much as in the past to try and get what they want from your state legislators. The state’s largest teachers’ union – which ranked either first-or-second in the amount spent on lobbying over the past four years – dropped to 40th place for the first six months of this year. New reports filed with the state Government Accountability Board show that WEAC spent $84,000 on lobbying in the busy budget session that ended in late June. In 2011, they spent $2.1 million dollars to try and ward off the law which virtually ended public union bargaining. Now, with fewer members and resources, WEAC and other public unions are seeing the money available for lobbying expenses dwindle. The state AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees also had large drops in their spending on lobbyists. Meanwhile, business organizations are the top spenders now. The Wisconsin Insurance Alliance spent the most, at 357-thousand dollars for the first half of the year. The state’s Hospital Association was second with 324,000 in lobbying costs. The Wisconsin Manufacturers-and-Commerce was third. That’s with about 20-percent of lobbying groups yet to report their expenses.
A bicyclist killed in a crash near Sheboygan was identified this morning as 55-year-old Allen Redensek of Sheboygan. Authorities said he was hit by a car, while the two units were going in the same direction yesterday afternoon on a road in the town of Sheboygan. The car driver was not hurt, and was cited for inattentive driving.
Construction on Highway 45 in Milwaukee is causing massive delays this afternoon. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says the northbound delays began at around one o’clock this afternoon and is expected to last another two hours. Traffic is reportedly backed-up for three miles.
There’s a new leader for the state panel that investigates ethics violations by Wisconsin judges. Governor Scott Walker has appointed Milwaukee County prosecutor Jeremiah Van Hecke as the new executive director of the state’s Judicial Commission. He replaces Jim Alexander, who has headed the commission for 23 years. The change comes at a time when the commission has an ethics allegation pending against Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. He was accused of violating judicial ethics when he allegedly put a choke-hold on fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley on the eve of the court’s 2011 decision which upheld the Act-10 public union bargaining limits. Bradley and three other justices have withdrawn from the case, saying they direct witnesses – and there’s not enough left to act, since a majority is needed. Some experts believe the Judicial Commission can proceed with the case anyway, but it has not done so. The judicial panel has nine members. Walker’s appointees became the majority last year. Alexander, who’s 67, said he’s retiring on his own – and was not asked to leave.
State Capitol Police officers were back to making arrests today against members of the anti-Walker Solidary Singers. The group refuses to get a state permit, in violation of a process that was recently upheld by a federal judge for groups of 20 or more. Yesterday, Madison’s WMTV-TV canceled a group permit that was going to be part of a news story about the permit process. So the Solidarity Singers essentially took over that permit, and Capitol Police made no arrests. Over 120 citations have been issued since last Wednesday, when police began a crackdown on the Capitol permit requirement. Officials say the permits are needed to keep things orderly. The singers say they shouldn’t need government approval to assemble in a statehouse.
Scott Walker is welcoming his fellow governors to Milwaukee for this weekend’s meeting of the National Governors Association. In his weekly radio address today, the Republican Walker called the gathering a “unique opportunity to discuss policy issues facing our states.” The governor said he looks forward to leading discussions on economic development, and entertaining his fellow state leaders with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle ride and baseball with former Brewers at Miller Park. National political reporters normally attend the governors’ summer meetings – and the possibility of a Walker presidential run in 2016 is sure to be part of the coverage. Today, Walker’s campaign confirmed that he’ll join Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas at an event in South Carolina on August 26th. The event is a fundraiser for South Carolina’s GOP governor, Nikki Haley.
Three new candidates were nominated today for a Wisconsin federal judgeship that’s been vacant for four years. U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil of Madison, Rock County Judge Michael Fitzpatrick, and Madison attorney James Peterson are the finalists for the Madison federal court seat last held by the late Judge John Shabaz. The court serves 44 counties in the western half of Wisconsin. The finalists were among 10 people interviewed by a bi-partisan Judicial Commission formed by both of Wisconsin’s U.S. senators. Republican Ron Johnson of Oshkosh and Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison agreed to recommend the panel’s three final choices to President Obama for his appointment. The full Senate would then have to confirm the president’s choice. Shabaz died last year, after he entered a part-time senior status in 2009. Obama tried four times to give the judgeship to former State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler. Each time, the appointment was embroiled in politics and died before a full Senate confirmation vote.
The U.S. Senate is honoring the memories of the six people killed in the Sikh Temple shooting massacre in Oak Creek. Wisconsin Senators Ron Johnson of Oshkosh and Tammy Baldwin of Madison had their colleagues pass a resolution commemorating Monday’s first anniversary of the tragedy. It honors the six worshippers killed by gunman Wade Michael Page. The Senate also recognizes the heroic acts of the emergency responders and community members who offered support. The Sikh Temple is planning a number of anniversary events from tomorrow through Monday. They include religious readings, a six-kilometer run on Saturday, and a candle-light vigil on Monday night.
IU.S. House Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse is the only Wisconsin member of Congress who has come out against any changes in how the government obtains Americans’ phone and e-mail records. Kind says the National Security Agency’s intelligence program has put the U.S. in a much better position to prevent terrorist attacks. He tells the Gannett News Service that the current reviews every 90 days by Congress and the courts ensure that officials are not exceeding their authority. At a Senate hearing yesterday, Intelligence Director James Clapper released the court order allowing the data collection. His general counsel said analysts searched the data files less than 300 times last year. Menomonee Falls House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner and Wisconsin Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison plan to introduce bills this fall to end the massive data collections. Fond du Lac House Republican Tom Petri wants better safeguards on the data. House Republicans Sean Duffy of Weston and Reid Ribble of Sherwood want more transparency. Duffy says he has not been “leveled with completely” about the matter – and it quote, “gives me pause.” Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan is reserving judgment until the current congressional inquiries are finished.
It was six years ago today when an Interstate bridge collapsed in Minneapolis – a tragedy that led to stronger penalties for child abuse in Wisconsin. That sounds hard to believe, but you can thank Michael Stoner of Spooner for that. He went on TV and told the world that he and his fiancée heroically swam from the Interstate-35-W bridge collapse to see their injured daughter in a Minneapolis hospital. We later learned that Stoner attacked the girl at his home the same day, and his prison sentence – seven-and-a-half years – would have been longer had he attacked an adult. Washburn County Sheriff Terry Dryden was surprised when he discovered that. Eventually, the governor and Legislature toughened Wisconsin’s child abuse penalties to make them equal to similar attacks on adults. Thirteen people were killed in the Minneapolis bridge collapse during the afternoon rush hour on August first of 2007.
Wisconsin youngsters go back-to-school in just over a month – and some parents are surprised by the growing list of supplies they have to buy. Brenda Salaj of Seymour said back-to-school items used to cost 100-dollars, including clothes. Now, she says it’s more like 500. WLUK-TV of Green Bay checked the shopping list that Salaj received from an intermediate school in Seymour – and everything on the list cost $103. That includes 60 pencils, four packs of Expo dry-erase markers, a backpack, and gym shoes. Seymour’s administrator says they’re trying to keep registration fees as low as possible. The station also talked to two Wisconsin Rapids teachers who went to a Green Bay store to bulk up on supplies. Melanie Pierzchalski said many school budgets don’t pay for classroom supplies anymore. That means parents now have to pay extra for what they used to get as part of their taxes and-or fees. Salaj asked why teachers demand higher-priced brand names. Pierzchalski said brand-name items last longer, and can save parents money in the long run. School officials say parent-teacher organizations can help provide supplies for parents who cannot afford the cost. WLUK says a number of charities also have free give-aways.