WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: FCC to vote on proposal to put WiFi in Wisconsin schools and libraries
About 3,200 Wisconsin schools and libraries would get wireless Internet service over the next five years, under a proposal to be voted on this month. The board of the Federal Communications Commission plans to vote a week from Friday on a plan to spend two-billion dollars.
It would seek to get high-speed Internet service into all U.S. classrooms and libraries by 2019. The money would come from the Universal Service Fund, which gets its money from fees on our phone bills. The FCC says about 850,000 Wisconsin school students would benefit from the proposed boost in WiFi coverage. Agency officials say most schools and libraries don't have nearly enough WiFi power to support the latest high-tech tools like tablets and interactive textbooks. Nationally, the FCC says its proposal would increase funds for rural schools by 75-percent, and urban schools by 60-percent.
The ACLU says it will go to court if necessary to make sure that about 550 same-sex marriages in Wisconsin are legal. The weddings occurred in a one-week window after Federal Judge Barbara Crabb struck down the state's ban on gay marriage, and later put her ruling on hold until after it's appealed. Today, the ACLU's Molly Collins said it will file suit to try-and-preserve the Wisconsin marriages, if Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen keeps his promise to appeal Crabb's original ruling. The ACLU is the main plaintiff in a lawsuit filed earlier this year to strike down the 2006 state constitutional ban on gay marriage.
The chairman of the FDIC will visit the Wausau area on Monday. Martin Gruenberg will be at River Valley Bank to hear how new banking regulations are affecting smaller community institutions. Wausau U.S. House Republican Sean Duffy worked with bank officials to invite Gruenberg. Duffy's office calls it a huge opportunity for the region, since it's relatively rare that the FDIC chair makes such visits.
The White House is trying to convince Wisconsin and almost three dozen other states that they're missing a great deal by saying no to extra Medicaid funds under Obama-care. Today, the White House Council of Economic Advisers issued a report claiming that the expanded Medicaid money would give health coverage to an extra 120,000 Wisconsinites by 2016. It said it would create 11,200 new jobs by 2017, and would result in a two-point-six billion dollar increase in federal spending in the state. Governor Walker's office calls the figures wrong. This spring, Walker and his fellow Republicans dropped Badger-Care for 77,000 childless adults above the poverty line -- but they gave 83-thousand childless adults below the poverty line coverage for the first time. Walker himself has said that if Wisconsin takes the extra federal Medicaid funds now, the state would be left paying a massive tab in years to come should Washington's contribution disappear.
For Fourth-of-July travelers, the good news is that gas prices have stopped rising. The bad news is that they have not fallen -- not much, anyway. The Wisconsin Triple-"A" said the average price for regular unleaded is $3.70-a-gallon throughout the state today. That's a tad lower than yesterday, and two-cents lower than a week ago. The statewide average is also just a penny higher than this time a month ago, but it's 24-cents more expensive than the last July Fourth holiday. Energy analyst Ethan Bellamy of Milwaukee's Robert W. Baird and Company blames the continued strife in Iraq for the latest pain at the pump. He said the deeper the strife, the more possible disruptions for the three-million barrels of oil a day that Iraq provides. And oil experts say no one knows when that will end.
Health officials say there's no evidence that drinking water supplies were contaminated after a manure spill at a dairy near Fond du Lac. About 50,000 gallons of manure spilled on May 26th into Pipe Creek, a tributary from the eastern part of Lake Winnebago. Bacteria levels fluctuated after the spill, and the creek was occasionally deemed unsafe for recreation activities. However, Fond du Lac County health officials said the creek has now returned to its normal state. As a result, no additional water quality tests are needed. The manure spill occurred at the Lake Breeze Dairy in Malone.
A Kenosha man is due back in court a week from Friday on seven felony charges in the shooting death of an innocent tavern customer. Prosecutors said 24-year-old M.L. Dale got into a confrontation with two men over a shooting incident seven years ago. Officials said he left the bar, came back with a gun, and fired shots toward the two men. The innocent by-stander, 31-year-old Terianna Cecil of Gurnee, Illinois, was killed. It happened early last Saturday at Shenanigan's Tavern in Kenosha. Dale is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, two counts of attempted homicide, illegal firearm possession as a convicted felon, and three counts of bail jumping. He was placed under a half-million dollar bond. A judge will decide next week if there's enough evidence to order a trial. Dale is also scheduled to go on trial August 12th in Racine County for reckless endangerment, delivering heroin, intimidating a witness, battery by a prisoner, and disorderly conduct. Dale also faces a possible November third trial in Kenosha on separate counts of disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer.
Two doctors have found that a 12-year-old Waukesha girl is not mentally competent to stand trial on charges that she stabbed a classmate to please a fictional horror character. At a court proceeding today, a judge said a state doctor found that Morgan Geyser was not able to help with her defense. Her lawyer also submitted a similar finding from a Madison psychiatrist. Prosecutors asked that Morgan be tested again on the state's behalf. The judge agreed to it, and scheduled arguments on the competency issue for August first. Morgan and 12-year-old Anissa Weyer are charged with attempted homicide, for allegedly stabbing a 12-year-old classmate 19 times on May 30th in allegiance to the online horror character Slender Man. Morgan's attorney, Anthony Cotton, has asked that pre-trial proceedings continue if his client is ruled incompetent for trial. He said he wants to try and get Morgan into juvenile court for the remainder of her case. Anissa's attorney is also pursuing the same avenue. Her lawyer said the state has provided more of its evidence, but the defense needs to review it. Anissa is also due back in court on August 1st.
A medical clinic in Wisconsin Rapids has announced a $30-million expansion. The Aspirus Health System of Wausau cites a growing patient load for a 75-110,000-square foot expansion of its present Rapids facility. It could add up to 275 jobs, if it's approved by the Wisconsin Rapids Plan Commission and Common Council. Dean Danner of Aspirus said construction could begin by next spring -- in which case the new facility would open by the end of 2016. The Aspirus Rapids clinic serves around 10,000 patients a month.
About 4,800 We Energies' customers in southeast Wisconsin were still without electricity late this morning. They were among the 114,000 customers affected by Monday's severe thunderstorms, in what the utility called its worst outages in almost a decade. This morning, We Energies said the remaining outages were mainly in the Waukesha, Menomonee Falls, and Brookfield areas. Crews from Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas-and-Electric were called in to help -- and officials expect all the power to be back on by tonight.
A judge in Waukesha County could decide in about a month whether a 12-year-old girl is mentally competent to stand trial in the so-called Slender Man murder case. A court-ordered evaluation showed that Morgan Geyser was not competent enough to proceed. Her attorney, Anthony Cotton, also filed a report from a Madison psychiatrist who reached the same conclusion. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren scheduled a hearing for August first, where both the prosecution and defense can address the competency question before a final ruling is issued. Geyser and 12-year-old Anissa Weyer are both charged with attempted homicide, after they allegedly stabbed a 12-year-old female classmate 19 times on May 30th while claiming allegiance to the fictional online horror character Slender Man. The unnamed victim's family issued a statement this morning that supports the prosecution, but vows to keep focusing on the girl's treatment and recovery. In the family's words, "She continues to amaze us in her ability to persevere and move forward -- taking one day at a time."
The state Fire Marshal's office will help investigate a blaze that destroyed the Harbor Place Shoppes in Sturgeon Bay -- but Fire Chief Tim Herlache says nothing suspicious has turned up. The Maritime Gallery is a total loss along with three other places in the building -- the Steel Bridge Cafe, Door Tran information service, and Faith Alive Fellowship Church. Herlache said surveillance videos would be reviewed. But the cause may never be determined, due to the extent of the damage and the fact that nobody was around at the time. The blaze started around midnight early yesterday. No one was injured. Total damage was estimated at $650,000
A man wanted in Appleton has been captured -- but not before officers and the fugitive broke through the floor of an attic. It happened at the end of a two-hour standoff last evening. Police said they learned that the 20-year-old man was in a duplex -- and he held officers at bay for two hours before they found him in the attic. The officers reportedly tried using a stun gun on the suspect, but the man fought back. During the scuffle, the officers, the fugitive, and a police dog all broke through the ceiling of the upper floor of the duplex. The suspect was sent to a hospital with minor injuries. The Appleton Post-Crescent said officers tried arresting him during a traffic stop in June, but he drove off. That was after police learned he was wanted on several outstanding warrants.