WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Legislative auditors to look at problems with state unemployment insurance program
State auditors will root out problems in the system for filing unemployment insurance claims. The Legislature's audit committee has ordered a review of the processing system used by jobless workers to apply for benefits.
That's after unemployed people could not get through on a telephone hotline to check the status of their claims -- and they next calls they made was to their legislators. Also, applicants said they could not return to the Internet claims' process after logging out -- and when they called the hotline to get help, they got stuck there, too. The audit panel said it wants a thorough review of the process used for filing claims, the responsiveness of call centers, and steps that have been taken to reduce improper benefit payments. Assembly Republican Samantha Kerkman of Powers Lake sought the audit, saying she couldn't figure out why complaints to her office grew at a time when the numbers of actual benefit claims had been going down.
Two people were killed overnight when their vehicle went airborne and hit a utility pole in Richfield, northwest of Milwaukee. It happened around 2:30 this morning on Highway 164 north of County Trunk "Q." Washington County authorities said the vehicle crossed the center line, veered into a ditch, and hit a culvert which sent the unit into the air. A 37-year-old man was thrown from the vehicle, while a 38-year-old woman was pinned inside. Both died at the scene, and authorities were not sure at last word who was driving. A re-construction team is helping investigators figure out how the crash occurred.
Authorities north of Milwaukee are still looking for a 16-year-old boy in connection with a shooting that was reportedly spurred by domestic violence. The boy has not been charged, but Ozaukee County sheriff's deputies say they want to question him after he allegedly shot at a vehicle on Monday near Grafton. The vehicle was driven by 24-year-old Carlos Garcia of Milwaukee, who was charged today with disorderly conduct. A court date has not been set for him -- and in the meantime, he's free on bail. Officials said Garcia was quarreling on Monday with his ex-girlfriend, who's a sister of the 16-year-old When Garcia left, the teen reportedly shot at Garcia's vehicle. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Garcia went to a family party last Saturday -- two days before the shooting -- and pushed the woman in front of their children. She requested a restraining order to keep him away from her, and the request mentioned that Garcia was forced out of last Saturday's party. The teen has not been since the shooting, and police are asking that he turn himself in.
A 30-year-old La Crosse man was charged today with reckless endangerment, after he allegedly left two young children alone in a bathtub to go yell at police. Andre Brown is also charged with possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors said police started investigating Brown in March, and they found small amounts of marijuana and crack cocaine in garbage bags outside his house. Last night, officers stopped his wife for driving without a valid license -- and authorities said Brown appeared and shouted that the police was harassing her. Investigators then obtained a warrant. When they searched Brown's home, they found two kids -- ages 2-and-5 -- in a bathtub filled with seven inches of water. Police said the kids had not eaten for over eight hours, and they notified La Crosse protective services.
You might think that Wisconsin is no longer in a drought, after all the snow and rain we've had -- but you'd be wrong. The U.S. Drought Monitor says almost 18-percent of the state's land area is abnormally dry or worse. In January, almost 60-percent of the state was considered to be in a drought. Now, only a small patch is abnormally dry from Necedah on the north to Baraboo on the south -- plus a larger area along the Saint Croix and Mississippi rivers Grantsburg southeastward to around Whitehall. There's still about five percent of the state that's in a moderate drought from roughly Hudson to Whitehall. On the other extreme, a flood warning has resumed on the Fox River at Berlin, where the water reached its flood stage this morning. Minor flooding is projected. There's a chance of rain this afternoon, tomorrow, and Sunday throughout Wisconsin -- plus snow mixed in tomorrow in the far north. You can expect highs in the 40's-and-50's all weekend, and lows in the 30's.
A long-time friend of Governor Scott Walker is reportedly thinking about joining the field of candidates for the open U.S. House seat in east-central Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says former Walker campaign treasurer John Hiller talked with outgoing Congressman Tom Petri on the prospects of replacing Petri after the fall elections. Hiller is also a real estate developer in the Milwaukee suburb of Bayside, and is on the board of the Summerfest lakefront festival. He reported expects to announce his plans by the end of the weekend. If he runs, Hiller would join three other Republicans in an August primary -- state lawmakers Glenn Grothman, Joe Leibham, and Duey Strobel. Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris is the lone Democratic opponent at the moment. Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels is also thinking about joining the Democratic race.
A college science professor from eastern Wisconsin says he'll run for Congress this fall. Ron Gruett of Chilton is the first Democrat to announce a bid against four-year GOP incumbent Reid Ribble of Sherwood. The 64-year-old Gruett ran for the state Assembly two years ago, and lost in a Democratic primary. He's a physics and chemistry professor at Marian University in Fond du Lac, and he taught at Brillion High School from 1973-to-2005. Gruett tells the Appleton Post-Crescent he's frustrated with Ribble's votes to repeal the Obama Affordable Care Act. He said Ribble is a nice guy but as he put it, "He's doing despicable things for taking health care away from 14 million people." Gruett says he's convinced that Ribble has "got it in" for the middle class. Ribble had almost a million dollars in his campaign fund as of March 31st. He unseated Democratic incumbent Steve Kagen in 2010, and easily defeated Jamie Wall of Green Bay two years ago.
A soldier from Oshkosh won the Wisconsin National Guard's "Best Warrior" competition this month. Now, Specialist Zack Warnke will compete in a regional competition in Minnesota. The 34-year-old Warnke is a member of the 32nd Infantry Brigade's combat team. Soldiers and non-commissioned officers have their skills evaluated in a variety of ways -- including firearm tests, and a 12-mile march while carrying a 30-pound backpack. Guard officials say it's quite an accomplishment for one of their part-time members to make it this far -- because they're competing with full-time Army soldiers. Warnke is a full-time student at UW-Oshkosh. He'll be competing among soldiers from seven other states in May at Camp Ripley in Minnesota.
A group that represents Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states will attempt to pry some investment money for manufacturing that's now going to China. The Council of Great Lakes Governors announced the effort this morning in Chicago. Officials of eight states and two Canadian provinces have enlisted former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to help carry out the project. Paulson says China and other emerging foreign economies are seeking direct investment opportunities for their manufacturers. The Great Lakes group says it wants to steer some of that money to the region. The partnership says it will work on a number of strategies. It's also organizing what it calls a "competitiveness forum" this summer in Detroit, to be led by Paulson and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
A South Milwaukee man is accused of busting into a home in Racine County, after he was caught in the act by an outdoor camera on the property. 32-year-old Gary Dam was in jail at last word on a $50,000 bond. He's due back in court next Thursday, when a judge will decide if there's enough evidence to order a trial on a felony armed burglary charge. The burglary occurred last November at a home in Caledonia. Authorities said the resident installed a wild-game camera about ten days before the break-in, and it reportedly caught Dam entering the home. The victim told officers he returned home to find two handguns missing along with Vicodin, an I-Pad, a GPS device, digital cameras, cash, and more.
Ten-thousand Chinook salmon fingerlings are being protected while they get a chance to grow up in Lake Michigan. The state DNR has released the baby fish in two holding pens in the Kewaunee River. The pens are designed to keep birds and other species from eating up the tiny fish -- and that will help the young salmon get acclimated to Lake Michigan. Algoma fishing guide Lee Haasch tells WLUK-TV in Green Bay that the new salmon should give the Kewaunee area a boost in tourism, and make the region a popular destination for sport fishing. A state law passed last year allows the DNR to work as partners with local sporting clubs on fish development in various waterways. The clubs normally pay for build the pens, feed the young fish, and check on their progress.