WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Mayo cuttling jobs in western Wisconsin
ROCHESTER, Minn. The Mayo Clinic's health system in Wisconsin is eliminating 188 medical transcription jobs.
The Rochester Post-Bulletin said the jobs would be out-sourced to Amphion Medical Solutions of Madison by November first. Transcriptionists create written reports which are dictated by health-care professionals. Mayo has told its Wisconsin staffers that 137 jobs would be cut from its Eau Claire hub, and 51 others from its La Crosse hub. Mayo says the change would cut its transcription costs by 40-percent. This is not the first time Mayo is cutting transcription jobs. Eighty-two jobs were cut last year in seven communities in southeast Minnesota.
Wisconsin turkey hunters shot eleven-percent more birds in the spring season than a year ago. The DNR said today that the total harvest was 41,815 for a season that ended May 27th. Ecologist Krista McGinley said the double-digit increase was a sign that turkeys made it through the rough winter in better shape than many observers expected. About one of every five turkey hunters had success.
The State Supreme Court decided today not to discipline a northern Wisconsin lawyer because he killed his brother in a drunk driving crash. The justices agreed with a court-appointed referee who said the mishap "does not reflect adversely" on Daniel Johns' "honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer." The Supreme Court also refused to reprimand Johns -- of Manitowish Waters -- for not reporting his 2004 OWI homicide conviction to the state's lawyer regulating body. The Office of Lawyer Regulation found out about it when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2009 that over 130 Wisconsin attorneys had criminal records -- and some lawyers like Johns kept their law licenses during their punishments. The OLR recommended a 60-day suspension for the fatal crash, and not reporting it. The Supreme Court said the failure to report it was a technical violation. However, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said there needs to be a full review of the state's system for disciplining lawyers.
Former prosecutor and victims' rights advocate Ken Kratz had his law license suspended for four months today. The State Supreme Court ordered the suspension and told the former Calumet County DA to pay almost $24,000 to cover the cost of his disciplinary proceedings. The 53-year-old Kratz is now a private attorney in West Bend. His suspension begins July 11th. Kratz resigned his prosecutor's post in 2010, after it was learned that he sent 30 racy text messages to a woman and sought a sexual relationship with her, while prosecuting her ex-boyfriend for abusing her. Once that hit the news, other women came forward to say Kratz made sexually-suggestive remarks to them. The state's Office of Lawyer Regulation had originally planned not to punish Kratz, after he resigned as chair of the state's Crime Victims' Rights Board. But the OLR did an about face in 2011 amid public pressure. Today, Justice David Prosser and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote separately that the Supreme Court should review the OLR's practices. Prosser also called the order for Kratz to pay the investigative costs "manifestly unfair," since he reported most of his bad behavior himself 13 months before the OLR finally did something about it. Kratz made national headlines when he sent wrongly-convicted rapist Steven Avery to prison for a murder he committed after he got out of prison.
Four people were in court this afternoon, after a drug overdose investigation near Wausau led to the arrests of five people for marijuana trafficking. Authorities said it all started on Monday, when a 19-year-old woman was found abandoned in a hospital parking lot. She suffered a heroin overdose, and officials said she spent five days in an induced coma. Media reports said one of the men who dropped off woman was later picked up for drunk driving -- and he led officers to 25-year-old Jacob Gould of Mosinee, who appeared in court Wednesday on five counts that include reckless endangerment, heroin delivery, and marijuana possession. Three of Gould's relatives were later arrested. Jacob's 56-year-old father Jerald, 21-year-old brother Jeremy, and 26-year-old brother Jerrod were all due in court today along with a 56-year-old woman arrested for aiding and abetting a felon. Court records showed that Jacob Gould injected the victim with heroin, and she overdosed. Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks said there's evidence that at least 100 pounds of marijuana were involved in the trafficking ring.
Electric customers in south-central Wisconsin will keep having their basic rates frozen for two more years. The state Public Service Commission approved the arrangement today for Wisconsin Power-and-Light. Customers will still see their rates fluctuate according to how much it costs to produce power. The adjustments are reported separately on customers' bills -- and they equaled about a two-percent rate increase for this year. Still, the PSC noted that Power-and-Light customers pay less than those served by the state's other major utilities. A typical residential customer for WP&L now pays just under $74 a month for electricity. Also, the utility's natural gas rates will drop about five-percent next year, and be frozen in 2016. The utility reached a settlement with consumer groups to continue the basic rate freeze -- something commissioners praised.
The group that supports charter schools throughout Wisconsin will disappear at the end of this month. The Wisconsin Charter Schools Association said today it would disband on June 30th. In a statement, executive director Carrie Bonk blamed a failure by the state Legislature to allow more truly independent charter schools to operate. Bonk said that without changes to the current law, it will be hard to keep operating as a membership group. Actually, Wisconsin has more charter schools than most states. However, the vast majority are run by public school districts -- and they're known for staying closer-to-the-vest while charters in other states exercise greater independence from public schools. Charter schools provide specialized instruction, without having to follow the operating rules that public schools do. The current state law allows independent charter schools only in southeast Wisconsin.
The nation's attorney general blew in and out of Madison today. The Justice Department said Eric Holder met with staffers in the U.S. Attorney's office, to thank them for what they're doing. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Holder did not show up in Wisconsin's western district to oversee any current cases -- nor did officials cite any specific cases that may have attracted Holder to Wisconsin's capital.
If you have yard work planned for the weekend, you might want to try to get it in this afternoon, if you can. The National Weather Service says a cold front is moving through, with a chance of thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow. Small hail and gusty winds are possible into tomorrow in northwest Wisconsin, and through tonight in central and northeast areas. No severe weather is predicted elsewhere in the state, and no watches or warnings were posted as of early afternoon. In far western Wisconsin, the Weather Service says the extra rain could pose a flash flood threat on rivers, creeks, and streams that have been high lately. Temperatures are supposed to vary widely across Wisconsin, at least through tomorrow. Highs the next couple days will range from the 50's-and-60's in the north to the 70's-and-80's in the south.
A northern Wisconsin Indian tribe has voted for peace, quiet, and cleaner air. In a referendum, the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa tribe rejected a 23-mile all-terrain-vehicle trail across their reservation. Yesterday's vote was 126-79. The Lakeland ATV Club proposed the new trail. Some tribal members thought it would boost the local economy, while opponents cited the impact on wildlife and air quality. The Lac du Flambeau tribal council says it will keep looking for what it calls environmentally-sound options for recreational and economic opportunities.
About 400 people attended a forum in Minocqua yesterday on the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine. They had lots of questions, but not a lot of answers. Among other things, folks wanted to know who owns the long stretch of property where the mine would go -- and what the reclamation process would be like once the minerals are removed. Panelists said it's too early to tell. No one knows what the mine would look like, or even its exact boundaries in the Penokee Hills of Ashland and Iron counties. The DNR's Ann Coakley said Gogebic Taconite is technically allowed to file for its mining permit as early as June 17th, a year after it filed a pre-application notice. But Coakley said it might take years for the application to be ready. She said a lot of environmental data has to be collected, and the bulk of the work has yet to be done. She said Gogebic Taconite has collected some very limited groundwater and surface water samples. The DNR is also collecting its own data at the site. Northland College geology professor Tom Fitz explained the region's rock formations at yesterday's form. Others spoke the process of mining waste management, a mine's potential effects on jobs and the economy, and the Bad River watershed at the mining site.
One of Milwaukee's mining equipment makers reports a 59-percent drop in its quarterly profits. Joy Global said its coal mining customers have reduced their spending, due to falling prices in the coal market. As a result, Joy Global's net income dropped to $74-million in the three months ending May second, while its net sales fell 32-percent. CEO Ted Doheny said challenging market conditions continue to affect Joy Global -- but he said there "incremental positive signs on the horizon."
A Milwaukee man has been sentenced to 55 years in prison for killing a store clerk while he was under state supervision for two previous armed robberies. Twenty-six year old Jason Wandick was found guilty in April of reckless homicide, armed robbery, and illegal firearm possession as a convicted felon. Prosecutors said Wandick shot-and-killed William Melendez Junior. That was after the 44-year-old Family Dollar store clerk agreed to hand over the money in his cash register. Prosecutors said the killing would have been avoided, had the state revoked Wandick's supervision last year for committing two thefts and a drug offense during that release period. He was under five years of extended supervision after serving a five-year prison term for his previous robberies.
Four members have resigned from a state DOT task force that's looking for ways to reduce drunk driving. They sent a copy of their resignation letter to the Associated Press, alleging that tavern owners have too much influence on the panel -- and the panel's draft report misrepresented underage drinking. The task force is part of a federal requirement for the state to update its highway safety plan. The four resigning members said the Tavern League is partnering with the DOT on the plan, and the group has a "serious conflict of interest" at best. Tavern League director Pete Madland told the AP his group is committed to working with the state on ways to reduce drunk driving and alcohol-related traffic deaths. He said many on the task force did not always agree with him on issues, but his group continues to work together to achieve a consensus instead of quitting. The four who resigned are Maureen Busalacchi of Health First Wisconsin, Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project coordinator Julia Sherman, and doctors Richard Brown and Stephen Hargarten. They said the hoped the DOT would re-focus on "evidence-based" actions to prevent OWI instead of, as they put it, "sweeping up the debris left behind." DOT officials had not commented on the resignations by mid-day.
Wisconsin traffic deaths went up by 50-percent in May, compared to the same month a year ago. Preliminary figures from the DOT show that 48 people lost their lives in state crashes last month -- up from 32 in May of last year. Still, fatalities are lot lower than they used to be. The state's record for May was 123 traffic deaths in 1968. Eleven people died in crashes during the Memorial Day weekend period. Eight were recorded at the same time in 2013. For the first five months of this year, 164 people died in Wisconsin traffic mishaps -- one fewer than last year, and 22 less than the five-year average. Eighteen motorcycle drivers are included in this year's death toll, along with two motorcycle passengers, 18 pedestrians, and one bicyclist.
Three Wisconsin finalists were named today as an "All-Star Teacher" to be honored at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game July 15th in Minneapolis. Three finalists were named on behalf of each team. The Milwaukee Brewers' finalists are Samuel Huber, an elementary teacher in Grafton who founded the Eco-Runner movement -- Tracy Tate, head of the business department at Oconto Falls High School -- and Eric Vander Loop, an elementary teacher in Appleton who started a summer fishing program for local youngsters about 15 years ago. Baseball fans are voting on the team's final honoree. You can do that online until June 29th at AllStarTeachers.com.
If Democrat Mary Burke is elected governor this fall, she vows to do what Wisconsin governors have not done for eight years -- let us know where she would be a week in advance. Most top officials and candidates used to release weekly schedules which had at least most of their scheduled appearances -- with the assumption that they could change due to last-minute circumstances. However, former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle dumped the practice in his second four-year term. Republican Governor Scott Walker put out a pair of general schedules until his controversial limits on public union bargaining began attracting protesters almost everywhere he goes. Now, Walker does what Doyle did in his second term -- put out individual notices of appearances a day or two in advance, while leaving it to out-of-state groups and candidates to publicize his appearances on behalf of them. Walker's office says his schedule is constantly in flux -- and things can change even on the morning of an event. Both the Walker and Burke campaigns put out notices of their political appearances just a day or two in advance. However, Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that she's willing to put out a weekly schedule of her official appearances if she's elected.
Congressman Reid Ribble is against tolls on Wisconsin expressways to generate more money for highways. The Sherwood Republican debated the topic with Assembly Republican Dave Murphy of Greenville at a forum put on by WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com. It's getting to be a popular subject, after 56-percent in a recent Marquette Law School said they would support tolls -- and 42-percent are against them. Ribble said Wisconsin is a "tough place to toll" because of its relatively short stretches of Interstate highways, a divided public opinion, and the expenses of running a toll system compared to just raising the gas tax. Murphy said tolls can generate a lot of revenue because they get money from out-of-state motorists -- and the short distances would not be that much of a problem. Ribble said visitors already help pay for Wisconsin roads because they buy gas in the state. State officials say all of us are not buying enough gas to keep up with the demands for new-and-improved roads. The DOT is looking at various options for new revenue, but Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb says he'd be against tolls personally. He said the federal government would have to approve them, and that takes time. Ribble said the issue is on the table in Congress, and he didn't believe it would be "that difficult" to get federal approval.
Two by-standers helped an elderly couple get out of their burning car in Beloit. It happened yesterday afternoon, when the unit stalled near a Beloit intersection. The fire department said a man was trying to wave people down, because smoke was coming from the car's engine -- and the older couple could not open the doors to escape. Reports said Kerry Mann grabbed a rock from a road-side and cut one of his hands while breaking the vehicle's windows. Mann and Brendon Golden then helped the couple out of their car. It appeared that one of the elderly people in the vehicle needed oxygen to breathe. Mann said he saw an oxygen tank in the back seat.
Manitowoc Police could not believe what they found early today, when they stopped a driver for leaving a gas station without paying for 30-dollars of fuel. An officer found the car, searched it, and found a 19-year-old woman hiding in the trunk. Lieutenant Craig Jansen tells WOMT Radio that the woman was wanted for months -- and she was returning from Chicago to pick up her brother with plans to go right back. The officer discovered the wanted vehicle on an Interstate-43 ramp. The Herald-Times-Reporter identified the fugitive as Courtni Vice, who was listed as one of Manitowoc's "Most Wanted." Police said she owed six-thousand dollars of municipal citations, and was wanted on a state probation-parole warrant and a bench warrant for skipping out on court appearances. She's now in jail awaiting a court appearance. The driver was cited for theft and obstructing an officer.