WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Same-sex couples in Appleton now demaning refunds for licenses
APPLETON - Same-sex couples in Appleton who received marriage licenses, but could not have weddings last week, are now demanding refunds for their license applications.
Unlike most other counties, Outagamie County refused to waive the state's five-day waiting period to get married. As a result, over two dozen couples paid a $100 license fee, but could not use those licenses before Federal Judge Barbara Crabb halted same-sex marriages on last Friday. WLUK-TV of Green Bay said the county clerk in Appleton told six couples that it would only get back the state's portion of the license fee, or $55 -- thus leaving Outagamie County to pocket the rest. The state's gay marriage ban was put back in effect until the state finishes appealing Crabb's earlier ruling that the ban is unconstitutional.
The UW-Madison College of Engineering has received a $25-million-dollar gift from the Grainger Foundation. The school said today it will create a new engineering institute in Grainger's name, aimed at pursuing new technology to make the U.S. more economically competitive worldwide. The foundation is headed by David Grainger, who earned a bachelor's degree from the UW in engineering 64 years ago. Among other things, the donation will add 25 new faculty members. The goal is to attract groups of top-quality faculty to define new directions in research. Engineering college dean Ian Robertson says the first research will deal with manufacturing and materials -- and one of the goals is to help U.S. firms bring new products to the market faster and more economically.
Authorities in far northeast Wisconsin say lightning might have caused a fire at a nursing home. It happened yesterday afternoon at the Golden Living Center in Florence. No one was hurt. Florence County sheriff's officials said all 41 residents escaped safely, and were taken to an elementary school -- where they were taken home by some of their families. The fire is believed to have started in the building's attic. Almost a-third of the nursing home had structural damage inside.
Milwaukee Police now say a mini-van was stolen just before it hit a police transport van overnight. Four officers were injured in the crash, which occurred around 3:30 this morning at a north side intersection. Three of the officers were released from a hospital by late morning. The fourth was still being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The police transport van was carrying a female prisoner. She did not escape, despite earlier reports to the contrary -- and she was not injured. Three people in the stolen mini-van did run off, and they were arrested after a chase. The police transport van struck a light pole after colliding with the mini-van.
As the Green Bay Packers continue to snap up property around Lambeau Field, an anti-drug program might lose nearly all of its revenue as a result. Brown County's "DARE" program -- the Drug Abuse Resistance Effort -- benefits from a parking lot near the Packer stadium. Sheriff John Gossage says the program gets about $230,000 a year from parking cars on game-days -- and while the Packers say they can use the lot this year, there's no guarantee beyond that. The Brown County "DARE" program has four full-time officers who teach an anti-drug curriculum for 16 weeks each year in 57 schools in Brown County. The Packers have been buying property around Lambeau for several years, with the goal of providing retail-and-entertainment revenues to keep the team thriving in the future.
A major church-and-state ruling against a suburban Milwaukee school district will stand. The U.S. Supreme Court refused today to consider an appeal of a ruling from two years ago, which found that the Elmbrook schools violated the Constitution by holding high school graduations at Elmbrook Church. The justices did not say why they refused to take the case, but Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said they would have taken it. The federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that a giant cross at the Elmbrook Church and other symbols endorsed religion, during graduation ceremonies for two Brookfield high schools over much of the 2000's-decade. The graduations were moved to a new school field house in 2010, so officials said the case was moot. Still, the Elmbrook School Board appealed the 2012 ruling, saying the justices needed to answer the constitutional questions involved.
Unless the State Supreme Court rules otherwise, most public employees in Wisconsin probably won't get a break on their pension and health care contributions no matter who's elected governor. Mary Burke, the Democrats' main candidate against Republican Scott Walker, tells the Wisconsin State Journal she would not roll back the higher benefit contributions in the Act-10 union bargaining law. Burke did say she would try to repeal parts of the law which forces 51-percent of all group members to recertify their union status each year. She also said she would try to bring back old provisions that force employers to collect union dues, and make non-union members pay dues for getting the same benefits. Burke told the Madison paper she believes public employees should be able to bargain for their wages, benefits, and working conditions. Even if she is elected, though, the state Legislature would have to ratify Burke's proposals -- and at least the 99-member Assembly is expected to stay in Republican hands, since the GOP has a 20-vote majority at the moment. Also, the State Supreme Court is about to rule on whether Act-10 applies to local government and school unions. In either case, state employees would still have to abide by Walker's signature legislation.
The head of Wisconsin's best-known pro-life group will retire at the end of the year. Barbara Lyons joined Wisconsin Right-to-Life about 40 years ago. She was the group's legislative director for about a decade, until she became the executive director in 1987. In a statement, Lyons called it an "honor and a privilege" to serve a group that's dedicated, as she put it, "to eradicating the greatest human rights abuse of our time." Lyons says she knows there are people who are alive today because of her group's work, and she calls that an "immeasurable reward."
Starting tonight, rain is either likely or possible all week in Wisconsin -- and that's horrible news if you've been scratching a lot. Mosquito bites seem to be at their worst in years throughout the Badger State, due mainly to a short spring and a wet start to the summer season. Dave Geske of the La Crosse Health Department says there's a lot of standing water every time in rains. Those places are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Geske tells WKBT-TV that the La Crosse County health agency has used more chemicals to control mosquitoes this month than it did for all of last year. He said officials had no choice but to address the matter, because if they don't, it will be miserable for the next few weeks.
Twenty-six women will compete in Oshkosh this week for the title of Miss Wisconsin. They'll meet the judges tonight at a merchants' dinner, where local residents can sponsor a contestant. Preliminary competitions will take place Wednesday and Thursday nights. The finals will be held Saturday evening, with the winner to advance to the Miss America Pageant to be held in mid-September in Atlantic City. The new Miss Wisconsin will replace Paula Mae Kuiper of Mount Pleasant, who made the Final-12 in last year's national pageant before being eliminated.
No charges will be sought, after a nine-year-old child drove a car for four miles from a boat dealership near West Bend to try and get to grandma's house. It happened late Saturday afternoon. According to Washington County sheriff's deputies, several motorists followed the nine-year-old driver, who had a four-year-old relative in the car. Officials said the driver went west on Highway 33, and then south on 144. The vehicle got to County Trunk "K" before witnesses got the car to stop and took the keys. Nobody was hurt, and the vehicle was not damaged. Police and human service officials continue to investigate.