WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Sheriff's office employee shot in Portage County
PLOVER - Authorities in Portage County are investigating a fatal shooting of a sheriff’s office employee yesterday morning.
Plover Police say they, along with the State Patrol and County Coroner’s Office, responded to reports of the shooting at around one o’clock yesterday morning. One person was found dead, but has not been identified. Authorities say the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigations has taken over the investigation. The identity of the victim has not been released.
U.S Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) is demanding answers as to how the ATF botched an undercover operation in Milwaukee, while the supervisor in charge remained undisciplined. Sensenbrenner is one of four congressmen who wrote ATF director B. Todd Jones on Friday for an explanation into Operation Fearless. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, weapons were stolen from an agent and four people were wrongfully arrested while the alleged felons walked. The supervisor in question is Bernard Zapor, who was reassigned to the Phoenix Field Division. That office is blamed for the botched “Operation Fast and Furious”, where thousands of high-powered assault rifles were given to criminals.
Authorities are investigating a logging death over the weekend in Monroe County. The Sheriff’s Office says a 36-year-old man was found dead by emergency responders in the Town of Lafayette at around one o’clock yesterday afternoon. Investigators say the man may have died when a tree fell and hit him. The identity of the victim has not been released.
When it comes to producing medical school graduates who go into family practice, the University of Wisconsin ranks towards the top. According to a report from the American Academy of Family Physicians shows over a three-year period, one in six UW medical grads – roughly 16-percent - entered family practice. That’s good enough for a ninth-place ranking among other medical schools across the country. Experts say the latest ranking is proof that the state’s effort to expand family practice doctors, with the help of state and federal programs, is working.
The head of the Wisconsin Senate Elections Committee promises to revise the state's campaign finance laws in the next session. Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) said she'll start working on bills that will put the state in line with recent federal court rulings. Last week the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago found that Wisconsin's ban on corporate political spending is unconstitutional -- and so is a limit on how much businesses can raise for their affiliated political action committees. The state agreed last week to stop enforcing an overall limit on individual political donations, to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court order. Also, a federal judge said independent groups can coordinate with candidates if the groups don't say where they get their money from. Lazich hailed all the rulings, saying they're victories for free speech in politics.
Eight Wisconsin state Senate Republicans have asked the state's education agency for an update on a federal investigation into private voucher schools. It was about a year ago when the U.S. Justice Department got complaints that private schools which get tax money to educate low-income kids don't adequately address special needs. A Justice official said it could not comment on the status of the investigation. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau and seven other conservative Republicans said they were concerned about a lack of information on the matter. They said the probe appeared to expose what they called a "troubling federal overreach" into Wisconsin's education system. According to the Department of Public Instruction, there's not much to say. The Justice Department asked the DPI to gather information about the numbers of disabled students in each grade in the voucher schools -- and what the disabilities were. The state agency replied that it did not the authority to demand that kind information from the private schools. John Johnson of the DPI says there's been no real correspondence after that.
It's been just over a year since Wisconsin Republicans said no to charging motorists a fee based on how many miles they drive. Now, a study group in neighboring Michigan is bringing up the same idea. An environmentally-based transportation group at the University of Michigan says a mileage fee would more fairly allocate the costs of building and maintaining roads. The group says it would solve the same problems that Wisconsin is facing -- a drop in the miles that people drive, plus falling gas tax revenues due to more fuel-efficient cars. An author of the Michigan report, Elizabeth Treutel, said a mileage-based vehicle fee would be at least five years away -- but the debate over it should begin now. We first learned in 2012 that a Wisconsin task force was considering a mileage-based fee only for certain numbers of miles driven each year. It was part of a series of tax hikes that legislative Republicans dropped with almost no debate. Now, state Transportation Secretary Mark Gottleib says his agency is looking at new ideas to prop up road money -- but nothing's been set yet. Meanwhile, USA Today says folks in Michigan worry about their privacy being violated if GPS units are put on vehicles to track people's travels. Wisconsin's task force expressed concerns about that -- and it proposed that people use the honor system to submit their mileage.
There's hardly any middle ground among Wisconsin's polarized voters on the types of taxes and public services that should be provided. But Marquette University pollster Charles Franklin says Republicans and Democrats are less rigid about their stands on tax cuts, immigration reform, and raising the minimum wage. Franklin and others talked about the state's deepening partisan divide today during a conference at Marquette University. Marquette gave Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel political analyst Craig Gilbert six months to study how politicians and voters became more rigid in their partisan views on things -- to the point where entire neighborhoods and communities align to one party or the other. Gilbert said that since 1960, Milwaukee County has become increasingly Democratic while neighboring Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties got increasingly Republican. He said we don't see ticket-splitting voters anymore in the Milwaukee metro -- and when folks get more engaged in politics, he says they become more partisan. In general, Gilbert said the denser populations in and around Milwaukee are Democratic, while more distant spots are Republican. Places with more renters are Democrats, while places with more homeowners vote Republican.
Prosecutors say a conservative group is misrepresenting its stated desire to let the public know the details of the John Doe probe into the state's recall elections. In a court filing, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office responded to the Wisconsin Club for Growth's request to keep all or part of nine documents sealed. The documents are part of the group's lawsuit which said that prosecutors were violating the group's civil rights. The John Doe investigation is currently halted on the order of Federal Judge Rudolph Randa. Earlier this week, prosecutors asked Randa to unseal the entire court file in the group's lawsuit -- because there's not much about it that's secret anymore. The Club for Growth said it was okay, as long as it could keep sealing records about its internal operations. Attorney Samuel Leib, representing the DA's office, said the club's selection of documents "could not have been more surgical in preventing the public from understanding this lawsuit." In the John Doe, prosecutors are secretly gathering evidence in an effort to show illegal coordination between outside groups, Governor Scott Walker's campaign, and other Republican lawmakers in the recall elections of 2011-and-'12.
Another Republican is running for the open U.S. House seat in east-central Wisconsin. UW-Oshkosh researcher Nancy Olson has announced her bid for the Sixth District seat to be vacated by the retiring Tom Petri. Olson grew up on a family farm in central Wisconsin. She has worked in the agricultural industry, as a legislative aide, and as a reporter for the Marshfield News-Herald. Olson has been in her current job since 2011, and she lives south of Oshkosh. She says her goals would be to boost job creation, reduce the national debt, and reign in what she calls "uncontrolled spending." Her husband Todd Olson was killed in Iraq almost a decade ago, and she said helping families is another of her priorities. She'll run in an August primary against three GOP state lawmakers – state Senators Glenn Grothman of West Bend and Joe Leibham of Sheboygan, and Representative Duey Strobel of Cedarburg.
An attorney who helps buyers of defective new cars exercise their legal rights is suing the state DOT. Vince Megna of Milwaukee is challenging the accuracy of a new government form that's required in order for car buyers to sue manufacturers under the state's Lemon Law. Megna said the form that's posted on the DOT's Web site is "replete with errors" -- and it makes it impossible for consumers to bring valid lawsuits. The DOT has not commented. Megna filed his suit today in Dane County Circuit Court. Recently, a DOT lawyer contacted Megna for advice on what the form should include -- but Megna turned him down, saying plaintiffs would have accused Megna of helping the state interpret the same provisions he opposes in court.
Wisconsin-based Kohl's Department Stores reports a 15-percent drop in its profits for the three months ending May third. Kohl's said today that it made $125-million during the period, down from $147-million at the same time a year ago. Overall sales fell by three-point-one percent to just over four-billion dollars. Same-store sales dropped by three-point-four percent. Earnings for the chain based in Menomonee Falls dropped from 66-cents a share a year ago to 60-cents in the most recent quarter. Kohl's CEO Kevin Mansell said sales improved as the quarter progressed -- even though the firm did not meet its overall sales goals. Kohl's has about 1,160 department stores throughout the U.S.
One of Wisconsin's best-known hospitality firms has become the new managers of the Heidel House Resort and Spa in Green Lake. The Marcus Corporation said today it has started operating the 190-room resort for its owner, the Fiore Companies of Madison. Marcus is based in Milwaukee. It owns and-or manages 19 resorts and hotels in ten states -- plus it has almost 700 movie screens at 55 Midwest theater locations.
A former manufacturing plant in Two Rivers could house a maker of energy drinks by the end of the year. Dan Wergin, a co-principal of Paragon Partners, wants to bring in a plant that would make Danny's Deliriously Delicious Coconut Water and Increase Energy drink. A Manitowoc County review board has approved a ten-year, $250,000 loan to Wergin and a partner to put the new facility in a former Paragon plant. The city of Two Rivers is considering another loan of three-quarter million dollars, leaving Paragon to put up just over a million dollars. Wergin tells the Manitowoc Herald-Times Reporter that Danny's needs extra production capacity. The beverages are now being produced at a bottling plant in Mexico. Once initial production gets going, Wergin says the facility might have around 200 jobs.
About 200 people rode the car ferry S.S. Badger on the season's first trip Friday across Lake Michigan from Ludington, Mich. to Manitowoc. Well-wishers and balloons greeted the boat upon its arrival in eastern Wisconsin. It was a cold day to set sail, but at least the sun was out. The ferry is starting to use a cleaner-burning coal, as ordered by the federal government. The Badger's owners spent over a million dollars to install combustion controls this past winter, as part of a consent decree with the federal government. The boat must reduce its coal-ash emissions this year, and eliminate them next year. The Badger has carried people and their vehicles across Lake Michigan for decades. It's the nation's last steam-fired coal-burning vessel.
It just became easier for ocean-going ships to bring their cargo into the Great Lakes -- and vice versa. The Coast Guard said it has finished cutting ice in the Sault Sainte Marie portion of the Great Lakes -- including Lake Superior. The coldest winter in two decades has left shipping routes choked with ice spread across a record territory on the lakes. A dozen cutters -- nine from the U.S. and three from Canada -- led the way for ships from early Thursday until yesterday. That was a 160-day stretch. The Coast Guard said the winter season produced the thickest and most expansive ice cover that the Great Lakes has seen in 35 years. As a result of the ice, the first load of iron ore shipped from Two Harbors, Minn. east of Wisconsin to Gary, Indiana took 13 days to ship. That's normally a three-day trip.
About 55 western Wisconsin fifth-graders took a field trip to Mason City, Iowa this past week, to see the Prairie School architecture made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright. Youngsters at Wakanda Elementary in Menomonie have been studying Prairie School buildings -- and Mason City has a lot of them, including a hotel designed by Wright. That hotel was built in 1910, and is the last remaining hotel facility designed by the renowned Wisconsin architect. The school raised over nine-thousand dollars to make the trip. They were also planning to visit the Twin Cities to walk through an historic neighborhood and see an art museum.
A southern Wisconsin man is scheduled to enter a plea June fifth to allegations that he stabbed his cousin to death. 39-year-old Rafael Olivarez has been ordered to stand trial on a Walworth County charge of first-degree intentional homicide. Olivarez is accused of killing his 31-year-old cousin Ivan Guerrero on May fourth at an apartment in Delavan. Prosecutors said Olivarez got belligerent with Guerrero, and the victim's wife saw the defendant grab a kitchen knife and kill her husband. An autopsy showed that Guerrero died from blood losses caused by multiple stab wounds. Authorities said they found a trail of blood from the apartment door to Olivarez -- who was reportedly covered in blood when he encountered a police officer.
The state corrections department is making it easier for people to find out if they have a sex offender living nearby. Officials say Wisconsin's 13-year-old sex offender registry is now searchable by addresses. Folks can enter a specific address, and see if a sex offender is living within a one, two, or three mile radius. Until now, the database could only be searched by entering offenders' names and zip codes. The Web site improvements also let people get e-mail alerts when a registered sex offender moves close to an address of interest -- a like a school or park. Corrections' official Grace Roberts says informed communities are safer, and people have a right to know if registered sex offenders are living close to them. The site is accessible at Wisconsin.gov.
The first potential member of the Wisconsin whooping crane migration class of 2014 is a week old. The chick was born last Thursday at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Wildlife biologist Brad Strobel tells the Wisconsin State Journal that the new baby crane needs to overcome some major obstacles, before it can fly with the other babies to Florida this fall. During the first 80 days after hatching, babies need to build up enough strength and feathers to make the trip. Strobel said chicks often succumb to bad weather -- and they're easy prey for predators during their formative months. Two sets of cranes flew from southern Wisconsin to Florida last fall, as part of the more than decade-long effort to re-introduce the endangered whooping crane in the eastern U.S.
A golfer who won three boats in a hole-in-one shootout in Fond du Lac is upset that he'll have to wait until 2016 to win again. Organizers of the city's Walleye Weekend Hole-in-One event decided to prohibit winners from collecting major prizes this year, if they've won in the previous two events. That doesn't sit well with Jeff Lehner, who won fishing boats in 2005, 2012, and 2013 when his tee shots landed closest to the pin. Lehner tells the Fond du Lac Reporter that he sold the boats -- and he believes he should get the same chance as everyone else in having an equal shot at winning. Organizers told the newspaper the change gives others a chance to win something big. Everyone still has a shot at a million dollars or two new cars if they get a hole-in-one.