WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State AG announces firing of two DOJ employees
The state Justice Department agent and a supervisor have both been fired for not acting quickly enough to pursue child pornography cases for prosecution. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced the actions today.
Van Hollen would not confirm to the AP whether the two employees quit or were let go. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said both were terminated. Officials conducted a review, after it was learned a few weeks ago that the Justice Department took years to investigate tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about child porn. Van Hollen said today that the review found that the terminated agent and supervisor were negligent in not handling cases more promptly. They were re-assigned a few weeks ago, pending the department's further action. Cases which were awaiting their reviews were given to other agents -- and Van Hollen was not sure how many total cases needed to be checked out.
Governor Scott Walker said today he would sign the bill to make chemotherapy pills more affordable for cancer patients. Speaking to reporters in Appleton, the Republican Walker said he hoped he could sign the version that was passed by the Senate yesterday on a 30-2 vote. State Assembly Republicans have talked about changing the bill when they hold their final scheduled meeting of the session tomorrow. They're considering a limit on co-pays for the relatively new and expensive chemo drugs -- as opposed to forcing health insurers to cover the medicines. Democratic supporters say they're afraid that majority Republicans are trying to stall the measure, so it dies when the session ends. Supporters say the proposal is a big help to patients who must now go to hospitals to get IV chemo treatments. Opponents call it an unneeded mandate on insurance companies.
Governor Scott Walker signed a bill today that speeds up eleven highway projects planned around the state. At a ceremony in Pewaukee, the Republican Walker approved $43-million in the current fiscal year for a host of highway maintenance and re-surfacing, plus bridge rehab work. The new funding represents just over half of a projected $83-million surplus in the state's transportation fund. Lawmakers from both parties endorsed the earlier spending for projects in Brown, Outagamie, Door, Calumet, Langlade, Lincoln, Douglas, Taylor, Monroe, Sauk, and Walworth counties.
The Democratic Party's candidate for governor is getting her party's minority in trying to prevent new limits on early voting in Wisconsin. The state Assembly is expected to give final legislative approval tomorrow to a bill that limits absentee voting to 45 hours a week in the two weeks before an election, with no night-or-weekend voting. Burke says majority Republicans should encourage voting, instead of putting limits on it. GOP lawmakers say rural areas don't have the resources to offer the types of early voting hours that bigger cities have. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the clampdown hurts democracy, because it affects mainly people in larger areas that have more Democratic voters. Burke says many urban residents don't have time to vote during weekday business hours -- and they shouldn't be kept away. The Senate recently approved the measure on a party line vote, with Democrats voting no.
The U.S. Supreme Court was asked today to at least temporarily reinstate a Wisconsin law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The state Justice Department wants the law in place while a federal court considers a lawsuit against the requirement. Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services said that if they needed hospital privileges, some of their abortion clinics would have to shut down. And there would no longer be facilities north of Madison. Federal Judge William Conley of Madison refused to impose the law, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. A federal appeals court ruled the same way in December.
Construction and food processing are among the fastest growing job sectors in Wisconsin. That's according to a federal employment census released today, which listed job trends in the Badger State during the year ending last September. Steve Waller of the QPS job recruiting agency in Metro Milwaukee said the food industry helped his firm place more workers last year than at any time in the company's 28-year history. Construction jobs rose by five-point-six percent in Wisconsin in the year ending September 30th. But factory jobs -- said to be the state's bread and butter -- rose just two-tenths of a percent. And the state as a whole created 1.2 percent more private sector jobs during the 12-month period -- just over half the national increase of two-percent. It was the nation's 35th lowest job percentage growth.
Wisconsin's six Chippewa Indian tribes want to reserve over 63,000 walleye in northern Wisconsin lakes this spring, as part of their centuries-old treaty rights. Last year, the tribes declared 58,000 fish -- and they ended up taking only about 28,000. Still, the Natural Resources Board told DNR staffers today to take extra steps to preserve the fish supply, beyond imposing bag limits for sport anglers like they normally do. DNR officials have not said what they might do, and they have not released new bag limits for the upcoming general fishing season. Last year, tensions exacerbated between the tribes and lawmakers when the Chippewa declared five-thousand more fish than the year before. The lower take by the Indians defused the situation. The DNR says tribes normally take around half of what they declare each year.
It was still snowing at mid-day in parts of northern Wisconsin, where up to ten inches fell in some places since yesterday. Cable in Bayfield County had the state's only double-digit snow total as of mid-morning. Nine-point-seven inches fell near both Spooner and Washburn. Hayward had around nine inches. Other sections in the northern half of the state picked up anywhere from 1-to-7 inches. Light snow and freezing drizzle were reported in parts of southern Wisconsin at mid-day. It's all supposed to clear out tonight, with a dry and mild day predicted for tomorrow.
A Lake Mills man who was kept in prison for almost 14 months after his sentence ended wants the state to cough up 67-thousand-dollars for the extra time. 52-year-old Robin Gavinski spent an extra 417 days behind bars, after state corrections' workers made him serve back-to-back sentences, instead of both at the same time as a judge prescribed. Gavinski had pleaded no contest to fleeing police officers in a stolen car ten years ago. He was also given probation time for previous convictions. Gavinski wants the State Claims Board to cover his legal fees and potentially lost income. A state lawyer said Gavinski is asking taxpayers for too much -- and the state is immune from what it calls a rare type of claim.