WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State Election Board looking to lift ban on observers having cameras
MADISON - The state election board will meet on Monday to discuss a ban reversal on camera usage by election observers.
In addition to that, officials will also look at other regulations for observers, including designated personnel assigned to handle questions and provide information about observers. If the proposal succeeds, it will lift an eight-year ban on video and photos at polling places across the state.
State officials have quarantined seven additional counties due to the emerald ash borer. The destructive beetle is responsible for killing millions of ash trees across 18 states, including Wisconsin. Ag officials say the destructive pest has been found in Columbia, Grant and Monroe counties; with Richland, Iowa, Lafayette and Green counties in close proximity. The total number of counties now in quarantine is at 29 now. Counties in quarantine are forced to work with officials to ensure firewood sent to non-quarantined counties is ash borer free. Citizens are also restricted from moving firewood.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday for Sierra Guyton, the ten-year-old Milwaukee girl killed by crossfire while at a school playground. Visitation will be held Monday evening at Milwaukee's New Pitts Mortuary -- and from 10-to-11 Tuesday at the Tabernacle Communtiy Baptist Church, followed by the service. Sierra Guyton died July 13th, after being hospitalized in grave condition for over a month. She was shot by one of two men who were exchanging gunfire at the Clarke Street Elementary School. Both face criminal charges in the shootings.
A 12-year-old Appleton girl had lunch at the White House Friday with Michelle Obama. Sarah Ganser was the Wisconsin winner of the third annual "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge." Ganser made a recipe for an African sweet potato stew that was judged the best among the Badger State's entries. Fifty-four winners from each state and U-S territory, along with a parent or guardian for each, were attending today's luncheon with the First Lady. The event was called the "Kids State Dinner," and the contest was designed to promote healthy eating. Ganser's recipe and the other winners will be featured in a cookbook that's due out next Wednesday.
Unemployment in Wisconsin held steady last month. Workforce Development officials said today that the seasonally-adjusted jobless rate for June stood at 5.7 percent. That's the same as in May, and it's still below the national rate for the month of six-point-one percent. Officials also said Wisconsin lost an estimated 12-hundred private sector jobs during June. However, the figure is based on a small survey of employers -- and it's often heavily-revised later. The state's unemployment remains the lowest since October 2008, when the financial markets plunged and the nation just started feeling the effects of the Great Recession.
All four Republican candidates for the U.S. House seat in east-central Wisconsin say they would vote to impeach President Obama if they had the chance. At a forum near Cedarburg, the four GOP hopefuls said special prosecutors should look into a number of matters involving President Obama. State Senator Glenn Grothman of West Bend said his list of impeachable offenses includes the alleged selective enforcement by the IRS, and the snooping of phone and e-mail records by the National Security Agency -- plus issues within the ATF. State Assembly Republican Duey Stroebel of Saukville said the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Libya should be investigated by a prosecutor. He called the attack a "travesty." Senate Republican Joe Leibham of Sheboygan and Winnebago County retiree Tom Denow both said the IRS case should be considered for an Obama impeachment. All four candidates running for the U.S. House seat to be given up by the retiring Tom Petri. The winner of the August 12th primary will face Oshkosh Democrat Mark Harris.
U.S. Congressman Tom Petri of Fond du Lac has paid almost $140,000 dollars in legal fees, in an investigation into his stock portfolio. The Sixth District Republican asked for the probe, after media reports showed a link between companies trying to do business with Congress -- and the amount of stock he owns in those firms. Petri asked the House Ethics Committee to check into the matter. The legal fees showed up in his latest campaign finance report which he filed this week. The Washington law firm of Covington and Burling is representing him in the probe, and he paid the firm $137,000 dollars in May and June. Petri is retiring this fall after 36 years in the House. House rules say members are generally allowed to use campaign money to defend themselves in cases which involve their official business.
The chairman of the Wisconsin State Senate's education committee said the state cannot repeal the Common Core school standards, because local schools adopted them on their own. Republican Luther Olsen of Ripon criticized Governor Scott Walker's call from yesterday to repeal the tougher public school standards which will come into their own this school year. After a speech in Oak Creek today, the Republican Walker repeated that he wants Wisconsinites to set their own public school standards -- and he said some things would most likely be adjusted while others would remain similar to Common Core. Olsen said that if the standards varied too much, it would hurt high school students who take college admission tests because they would be held to uniform standards from other states. State Superintendent Tony Evers said Wisconsin schools spent four years implementing the standards, and ending them would bring what he called "chaos to our children and our classrooms."
Governor Scott Walker is defending his campaign TV ad which said that his challenger Mary Burke made millions from Trek Bicycles -- and that the firm shipped jobs overseas while paying women and children two-dollars an hour. During a visit to Oak Creek, the Republican Walker said his campaign was not criticizing Trek -- but he just wanted to educate voters about Burke's record at the company. Burke's brother John, the president of Trek Bicycles, said he ordered the jobs to be out-sourced, and his sister had nothing to do with that. He also said Trek follows all local wage-and-labor laws, and he demanded that Walker take the ad off the air. Walker has refused, and his camp has stood by what it said. Today, Burke's campaign launched a new ad accusing the governor of launching what it calls "an outrageous attack on a great Wisconsin company." Trek, of Waterloo, employs a thousand people in Wisconsin and 800 others outside the U.S in places like China and Germany.
A state appeals court refused today to throw out a conviction against a Sauk County dairy farmer for selling unpasteurized raw milk. In a case that drew national headlines, Vernon Hershberger of Loganville tried convincing a jury that he didn't have to follow state rules regarding his milk -- because his hundreds of buyers were in a private club that did not sell raw milk to the general public. State agriculture inspectors placed a holding order on his product, ordering him not to sell it. Hershberger was charged after doing so, and he was convicted of violating a holding order. He was fined a-thousand dollars, and the Fourth District Appeals Court uphold the conviction today. The state Justice Department praised the ruling, saying the appeal was not a referendum on the safety of raw milk -- but rather, it involved the way Hershberger got around the state's holding order. The defendant's lawyer has not commented. Supporters of raw milk say it's healthier and tastier than pasteurized milk. Opponents said the product could lead to food-borne illnesses, and ruin Wisconsin's world-wide reputation as a dairy leader.
Wisconsin police officer cannot violate your rights, just by knocking on your car window -- even if the officer had no suspicion that you've done anything wrong. That's what the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled today. On a 5-2 vote, the justices upheld the drunk driving conviction of Daniel Vogt. A Grant County sheriff's deputy saw his car parked at public boat landing at 1 a.m. on Christmas morning of 2011 -- and just because of the hour and the date, the officer thought something was amiss. Vogt opened his window when the deputy knocked, and his slurred speech and alcohol breath made him a suspect for OWI. His blood alcohol level was point-19, almost two-and-a-half times the legal limit. A state appeals court said the officer was wrong to knock on Vogt's window, and threw out the drunk driving conviction. The Supreme Court reinstated it today. Justice David Prosser said a reasonable person would know that the driver could be free to leave in that circumstance without opening the window. At a trial, the officer said that if Vogt had not opened his window, he would have let him go because there was nothing to stop him for.
A judge in Madison has clarified a state law from 2012, in which doctors who perform medically-induced abortions can be criminally-charged. The law requires abortion doctors to be present when abortion drugs are given to a woman. Today, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued a ruling which favored Planned Parenthood, when he clarified that a doctor does not have to be present when the woman takes the pill. Niess placed the law on hold 15 months ago while he was reviewing the matter. Planned Parenthood had proceeded with drug-inducted abortions the entire time -- and they'll keep doing so. Group attorney Lester Pines said doctors follow the law and administer the drugs in person, but they generally take them at home. The state Justice Department has not commented on the ruling as of early this afternoon.
Wisconsin's 16 technical colleges will get $28-million state tax dollars to train about 4,900 people for jobs in fields with high demand. Governor Scott Walker announced the allocation of the Fast Forward grants today. The funding will increase capacities for about 100 technical college programs throughout the state -- thus accommodating more students for training in fields like health care, transportation, manufacturing, and more. Each technical college will find out how much it will get within the next couple of weeks. The funding was approved by the state Legislature in March, when $35-million were approved for the Fast Forward training program.
Two people were wounded by gunfire during a fight in Madison Wednesday that involved up to nine persons. Police were called to an east side location about 11:30 p.m. When officers arrived, they saw a 20-year-old man shot in an arm, and an 18-year-old woman grazed with a head wound. Both were taken to hospitals for treatment. Officials said the shooter was still being sought as of earlier today.
Former West Allis police officer Steven Zelich pleaded innocent Thursday afternoon to charges that he hid the bodies of two murdered women in suitcases near Lake Geneva. The 52-year-old Zelich was arraigned in Walworth County Circuit Court on two felony counts of hiding a corpse. He remains in jail under a million-dollar bond, and the status of his case will be reviewed on September 23rd. Prosecutors said Zelich killed 37-year-old Laura Simonson at a hotel room in Rochester Minnesota, and 19-year-old Jenny Gamez of Cottage Grove Oregon -- and he held onto both bodies for months before putting them in suitcases and dumping them along a road in the town of Geneva. Homicide charges have not been filed against Zelich. Prosecutors expect those cases to be filed in the places where the women turned up dead.
A truck driver from Montana is free on a signature bond, after being charged with negligent homicide in a fatal traffic crash in Dane County. Fifty-year-old Gary Lammert of Anaconda Montana is accused of causing a chain reaction crash in May of 2012 in front of Wisconsin Heights High School. The mishap killed Katie Binning, a student art teacher who had recently graduated from UW-Platteville. Authorities said Binning slowed down to turn into the high school parking lot, when was hit by Lammert's truck and pushed into the other lane where a van struck it. Binning died at the scene. The status of Lammert's case will be reviewed at a proceeding on August 18th in Madison.
Two teenagers face possible charges in the thefts of 13 guns during a house burglary in South Milwaukee. According to a search warrant affidavit, the break-in occurred during the Fourth-of-July weekend. Six rifles, six shotguns, and a Derringer pistol were taken -- along with two laptop computers, a TV, a camera, and a DVD player. Police said the victim of another crime, an armed robbery, provided the suspects' license number to police. That led officers to an 18-year-old Cudahy man -- and when they searched his I-phone, officials said they found a selfie photo of the suspect holding one of the stolen guns. He eventually told police the name of the other suspect, a 17-year-old, blaming the thefts on that person. There was no immediate word on charges, or if any guns were still being sought from the break-in.
A former Manitowoc resident was killed in a boating crash in Seattle. Washington state authorities said 33-year-old Melissa Protz was one of seven people aboard a sailboat late Wednesday night, when it was broadsided by a power boat. It occurred on Lake Washington in Seattle, about a half-mile from the shore. Protz graduated from Manitowoc Roncalli High School, and was a sixth-and-seventh grade biology teacher at a Seattle Catholic school. Two others on the sailboat suffered non-life-threatening injuries. A 46-year-old man who operated the power boat was booked into jail on a possible charge of vehicular homicide by a watercraft. A bail hearing was expected this afternoon.
Fire-fighters from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Upper Michigan were heading to Washington State today, to help put out wild-fires which have threatened hundreds of homes. About 40 fire-fighters from the Gopher State joined two crews from Wisconsin and one from the UP. They all went to a mobilization center in Duluth. A national fire control center was sending an aircraft today to take them to the Pacific Northwest. At last word, over a-thousand fire-fighters were battling numerous wild-fires throughout Washington -- including the Mills Canyon Fire which has covered 35 square miles.
A hotel in Fond du Lac was heavily damaged by fire today. Crews were called about 9:15 a.m. to the Comfort Inn. A Fond du Lac fire official said the blaze apparently started between two buildings outside the hotel, perhaps in a trash can. A dozen fire departments responded, as smoke and flames spread through much of the 78-room hotel. Two people were treated for smoke inhalation. The fire was put out during the noon hour. It was ventilated, and officials said all of the carbon monoxide was removed. Foul play is not suspected. The hotel is expected to be closed at least through Monday.
A company in northwest Wisconsin that makes weight-related products will build a new manufacturing-and-distribution facility. Governor Scott Walker said today that Rice Lake Weighing Systems would get $575,000 in state tax breaks, if it retains its 400 current employees and adds 57 more by the middle of 2017. Rice Lake Weighing Systems is a family-owned company founded 68 years ago in Rice Lake. It provides more than 35-thousand weighing, data collecting, communication products, control devices, and related services. Construction of the new plant is due to begin in the next few weeks.
A Racine man will have plenty of time off in jail for making a bomb threat to have a day off. 28-year-old Jacob Vanderhoef was sentenced yesterday to 90 days in jail and three years of probation for the bomb threat. Prosecutors say Vanderhoef wanted Halloween off but was out of vacation days, so he left two threatening notes at his workplace at Poclain Hydraulics. Vanderhoef was also ordered to pay over four-thousand dollars to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office and Raymond Fire and Rescue for its bomb squad response.
Another World Cup soccer tournament will be played in Brazil. This one will feature humanoid robots, including a pair from Marquette University. The Milwaukee school will have the only robots in the competition -- three-foot-tall players named Forrest and Sunny. Four days of competition begin Monday. The idea is to create a robotic team that's advanced enough to play against human World Cup champions by 2050. However, Marquette junior Kellen Carey says this year's goal is to keep their humanoid design from falling down. Andrew Williams, who founded Marquette's Intelligent Robotics Lab, said a lot of work still needs to be done. The students will get to see what other teams' models look like before getting theirs ready for play. Robots from 45 nations will take part.