WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State of Emergency declared in three counties
Governor Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency for three counties in the southern part of the state. The declaration comes after the National Weather Service confirmed six tornadoes touchdown in Dane, Green and Grant Counties.
The storms also brought damaging winds and hail. No one was reportedly injured. Meteorologists say the tornadoes ranged from F-1 to F-3. As part of the state of emergency, Walker also called the state's National Guard to active duty. He asked Adjutant General Don Dunbar to provide troops to help wherever necessary. Dane County officials said yesterday they had tallied almost 15-million dollars in damages to homes, businesses, and public facilities in the week's storms. UW-Platteville had damages to six campus buildings and a park -- and the total dollar-estimates were still being rounded up. Green County said it had around 80 homes damaged
Wisconsin dairy farmers have ended six straight months of declining milk production. The USDA said the Badger State produced the same amount of milk in May as a year ago, just under 2.4 billion pounds. Wisconsin is the nation's second-largest milk producer. First-place California had a one-percent increase last month, to 3.3 billion pounds. Nationally, just over 18-billion pounds of milk were made last month. That's up 1.4 percent from May of 2013 -- but U.S. dairy farmers are still behind the pace needed to match the entire national output for last year of 206-billion pounds. Wisconsin averaged 1,880 pounds of milk per cow last month, about 70 pounds less than the national norm. The long cold winter, poor feed quality, and higher cull rates have been listed as the major reasons for Wisconsin's recent declines.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin has announced a one-million dollar initiative to train welders across the state. The program was announced yesterday, in partnership with Miller Electric Manufacturing and other area employers. The program, funded by the state and the welding industry, will accredit some 400 welders in four parts of the state. A spokesperson for the non-profit says the program will provide life skills, in addition to the welder training.
Wisconsinites are less likely than other Americans to work for a foreign-owned outfit. That's according to the Brookings Institution, which says about three-point-seven percent of workers in the Badger State are employed by foreign-owned establishments. That's not even half of the percentage in New York State, where eight-and-a-half percent of employees work for foreign-owned firms. Brookings gathered the data to get a handle on how much direct foreign investment is taking place in the U.S. The study is part of the Brookings' Global Cities Initiative, which is jointly run by the institute and J.P. Morgan Chase
Wisconsin taxpayers continue to be billed for the John Doe investigation into the recall elections against Governor Scott Walker and Republican state senators. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says almost $350,000 have been spent on outside law firms to represent special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and other public officials connected with the probe. It deals with allegations that Governor Walker and others broke election laws by coordinating the candidates' campaigns and fund-raising from a dozen outside conservative groups. Walker denied the allegations and insists the probe is over. The Justice Department is representing the presiding judge in the case, Greg Peterson. As a result, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said it would be a conflict of interest to represent other officials -- so the hiring of outside attorneys cannot be helped. The Journal-Sentinel said a half-dozen contracts have a total cap of $534,000. But at least one of those contracts is expected to be extended because it's only 60-dollars away from its cap, with a lot more legal work to do. A federal judge halted the probe last month, and prosecutors are appealing to get it going again.
Governor Scott Walker's campaign launched a TV attack ad against Democrat Mary Burke today, less than a day after allegations surfaced that he broke campaign laws. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the 30-second ad is due to run through July 1st in every state TV market except Duluth-Superior and the nearby Twin Cities. It again ties Burke -- the former Trek Bicycle executive and former state commerce secretary -- to former Governor Jim Doyle. The ad said they "gambled taxpayer money on dreadful policies." Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said Doyle's people brought tax hikes, job losses, and budget deficits to Wisconsin -- and the state cannot afford to let Burke take the state backward. Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said Walker launched "false, negative attacks on a proven job creator." The paper said the $245,000 ad buy was arranged before yesterday's release of court documents, in which prosecutors allege that Walker and two GOP operatives head an illegal coordination between candidates and outside conservative groups on their campaigns during the 2011-and-'12 recall votes. Those allegations are part of a John Doe investigation in which Walker told a national TV audience was "resolved." A request by prosecutors to revive the probe is pending before a federal appeals court in Chicago.
Planned Parenthood said today it will shut down its clinic in Fond du Lac on September 25th. CEO Teri Huyck blamed the closure on the governor and Legislature. Majority Repubilcans voted last year to eliminate a million dollars in reproductive health care funding in the current state budget. The GOP has been working to put curbs-and-controls on abortion facilities in the last session. But Huyck said the Fond du Lac clinic does not provide abortions -- and neither did the other four Planned Parenthood facilities that have closed in the last two years due to a lack of state funds. Huyck called the Fond du Lac closure a loss for families who rely on the agency for cancer screenings, health exams, birth control, and treatments for sexually-transmitted diseases. She said the Fond du Lac facility served about 11-hundred patients each year -- and they'll be referred to the group's closest clinics in Oshkosh and West Bend.
Only 13 states had slower job growth than Wisconsin over the past year. That's according to a new quarterly analysis released this morning by the U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Badger State created just over 28,000 private sector jobs during the 2013 calendar year. That's an increase of 1.2 percent -- the 37th smallest percentage growth among the 50 states. It put Wisconsin two places lower on the totem pole than the last report three months ago. The national job growth was nine-tenths-of-a-point higher than Wisconsin's, at two-point-one percent. Republican Governor Scott Walker guaranteed it would be a hot-button political issue four years ago, when he promised 250-thousand new private sector jobs during his first campaign. That total is just over 100,000, as Wisconsin has seen an unsteady recovery from the Great Recession. Democrats have been blaming the Republican Walker and the GOP's policies -- but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says job growth has lagged behind the national norms for most of the last ten years. That includes four years under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle before the recession hit in 2008.
U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville was among Republicans who grilled the IRS commissioner today about a former agency official's missing e-mails. John Koskinen appeared before the House Ways-and-Means Committee. He refused to apologize for the loss of IRS e-mails concerning the allegations that the nation's tax agency unfairly investigated tea party groups. A week ago, the IRS confirmed it could not produce some e-mails from the central figure in the matter -- former agency official Lois Lerner -- because her computer had crashed in 2011. Koskinen told lawmakers the hard drive was recycled, and presumably, it was destroyed. He told the House panel today he would not give Congress any more details about the lost e-mails until his agency's review is finished. He cited media statements from Republicans as inaccurate -- and as he put it, "We're not going to dribble out the information and have it played out in the press." Ryan said he didn't believe Koskinen's version of the story. Koskinen said it was the first time anyone alleged that they didn't believe him during his long government career.
Protesters blocked garage doors for two hours today at the federal immigration office in Milwaukee Thursday. No one was arrested as a result of the demonstration. It expressed opposition to the recent arrests of 49 undocumented immigrants in Milwaukee. No vehicles left the building, with 70 protesters marching on a sidewalk in front. The protest was part of a national campaign put on by the National Day Labor Organizing Network. It's calling on President Obama to halt immigrant deportations until he signs an immigration reform bill that's passed by Congress. The Milwaukee arrests took place during the past month. Immigration officials had defended them, by saying each suspect was a dangerous criminal -- and authorities were using their resources most efficiently by focusing on what they called the "most egregious offenders." Protesters said those arrested either had no criminal records, or their only offense was to illegally enter or re-enter the United States.
A Green Bay man has entered a plea deal in a murder case. 50-year-old Jeffrey Wickman is accused of killing 49-year-old Daniel Kuehl, of Green Bay, in 2013. According to the Press-Gazette Media, Wickman pleaded no contest to felony murder, reduced from first-degree intentional homicide… which carries a life sentence. His sentencing is scheduled for August 25.
Janesville Police now say they have several pieces of evidence that link a 28-year-old man to the beating death of his 21-year-old girlfriend. Authorities first said that Clayton Courtney's pants had blood matching the DNA of Britney Cross. Today, the Janesville Gazette said police also had several items of Courtney's which links him to the slaying -- including a baseball, a T-shirt, and a pocket-sized Bible. Cross was found dead May fifth along a downtown riverbank in Janesville. That was a day after Courtney was arrested for the non-fatal stabbing of his roommate, Michael Clark. During that incident, police said Courtney claimed to have killed three people that night. So far, investigators have only found evidence of one such killing -- that of Courtney's girlfriend. He awaits a Rock County trial on six charges in the stabbing incident, including attempted homicide.
Milwaukee's police chief said a man who grazed an officer during a shoot-out was wanted for questioning for a murder two days earlier. Officers called the suspect a "person of interest" in the killing of 34-year-old Bryson Brown on Tuesday at a Milwaukee gas station. Yesterday, Police Chief Ed Flynn said detectives saw the suspect's vehicle and pulled it over -- and one of the people inside got out and started shooting. The officer was not seriously hurt, and managed to return fire along with another detective. Officials said the shooter then tried running away -- and he dropped his gun at a home's front yard before he was taken in.
A state appeals court says no to a new trial for a man convicted of killing his mother on a fishing trip in the Fox Valley. Thirty-seven year old Randal Rosenthal Jr. of Brillion is serving a life prison term for shooting Kathleen Remter in July of 2011. Rosenthal claimed that Remter's lover actually killed her, but the judge at his trial would not let him introduce that evidence. The Third District Appeals Court in Wausau said there was no prior indication that the victim's boyfriend killed her. Also, the defendant claimed he was sleeping when Remter was shot -- but the appellate court said no witnesses could corroborate that. Remter's body was later found in the Fox River near Kaukauna. Prosecutors said her son wanted to collect on her 586-thousand dollar life insurance policy. Under his prison term, Rosenthal will first be eligible for a supervised release in 2061, when he's 84.
A 29-year-old man is under arrest for allegedly killing a man and wounding another with a Samurai sword in an apartment above a tavern in Watertown. Police said it happened late yesterday afternoon. A 27-year-old man suffered multiple stab wounds and died later at a Watertown hospital. A 24-year-old was treated at the hospital and later released with a hand injury -- and he was the one who called 911. Police confronted the suspect in a stairwell leading to the building's second floor -- and the alleged attacker refused to surrender at first. A police tactical team was then called, along with a police negotiator who convinced the man to give up. He was booked into the Jefferson County Jail on possible charges of first-degree intentional homicide and reckless injury. No names were released as of mid-morning.
A baby-sitter from Reedsburg has been found guilty of killing a four-month-girl who was in her care. Jurors delberated for two-and-a-half hours yesterday, before convicting 27-year-old Jeannette Janusiak for first-degree intentional homicide. A sentencing date was not set. She'll get a mandatory life prison term, but a Sauk County judge can set a possible date for a supervised release that's at least 20 years down the road. The defense said it was not likely that Janusiak -- who did not have a history of child abuse -- would intentionally kill who was the daughter of her best friend. Peyton Shearer died in 2011. Prosecutors said the baby's blood was splattered on a wall, used diapers, and bedding. Janusiak had told investigators that Peyton fell from a bed, and struck her head on the open drawer of a night-stand. Authorities said she suffered three blows to the head.
Authorities in eastern Iowa said an SUV driven by a Wisconsin woman caused a four-vehicle crash in a construction zone that killed two people. Linn County sheriff's deputies said 33-year-old David Hultquist and 23-year-old Skyler Darrow, both of Martelle Iowa, died in Monday's crash on Highway 1 near Mount Vernon. Investigators said the SUV, driven by a 44-year-old woman from Platteville, rear-ended a car stopped in the construction zone. That vehicle rear-ended a unit in front of it, and the third vehicle did the same to a fourth. The Platteville woman and her two children were all sent to a hospital with injuries. Motorists in the front two units were not hurt.
What could be Harley-Davidson's first electric motorcycle will be introduced next week so riders can test it out, and tell the company what they think. The Milwaukee motorcycle giant said today that it will unveil its prototype next week in its home town, and in New York. Riders will not buy the rechargeable units, as they log thousands of hours of demonstration rides. Harley chief marketing officer Mark Hans-Richer expects the riders to find bugs that the company can't see right now. One possible bug is a short battery life between charges, which is not conducive to long tour rides. Harley has not disclosed the technical specifications, but riders shouldn't expect the "potato potato" rumble that Harley's V-Twin engines put out. Richer says it should sound more like a "fighter jet on an aircraft carrier." The demo-bikes will be out next Wednesday night during a "Bike Night" event at Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson Museum. The prototype will also be part of Route 66 tour later this year, stopping at 30 Harley dealers along the way.
A film crew from Brazil wants to chronicle the annual hatch of mayflies on the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin. The crew has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to film the mayfly phenomenon during the second week of July. The La Crosse Tribune says the production company has also asked Fish-and-Wildlife employees to help them. A producer, photographer, and sound technician would film parts of the river between Trempealeau and Lynxville. Globo-TV of Brazil says it would be part of an ongoing segment which highlights worldwide nature and conservation practices.