WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State Senate passes amended cancer bill 26-7
MADISON - Cancer patients scored another big victory this afternoon at the State Capitol. On a 26-7 vote, the Wisconsin State Senate gave final legislative approval to requiring either insurance coverage or affordable co-pays for chemotherapy pills that patients can take at home.
Senators ratified a change made by the state Assembly to make health insurers either provide coverage for the chemo pills, or charge co-pays of no more than $100 a month. Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen -- a former health insurance executive -- said patients could still be left on the hook for hundreds of dollars a month. That's because many prescriptions require a combination of chemo drugs, which could each have its own co-pay. Also, Cullen said it could open the door to higher deductibles and more co-pays for other medicines. Cullen called the bill a quote, "complete giveaway to the health insurance industry." But the bill's main supporter, former cancer patient Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), said the bill is a compromise that needs to be approved. Darling said she would work with the insurance commissioner's office to make sure the law is carried out as intended with the firm $100 cap. The bill now goes to Governor Scott Walker, who promises to sign it.
The use of unmanned drones would be regulated in Wisconsin, under a bill approved by the state Senate today. The measure was sent to Governor Scott Walker on a voice vote. It would be against the law to send up drones to make video and audio recordings, in places where people can reasonably expect privacy. Also, law enforcement would need warrants in most cases to gather evidence with unmanned drones -- except in emergencies. Also, it would be a felony to possess or operate a drone which has a weapon in it. The bill was among more than 50 up for Senate consideration today, on the final day of the regular legislative session.
If there's not a special session later this year, four long-time Wisconsin senators cast their final votes today. Democrats Tim Cullen of Janesville, Bob Jauch of Poplar, and John Lehman of Racine are stepping down after their current terms -- and so is Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center. Together, they have 94 years of state legislative experience. That's a lot of institutional memory walking out the door. Lehman of Racine plans to run for lieutenant governor. Schultz is bowing out, rather than facing a GOP primary challenge from current Assembly Republican Howard Marklein of Spring Green. Cullen, Jauch, and Schultz have all lamented the hyperpartisan atmosphere in state government in recent years -- remembering a simpler and more cordial time.
A jury in South Dakota will start hearing testimony tomorrow on whether a man arrested in Wisconsin should get the death penalty for killing an elderly woman. 43-year-old James McVay pleaded guilty but insane in the 2011 stabbing death of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein in South Dakota. Authorities said he stole her car and started driving to Washington, where he planned to kill President Obama while he plays golf. He was arrested in Madison, where he told police and a TV reporter about the assassination plot. McVay also said he wanted to kill others, and be put to death himself. A jury was picked yesterday in Sioux Falls. They'll decide whether McVay should spend life in prison, or be put to death by lethal injection.
A Racine man will spend almost 21 years in prison for robbing two families at gunpoint during a pair of home invasions. 44-year-old Ivan Rivera-Torres told a pre-sentence investigator that he felt his jury was wrong to convict him. But Circuit Judge Charles Constantine said there was quote, "overwhelming evidence" to support the jury's guilty verdicts for two counts of burglary and four charges of armed robbery. The incidents occurred in December of 2010. In the first break-in, police said Rivera-Torres robbed a baby-sitter of her jewelry and $20-- then gave back the money when she swore it was all she had. The second home invasion occurred on Christmas Eve of 2010, while a family was making tamales for their holiday dinner. Rivera-Torres ended up stealing a laptop. Beside his prison time, Rivera-Torres must spend 15 years under extended supervision when he's no longer behind bars. The judge also told him to pay his victims two-thousand dollars in restitution.
A state appeals court said a judge was correct in throwing out a lawsuit against a prosecutor in the John Doe probe involving Scott Walker's former Milwaukee County aides. Christopher Brekken, a Harley-Davidson dealer in Rice Lake, said he was essentially the victim of false imprisonment when Milwaukee prosecutor Bruce Landgraf subpoenaed him. The assistant DA wanted records of credit card purchases from Brekken's dealership. They were apparently connected with Governor Walker's former annual Harley rides throughout Wisconsin when he was the Milwaukee County executive. Brekken said he could not find the requested data, so Landgraf made him drive 300 miles to Milwaukee and testify about what he knew. Brekken said Landgraf had a vendetta against him, because he hung up the phone when the prosecutor first called. Barron County Circuit Judge Timothy Doyle said Brekken should have filed a claim against the state before going to court in 2012. This morning, the Third District Appellate Court in Wausau agreed. The judge also said Landgraf had immunity anyway, because he was doing his job as a state prosecutor at the time.
Electric customers in northeast and north central Wisconsin are being asked to pay eight-percent more to keep their lights on next year. The Wisconsin Public Service utility said today that it asked state regulators for a rate hike that would charge the average residential customer six-dollars more per month. In a statement, Public Service noted that its electric rates have been relatively unchanged since 2008, due mainly to lower fuel costs in producing its power. Officials say those fuel costs are now higher. The utility says it also needs extra revenue to cover higher transmission costs and adding more underground power lines. Public Service is also looking to reduce its natural gas rates by one-half percent. It would save the average dweller about 34-cents each month. The state's utility regulating body will evaluate the company's request, and approve final rates near the end of the year.
The NCAA Final Four may not be as big as the Super Bowl or the World Series. But it's big enough for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to place a friendly bet with Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. Walker is putting up an array of Wisconsin-made beer, brats, and cheese -- which he'll have to give away if the Badgers lose to Kentucky in Saturday's national semi-final. Beshear will send along a fully-stocked bar of Kentucky bourbon if his Wildcats lose. Walker says he expects quote, "a game for the record books." If Wisconsin wins, the governor won't have much time to whip up a bet for next Monday night's national championship game. Florida plays Connecticut in Saturday's other semifinal.
If you watch TV at all, you've probably seen 25 Ronald McDonalds promote Taco Ball's new breakfast menu, in a poke at the McDonald's fast-food chain. As it turns out, one of those Ronalds used to be Sheboygan's city transportation director. He's 53, semi-retired, and living in Fort Myers, Florida. Taco Bell used social media to find living, breathing Ronald McDonalds. The former Wisconsinite tells the Sheboygan Press he was interviewed online before he was invited to Los Angeles to film a commercial. The McDonald's character has been the face of the hamburger chain for years. The Wisconsin McDonald said he likes both Mickey D's and Taco Bell. The name gives him a ton of notoriety, but he never thought about changing it. He said it's a source of family pride, noting that his father is Ronald McDonald Sr.