WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Another deep freeze is expected Thursday
Up to five more inches of snow could fall in southeast Wisconsin tonight and tomorrow. Forecasters say the region will be on the edge on a storm system that's moving well to our south. One-to-three inches are possible in most of southern Wisconsin late this afternoon and tonight. Places along Lake Michigan may also get lake effect snow from the same system. That could add a total of 3-to-5 inches by tomorrow morning. The National Weather Service has put Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha under a winter weather advisory from eight tonight until nine tomorrow morning. Most of Wisconsin is expected to stay dry -- but those folks will get colder temperatures instead. Tonight's lows are expected to range from 10-below in the north to 20-above in the snowy south. The entire state is expected to return to the deep freeze on Thursday, with highs only in the single digits. Until then, you can expect afternoon highs in the teens-and-20's.
It was a month ago on Thursday when Wisconsin had its coldest wind-chill in years -- 55-below at Rhinelander. Now, residents of that city are being asked to run their water 24-7 so their pipes don't get frozen, as our cold winter drags on. Rhinelander public works director Tim Kingman said his crews are thawing out dozens of homes each day. He said running water constantly is cheaper than the alternative -- and folks will not get billed for the extra use. Officials say they'll bill a seasonal rate instead. Meanwhile, water utilities in Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Racine urge residents to keep their basements heated so their meters don't bust. Milwaukee has had over 300 broken water meters in the last month. More than 120 water laterals have frozen in Racine. Southeast Wisconsin residents are being asked to run their water several times a day. Milwaukee water works' crews have been working 24-7 to fix broken water mains. Also, the Wisconsin Public Service utility is asking its northeast and central Wisconsin customers to check their vents, furnaces, and water heaters to make sure they're not being clogged up by the region's heavy snow. It's a little warmer this morning, but not much. It was 18-below in Hayward at five a-m, and 10 above in Milwaukee. A cloudy day is in store for much of Wisconsin, with highs in the teens-and-20's. Snow is possible in the south tonight and tomorrow.
Wisconsin Republicans want to join their national tea party brethren in pushing for a balanced-budget amendment to the U-S Constitution. The state Assembly Elections Committee has scheduled a vote for late this morning, to ask Congress to approve a state convention to propose the amendment. Two-thirds of the states would need to seek a state convention before one could be held. Three-fourths of state legislatures would have to vote yes in order to ratify the amendment. Over 50 Wisconsin Assembly members and 13 senators -- all Republicans -- want to pursue a convention.
Four same-sex couples are not only trying to strike down Wisconsin's gay marriage ban. The federal lawsuit they filed yesterday also seeks to throw out an obscure state law which makes it a criminal misdemeanor for Wisconsin couples to marry in other states if their unions are not recognized here. Eight plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in federal court in Madison, with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union. One of the four couples were married in neighboring Minnesota last year. The other three are not married. Judi Trampf told reporters she didn't want to take the risk of being prosecuted, and face nine months in jail and a 10-thousand dollar fine. The couples' lawyers said they did not know of any other state with a law like this. Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsin voters approved the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions in 2006. The lawsuit seeks to drop the ban -- and to drop earlier language from state law which describes marriage as between a husband-and-wife. Republican State Attorney General J-B Van Hollen vowed to defend the amendment. He said he believes it's constitutional. Wisconsin Family Action, the group that brought forth the amendment, said it would probably try to become involved in defending the ban in court.
The Wisconsin Assembly could vote a week from today on Governor Scott Walker's half-billion-dollar tax cut plan -- even though it's being held up in the Senate. The Assembly's economic committee will hold a public hearing at noon today on the Republican Walker's proposal to slash 406-million dollars in property taxes and 98-million in income taxes. Normally, the Joint Finance Committee would be the first to handle such a measure. But majority Senate Republicans don't have the votes to approve the tax cuts Walker announced two weeks ago in his State-of-the-State address. That's because it would increase the deficit at the start of the next budget by 100-million dollars -- and senators from both parties want the structural deficit addressed first. Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos say the shortfall would be wiped out by economic growth, and they believe it's a non-issue.
Two retiring state senators won't walk out the door without making their own push to reform the redistricting process that many insiders blame in part for today's polarization. Republican Dale Schultz and Democrat Tim Cullen will hold a public meeting next Monday at the State Capitol on ways to change the process of re-drawing legislative district boundaries after each 10-year census. Minority Democrats have been going around the state to promote a system that's similar to Iowa, where an independent commission re-draws the boundaries. The attorney for Iowa's redistricting agency is expected to appear at next week's forum, along with U-W Madison experts and the Common Cause watchdog group. Wisconsin allows the Legislature to handle redistricting. In recent decades, it didn't make much difference because each party controlled a different house -- and the federal courts ended up writing the maps. In 2011, however, Republicans controlled all of state government -- and critics said they loaded as many districts as possible with their own voters. A federal court condemned the G-O-P's process, but ruled the maps constitutional because they contained relatively equal numbers of voters.
A pro-life group is urging its supporters not to buy Girl Scout cookies. Pro-Life Wisconsin says the national Girl Scout organization has a partnership with Planned Parenthood. However, Girl Scout officials in Wisconsin say none of the cookie money goes to the national group. A scouting spokeswoman in the Madison area tells the Wisconsin State Journal that all cookie revenues stay with the troops which sell them, and their regional councils. The national Girl Scouts have posted an explanation on their Web site. It says the group quote, "does not advocate one way or another with regard to what we perceive as private issues handled best by families."