WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Assembly passes "living wage" ordinance bill
Wisconsin communities could still have "living wage" ordinances, as long as state tax money is not used to cover the higher minimums. The state Assembly voted 56-to-37 last night to put limits on the local laws which are in effect in Milwaukee, Madison, and Dane County. They require minimums higher than the state's rate of 7.25-an-hour for government employees and contractors. The Milwaukee County Board recently passed a minimum wage of 11.32-an-hour for county workers. That's the federal poverty rate for a family of four. It spurred Assembly Republican Chris Kapenga of Delafield to sponsor a bill banning all living wage ordinances. Republicans later modified the measure so it applies only when state-and-federal tax dollars are used to pay the higher wages. G-O-P Speaker Robin Vos also expressed concerns that the ordinances result in fewer service hours under the state's Family-Care program. Democrats complained about a loss of local control. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The National Park Service has closed the public access to the scenic ice-caves near Bayfield that thousands of people have been enjoying. You might not be able to get them anyway, since up to 16-and-a-half inches of snow have fallen in the region yesterday and this morning. Park Service officials say their main concern is the stability of the ice along the Lake Superior shoreline. Tens of thousands of people have made the two-mile walk on the ice from Meyers Beach to the majestic caves. However, officials say strong winds can easily break the pedestrian ice-paths. This is the first time in five years the caves have been open to people -- and they've generated a ton of national publicity. Twenty-thousand visitors saw the ice-caves last weekend alone. After the storm clears out, Park Service officials will check the ice conditions. If they're good, the access will re-open as early as sunrise tomorrow.
_______________School records for Wisconsin students would be more secure, under a bill passed by the state Assembly last night. The vote was 57-to-37 to send the measure to the Senate. The Department of Public Instruction would have to post online the types of information which are collected on students, and come up with a plan for keeping it secure. Also, the D-P-I could not share individual student data with the federal government -- and school district vendors could not disclose student records, except as specified in their school contracts. Hartford Republican Don Pridemore proposed the measure. He said it was spurred by testimony at recent hearings on the Common Core academic standards. He said concerns were raised about student data being funneled to Washington.
Purdue University will award a posthumous degree to a Wisconsin student murdered during an attack on the western Indiana campus last month. Purdue's Academic Affairs Committee voted yesterday to endorse an electrical engineering degree for 21-year-old Andrew Boldt of West Bend. Officials said he met most of the requirements for the degree before he was shot-and-stabbed to death January 21st, while serving as an assistant in a class at Purdue's Electrical Engineering Building. A school trustee says the board hopes the awarding of the degree will help the healing process for Boldt's family. A fellow engineering student is charged in the slaying.
Governor Scott Walker's office says it will not commit to delaying Wisconsin's stringent phosphorus removal requirements, until it reviews a bill passed by both houses. The measure passed the Assembly 76-to-19 last night, after the Senate okayed it earlier this week. It does not put sewage plants and industries off the hook in following strong rules to limit phosphorus emissions into Wisconsin waters -- but it does grant delays for economic hardship. The limits were passed in 2009, when environmentalists raised concerns about the growth of algae in Wisconsin lakes due to heavy phosphorus. Businesses expressed concerns about the cost of the pollution controls to be required -- and some said it was not fair that farmers would not have to limit non-point phosphorus as part of the law. The new bill would give businesses and wastewater plants up to 20 years to comply with the rules. They would face tougher limits every five years, and would have to conduct other projects for reducing phosphorus. __________________
A central Wisconsin man will be sentenced May 20th, after he pleaded no contest to causing a drunk driving crash that killed two Wisconsin Rapids women. 22-year-old Timothy Saavedra struck a plea deal with prosecutors. The state will ask a Portage County judge to order a 15-year prison term with 15 more years of extended supervision. Saavedra was convicted on two counts of homicide by drunk driving and one count of O-W-I injury. Five other charges were dropped -- including reckless homicide and related drunk driving counts. Authorities said Saavedra was driving his pickup truck at 94-miles-an-hour when it hit a cluster of trees near Rudolph last summer. Two of his passengers -- Stephanie Eberhardt and Melissa Peterson-Suzda, both 21 -- were killed. A 21-year-old Rudolph man survived the crash. Authorities said Saavedra's blood alcohol level was point-14 shortly after the crash. Early media reports said Saavedra was from Loyal, but online court records now list his address as Rudolph.
A Madison man was found guilty early today of molesting his teenage step-sister, while she was being tortured and abused by her father and step-mother. A Dane County jury deliberated for 11 hours before convicting 20-year-old Joshua Drabek of first-and-second degree child sex assault, and child abuse. He's scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday. In closing arguments, a prosecutor said the girl had no reason to lie when she told what happened. The defense said the girl recanted her story several times -- once to a grandmother she had trusted. The girl is now 17 -- and she's still taking middle school classes after she was kept for several years in the basement of her father's home. She had escaped two years ago, weighing just 68 pounds at the time. Her father and step-mother were later convicted in separate trials.
A southwest Wisconsin man is due in court in Monday for allegedly neglecting a dozen horses. 55-year-old Sean Legault of rural South Wayne is charged in Lafayette County with a misdemeanor count of not properly disposing animal carcasses. He also faces a citation for not providing sufficient food for animals. Sheriff's officials said 11 of Legault's horses were seized and taken to another farm this week. Another horse was in the process of being subdued, and authorities said they found a dead horse in a pasture. Authorities said they were called by people concerned that the animals were not getting hay to eat.