WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Cool temperatures expected Friday
It’s not as hot as a year ago, but it’s still plenty hot in Wisconsin. The state headquarters of the National Weather Service in Sullivan recorded a heat index of 108 yesterday – the stickiest in the Badger State for the second day in a row. The misery index from the temperature and humidity reached 105 in La Crosse and Grant counties, and near Oak Creek. The state D-N-R did not have any air quality alerts issued for this morning. An ozone advisory expired at one a-m for Milwaukee area counties along Lake Michigan. Milwaukee’s high yesterday was 93 – five degrees cooler than the same day a year ago, believe it or not. Thunderstorms occasionally interrupt the seething heat, but they don’t do much to cool things down. Green Bay had 47-mile-an-hour winds late yesterday afternoon. More storms are possible throughout the state today, with heat indices of up to 105 in southern and central areas. Earlier, forecasters said tomorrow would be the heaviest day for thunderstorms. Now, it appears those storms could be limited to northern Wisconsin. A major cool-down is predicted for Friday in the north, and the rest of the state on Saturday – when highs might not get out of the 60’s in some places.
A federal judge will hear arguments today on his decision to temporarily block Wisconsin’s latest abortion law. William Conley of Madison will decide whether to keep the law on hold, until he issues a final ruling on a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. Those groups say it’s unconstitutional to require abortion clinic doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of where they normally perform their procedures. The State Justice Department says abortion doctors need to use hospital facilities when complications arise – and they’ll have several doctors testify to that fact today. The plaintiffs say the law would drastically reduce the numbers of abortions they perform. Planned Parenthood says it would force its Appleton clinic to close. Governor Scott Walker signed the hospital requirement into law on July fifth, and the lawsuit was filed the same day. Judge Conley put the law on hold a few days later. The measure also requires abortion candidates to have ultrasounds before giving up their unborn babies. That part of the law is not being challenged, and it remains in place.
About 44-thousand people watched Paul McCartney perform last night at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. It was his fifth show in Wisconsin in 49 years – including the Beatles’ 1964 concert at what’s now the U-S Cellular Arena. McCartney treated the crowd to 38 songs over three hours. They included some of his classic Beatles’ hits and tunes from his days with Wings, plus some of his own originals. A Journal Sentinel reviewer said McCartney’s voice was quote, “impeccably preserved, given his age and given the wear he’s inevitably had to put it through.” McCartney is 71 – and for obvious reasons, his classic song about aging, “When I’m 64,” was not part of the set-list. Thousands of fans tailgated in the parking lots before the show, just like Brewers’ fans do when the team’s at Miller Park.
Gogebic Taconite has applied for a third state permit, as part of the preparations for its new iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. This one would manage storm-water along a 130-year-old access road that used to be a railroad grade. The mining firm wants to level out soil from the old railroad ballast material, and put in three new culverts. The road is now used for logging. Gogebic Taconite says the project would reduce muddy conditions after it rains – and it would create better drainage. The D-N-R will have the final say on whether the work can proceed. The firm is still carrying out the work from its initial state permit – the exploratory drilling of eight large holes. That project is expected to be finished by the end of the week. Gogebic Taconite has also asked the D-N-R for the okay to dig up to five tons of rock to test the site’s mineral quality. At last word, the state was waiting for more details before approving that phase.
A system will be set up by August 15th to train workers to sign up people for the state government’s new health insurance exchange under Obama-care. The new date was announced at a conference in Madison. State Medicaid director Brett Davis said all Wisconsinites would have access to insurance. He’s concerned, though, about “hand-offs” of information from one entity to another. The Obama health law requires most people to either have coverage by January first, or pay a fine. Wisconsin has around a half-million uninsured people – almost two-thirds of which have jobs without coverage. The state hopes to recruit half that group, or a quarter-million people, in its exchange. Registrations begin October first. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled House plans to make another statement today about its opposition to Obama-care. They plan to vote on delaying the law coverage mandates for both individuals and businesses. The White House said last week it would delay the business mandate to offer affordable coverage until 2015. G-O-P House Speaker John Boehner says the delay is more proof that the law is quote, “a train wreck.” The House has voted 37 previous times to delay or scrap all-or-part of Obama-care. The Democratic Senate and the White House has brushed back each of those attempts – and they promise to do the same with today’s measures.
It just became a lot harder for Wisconsin communities to regulate the locations of cell-phone transmitting towers. Under the new state budget that took effect July first, local governments can no longer require cell companies to put their antennas on water towers or other public property. That’s a big potential revenue loss for communities like River Hills, which gets 200-thousand dollars a year in leasing fees from wireless companies. Village officials say they’re considering a lawsuit against the state to strike down the new measure – which got zero public attention as the budget was being passed. Also, local governments can no longer reject cell towers for aesthetic reasons – and height limits of under 200-feet are no longer allowed. The Wisconsin Wireless Association lobbied for the measure, saying it’s needed to keep up with the growth in cell service and high-speed Internet. Jim Greer of A-T-and-T says the patchwork of local regulations is one reason that parts of Wisconsin don’t have good wireless coverage. In Brookfield, where Verizon wants to build a 130-foot tower, neighbors say it would hurt their property values and make them more susceptible to lightning and falling chunks of ice. They’ve filed a claim notice against the city – and it’s not certain whether the new state budget provision will help Verizon get its project approved.
The Sierra Club has asked the state to reject a license application for a military-style security firm at Gogebic Taconite’s proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. Bullet-proof Securities of Arizona had camouflaged guards with assault rifles at the site for six days – but the mining company withdrew them after it was learned that the firm did not have a state license. Bullet-proof filed a license application last Friday with the state Department of Safety and Professional Services. Bullet-proof says it expects an approval any day. The Sierra Club says “not-so-fast.” Shahla Werner of the environmental group says the security tensions could result in tourists being injured at the site, which is public recreation land. The state licensing agency says it does not comment on pending applications. The Sierra Club has also asked Iron County prosecutors to file charges against Bullet-proof for not getting the required license. Last week, District Attorney Marty Lipske said he would look into it – but he would take the voluntary withdrawal of the security force into account. He agrees that a Wisconsin firm would resolve the licensing issue, but he said the aggressiveness of a recent demonstration gives quote, “some legitimacy” to the hiring of the Bullet-proof guards.
The first phase of John Spooner’s trial could be wrapped up today in Milwaukee. Spooner is the 76-year-old white man charged with killing his black neighbor Darius Simmons last year, over guns the defendant accused the 13-year-old victim of stealing. Prosecutors say they’ll rest their case after calling a medical examiner and a ballistics expert. Simmons’ mother – Patricia Terry – testified yesterday that she watched from her front porch as Spooner pointed a gun at Darius, told him to put his hands up, said a few words to him, and then shot him. Terry said her son was unarmed and did nothing to provoke Spooner – who told the youngster he was going to teach him not to steal. Spooner has pleaded insanity. The defense is expected to wait until after jurors decide on Spooner’s guilt, before making its case that Spooner was insane at the time of the killing. Defense lawyer Franklyn Gimbel concedes that his client shot the teen – but he said Spooner didn’t plan to do it, and there’s not enough evidence to support his first-degree intentional homicide charge. The prosecution said the intent was clear. They showed jurors a video of the shooting, taken from Spooner’s private surveillance camera. Yesterday, Yahoo’s home page called the case “the next George Zimmerman trial.” On Monday, the judge told prospective jurors the Spooner case was much different than the Florida case in which Zimmerman was acquitted of killing unarmed black teen Traevon Martin.