WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Gov. Walker decleared a state of emergency in advance of today's storm
Governor Scott Walker has declared a state-of-emergency in advance of what could be the nastiest storm of a nasty Wisconsin winter. Fourteen-to-18-inches of snow are predicted in the far northwest part of the state bounded by Phillips, Bayfield, and Superior. Madison and Milwaukee could only get less than an inch of snow -- but the southern half of the state can also expect a fair amount of ice due to freezing rain. And to top it all off, winds of 40-to-50 miles-an-hour could cause drifting and whiteout conditions statewide. Walker's order puts the National Guard to work if necessary -- along with Wisconsin Emergency Management and other state agencies. State officials are encouraging folks to limit or delay their travel plans, and check road conditions before leaving home by calling 5-1-1 or logging onto 511 WI-Dot-Gov. The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings for most of the state from nine this morning through noon tomorrow. Eastern Wisconsin also has high wind warnings and advisories for the overnight through tomorrow morning. West central Wisconsin can expect 6-to-12 inches of snow -- 4-to-7 inches in central areas -- 2-to-5 inches into the far northeast -- and a couple or inches or less, plus ice, for eastern and southern Wisconsin. Once the storm clears out tomorrow, it's supposed to get colder. Highs in the teens are in the forecast from tomorrow through Tuesday.
Three unnamed targets of a John Doe investigation have asked the State Supreme Court to review the case. That's after an appeals court threw out a number of issues that challenged various aspects of the secret probe into alleged illegal campaign activities in the 2012 recall elections. Yesterday's filing claimed that the appointment of special prosecutor Francis Schmitz was quote, "improper at the outset, and is unsustainable now." The appeal said that five district attorneys in the counties where the targets live would have to proceed without Schmitz -- and without the state covering much of the costs. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Schmitz charges 130-dollars an hour for his services. The Supreme Court is being asked for a second time to get involved in the case. Two petitioners earlier asked that the justices consider an issue that has not been disclosed. Media reports said the probe is looking into an alleged illegal coordination of campaign activities between outside groups and Republican recall candidates -- including Governor Scott Walker.
A Manitowoc man with a concealed weapons' permit held a burglary suspect at gunpoint until the police could come and arrest him. It happened around six last evening. Police said a resident heard someone break into his neighbor's garage -- and when the man checked it out, the burglar was inside. The man then drew his concealed weapon and held the suspect for authorities. Police lieutenant Matt Wallander said the 9-1-1 caller mentioned that there were guns involved -- and both men were initially detained. Officials later learned that the man with the gun was the victim's neighbor, and was actually a witness. The suspect, a 25-year-old Manitowoc man, was booked for burglary and criminal damage to property.
Wisconsin's public school superintendent condemns a new bill which he says would result in legislators setting standards for what kids should learn. Tony Evers went on You-Tube yesterday, and said it would be a huge mistake to create a Model Academic Standards Board dominated by governor's appointees. The Assembly Education Committee is scheduled to vote on the proposal today. Republicans say it would create more transparency in determining student standards. Governor Scott Walker supports it, calling Evers' concerns a "worst-case scenario." The superintendent says the measure could destroy the state's Common Core standards it adopted three years ago. He said the bill was changed significantly from an earlier version, which would have created a commission to provide input to the state superintendent on school standards. The new bill creates a panel including with six appointees from the governor and four from the superintendent. The board would submit changes for academic standards to the superintendent, who would then submit a proposal to a legislative committee -- and the board could choose either. A statewide test would also be created, based on the new standards.
A bill to help middle-income Wisconsinites pay for suddenly-rising heating bills and related equipment was endorsed yesterday by the Legislature's finance panel. Majority Republicans announced the measure this week, in response to the sudden price hikes for propane fuel over the last two months. Eligible residents could borrow up to 25-hundred dollars -- and their household incomes could not exceed 200-percent of the median incomes in their home counties. Also, finance Republicans voted to give refunds to store-label credit card outfits for sales taxes paid on bad consumer debts. Officials said it would reduce taxes by 12-million dollars to card issuers over the next year-and-a-half. Assembly Finance chair John Nygren said retailers with their own banks already get the refunds -- and the new measure is designed to help Wisconsin retailers like Kohl's Department Stores, which contract for their credit services. The panel voted 12-to-4 to spend 35-million dollars of the projected state surplus to train workers for high-demand jobs. Democrats said the package didn't do enough. Earlier yesterday, the committee endorsed a revised surplus package which keeps Governor Scott Walker's plan in place for income-and-property tax cuts.
A Manitowoc man has pleaded innocent to charges that he struck a bicyclist with his vehicle, and kept driving home while the victim was lodged in his windshield. 20-year-old Jamie Hang waived a preliminary hearing yesterday. He entered innocent pleas to felony counts of reckless endangerment and hit-and-run causing injury -- plus misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run and causing injury by driving drunk with an excess blood alcohol level. Hang is scheduled to meet with Manitowoc County prosecutors on March 27th to consider a pre-trial settlement of his case. Authorities said Hang struck 56-year-old Steven Gove the night of January 18th, while Gove was on a three-wheeled bike finishing deliveries of the Lakeshore Chronicle. The victim escaped with minor injuries.
Governor Scott Walker's campaign worked with lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis in 2010, to seek donations from those who had already given the maximum legal amounts to the Walker camp itself. The Associated Press found the connection, in reviewing thousands of documents released yesterday about a criminal investigation into former Milwaukee County aide Kelly Rindfleisch. The A-P said the arrangement broke down after Davis lost his lieutenant governor's primary to Rebecca Kleefisch. The Journal Sentinel said the Republican Walker used his campaign e-mail to communicate with his county aides -- some of whom were accused of illegally campaigning on county time for Walker's bid for governor. Previous court records showed that aides in Walker's county executive office set up a secret wireless router, trading e-mails which mixed both county and campaign business while taxpayers footed the bill. Rindfleisch tried unsuccessfully to keep the campaign e-mails hidden while she appeals her conviction for illegal campaigning on Milwaukee County time. Meanwhile, national Democrats tried to make as much political hay from as possible from the revelations, since Walker is considering a bid for the presidency in 2016. Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called it an ethical scandal that voters should pay attention to. Walker said the released documents contained no surprises.
Somebody in California won the 425-million-dollar Powerball jackpot last night. One ticket sold in the Bay Area town of Milpitas matched all the numbers, to win the sixth-highest jackpot in U-S lottery history. Two players in Wisconsin each won 10-thousand dollars by matching four regular numbers plus the Powerball. Those tickets were sold in Horicon and Johnson Creek. Just over 48-thousand Wisconsin players won smaller prizes. That's almost twice as many winners as the previous drawing last Saturday night, as ticket sales again went through the roof. In neighboring Minnesota, officials said tickets for last night's drawing were three-and-a-half times the norm. Last night's numbers were 1, 17, 35, 49, and 54. The Powerball was 34, and the Power Play multiplier was three. The jackpot goes back to 40-million dollars for Saturday night. Mega Millions' still has a high jackpot -- 172-million for tomorrow night.
A federal grand jury in Madison has indicted the woman accused of kidnapping her half-sister's newborn near Beloit, and leaving him behind an Iowa gas station. The U-S attorney's office said yesterday that 31-year-old Kristen Smith of Aurora Colorado is charged with kidnapping -- and she could go to prison for life if convicted. Smith is due in federal court in Madison tomorrow afternoon. Officials say they'll transfer her from a jail in Iowa, where she's been since she was stopped for questioning on Interstate-80 on February sixth. That was just hours after she allegedly took newborn Kayden Powell from his mother, 18-year-old Brianna Marshall. At first, officials said Smith denied knowing where the baby was. The next day, police found Kayden behind a nearby gas station, wrapped in blankets in a plastic storage bin in sub-zero temperatures. He survived the cold. Smith was first held on a warrant from Texas. She was also charged in Iowa last week with child endangerment.
A murder victim in Milwaukee has been identified as 41-year-old John Chelig. Police said he was quarreling with a friend at a southwest side home when he was shot-to-death around four a-m on Tuesday. A 38-year-old Milwaukee man was arrested. As of late yesterday, the district attorney's office was still considering possible charges.