WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Head of Indian tribe blasts Legislature over new laws pertaining to mascots
The head of the Menominee Indian tribe has blasted the state's new law on public school Indian mascots. Laurie Boivin -- a former tribal chairwoman who regained the post last weekend -- represented all 11 Wisconsin tribes in an annual speech to the state Legislature this afternoon. The new Republican law virtually gutted a complaint process established by Democrats in 2009. Those offended by Indian team names and logos can still complain to the state -- but they need to submit petitions instead of being a single complainant. The administration is now handling the cases instead of the Department of Public Instruction. And it's up to the complainants to prove they were victimized, instead of school boards having to prove they didn't discriminate. Boivin told lawmakers that other victims of discrimination don't need to submit petitions. She also said Native American youngsters should not be subjected to inaccurate representations of their cultures.
__________________________A 27-year-old man has reportedly admitted giving a pain-killer to a U-W Stout student who died last month. W-Q-O-W T-V cited a search warrant affidavit, which said a man from Owen admitted giving 23-year-old Jesse Jensen oxycodone. He reportedly warned Jensen not to ingest the entire tablet he gave her, because it would have been too much. The man found Jensen without a pulse on January 24th, the morning after he gave her the pill. Authorities say toxicology test results are pending on the victim. The cause of death has not been released, and the man who allegedly provided the drug has not been charged in the matter. ___________________________ Officials in Milwaukee are calling for a regional summit to find solutions to the growing problems of heroin abuse and overdose deaths. It wasn't all that long ago when heroin was considered only as a big-city problem. Now, Common Council President Michael Murphy says the harmful effects are spreading throughout southeast Wisconsin and quote, "We believe that all communities in the region need to unite to tackle the problem together." Murphy and his fellow Milwaukee aldermen made their request in a letter to area health-and-human service officials, as well as state Attorney General J-B Van Hollen -- who's carrying out a major statewide campaign to raise awareness and reduce heroin abuse. The state Justice Department has said that heroin is the Number-One concern for local law enforcement. A half-dozen bills attacking the problem are moving through the state legislative process.
An openly gay Wisconsin Senate Democrat has introduced a constitutional amendment to repeal the state's ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions. Milwaukee Senator Tim Carpenter announced the amendment today at a news conference. He was joined by a same-sex couple from Madison, and Milwaukee Assembly Democrat JoCasta Zamarripa -- who's bi-sexual. The measure comes a week after four same-sex couples and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit to try and throw out the 2006 constitutional anti-gay marriage amendment. Carpenter said all 14 of the state's other Democratic senators have sponsored his measure. He said Wisconsin is becoming an island, after its neighbors in Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota have allowed same-sex marriages. The amendment appears to have an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature, as the party's attorney general vows an aggressive effort to defeat the lawsuit and keep the gay marriage ban in place. Carpenter's amendment would have to be approved in back-to-back legislative sessions and then by the voters in a statewide referendum.
A group that represents the nation's G-O-P governors is about to run a major T-V ad blitz that attacks Scott Walker's Democratic challenger. The Republican Governors Association today announced a six-figure purchase for ads starting next Wednesday on broadcast and cable T-V. Group spokesman Jon Thompson said the ad would focus on Democrat Mary Burke's service under former Governor Jim Doyle. Burke was Doyle's commerce secretary for two years, and she's a former Trek Bicycle executive. With the election still eight-and-a-half months away, two-thirds of voters in a recent Marquette poll were not ready to form an opinion about her yet. The Republican ad will begin on the same day that thousands of documents will be released concerning former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch -- and her conviction for illegally campaigning for Republicans while she was supposed to be working in Walker's former Milwaukee County executive office. Rindfleisch is appealing that conviction.
The Wisconsin Assembly has a full agenda this afternoon. One bill up for a vote would make it a crime for couples to transfer custody of a child to a non-relative out-of-state, unless there's an interstate agreement on the child's placement. The bill is in response to a Reuters news series last year about child custody transfers which officials never get to review. Reuters said a Manitowoc County couple adopted a girl from Liberia, and later posted an ad on the Internet to find new parents. The Wisconsin couple was never told that the child's new parents from Illinois had kids taken away from them in the past, due to those parents' violent tendencies.
The Assembly will also vote on requiring police to get search warrants in most cases, before tracking people with their cell-phone signals. Another bill would end the long-time practice of letting family members protect relatives wanted for felony crimes. The Assembly could also give final legislative approval to make hospitals give tests to newborns for congenital heart disease. Another bill would let anyone -- not just relatives -- invest in a child's college savings account in the Ed-Vest program. Other bills would force those who perform weddings to be at least 18 -- allow farmers to sell eggs from their own chickens at farmers' markets without a state license -- and exempting rubber duck races from state laws against gambling. On top of all that, the new Menominee tribal chair will deliver the annual "State of the Tribes" address.
The woman accused of kidnapping a baby near Beloit, and leaving him in the cold behind a gas station, is now facing both state-and-federal charges. A county prosecutor in Iowa charged 31-year-old Kristen Smith today with a state count of child endangerment. Prosecutor Jeffrey Renander said she remains in jail after making an initial court appearance in Cedar County Iowa. He said Smith endangered young Kayden Powell in quote, "numerous ways." Smith is jailed close to where she was arrested last week in West Branch Iowa. Authorities said she took Powell from a home in the town of Beloit -- and she may have tried taking her to Colorado, where she lives. Police found the baby the next day, and returned him to his mother in Wisconsin. Smith has been charged in federal court with kidnapping -- but U-S Marshals are reportedly waiting to take her into custody until a federal grand jury in Madison reviews the case and hands down an indictment.
A bill that tries to make Wisconsin schools more accountable, without punishing them, was endorsed today by a state Senate committee. The education panel voted 8-to-1 to make all schools which get tax money report a slew of data to the state -- and you could see it all in the state's report cards that are currently given to public schools. The bill would force private schools to submit their student performance data, if they receive state-funded vouchers to teach low-income kids as part of the long-running choice program. The voucher-and-charter schools are already required to start reporting such data in the 2020 school year. The new bill speeds that up to 2015. The Senate's G-O-P leader vowed to propose a limited school accountability package, after proposed sanctions for the worst-performing schools attracted heavy opposition. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald favored a limited package now, with a possible re-consideration of sanctions in the next session. Republican Governor Scott Walker has insisted that some type of school package be adopted before lawmakers adjourn for the year in April.
We'll find out next week what ex-Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch didn't want us to know, as she appeals her conviction for illegal campaigning. State appellate court officials said today they will release 27-thousand pages of e-mails, and over 430 other documents on Wednesday. A judge ruled last week that Rindfleisch could not keep all of her evidence secret, as she appeals her circuit court conviction for illegally doing Republican campaign work while she was supposed to be working as an aide to Governor Scott Walker when he was the Milwaukee County executive. She was given a six month jail sentence after she pleaded guilty in 2012. Earlier this week, the Republican Walker said he didn't know if any e-mails he sent would be included in next week's release. Rindfleisch could have had a month to challenge the release of individual e-mails which might have had personal information. Her attorney declined the offer, saying it wouldn't be enough time.