WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Lawmakers being asked to spend more money for training program for employees with disabilities
Wisconsin lawmakers will be asked to spend 800-thousand dollars to expand an on-the-job training program for employees with disabilities. The Republican Walker mentioned the effort in his State-of-the-State address last week. Walker wants to expand the program from seven companies to 27 in the next three years. The governor promises to highlight companies and groups which help people with disabilities, as he speaks around the state. Walker is also telling state agencies to help shore up public and private efforts to improve job opportunities for the disabled. Disability Rights Wisconsin says about nine-percent of the state's workforce is made up of people with disabilities -- but their employment is only a-third of others, and they make an average of 30-percent less. When he unveiled his plans to lawmakers, Walker introduced the person who inspired them. Patrick Young, who has Down's syndrome, challenged the governor to put together a specialized box as fast as he could at a plant in Menomonee Falls. Walker fumbled the job, while Young completed it in only a few seconds. Advocates for the disabled say the Walker program is not charity -- it's about helping businesses with their bottom lines, and helping the state get the most from its labor force.
President Obama will visit Waukesha on Thursday. He'll talk about the economy during a visit to General Electric's Waukesha gas engine facility. Obama will deliver his annual State-of-the-Union speech tomorrow night, and the Wisconsin visit will be part of the normal presidential follow-up tour highlighting key parts of his address. The White House says it will announce more details about Obama's visit later in the week.
Two Wisconsin natives won Grammy Awards yesterday. Wauwatosa native Mike Maher won his first Grammy for the Best "R"-and-"B" Performance. He's the trumpet player for the rock-and-jazz group Snarky Puppy, which was honored for its song "Something." Viroqua native Butch Vig won his third Grammy as a compilation producer. He put together the soundtrack for a documentary by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl called "Sound City," about the place where several ground-breaking albums were recorded. Both awards were presented before the C-B-S telecast of the Grammys last evening.
A state lawmaker who convinced his colleagues to approve four bills to fight heroin addiction is proposing two more. Assembly Republican John Nygren of Marinette is asking lawmakers to co-sponsor his new measures. One would create regional opiate treatment centers in under-served regions. The other bill would create gradual sanctions for convicts who violate terms of their releases, in the hopes that addicts would get faster treatment. Two weeks ago, the Assembly approved four other measures proposed by Nygren -- whose daughter has been struggling with heroin and nearly died from an overdose. The bills would allow trained responders to administer Narcan, which counteracts heroin overdoses -- grant limited immunity to those who report overdoses to law enforcement -- create more drug collection drives -- and require I-D's for those buying prescription narcotics.
It looks like Christopher Barber will keep his job. The 32-year-old Two Rivers man was hailed by Governor Scott Walker during his State-of-the-State address last week -- only to learn later that Barber was a sex offender in his former life. The Ariens snow-blower plant in Brillion said it was considering Barber's job status, after both the company and the governor's office failed to check his background before highlighting him. Company spokeswoman Ann Stilp now says Ariens continues to support Barber as an employee. Milwaukee area labor law expert Janet Heins tells the Journal Sentinel it would be hard to terminate Barber, as long as he didn't lie on his job application. Heins said people can only be fired for things substantially-related to work -- and she couldn't see how Barber's earlier convictions have anything to do with his job as a welder. For the State-of-the-State presentation, the governor's office asked employers to nominate workers hired during Walker's term, as an example of how the economy has grown since he's been in office. Stilp tells the Journal Sentinel that Ariens took the full blame for the oversight of Barber -- and they've told that to the governor's staff.
It's been a rough winter at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Part of the floor is buckling on the upper level of the nearly 40-year-old Kahler Wing. Small puddles of moisture are being sopped up on window sills. And a space heater is keeping things warm near the wing's former entrance along Lake Michigan. Officials said repair work got behind, while the Art Museum and the nearby War Memorial held negotiations on who would control the buildings within the complex. Those facilities are all owned by Milwaukee County. An agreement was reached last August, in which new support levels from the county assured that repairs can be made. However, they cannot begin until the fall of 2015. In the meantime, Art Museum spokeswoman Vicki Scharfberg said the Number-One priority is to protect the art -- which needs controlled moisture and humidity levels in order to be preserved.