WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: National search begins for Reilly's replacement
The U-W Board of Regents has started a national search process to replace System President Kevin Reilly, who said yesterday that he’ll leave at the end of the year. The 63-year-old Reilly spent nine years in charge of the U-W’s 26 campuses. He’ll become an adviser for the American Council on Education, and he hopes to return to teaching after that. Reilly said he began talking last fall about a transition in the university’s leadership – and it had nothing to do with the recent controversies over the discovery of 650-million dollars in reserves, and a payroll system glitch that over-paid millions in employee benefits. Reilly said experienced leaders quote, “expect that roller-coaster ride along the way,” and he just wants to do other things before he retires. He said the Education Council’s president – Molly Corbett Broad – wrote him a few months ago about looking for a recently-retired university president to help her expand her role. Reilly said several conversations encouraged him to take the offer. He pointed to a number of successes at the U-W, including record enrollments and graduation numbers amid tight budgets. He said he was proud to attract and keep quality leaders despite unstable budgets and low compensation compared to similar schools. Reilly called the university a “bright jewel … built by the toil and sacrifice of Wisconsin citizens over many generations.” He urged everyone to keep it quote, “brightly polished.”
Governor Scott Walker is not buying the idea that Wisconsin counties can get their own increases in federal Medicaid funds under the Obama health care law. In Milwaukee yesterday, the Republican governor said quote, “There are all sorts of hypotheses out there … I haven’t seen anything yet.” Walker would have to give his blessing to the counties’ efforts. Earlier this year, he rejected the chance to obtain more federal dollars to treat more low-income clients statewide under Badger-Care. He said the funding might not be around in three years, and states which take the money might be left holding the bag. Wisconsin Citizen Action held a news conference yesterday in support of the 19 counties, which want to a conduct a pilot project similar to one approved for the Cleveland area in Ohio. There, the Republican Legislature rejected the extra federal funds – but Governor John Kasich agreed to funnel more Medicaid dollars to county officials in Cleveland, with a designated clinic to provide the additional care. Milwaukee County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic said it’s an effort worth considering.
Two Wisconsin abortion providers are trying to prove how difficult it is for their doctors to follow a new state law, and get hospital admitting privileges. The new law requires those doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform abortions. Nicole Safar of Planned Parenthood says hospitals often reject requests for such privileges, citing religious reasons, patient quotas, and other conflicts. Her group has four doctors applying for admitting privileges, and she believes none of them will be approved. Three doctors from Affiliated Medical Services of Milwaukee have made similar applications. Those two groups have sued the state, claiming the admission requirement is unconstitutional. Federal Judge William Conley expects to decide by tomorrow whether-or-not the law will be put on hold while he considers the lawsuit itself. Republicans passed the law, which would essentially end abortions north of Madison and Milwaukee.
State legislative leaders say they’ve had no group discussions with their colleagues about making police-and-fire unions give up most of their collective bargaining privileges. Aides to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald confirm there’s been little if any discussion about extending the Act-10 bargaining limits to emergency personnel. Governor Scott Walker brought up the issue on Monday, when he answered an audience question at a forum in Milwaukee. The Republican Walker said he was open to extending Act-10 to police-and-fire unions, which were exempt when the law was first passed in 2011 so they could control possible violence or government employee walk-outs. Yesterday, Walker stressed that he would not pursue the matter – and he was only making an observation in addressing the subject. Wisconsin Professional Police Association president Jim Palmer said it appeared to be a trial balloon for Walker’s possible presidential bid in 2016. The head of the Milwaukee police union – one of the few public unions which supported Walker in both his 2010 and 2012 contests – said he opposes extending Act-10 to police. Mike Crivello wants to know more about the context of the governor’s remarks. He said it’s possible that his union could support Walker again in his 2014 re-election bid.
A protest camp near the Gogebic Taconite mining site is not going anywhere – at least for now. The Iron County Board delayed action last night on seeking civil-and-criminal charges against members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian tribe. The board sent the matter back to the county’s forestry committee, which contends that tribal members violated a two-week camping permit. A one-year permit was originally issued, but the committee reversed it. County forest administrator Joe Vairus says the site has become a squatters’ village. Before the recent committee meeting, Lac Courte Oreilles tribal chairman Mic Isham wrote a two-page letter asking to sit down with county officials. Forestry committee member Jim Lambert said he did not see the letter, but it could be enough of a reason to delay legal action. State Senate Democrat Bob Jauch says the tribe and the county should talk out their differences and avoid going to court. The camp has up to 30 wigwams with members opposed to the Gogebic iron ore mine, for fear of environmental damage. The camp is located on Iron County forest land, about a mile from where Gogebic has conducted exploratory drilling for the mining project. Last night, Lac Courte Oreilles tribal member Rusty Barber offered tobacco to the County Board members as a good-will gesture. He said the two sides should keep talking.
The nation’s largest bank has agreed to pay 410-million dollars to settle allegations that it manipulated electric prices in Wisconsin and 15 other states. The settlement was announced yesterday – one day after a federal agency accused J-P Morgan Chase of using improper bidding strategies to get excessive payments from the operators of power grids in the Midwest and California. Wisconsin is one of 15 states in the Midwest power grid, which will get a million dollars in alleged improper profits by Morgan Chase. The California grid will get 124-million. The money will be shared with utilities which obtain electricity from both grids. Also, Morgan Chase will pay a civil penalty of 285-million dollars.
A court hearing was delayed yesterday for a family disturbance allegedly caused by a former state probation agent convicted of stealing painkillers from criminals. Kim Hoenisch (hay-nish) was awaiting sentencing for her painkiller theft convictions, when she allegedly got into a fight with her sister on July 16th. Marathon County authorities said Hoenisch also smashed a phone in the incident, which occurred at her mother’s house north of Wausau. She was arrested later that day, and was freed on a signature bond. Authorities say Hoenisch faces possible charges of battery and disorderly conduct. Online court records did not indicate that the charges were filed as of this morning. Taylor County Circuit Judge Ann Knox-Bauer is expected to hear the new case, after presiding in the drug case. Assistant state attorney general Winn Collins will prosecute Hoenisch again, preventing a possible conflict-of-interest by Marathon County prosecutors. Hoenisch is still scheduled to be sentenced August 12th, after she pleaded no contest to entering homes of offenders she supervised as a probation agent and took their painkillers. Hoenisch was fired from that post after the thefts came to light.
A Swiss pilot who flies with only a jet-pack on his back is making his first public U-S performances this week at the E-A-A Air-Venture Show in Oshkosh. Yves Rossy is nicknamed the “Jetman.” He jumped out of a helicopter yesterday, and glided with a six-foot carbon fiber wing and four Jet-Cat engines attached to his back. The 53-year-old Rossy weighs 330 pounds when all his equipment is attached. Otherwise, he’s a tall-and-slim 150 pounds. He only carries about 8-to-10 minutes worth of fuel, and no instruments except for an altimeter and a watch. Rossy says many people have been inspired by birds as they try to fly – and he considers himself “a bird with a fixed wing.” He has flown across the English Channel and over the Grand Canyon, but he said it was thrill to fly in front of thousands of people at the E-A-A – which he calls the “Super Bowl of Aviation.” In case you missed it, Rossy will perform again during the afternoon air-shows tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday.