WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: New UW System President promises to be more open with lawmakers
The new president of the U-W System promises to be more open about the university's finances, and to collaborate more closely with state lawmakers. Ray Cross told reporters at the Milwaukee campus today that he's excited about taking over next month. He replaces Kevin Reilly, who -- like Cross -- was the extension-and-colleges chancellor just before being promoted to the presidency. Cross had held the post since 2011. Earlier, Cross said he established a number of contacts with legislators, and he promises to keep them more in the loop about what's happening. Cross said he also wants to make it easier to understand the U-W's finances -- which can get complicated at times. The Board of Regents chose Cross over two other finalists, both the heads of higher education systems in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Former U-S House Democrat Dave Obey of Wausau says there should be a statewide referendum on having an independent group re-draw legislative districts every 10 years. The party that's in control in Madison normally gets that task after every census -- and Obey says he doesn't trust either party to play it straight. His comments came today at a public hearing held in Marshfield by minority state Democrats on their proposal to have the Legislative Audit Bureau handle redistricting. Freshman Assembly Democrat Mandy Wright of Wausau says it's similar to the process used in Iowa for over 30 years. Obey said redistricting is meant to spread equal numbers of voters across communities-of-interest -- not piling up voters in various regions to make re-election easier. Majority Republicans have refused to consider the proposed independent process, so Democrats have taken it up. G-O-P leaders say what they did was constitutional, after a federal court agreed that the maps had equal numbers of voters. The court also criticized the secrecy Republicans maintained in the re-mapping process. It was the first time in several decades that a single party re-drew the maps. Federal courts did the deed in recent decades, since the Legislature had split control -- and the parties could not agree on final district maps.
A new Wisconsin bill would require most divorced couples to spend equal amounts of time with their kids -- and wealthier parents would be limited in what they pay for child support. A public hearing is set for Wednesday on the measure, proposed by Assembly Republican Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc. It would calculate child-support payments only on the first 150-thousand dollars of a parent's income -- and it would require equal visitation time unless there's clear evidence it's not in the best interest of the child. Kleefisch says the bill is designed to quote, "equalize" the roles of fathers in child custody matters. However, the Wisconsin State Journal says family law practitioners and advocates against domestic violence strongly oppose the measure. They say it would remove much of a judge's discretion in determining what's best for the affected children. Steve Blake of "Dads of Wisconsin" says he knows of one father who pays 15-thousand-dollars a month to a wife who does not work to support their three children. And he wants to prevent, quote, "gold-diggers." Tony Gibart of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says the Badger State would be the first to presume that parents would get equal time with their kids. The State Journal says other versions of that provision have failed to pass in at least two previous sessions.
_________________A former airline crew member, who was part of the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing in 2009, will be a keynote speaker at the AirVenture museum in Oshkosh next week. Jeff Skiles was First Officer aboard the U-S Airways flight, piloted by Captain Sully Sullenberger , that hit a flock of geese and landed safely in the Hudson River near New York City. Skiles is now the vice president of communities and member programs for the E-A-A. A spokesman says Skiles, a Wisconsin-native, will recount that experience on January 16 at 7:00 p.m. More information on this and other presentations is available on the museum’s website at www-dot-AIRVENTUREMUSEUM-dot-org (www.airventuremuseum.org). __________________ Things got icy-and-dicey in Wisconsin this morning, as fog froze, and sleet fell in some places. Light snow is forecast for this afternoon through late tonight, on top of an icy coating that's possible in central and east central areas. Northeast Wisconsin is expected to get the most snow -- 2-to-5 inches along a line from Waupaca to Wausaukee. West central areas expect a dusting to two-inches, plus a little ice in southwest areas. The far northwest expects 2-to-4 inches of snow through tomorrow, mainly in Price County. Lesser amounts of snow are forecast between Sawyer and Iron counties. Far southern Wisconsin is under an air quality advisory until this evening, due to fine particles that are not blowing very much. Tomorrow will be dry in most of Wisconsin. Another wintry mix is possible on Sunday.
The technology transfer operation for the U-W System has a new chairman and executive director. Arjun Sanga is the new director of the Wi-Sys Technology Foundation. David Ward becomes the new Wi-Sys board chairman. Sanga was most recently an associate vice chancellor for the University of Texas technology transfer office in South Texas -- as well as the transfer agent for the university's Health Science Center in San Antonio. Sanga replaces Maliyakal John, who will become the new director of patents and market assessment for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Ward is the C-E-O of Madison's Northstar Consulting firm. He replaces Carl Gulbrandsen, who will stay on the board. Gulbrandsen is the Research Foundation's managing director.
The state D-N-R has written an internal report outlining possible health and pollution threats from the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine. The agency released the report today, after a copy was leaked to the conservative Media Trackers' Web site. It listed potential acid mine drainage from sulfides in the site's rock formations -- possible toxic effects on wild rice produced near mining site -- possible mercury pollution in the formation of taconite pellets -- and asbestos-like mineral fibers which have been mentioned before. Bob Seitz of Gogebic Taconite said the report shows that some in the D-N-R have a "bias against mining." He noted that the effects were spelled out before the company could test core rock samples. Media Trackers said the D-N-R's report implied criticism of the project -- although the agency sharply denied it. The D-N-R's Jack Sullivan said the report was an effort to highlight issues that his personnel will review after Gogebic applies for state permits for the new mine. Sullivan says the report does not take sides, and does not try to persuade anyone.