WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Trempealeau County board votes to end moratorium on frac-sand mines
A year-long moratorium on new frac-sand mines is about to end in Trempealeau County in far western Wisconsin. The County Board in Whitehall voted 8-to-7 this week against extending the mining ban. A study committee has spent the last year examining the public health and safety effects of mining silica sand -- which the oil-and-gas industry uses in its domestic drilling equipment. County health director Cheryl Rhoda says the panel's final report is still being finalized, and will be presented to the county supervisors in mid-September. Western Wisconsin has seen a boom in frac-sand mines in recent years. At one point, Trempealeau County had up to a quarter of the state's approved operations. There are now around 115 frac-sand mines throughout the state.
U-W System President Ray Cross says the university must address a shortage of talent that's holding back the Wisconsin economy. He told the Board of Regents in Oshkosh yesterday that the one constant he hears is that the U-W should be more closely aligned with the needs of the state. That means developing top employees and leaders in the state's key industries. Cross and other U-W officials have prepared a Talent Development Initiative. To achieve it, he said the U-W will need an extra 95-million dollars in its next two-year budget. Governor Scott Walker has told state agencies not to seek any increases, but the U-W Regents voted unanimously yesterday to request the additional funds for the budget which takes effect next July. Cross said he's been talking with the governor's office and lawmakers about the talent project on a weekly basis. The initiative includes research and training funds leading to more workers in science, technology, engineering, and math -- the so-called "STEM" fields. The funding would also boost the numbers of U-W graduates, increase internship opportunities, and preserve quality instruction. Cross says the goal is to more closely align the U-W's education and research with the state's economic needs. The university won't know until next February if they have a chance to get the extra dollars it seeks. That's when the governor will introduce the budget to the next Legislature.
The National Weather Service now says a weak tornado landed in the Fox Valley earlier this week. Officials said yesterday that a weak twister came down late Monday afternoon about two miles southeast of Medina in Winnebago County. Two utility poles were pushed over, and there was no damage reported to any buildings. Wisconsin has had plenty of hailstorms and downpours in recent weeks -- but the Weather Service says the cool summer has kept tornadoes to a minimum. Meteorologist Jeff Last of the Weather Service in Green Bay says his office has issued only about half the average numbers of warnings this season. The area has had above-average rainfalls. Coloma in Waushara County had a one-point-four-inch downpour yesterday. Warm and humid conditions are expected through the weekend in the Badger State. There's a chance of showers and thunderstorms each day. Highs will be in the 70's and 80's today and tomorrow. Parts of southwest Wisconsin could get into the 90's on Sunday.
Wisconsin voters will have to wait awhile to find out if they'll have to show photo I-D's at the polls on November fourth. Yesterday, the federal appeals court in Chicago said it would not act on the state's request to restore the voter I-D law, until after the court hears oral arguments in the case on September 12th. The state is appealing a ruling from Federal Judge Lynn Adelman which found the Wisconsin I-D law unconstitutional. Attorney General J-B Van Hollen asked the court to at least temporarily put the law back into place while the appeal is being considered -- thus requiring voters to show I-D's in the November fourth elections.
Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan says he'd love to see Mitt Romney run for president again. The two ran on the same ticket in 2012, when they lost to President Obama. Yesterday, they shared the stage again in Chicago, as Romney helped Ryan promote his new book which came out this week. It was the first time they appeared together since Ryan was Romney's vice-presidential running mate two years ago. The former Massachusetts governor has repeatedly said he would not run for the White House again, after losing in the primaries in 2008 before his 2012 defeat. Ryan kidded that the "third time's the charm" for Romney -- and Romney joked that Ryan would not be a bad president himself. Ryan, the House Budget chairman, is often mentioned as a 2016 White House hopeful. Ryan says he won't decide whether the pursue the presidency until after this fall's mid-term elections.
A Wisconsin Rapids native has died in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said 39-year-old Army Sergeant Matthew Leggett died Wednesday after he was attacked near Kabul's airport. A relative said Leggett was born in Wisconsin Rapids, and his father grew up in nearby Nekoosa before moving to Texas. Leggett's most recent address was listed as Ruskin Florida. He enlisted in the Army in 1995, and was based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina since 2012. He served three tours of combat duty, and had won numerous awards -- including a Purple Heart for being wounded.
Madison native Charles M. Young has died. He was a well-known rock music critic for Rolling Stone magazine, and he fought a brain tumor for the last year-and-a-half. He often used the byline "The Reverend Charles M. Young." The Madison Capital Times said it referred to his childhood as the son of a Presbyterian minister. Young introduced Rolling Stone readers to British punk rock, which included a cover story about the Sex Pistols in 1978. His stories and interviews covered a wide range of people -- including Jerry Lee Lewis and historian Howard Zinn.