WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Walker vows more oversight of taxpayer funds
MADISON - Governor Scott Walker has vowed to step up oversight of taxpayer-supported programs, saving the state money and sending a clear message.
Department of Health Services deputy secretary Kevin Moore says it’s a challenge to prevent those who want to defraud the state, but new initiatives – including income tax information from self-employed applicants - will assist in those efforts. Moore adds that the state has the tools and resources to sanction or prosecute people who fraudulently access public assistance.
Some are criticizing rule that requires health exchange volunteers to pay for a background check. The volunteers are used to help people understand the new marketplace, going into effect on October 1. Advocates say a $75 fee for state licensing and $39 for a background check is “scaring” people away. The state’s insurance commissioner’s office is defending the rule, saying it’s important for volunteers to demonstrate some sort of expertise on insurance issues before helping out vulnerable consumers. Training through the insurance commissioner’s office is free to qualifying individuals, otherwise volunteers pay an additional 150-dollars for online training. A spokesperson for the insurance commissioner’s office says over 500 people have taken the free training, about 100 have gone on to take the exam and become certified.
A new ad campaign to promote the Badger State is making pop culture history. The Wisconsin Department of Tourism says former NBA basketball star Kareem Adbul-Jabbar and Robert Hays are reuniting to film three 30-second television spots. It’s the first time the two have worked together since the 1980 comedy movie “Airplane”. Wisconsin natives Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers are directing and producing the new ads, scheduled to premier in March.
Weekend travelers will see a little more fall color in Wisconsin -- but still not a lot for this time of year. Most parts of the Badger State are between zero-and-20 percent of their peak colors. Parts of Burnett and Trempealeau counties have 40-percent of their leaves changing to vivid reds, oranges, and yellows. Fond du Lac, Marinette, and Juneau counties are up to 35-percent of their peaks. Richland County and Stevens Point are at 25-percent. After a couple of hot days, some cool nights are in the forecast -- and they speed up the changing of the colors. As of now, most places in Wisconsin expect peak fall colors sometime during October. Local fall color conditions and recreational listings are available online at Travel Wisconsin.com. It's a gloomy day in much of the state, as rain-storms from yesterday are still clearing. Clear and cooler weather is projected for the weekend. At least patchy frost is expected statewide tomorrow night.
After 38 years in a mental institution for killing two police officers, Alan Randall will be freed by the end of the month. A judge signed an agreement today to let the 55-year-old Randall be released by September 30th. The state says it has arranged suitable housing for Randall. We don't know where it is, but we do know it's not in Waukesha County -- where he gunned down Summit police officers Rocky Atkins and Wayne Olson in 1975 when he was 16. A jury ruled Randall innocent by insanity -- but a number of years later, doctors found that he didn't have a mental illness. The State Supreme Court said almost 15 years ago that he could still be institutionalized, since he was considered a threat to others at that time. In recent years, Randall was given the rare privilege of working outside the institution at an art gallery. It's been noted that if Randall had been found insane, he could have served a lot less time in prison. Officials say that with his good behavior, he could have been freed as early as 1992 under the parole rules in effect at that time.
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is expected to pay a visit to New Hampshire next month. Republicans say the 2012 vice presidential nominee from Janesville will try to help former House member Frank Guinta win his old job back. He was defeated a year ago, and he's expected to launch a new campaign in the next few weeks. Ryan is speculated to be a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016. A handful of prospective hopefuls have already visited New Hampshire. Ryan has not been there since he campaigned for Mitt Romney's unsuccessful White House bid in 2012. Yesterday, the firm of Public Policy Polling said Ryan has a big lead in Wisconsin over other possible White House candidates. Ryan leads Governor Scott Walker in the Badger State by almost a 2-to-1 margin.
A Milwaukee native was honored today, after she resisted Adolf Hitler and was killed by the Nazis during World War Two. U.S. diplomats joined German officials at a ceremony in Berlin which honored Mildred Fish-Harnack. An artist placed commemorative paving stones in front of the final of Fish-Harnack and her German husband Arvid Harnack. They were part of the "Red Orchestra" German group that encouraged resistance to the Nazis, and fed information to the Soviets. Both were arrested during this month in 1942. They were sentenced to death. Mildred Fish-Harnack was executed by a guillotine in February of 1943. About 40-thousand stumbling stones have been placed in over a dozen nations. They're accompanied by brass plaques that honor people killed by the Nazis.
A presidential commission learned today about Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board. Board director Kevin Kennedy appeared before the Commission on Election Administration in Cincinnati. President Obama created the panel in March to look for non-partisan ways to make elections more efficient, shorten lines at polling places, provide better access to the polls. Kennedy said his office works closely with 72 county clerks and 1,800-plus municipal clerks who run the state's elections. He said he urges them to review past voting data, so they can plan better for future ones. Kennedy also discussed efforts to checking Wisconsin polling places for access problems which could make it hard for disabled residents to vote. He also said the agency has been busy with public education efforts, due to a wave of changes in election laws.
Authorities in Walworth County are asking residents to use a new tip-reporting program to help solve a murder that happened 31 years ago. Barbara Nelson was 34 when she was abducted from a convenience store near Edgerton in August of 1982. Her body was found five days later in a cornfield east of Elkhorn, and witnesses said an older blue or green pickup truck might have been involved. Officials say tipsters can stay anonymous by texting the word CRIMES, and start their message with Tip4WC. They can also go online to Tipsoft-Dot-Com.
Wisconsin's U.S. House members voted with their parties today, when the Republican majority approved a government funding package for the next three months with no money for Obama-care. The vote was 230-189, with all five Wisconsin GOP members voting yes, and all three Democrats voting no. The proposal now goes to the Senate, where the Democratic majority is talking about stripping the defunded health care package from the spending bill -- thus forcing the House to pass it as a stand-alone bill that President Obama would sign, which he has said he won't. That would leave a disagreement between the two houses on the stop-gap spending measure, thus raising the possibility of a government shutdown starting on Oct. 1. Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan of Janesville says a shutdown is not in the GOP's best interest because it takes the focus off the health care package. Ryan, who's the House budget chairman, also says a shutdown would not stop Obamacare because it's a legal entitlement that would still have to be funded. Around a half-million Wisconsinites will start enrolling with purchasing exchanges next month for the coverage the law requires them to have come Jan. 1.
About 20 Appleton residents plan to protest the state law which allows the open carrying of firearms, by parading a chicken through the downtown farmers' market tomorrow. Group spokesman Mark Scheffler says their goal is to get ticketed. The idea is to show how absurd it is to allow guns to be carried in public, while the city fines people 200-dollars for carrying chickens. Scheffler tells the Appleton Post-Crescent it will quote, "put the police in an untenable position" by having to "gauge the intent of someone carrying an assault weapon." He says now is the time for that discussion -- but the farmers' market is not the place for it, according to event organizer Jennifer Stephany. She says people come to shop, and it's not a "political playground." Two weeks ago, two Appleton residents were briefly detained by police for walking toward the farmers' market with guns on their backs and sides. They were released without being charged, but gun rights' supporters say the men should have never been stopped in the first place. One of the men said he plans to show up with a holster tomorrow -- and if he runs into the chicken people, he hopes they'll have a good discussion.
Aaron Rodgers' and Ryan Braun's former restaurant in Brookfield will get a new name and a new décor. SURG Restaurants has owned the Eight-12 eatery west of Milwaukee in which Brewers' slugger Braun and Packers' quarterback Rodgers were involved. Today, SURG said it would rename the place as the Hom (home) Wood Fired Grill, with a new menu starting October seventh and design changes within a month. Earlier this month, SURG cut off its business relationship with Braun, after he was given a season-ending drug suspension. SURG took Braun's name off its Graffito restaurant in downtown Milwaukee, and said it would shut down at the end of the year. SURG said it was still interested in a relationship with Rodgers. A new 8-12 Restaurant was being built in Glendale, but there's no immediate word on what will happen once that opens.
A new audit says Wisconsin should be forced to pay back almost $23-million to the federal government, for Medicaid charges that were not fully justified. The State Journal of Madison said the U-S Department of Health and Human Services questioned mental health care services for young people at 27 Wisconsin residential care centers. The care was delivered from 2004-through-'06, when Jim Doyle was the governor. Auditors said the state drastically raised its charge-off rates in '05, when a consultant called for a change in the state's reimbursement formula. Officials were told about the problem a few months ago. Current state Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades sent Washington a rebuttal in May, saying that federal auditors misinterpreted their own rules. She said the federal government falsely assumed that treatment was provided each day, and was not limited to counseling sessions. The auditors said the state's cost figures were not supported by adequate records on how much time the young people actually spent being treated. The audit also said the state improperly tried getting Medicaid dollars to cover the centers' operating costs. Rhoades said it was justified to charge back staff salaries, since they worked around-the-clock with young people with severe emotional problems.
Police say a man who robbed a pharmacy in Wautoma, and killed himself in a standoff, also robbed also a drug store in Markesan a month-and-a-half before that. Markesan Police said they found DNA evidence that links 33-year-old Timothy Pawlacyk of rural Redgranite to an armed hold-up at the Agnesian Pharmacy on June 27th. Officials said Pawlacyk held out a gun, demand the painkiller Oxycontin, and fled. Markesan Police consider the case closed, since the suspect killed himself on August 14th. That was when Pawlacyk robbed the CHN Pharmacy in Wautoma and got away with the same painkiller. Authorities later found his vehicle, and gunshots were exchanged just before Pawlacyk ran into a nearby house. Officers found him dead there a few hours later.
A UW-Madison student is eating his way through school. Computer engineering student Eric Dahl is a professional eater -- almost up there with famous hot-dog eating champion Joey Chestnut. Dahl ranks third in the world rankings of All-Pro Eating. He used to be No. 1. Dahl, who's nickname is "Silo," said he became a competitive eater two years ago. He didn't want to pay for a meal at a Madison steakhouse, so he asked the restaurant to cover his bill if he could eat a three-pound cheese-steak sandwich in 10 minutes. He did it in five-minutes and 50 seconds. Dahl's first pro competition was in Minneapolis, where he made $250 eating nine pulled-pork sandwiches in six minutes. Dahl has made 18-thousand dollars in prize money, which goes to his schooling at the UW. He'll try to win another one-thousand-dollars tomorrow, at a national pizza-eating contest on the UW campus. He keeps his weight at 220 pounds by walking, lifting weights, and playing intramural soccer. He limits his calories to 3,100 a day, and stretches his stomach by eating 10 pounds broccoli or cabbage with a lot of water to wash it down.