Afternoon State News Briefs: Judge refuses to put candidate back on recall ballotWisconsin News
-- A judge in Madison refused today to put a state representative’s name on the ballot for a Senate recall election, after he failed to get enough valid nominating signatures.
MADISON - A judge in Madison refused today to put a state representative’s name on the ballot for a Senate recall election, after he failed to get enough valid nominating signatures.
Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess refused to buy John Nygren’s argument that the state Government Accountability Board should have taken more time to review his papers – and that they rejected signatures that should have been approved. The board ruled on Monday that Nygren, a Republican from Marinette, was two signatures short of the 400 valid ones he needed to get on the ballot for Senate Democrat Dave Hansen’s seat. Today’s decision means that David VanderLeest of Green Bay will be the only candidate against Hansen. They’re scheduled to square off in a July 19th general election.
An Army specialist from Beloit was scheduled to be eulogized at a private ceremony today. 21-year-old Tyler Kreinz was killed one of four soldiers killed in Afghanistan on June 18th, when their vehicle rolled over in Uruzgan Province. At a memorial service yesterday, Kreinz was remembered for a strong passion to his country. Speakers said Kreinz never considered another career path besides the military. Lee Goodyear, one of his closest friends, said he never met anybody with more physical and mental strength.
Governor Scott Walker will sign the concealed weapons bill one week from today – and it will take effect this fall. The Republican Walker has scheduled a ceremony for next Friday afternoon in Wausau. That’s the home city of freshman Senate Republican Pam Galloway, who authored a much less restrictive package than what the governor was eventually willing to accept. Galloway had pushed for the so-called “constitutional carry,” with no requirement for gun training -- no need to get a state permit with a very limited exception – and as few places as possible where guns would automatically be restricted. Walker will sign a bill that tightened up standards on all those counts. It requires state permits and training, and it adds more government-owned places where concealed weapons will automatically be banned. Private businesses can post signs to ban concealed carry – but they might end up being liable in the event of a shooting on their property. A key Republican leader says it has not turned out to be a problem in other states. Wisconsin will end a 140-year ban on concealed weapons. That leaves Illinois as the only state not to allow some form of hidden guns.
Milwaukee County officials say there are no more murder cases from the past 20 years in which those convicted would go free with the proof of modern DNA testing. District attorney John Chisholm had staffers and experts review 21-hundred cases – and there were no indications that anyone else had been wrongly convicted. The review started last June, after it was found that serial killer Walter Ellis was linked by DNA evidence to three murders in which someone else had already been suspected. Two have gone free, and the other was charged but acquitted. Attorneys for the Wisconsin Innocence Project at UW-Madison said they were shocked and disappointed by the finding. The project uses students to dig up DNA evidence that would up overturning some major convictions in recent years. An attorney for William Avery, one of the three suspects exonerated, said it’s “impossible to understand” that a single case could be found where a person might have been wrongly convicted. Chisholm said the study included three detailed levels of review – and a DNA expert was involved in the study’s final stage. Ellis has pleaded no contest to killing seven women over a 21-year period in Milwaukee. And DNA had linked three other murders to him.
There’s a report that at least some State Supreme Court justices didn’t want to delay a photo session so they could meet with the Capitol police chief. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel obtained Justice David Prosser’s e-mails under the Open Records Law. And they showed that all seven justices had an e-mail exchange about the court’s annual photo session on June 14th. That’s the day after Prosser and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley reportedly got into a physical scuffle. According to the Journal Sentinel, Bradley said she wanted a meeting that morning on what she called "workplace issues” – and she invited Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs to be there. Bradley said the photo session could wait – but Justice Pat Roggensack questioned the need for that. One of her e-mails asked Bradley quote, “Have you had problems with security?” Bradley answered “Yes.” The court’s annual photo took precedence, and the meeting with Chief Tubbs took place the following day. Two investigations are taking place about the Prosser-Bradley scuffle. Governor Scott Walker says it’s one reason the court’s justices should be appointed instead of elected. And yesterday, veteran senators Tim Cullen and Dale Schultz said they would propose a constitutional amendment to appoint justices on a merit system.
Ken Kratz – the former prosecutor suspected of acting inappropriately to 14 women – wants a judge to throw out a lawsuit from one of those women. The former Calumet County prosecutor asked a federal court in Green Bay to drop a sexual harassment suit from Stephanie Van Groll. She was the first to complain about Kratz last year, accusing him of sending 30 racy text messages to her while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend for attacking her. In his new response to the lawsuit, Kratz said he never violated Van Groll’s constitutional rights. He said his initial intention was to help her as a crime victim and quote, “try to build her up and make her feel better.” Once the text messages were made public, state Justice officials said 13 other women complained about a variety of sex-related conduct. The attorney general’s office agreed the conduct was inappropriate, but none of it satisfied the elements needed to win a criminal conviction in any of the cases. The state’s Office of Lawyer Regulation originally found no evidence that Kratz violated the judicial ethics code – but after public heat, the panel agreed to re-investigate. And officials say they’re still involved in that probe. Kratz resigned last fall, soon before the governor’s office arranged a hearing on his possible removal from office.
Trial starts in September for a group of former child care providers accused of defrauding the Wisconsin Shares program. Four defendants were indicted last January after an investigation that lasted more than a year. They are accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the childcare program subsidized by taxpayers. The total take, according to prosecutors, was about $175,000 dollars between 2007 and last year.
The Wisconsin Department of Health is blocking two Milwaukee institutions from applying for more than $27 million in federal grants. The Milwaukee Health Department and University Health Services will have to find another way to access millions of dollars needed for their operations. State officials say those grants from Washington would duplicate many of the programs already in place.
Advocates for federal nutrition and hunger programs are speaking out against proposed budget cuts to those services. Sherrie Tussler is executive director of the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force. She says members of congress should think about the broader impact these spending cuts will have on people. Nearly 5,000 low-income families in Wisconsin could be affected by the proposed reduction in support for programs such as Women, Infants and Children. The House of Representatives recently voted to reduce the nation’s hunger programs by about $720 million. The budget debate is now before the U.S. Senate.
If you’re still trying to book a state park campsite for the Fourth-of-July weekend, the DNR says your best bet is in the northern Wisconsin state forests. Officials say they’re most likely spots to have available sites which cannot be reserved in advance. And throughout the state, the non-reservable sites have been filling up quickly this week. Most reservable sites have been long gone. The best chances of rain are tonight and tomorrow morning. Otherwise, forecasters say it will be dry-and-cooler during the weekend.