Tuesday State News Briefs: New polling shows Walker in dead heat with every Democrat rivalWisconsin News
-- A new poll shows that Governor Scott Walker is in a dead heat with every possible Democratic opponent in a recall election except Russ Feingold – who has said repeatedly that he won’t run.
A new poll shows that Governor Scott Walker is in a dead heat with every possible Democratic opponent in a recall election except Russ Feingold – who has said repeatedly that he won’t run.
The North Carolina firm of Public Policy Polling gives Feingold a 53-to-45 percent lead over the Republican Walker. Nine-hundred Wisconsin voters were surveyed in an automated phone poll last Thursday through Sunday. And Feingold’s margin over Walker was the only one above the poll’s margin-of-error of plus-or-minus three-and-a-quarter percentage points. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett leads Walker 49-46 percent. Kathleen Falk and Congressman Ron Kind each have a one-point lead in their separate head-to-head races. And Walker leads each of five other possible hopefuls – Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton by three points, Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout of Alma and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha by two points each, and former Congressman Dave Obey and Secretary-of-State Douglas La Follette by one point apiece. Falk and Vinehout have announced their candidacies against Walker. La Follette and Barrett are considering it. Public Policy Polling also gave results of possible Democratic primary polls. They show that Barrett – the Democrats’ 2010 nominee for governor – would lead by 27 points over Falk if he ran. And Falk would have an 18-point lead over La Follette if Barrett doesn’t run.
President Obama will thank Iraq War veterans for their service, by hosting 78 of them for dinner at the White House tomorrow night. Christian Bennett will represent Wisconsin. He has spent almost a decade in the security forces squadron of Madison’s 115th Fighter Wing. Bennett is among nine National Guard members invited to the White House event, and one of just three from the Air Guard. The 29-year-old Bennett said he never expected this. And with so many good military personnel, he said it’s an honor to represent the Badger State. The nation’s top military leaders will join the president and First Lady Michelle Obama at the event. Officials said the group represents a cross-section of the over one-million soldiers and Marines who served during the Iraq war. Bennett joined the Air Guard after graduating from Evansville High School in south central Wisconsin. The White House has not said what the menu will be – but Bennett figures will be a lot better than the packaged meals he was given in Iraq during his six months there in 2005-and-’06. He said chicken with noodles was his favorite military meal.
An intense winter storm is moving its way into Wisconsin – and the northern third of the state is expected to be hit the hardest. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for tonight and tomorrow for the north, plus parts of central Wisconsin. Ten-to-15-inches of snow are predicted for the far northwest and places along Lake Superior. Eight-to-12 inches are in the forecast north of Highway 29, basically north of Chippewa Falls and Wausau. In central Wisconsin, 6-to-12 inches are possible north of Marshfield. Three-to-five inches are predicted south of Marshfield, and a winter weather advisory is in effect in that region through tomorrow. Snow totals are expected to be 3-to-5 inches in the Fox Valley, 2-to-6 inches in the southwest, and 1-to-3 inches in the southeast. The snow is expected to clear out late tomorrow – and more precipitation is due in on Friday. Mild temperatures are expected throughout the period, with afternoon highs in the 30’s-and-40’s. And that means a good share of this snow will quickly turn to slush.
A Mount Horeb man was killed overnight, when his car hit some trees in rural Dane County. It happened around 12:10 this morning on Highway 78 near Blue Mounds. Sheriff’s deputies said the 44-year-old driver was going south when he lost control on a curve and hit three large trees. He was partially ejected, and he died at the scene. No one else was in the vehicle. The driver’s name was not immediately released.
State railroad commissioner Jeff Plale said an 11-year-old boy was wearing headphones when he was struck-and-killed by a train while walking to school in Wauwatosa. He’s been identified as Joey Kramer, a sixth-grader at Longfellow Middle School. Both police and the Canadian National Railroad said a 32-car freight train was heading from Minneapolis to Chicago when it struck Joey around 7:25 yesterday morning. He died a half-hour later at Milwaukee Children’s Hospital. Officials said there was no negligence on the part of the railroad. All of the warning lights, bells, and gates were all working properly at the time – and the engineer said he tried to stop the train but couldn’t avoid hitting the youngster. The railroad’s Ed Greenberg said it takes about a mile for a train to come to a full stop. Plale said he would meet with Wauwatosa officials to see if anything could be done to prevent such a tragedy in the future. He urged people to be alert when crossing railroad tracks either while walking or driving, and never to walk on the tracks.
The Milwaukee School Board will hold a special meeting tonight to talk about safety, after four students were killed since December. None of them occurred on school property, but Board president Michael Bonds says it still raises concerns about student safety both in-and-out of the classroom. School officials said three of the deaths were murders, and one was done in self-defense. Also, more youngsters are getting involved in robberies. The school district says some community leaders believe that higher poverty might be causing more teens to lash out. Tonight’s Board meeting will explore safety measures – and the community will be asked to help.
A $91,000 fine has been recommended for a firm based in suburban Chicago, after an employee suffered electrical burns at a plant near Milwaukee. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced six citations today against Yaskawa America, based in Waukegan, Illinois. The government said an employee at the company’s plant in Oak Creek came into contact with exposed equipment – and he received second-and-third-degree hand burns after getting an electrical shock. It happened last September at a firm that makes components for heating-and-cooling systems. Besides the exposed equipment, Yaskawa was also cited for using unapproved electric equipment, not giving proper safety gear to its employees. The firm had not commented as of early afternoon. OSHA is giving Yaskawa 15 days to either pay the fines, challenge the situations, or seek a settlement conference with the agency.
Governor Scott Walker said in Milwaukee today that a final mining bill would have to be different than the two measures currently proposed. The Republican governor went to Joy Global, a large mining equipment maker, to insist that a mining package would have to streamline the current regulatory process and not hurt the environment. Walker said the version passed by the Assembly must be changed – and there’s not enough support for a more moderate compromise offered by Senators Dale Schultz and Bob Jauch. Walker said his administration is talking to Schultz, Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen, and other senators in the hopes of getting a compromise in the Senate. But time is running out. An agreement would have to be reached by the time the current session ends on March 15th, or the measure would die until at least next year. And by then, Gogebic Taconite has said it might scrap its proposed iron ore mine near Hurley. State Assembly Republicans have approved a bill with a 360-day time limit for the state to approve new iron ore mines like the one proposed by Gogebic. It would relax environmental standards, prevent opponents from challenging DNR decisions, and give the state 40-percent of what’s taxed on products from a mine. The Schultz-Jauch bill would allow a 540-day time limit, allow the contested case hearings, and reduce the state’s take.
Two Tea Party groups say they’re thinking about going to court to force state officials to consider striking the questionable signatures the groups found on the Walker recall petitions. Yesterday, Governor Scott Walker’s campaign said it would not challenge any of the reported one-million signatures for a recall election. They said there was no way the campaign could complete its review before yesterday’s deadline that was imposed by a judge. Walker asked the Government Accountability Board to keep striking improper signatures on its own, which it will do – and consider the Tea Party groups’ findings, which the agency says it cannot do under the law. But Mark Antill of the group “True the Vote” said some in his group believe the Board can accept the Tea Party’s challenges. He also told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel his group could not conclude if the petitions have the required 540,000 valid signatures to order a recall election. Antill said the group reviewed about 90-percent of the petitions – and it found that 534,000 signatures were valid, 229,000 needed more review, and 55,000 are clearly improper. He said that between the questionable signatures and those not counted, there are probably enough. GOP consultant Mark Graul said Republicans are preparing for a Walker recall election – and he could not say whether it would be to Walker’s advantage to drag the process out.
The State Capitol is a busy place today, as lawmakers hold public hearings on a number of notable bills. A measure to end Wisconsin’s do-not-call list for telemarketers, and have everybody go on the federal list, is a big topic in the Assembly’s Consumer Protection Committee. But that’s not the only thing the panel is getting an earful about. The panel is also holding a public hearing on a bill to allow joint ownership of funeral homes and burial grounds. And as the Wisconsin Radio Network reports, lots of people are wearing buttons encouraging lawmakers to kill the measure – or as they put it, “Bury AB 523.” The state Senate Education Committee also attracted an overflow crowd on several bills – including new penalties for school bullying and the illegal use of school computers. Another Senate panel had scheduled a hearing on a proposed wolf hunt. Also, the Assembly’s Aging Committee was scheduled to vote on a bill to remove the nearly one-year-old enrollment cap on Wisconsin’s Family-Care program, which keeps elderly and disabled residents out of nursing homes.
A state lawmaker says Wisconsinites would get the same protection for less money and fewer hassles if the state did away with its do-not-call list, and have people go on a similar federal list. An Assembly committee is holding a public hearing today on a bill to transfer the two-point-three million names on Wisconsin’s no-call list for telemarketers to the national list run by the Federal Trade Commission. UW-Madison telecommunications expert Barry Orton says federal enforcement is probably not as effective as what the state has done. And Orton says you can be assured that quote, “people in Wisconsin will get more junk phone calls.” But Assembly Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi said the state would still enforce complaints, and state laws would still apply. He said consumer investigators would simply be working off the federal no-call list instead of what the state now compiles. Consumer officials say it would save 190-thousand-dollars a year. And Ripp says it would be more convenient for residents, because they’d be on the federal no-call list permanently – and they would no longer have to re-register every two years like Wisconsin’s list requires. The deadline is tomorrow to sign up for the next version of the no-call list, which will be given to telemarketers on April first.
The U.S. House of Rrepresentatives could vote as early as tomorrow on the proposed four-lane bridge over the Saint Croix River near Hudson. But the bill’s prospects are uncertain, because a two-thirds majority is required for passage. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has given supporters until March 15th to get measure passed – or else he’ll give the state’s funding for the bridge to other highway projects. House Republican Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) has tried to get her chamber to vote on exempting the $690-million bridge from the Wild-and-Scenic Rivers Act. But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Transportation Committee chair John Mica (R-Florida) have been silent, and they’ve done nothing to move it forward. As a result, Bachmann is pushing the bill for “expedited consideration,” to make sure it gets a vote before Governor Dayton’s funding deadline. Because of that, a two-thirds majority is required for passage instead of the normal simple majority. Minnesota House Democrat Betty McCollum is among those opposing the four-lane bridge. She’s pushing for a smaller, less expensive alternative. The Taxpayers for Common Sense called the Saint Croix project “a bridge too far” after learning about the impending House vote. But Bachmann says she’s worked for over a decade to approve the four-lane bridge. She says it’s been unfinished for “far too long.” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and much of the state’s congressional delegation support the four-lane project. Walker has said it could not proceed without Minnesota’s state share.