Morning State News Briefs: Barrett wants to know why Gov. Walker set up legal defense fundWisconsin News
-- The Democratic front-runner to be Governor Scott Walker’s recall election opponent says Walker should clarify the reasons he set up a legal defense fund. Tom Barrett also says the Republican Walker should say which campaign donors agreed to let him transfer $60,000 of their gifts to the legal fund.
MILWAUKEE - The Democratic front-runner to be Governor Scott Walker’s recall election opponent says Walker should clarify the reasons he set up a legal defense fund. Tom Barrett also says the Republican Walker should say which campaign donors agreed to let him transfer $60,000 of their gifts to the legal fund.
Walker set up the fund a few weeks ago, to pay for two attorneys to handle matters connected with an ongoing John Doe probe into Walker’s former aides when he was the Milwaukee County executive. Five ex-Walker aides have been charged with offenses that include embezzlement and illegally campaigning on county time, and one has pleaded guilty. State law allows legal defense funds only for office-holders charged or being investigated for one of two things – election law violations or campaign finance law violations. Barrett says Walker should clarify which situation applies. Walker’s camp repeated that the governor is not a target of the John Doe probe – and that the legal fund was set up under the guidance of the state Government Accountability Board. Walker himself said the two attorneys are handling administrative matters that the governor doesn’t have time to deal with. Walker said voters want him to be the governor, and not have to spend hours poring through thousands of documents and e-mails.
Wisconsin has its smallest levels of ozone air pollution since at least 1990. That’s what the state DNR said yesterday, in announcing that all counties except Sheboygan and Kenosha are meeting the new, tighter federal ozone standard of 75 parts per billion. Sheboygan just barely exceeded the new limits that were set in 2008. The EPA said it was still evaluating Kenosha’s situation. The DNR says both counties are affected by pollution that moves up the Lake Michigan shoreline from Chicago. All counties are meeting the old standard of 84 parts per billion, which has since been reduced. Ozone levels have dropped in recent years due to cleaner burning vehicles and gasoline, and air pollution limits on factories and power plants. Metro Milwaukee has had to use reformulated gasoline in recent years, and that’s expected to continue. As for Sheboygan County, DNR air management director Bart Sponseller says his agency will work with local officials and businesses to help them comply with the standard. He said Sheboygan’s status carries the fewest regulatory requirements of all non-complying areas.
U.S. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan got a standing ovation today as he began two days of listening sessions in his district. And he continued to downplay the possibility that presumptive G-O-P nominee Mitt Romney would choose Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate. At Ryan’s meeting in Muskego, a man said he appreciated the job the Janesville Republican is doing in Congress. And the man said Ryan should keep his present job instead of taking a VP invitation. Ryan did not say anything in response. He has become one of the nation’s best-known House members – praised by conservatives and slammed by liberals. Ryan’s trying for a second straight year to push through a federal budget that overhauls Medicare, cuts a number of programs in the safety net for the poor, and cuts tax rates.
Two of Wisconsin’s federal lawmakers say they’re taking some final steps toward designating the Highway 41 expressway as an Interstate highway. State officials hope the move can be finalized by 2014 between Green Bay and Milwaukee. Senate Democrat Herb Kohl of Milwaukee and House Republican Tom Petri of Fond du Lac say they’re trying to get a federal waiver that will let trucks continue to exceed weight limits that were set by the state for Highway 41. About 15-percent of trucks on the expressway have been given the state’s permission to haul bigger loads that help communities – things like agricultural products, scrap metal, timber, and more. Kohl says if those trucks cannot use 41, they would have to use smaller and lighter roads. A similar federal waiver was granted in the late 1990’s, when Highway 51 became I-39. Current construction project on 41 in the Green Bay and Oshkosh areas are designed to bring the roadway up to higher federal Interstate standards.
An Oakfield man has been fined just over $750 for stalking a former boss soon after he was fired. 42-year-old John Eggert was fined by a Dodge County judge, after reaching a plea deal in which he pleaded no contest to an amended disorderly conduct charge. Another count was dropped in the plea bargain. According to prosecutors, Eggert was let go after six years of working at the North American Container plant in Beaver Dam. He reportedly told others that quote, “If I got access to a gun I would start at the front office and work my way down.” When police contacted him, Eggert denied making the threats. But authorities said he kept trying to reach the plant’s manager, after being ordered not to do that.
Phony jackpot scams are nothing new. But people keep falling for them, and Dane County authorities say they appear to be getting more common. A 59-year-old Arlington man became the latest victim this week. He received a one-and-a-quarter million dollar check for a sweepstakes he didn’t enter. And to cash the check, he did what he was told and sent in 84-hundred-dollars in certified checks to cover processing-and-insurance fees and taxes. The big prize check was a fake. It said it was from “Publishing Clearinghouse” – not to be confused with the famous Publishers’ Clearinghouse sweepstakes. Elise Schaffer of the Dane County sheriff’s office said the fine print with the check had numerous misspellings. And unlike a real contest, it told the person to keep his winnings confidential. In other words, Schaffer said the scammer didn’t want the so-called winner to get advice that would expose the swindle. Authorities warn people to be extra careful in responding to solicitations for money. And state consumer officials have constantly said that a real contest requires you to enter – and you never have to pay anything to claim a prize.
One of Wisconsin’s busiest roads could have some traffic tie-ups this weekend, when the fishing season begins. The DOT says drivers should allow extra time if they use the Wisconsin River bridge on Interstate 39-90-94 south of Portage. There’s construction work in the bridge area – and while the road is open, only two lanes are being used for traffic in each direction instead of the normal three. Officials also remind drivers they can get up-to-the-minute road reports by calling 511 or going online to 511WI-Dot-Gov.
Milwaukee Police say they’ve done five-thousand interviews, and reviewed 10,000 of records – and still, there’s no known trace of Alexis Patterson. She disappeared 10 years ago today, soon after her stepfather walked her to Milwaukee’s Hi-Mount Elementary School. Alexis was seven at the time. Her disappearance made national news for several months. But police said tips have never stopped coming in. Lieutenant Keith Balash says they still get leads each week. And he says there have been other cases around the country in which heavy publicity and community involvement have turned up people missing for long periods of time. Police say they’ve thoroughly searched the area where Alexis Patterson vanished. They’ve checked parole files and sex offender registries to see if someone could have taken her. And they’ve traveled across Wisconsin and out-of-state to check leads. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says the community has not forgotten, and the search must continue for new information that could satisfy the questions over what happened to Alexis and why. The sheriff’s office is still offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to her return.
A federal program that helps low-income residents pay for telephone and Internet service is getting more popular in Wisconsin. 190,000 state residents received partial subsidies last year, up from about 130-thousand in 2010. Brian Rybank of the state Public Service Commission says more folks qualify for the credit due to the economy. And he says phone companies seem to be doing more to promote it. The program offers a 10-dollar monthly credit on one phone or Internet line per household – and it provides a one-time discount of up to $30 to install a landline or activate a wireless phone. Residents can qualify if their families make less than 135 percent of federal poverty incomes – or if they get state programs like Badger-Care, W-2, or the Homestead tax credit. Residents can contact their phone providers to apply.
Wisconsin sport anglers will have larger walleye limits on a number of lakes where Indians speared fewer fish than expected. The state DNR said yesterday that spearers took just over 32,000 walleye in northern and central Wisconsin through the end of April. They had set a quota of over 54-thousand. As a result, the DNR said yesterday that sport anglers can take three walleye per day from 165 lakes. Eighty-three will have bag limits of two. Grindstone Lake in Sawyer County has a limit of one. And only catch-and-release is allowed on Buckskin Lake in Oneida County, where spearers took more than their quota. Tribal authorities are expected to handle that case. Normally, final adjustments for sport anglers are not made before the start of the fishing season. But DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said an early spring created great timing to let people know what’s going on. Chippewa tribes are allowed to spear on off-reservation lakes under long-established treaty rights.
State officials expect about a-third of Wisconsin’s eligible voters to cast ballots in Tuesday’s recall primaries. Democrats will choose a finalist to try-and-unseat Governor Scott Walker in the general election on June fifth. There will also be primaries for lieutenant governor and four state Senate seats. Reid Magney of the Government Accountability Board says about one-and-a-half million eligible voters are expected at the polls, for a turnout of 30-to-35 percent. Today is the deadline for voters to ask for absentee ballots by mail, except for service personnel and those indefinitely confined – and their deadline is tomorrow. Also, absentee voters can cast ballots in-person at local clerks’ offices until the close of business tomorrow.