Wednesday State News Briefs: Florence man killed in farm fireWisconsin News
-- Authorities in northeast Wisconsin are trying to figure out how a man was killed in a fire at his farmhouse that spread to his barn and a nearby wooded area.
FLORENCE - Authorities in northeast Wisconsin are trying to figure out how a man was killed in a fire at his farmhouse that spread to his barn and a nearby wooded area.
The victim was Vance Friberg, one of the owners of the property. Two fire-fighters received minor injuries. The blaze broke out yesterday afternoon in the Florence County town of Homestead. Sheriff’s deputies said a passer-by drove past the burning property and called 911. Fire-fighters searched the home and found Friberg’s body inside. Officials said numerous fire departments were called to help extinguish the blaze.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley plans to visit Wisconsin to campaign for Governor Scott Walker in his June fifth recall election. Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said this morning that she’ll visit the state a week from Friday, but the exact locations were not immediately announced. The Republican Governors’ Association is paying for her trip. Godfrey said Walker asked Haley for campaign help as he faces Democrat Tom Barrett in the recall contest. Haley has said that South Carolina’s low membership rate for unions is a tool for economic development. And according to Godfrey, Haley believes that Walker’s fight is about more than Wisconsin. He says it’s about a courageous governor who carries out his promises regardless of the intensity of the opposition. Democrats and union leaders pushed for the Walker recall because of the new state law that virtually eliminated collective bargaining for most public unions. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came to Wisconsin to campaign for Walker recently. And former Minnesota Governor and GOP White House candidate Tim Pawlenty campaigned for Walker in La Crosse on Monday.
Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan says there are some Democrats in Congress willing to buck their own party’s leadership, and work with Republicans to reform taxes and Medicare. Ryan, the House Budget chairman from Janesville, told an audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library yesterday that he wants to take a page from the Reagan playbook. He says that if Republicans win big in November, they should seek agreements with moderate Democrats – just like Reagan did to boost the economy in the 1980’s, when he was the nation’s 40th president. Ryan says those Democrats do exist – even though they’re drowned out by the liberal leadership in the White House and Senate. During Ryan’s speech, he blasted President Obama and his fellow Democrats for what he called anemic job growth. And Ryan reiterated that unchecked federal spending and debt are pushing the country toward a decline. His appearance at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley California comes amid growing speculation that apparent presidential nominee Mitt Romney is considering Ryan among four possible choices for his running mate. Ryan did not discourage the speculation but said quote, “That’s somebody else’s decision.”
Three local agencies have been chosen to run a state pilot program which seeks to help unemployed people in southern Wisconsin get job training and work. The program is called “Wisconsin Workers Win,” or “W-3.” State workforce development secretary Reggie Newson says the agencies will work with employers and those receiving unemployment compensation on possible matches for state-funded training. Businesses would not be obligated to hire those they train. Placements would be based on locations, worker skills, and other factors. The pilot program will include up to 500 workers at a cost of $750,000 United Migrant Opportunities Service will run the “W-3” program in Milwaukee. The Racine County Human Services department will operate the program in Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties. And Community Action Incorporated will run it in Rock and Green counties, plus other parts of southwest Wisconsin. To qualify, workers must be in their first 20 weeks of unemployment pay. They’ll get 24 hours of training over six weeks, and will get $75 a week in addition to their regular unemployment pay. The “W-3” program was part of a larger worker-related bill signed into law last year.
The Walker recall election has brought more attention to a new state law that will practically eliminate state income taxes for many businesses. Democrat Tom Barrett says it’s one of the measures he might try to roll back if he manages to defeat Republican Governor Scott Walker on June fifth. The Madison Capital Times’ Web site has a long story today about the new tax breaks. It points out that the law has never received major news coverage – even though it could be one of the biggest shifts in state tax policy since Wisconsin first adopted the income tax in 1911. State income tax rates for manufacturing and agricultural output in Wisconsin would be phased out by 2016. And those tax credits which are not used can be counted against other income like stock dividends, and can be carried over for up to 15 years. The Cap Times said some large manufacturers don’t even know about the tax break – and the state’s Farm Bureau is not sure if it will apply to individual farmers. The state’s largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers-and-Commerce, has hailed the change as a catalyst for the state’s long-term business climate. But the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future calls it a “total giveaway to the wealthy.” The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says it will cost the state $360-million in revenues over the next four years – and $130-million each year after that. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said it was a main factor in a report it released this week, showing that the state’s business tax breaks will cost the average family of four $235 next year, and $300 by 2021, as individuals get a bigger share of the state tax burden.
One day after the Green Bay Catholic Diocese was found guilty of fraud, an advocacy group for sex abuse victims wants to know more about what the church is allegedly hiding. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests asked Brown County’s district attorney yesterday to force the diocese to release the names of 51 priests suspected of sexual abuse in the past few decades. DA David Lasee says he’ll contact the diocese, and ask them to turn over the priests’ names. But Lasee says he does not know of a legal way to force the church to do it. The network pointed to a 2004 church study showing that at least 35 priests in the diocese, and 16 Norbertine priests, were accused at some point of molesting children. But Peter Isley of the Survivors Network said the names were never released. The group’s request comes after a jury on Monday said the diocese committed fraud, by not letting parishioners know that a new priest in Freedom had a history of child molestation. That priest, John Feeney, went on to molest Troy and Todd Merryfield in 1978, when the two were 12-to-14 years old at the time. The jury awarded the Merryfields $700,000. The diocese said it disagreed with the verdict, and it’s looking at its legal options.
Organizers say it might be too hot to put on a full-scale marathon in Madison this weekend. Sunny skies and temperatures in the 80’s are in the forecast for Sunday, when the Madison Marathon is due to be run. If the forecast holds up, officials say the full 26-mile-plus run might be scrapped. But a half-marathon would still take place. That event is expected to be finished before it gets too hot. The safety of the runners is more of a concern, after about 20 runners had to be taken to hospitals during last Sunday’s Green Bay Marathon – which was scrapped two-and-a-half hours after it began. About 1,750 runners are signed up for the full marathon in Madison this weekend, and about 3,700 are registered for the half-marathon.
Wisconsin is about to raise its academic standards. And a national leader says educators and school policy makers should work together now, to help more youngsters meet those higher standards. David Driscoll, head of the National Assessment Governing Board, spoke to about 200 Wisconsin educators yesterday at a conference at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Driscoll said a major challenge will be to help teachers understand the new Common Core State Standards, which Wisconsin and most other states have agreed to follow. They’re currently in the early stages of being adopted – and Driscoll says it creates an opportunity for school leaders and teachers to “pull together.” Among other things, Wisconsin is expected to increase the levels in which students are considered proficient on achievement tests. When eighth-graders took the standardized state exam last year, 83-percent were considered at least proficient in reading. But when those kids took the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 35-percent were considered proficient. Driscoll said parents and others should not be alarmed if they see falling test scores next year due to the higher standards. State Superintendent Tony Evers said the only way to increase achievement is to raise expectations. Evers calls the new standards quote, “game-changers.”
A man and his attorneys will get over two-million-dollars, after he became permanently disabled while getting poisoned in a recreational vehicle in Wisconsin. 60-year-old Larry Brenke of Riga Michigan is getting payments from four companies which settled a lawsuit connected with his RV trip to Tomah in 2009. Brenke and another man joined concrete builder Al Smith at a tractor-pulling event. But after the first night they were there, Brenke and Smith were found unconscious – and the third man was disoriented. Brenke’s attorney, Courtney Morgan, called the legal settlement a good result. But she said no amount of money could make up for the injury Brenke suffered on his trip. Four defendants agreed to pay the victim. Smith and his concrete firm are paying a million dollars. Cobra Truck, the Michigan firm that built the custom RV, is paying another million. Companies that inspected the unit and installed a carbon monoxide alarm agreed to total settlements of $75,000.
A Kenosha man is due back in court a week from today, after being charged with killing a woman while the two were smoking crack cocaine together. Prosecutors said 37-year-old Johnny Young became annoyed when 52-year-old Christine Saucier kept scrunching a potato chip bag that contained the crack. And Young was quoted as telling investigators he “just freaked out” when he responded to the noise by stabbing her. Young is charged with first-degree intentional homicide. He was still in jail at last word, after his bond was set at a half-million dollars. Prosecutors said Young took three-eighths-of-an-ounce of crack cocaine to the victim’s house on Monday – he did not think he could smoke so much of the drug at one sitting. At his next court appearance, a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial for Young.
Marinette County authorities are still investigating a motorcycle crash from last weekend that killed a 39-year-old man. Calvin Stoffregen of Mountain was riding his cycle on a town road near Pound when he hit a deer. Sheriff’s deputies said he was thrown from the bike, and was not wearing a helmet at the time. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Prosecutors said a man was either chatting on his cell-phone or writing a text message just before he rear-ended an SUV and killed its driver. 22-year-old Bradley Larson of Brooklyn was charged yesterday in Dane County with homicide by negligent driving in the death of 66-year-old Dennis Hough of Janesville. Larson is due in court tomorrow. The crash happened last September in the town of Westport. Authorities said Hough’s SUV was waiting to make a left turn onto Highway 113 when it was rear-ended by the vehicle Larson was driving. Investigators quoted Larson as saying he was using his cell-phone when he looked up and saw that the vehicle ahead of him had stopped – and he could not avoid hitting it. Hough died a few hours later at a Madison hospital.
A 13-year-old Boy Scout from Minocqua will try for a third time to win the National Geography Bee. Vansh Jain of Minocqua is of 10 finalists in this year’s event, which resumes tomorrow in Washington. Vansh made the finals after a preliminary round yesterday with 54 contestants. He was also the Badger State’s national contestant in 2009 and 2010. The winner of the National Geography Bee gets a $25,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and more. Tomorrow’s finals will be held at the Society’s headquarters, and they’ll be moderated by “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek.