Tuesday State News Briefs: Vote canvas confirms Wangaard's defeat in recallWisconsin News
-- A canvass of last Tuesday’s ballots has re-affirmed state Senator Van Wanggaard’s defeat – and by a larger margin than originally reported.
RACINE - A canvass of last Tuesday’s ballots has re-affirmed state Senator Van Wanggaard’s defeat – and by a larger margin than originally reported.
Racine County officials conducted the canvass this morning. And it shows that former Senate Democrat John Lehman defeated Sen. Wanggaard by 834 votes out of 72,000 cast. The Election Night tally had Lehman winning by 779 votes, or one-point-one percent. The canvass showed the difference to be one-point-two percent. Lehman’s victory also re-confirms that the Democrats have taken over the majority in the state Senate by a 17-16 margin. Dan Romportl of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate said Wanggaard would decide by the end of the week whether to see a recount. But he and his supporters would have to pay for it themselves, since the margin remains wider than the one-half-of-one percent threshold needed to have taxpayers cover the recount. Brad Wojciechowski of the state Senate Democratic Committee says Wanggaard should take the high road and concede now. The canvass results won’t be official until next week, after they’re confirmed by state elections officials.
The group that successfully pushed for prohibition almost a century ago is criticizing Governor Scott Walker for serving beer to state lawmakers at his “Brat Summit” this evening. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union lobbied to ban alcohol nationwide from 1920 until the early ‘30’s – and it still has about five-thousand members spreading an anti-drinking message. Union president Rita Wert says the governor is setting a poor example by serving Wisconsin-made beer to the 98 lawmakers and 240 staff members who will attend. Wert says Wisconsin’s problems are serious, and their judgment should not be clouded by drinking alcohol. Walker invited lawmakers to the Governor’s Mansion to try-and-reduce tensions after the intense recall elections. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union raised a similar objection in 2009, when President Obama served beer to a black scholar and a white police sergeant who arrested that scholar. The informal gathering was a discussion of race relations. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor respectfully disagrees with the objections.
A Racine County man who was killed in a house fire was identified today as 77-year-old Duane Rymenams of Caledonia. The fire started last night in a living room chair, and authorities blamed it on the careless use of smoking materials. Fire chief Jeff Buenger said Rymenams was on oxygen – and his oxygen system made the flames spread quickly. Firefighters pulled the victim from his kitchen. They performed CPR, but they failed to save him and he died later at a hospital. Buenger said a dog was taken to a vet with breathing problems – but the pet is expected to survive.
Wisconsin spent $226-million-dollars to help businesses grow during the final year-and-a-half of Jim Doyle’s governorship. But some state agencies never bothered to get all the results of that spending. The Legislative Audit Bureau issued a report this morning on the economic development programs between 2009-and-2011. Republican Scott Walker’s people took over in the final six months of that review period. The audit found that almost 10 state agencies involved with economic development provided data on only 101 of 123 programs which were running during that time. And the lack of information came despite a 2007 law which demanded more disclosure of the results of things like tax credits for private job creation. The former state Commerce Department, which is now abolished, had information on less than three-fourths of its programs. Legislative Audit Committee co-chair Samantha Kerkman says there must more be accountability in the state’s economic programs.
Wisconsin motorcycle enthusiasts are grieving for the two bikers killed and seven others injured when they were hit by a car near Fond du Lac on May 31st. Diane Lemke of the Open Road Harley Owners’ Group in Fond du Lac said a lot of riders throughout the state were devastated by the incident. And they wanted to show support to the victims and their families. So last weekend, the Open Road Group held a brat-and-burger luncheon, along with a bake sale and quilt raffle. And they raised 81-hundred dollars for the families of the dead-and-injured bikers, all of whom are with a motorcycle group in Muskegon Michigan. Lemke said they were riding home from a Bridge Run event, and were just north of Fond du Lac when an oncoming car crossed the center line and struck them. Dan Winsemius and Doug Yonkers were killed. Two others remained on life support at last word at a Neenah hospital. And five others were treated for their injuries. Ten bikes were hit. Two others went unscathed. The car driver, 25-year-old Clinton Lovelace of Hilbert, is charged with reckless homicide and two other counts – and prosecutors said other charges were pending.
A Door County woman is scheduled to be sentenced September seventh, after she was convicted in the death of her baby daughter. 33-year-old Melissa Martinez of Brussels struck a plea deal in which she pleaded no contest to child neglect resulting in death. A count of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle was dropped. Authorities said the body of eight-month-old Elena Martinez was found in an SUV in her driveway last October with the engine running and the heat turned up to “high.” Investigators said the baby’s mother was drinking in the hours before the body was discovered – and four hours after her arrest, her blood alcohol level was still at .20. Martinez has been living in a residential facility for recovering substance abusers, and has been getting rehabilitation.
The National Weather Service says parts of north-central Wisconsin will get frost tonight, at places where it was 90-degrees just two-or-three days ago. A cold front went through yesterday, and most of the Badger State was in the 50’s this morning. It may only reach 60-degrees in northern Wisconsin today, and the south won’t get any warmer than the low-70’s. Tonight’s lows are expected in the mid-30’s where the frost is expected to hit. Southern Wisconsin will stay in the upper-40’s. Temperatures will get a little warmer tomorrow, and the 80’s will return to the south by Thursday. There’s a chance of rain each day from tomorrow through at least Saturday.
Governor Walker has promised that we’ll see an explosion of new jobs, after recall voters have affirmed his pro-business agenda. Now, the state government’s Economic Development Corporation is spreading the word about Wisconsin’s business climate. The agency has hooked up with 38 state business groups in taking out ads in some of the country’s largest business publications. State agency spokesman Tom Thieding said the ads are designed to promote the optimism of the state’s business climate and quote, “the strong business development resource network that exists in Wisconsin to support business growth.” Full-page ads appeared yesterday in regional editions of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, as well as The Business Journal, The Business News, Crain’s Chicago Business, and Michigan Business. The development corporation expects to ads to reach over a million readers in the nation’s mid-section, and as far south as Texas.
A Wisconsin Rapids man is scheduled to be sentenced this morning, after he was convicted of stalking jurors who found him guilty of threatening two judges. 50-year-old Donald Maier threatened Wood County Circuit Judges James Mason and Edward Zappen Junior in 2005. A jury found him guilty in ’06, and he served two years in prison. Last December, 10 new charges were filed which accused Maier of stalking the jurors who first sent him away. In March, another jury found him guilty on six felony stalking charges and innocent of four others.
Waukesha Police have asked for the public’s help in finding a hit-and-run driver who injured a woman and killed her service dog. 54-year-old Deborah Schultz of the town of Waukesha was walking to her car on Friday night when a vehicle struck her in a cross-walk and never stopped. Schultz had a broken foot – and the golden retriever which helps get around was killed. Schultz said the service dog was named Lexie, and she was a gift from her late husband. He died in a traffic mishap in 2008.
Hartford man who became a convicted felon by writing bad checks when he was 18 has asked the State Supreme Court to throw out his conviction of possessing a deer rifle when he went hunting 22 years later. Thomas Pocian says the law that bans firearm possession by convicted felons is unconstitutional. He says it should distinguish between violent and non-violent felons. Pocian, who’s now 44, was convicted of three felonies in 1986 for writing 15-hundred-dollars in forged checks. He paid restitution, and was put on three years probation. In 2008, Pocian shot two deer with his dad’s rifle. And when he registered them, the DNR learned about his felony conviction. He was later convicted of possessing a firearm as a felon, and an appeals court refused throw out the charge. Pocian filed a request yesterday to have the Supreme Court take up the case. He said guns should only be banned for offenders most likely to commit gun-related crimes in the future. And he said those convicted of violent misdemeanors keep their gun rights, while non-violent felons don’t. The state has not filed a response yet.
The recent hot spell caused some problems for Wisconsin farmers. Fields dried up quickly, and some places had more weeds and insects. About 56-percent of farm fields in the Badger State were either short or very-short of moisture as of Sunday. It’s been dry throughout Wisconsin, and La Crosse had the most rain last week with just six-tenths-of-an-inch. The state’s corn crop averages 11 inches. The quality varies due to the dry weather and earlier storm damage, but officials say 71-percent of the corn is still in good-to-excellent shape. About two-thirds of the soybean crop is good-to-excellent, along with 68-percent of the oats. Ninety-two percent of the season’s first hay crop is in. That’s about twice as much as normal for this time of year. But again, the quality varies greatly.
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn campaigned in Milwaukee yesterday for Senate candidate Mark Neumann. The Oklahoma Republican says there are about two dozen fiscal conservatives in the Senate – and Neumann would join that group if he’s elected. Coburn is regarded as one of the most conservative senators – and he served with Neumann in the U.S. House in the 1990’s. Coburn said Neumann has a moral courage that’s rare in Washington – and he said Neumann would be a fine complement to the state’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Ron Johnson. Coburn also said Wisconsin voters need to elect a fiscal conservative so they’ll become the majority in the Senate’s GOP caucus. Neumann is one of four Republicans running in the August 14th GOP primary. The winner will face Democrat Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in November to replace the retiring Herb Kohl.
President Obama does not believe his own re-election campaign suffered, after Governor Scott Walker turned back the Democrats’ effort to recall him. Obama told WBAY-TV in Green Bay yesterday that Walker’s recall battle reflected specific circumstances in Wisconsin. And he downplayed any possible effect on his effort to carry the Badger State for a second time in November. Obama was criticized for not campaigning in Wisconsin for Walker’s recall opponent, Tom Barrett. The president said he was too busy and quote, “I’ve got a lot of responsibilities.” Obama flew over Wisconsin on his way to Minnesota on the Friday before the recall vote. He put out a tweet last Monday giving his support. Now, the president said he would have quote, “loved a different result” after Barrett lost by seven percentage points to Walker.
Wisconsin’s largest state government union will continue to have its present leadership, after a failed attempt by prison guards and others to win top posts. Dan Meehan narrowly lost a bid to become the vice-president of the State Employees Union at its convention over the weekend. Meehan told the Wisconsin State Journal that some members are still upset about the union’s early endorsement of Kathleen Falk for governor. And guards are especially upset, saying that union executive director Marty Beil didn’t do enough to fight the Walker administration’s move to limit a pay-and-seniority system for guards to get overtime. Meehan says his fellow prison guards don’t believe they have a voice anymore. Beil says passionate debates and elections are part of life in a democratically-run union. And he says emotions are understandably high after Governor Scott Walker survived the attempt to recall him. Paulette Feld was re-elected the State Employees Union’s president. And Leah Lipska was elected vice president.
It will be easier to find a job in Wisconsin than in other parts of the country over the next three months. That’s according to the quarterly survey of employers by Milwaukee’s Manpower Incorporated. Twenty-six percent of Wisconsin companies surveyed plan to add workers from July-through-September. Only five-percent expect layoffs – and when you subtract the layoff percentage from the hiring percentage, it creates a net job outlook of 21-percent. Nationally, only a 15-percent net job outlook is expected, with 21-percent of 18,000 U.S. firms adding positions in the next quarter. The employer survey was taken before the governor’s recall election – and before an emergency loan that propped up the major banks in Spain and raised fears about economic ripples. But Jorge Perez of Manpower says the European economic threat has been around for months. And he says the Manpower employment survey has generally been accurate in the 50 years it’s been conducted. For the next quarter, Wisconsin is tied with Michigan for the nation’s seventh-best job outlook. And Milwaukee ranks Number-One among 100 U.S. metro areas for the best job prospects in the fall.