Saturday State News Briefs: Sen. Cullen rejoins Dem caucusWisconsin News
-- State Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville re-joined his party’s caucus this afternoon, three days after quitting in what he now calls a “little squabble” over committee assignments.
MADISON - State Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville re-joined his party’s caucus this afternoon, three days after quitting in what he now calls a “little squabble” over committee assignments.
Cullen and the Senate’s new Democratic Majority Leader, Mark Miller of Monona, held a news conference to announce they’ve patched things up. Miller handed out new committee assignments soon after the Democrats won control of the upper house earlier this month. But Cullen was not given a chairmanship – and he thought he was being punished by Miller for being one of the Senate’s only moderates. Today, Miller said he would make Cullen the chair of two special committees – one on mining, and the other on small business and venture capital. Cullen will also be a member of the Transportation Projects Commission, which sets priorities for road projects. And he’ll be on the Senate’s committee on Health, Revenue, Tax Fairness, and Insurance.
The state DNR says it will lift burning restrictions starting tomorrow in parts of six south central and southwest Wisconsin counties. Lands within DNR fire protection areas will have their bans on burning, campfires, and smoking lifted in Dane, Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Richland, and Sauk counties. Also, bans on campfires will be lifted at Big Foot Beach State Park, as well as Lapham Peak, the Kettle Moraine southern forest unit, the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail, and the Bong Recreation Area. All those changes take effect at 12:01 tomorrow morning. The DNR’s Trent Marty says the drought is far from over, but recent rains have lowered the fire protection risks in some areas. The DNR still emphasizes caution. And it says emergency burning restrictions remain in effect in all or parts of 11 central Wisconsin counties – plus Buckhorn, Hartman Creek, Mill Bluff, and Roche-a-Cri state parks. Campfires are allowed in those parks, but some burning restrictions remain there.
A man from Mount Horeb jail inmate is on life support after hanging himself in the Dane County Jail. Michael Benike is not expected to survive. Early this morning jailers found him hanging from his cell bars as they were doing a routine security check. He had a bed sheet wrapped around his neck. Deputies say they cut him down immediately, but he was unresponsive. Though the sheriff’s department declined to identify the man, Madison-dot-com said the details released by the office match those for Benike. He was scheduled for an August 7th arraignment in federal court.
Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson says he is the Republican candidate with the best chance to beat Democrat Tammy Baldwin for the state’s U.S. Senate seat. He says Democrats will “slice and dice” Eric Hovde, should he win the GOP nomination. Thompson criticized the attack ads running against him, saying they won’t hurt him because they are all lies. Others in the race against Thompson are former Congressman Mark Neumann and state Assembly Sepaker Jeff Fitzgerald.
The federal government is responding to Wisconsin request that it change the way monthly job numbers are compiled. The Department of Workforce Development had said the feds job estimates were misleading. The state became actively involved when the Walker administration was saying Wisconsin added jobs, while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was reporting a job loss. Later, Walker’s claims were shown to be correct. Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson had asked the feds to go back to a previous practice of using three quarters of unemployment data rather than two, which started last year. The BLS has told him an internal review is being conducted about possible changes.
State Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler says she’ll refuse to consider punishing fellow Justice David Prosser, if the disciplinary case against him goes that far. Ziegler announced her recusal today in a document filed with the court – and she became the second justice to withdraw. The state’s Judicial Commission accuses Prosser of violating the judicial code of ethics, for allegedly putting his hands around fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s neck in June of last year. Prosser said she was the aggressor, and he was just defending himself. The Supreme Court would have the final say on Prosser’s possible punishment. But Prosser says all of his colleagues should withdraw from the case because they either saw the incident with Bradley, or were otherwise biased against him. If four justices pull out, there won’t be enough left to consider a punishment. Prosser is halfway to that end, after Justice Pat Roggensack recused herself a few weeks ago. Earlier this week, it was reported that Prosser had converted his small campaign account into a legal defense fund. He said it already cost him $40,000 to defend himself in the case – and he believes his final legal bill could reach $100,000 dollars.
A Milwaukee woman is headed to prison for a second time for killing a relative. 47-year-old Lisa Humphrey has been sentenced to 14 years behind bars, plus seven years of extended supervision when she gets out. Authorities said Humphrey spiked her 10-month-old grandson’s baby bottle with morphine. Royality Sanders died while sleeping in April of last year. The medical examiner found morphine in the baby bottle, and opiates and oxycodone in the infant’s system. Back in 1988, Humphrey was given a six-year prison term for shooting her husband Curtis in the back during an argument as he was about to leave their apartment.
A Milwaukee woman killed in a one-vehicle crash in West Allis was identified as 45-year-old Tracy Ryan. Police said her vehicle crossed a center-line and hit a tree yesterday afternoon. Officers said alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the mishap, which is still being investigated.