Saturday State News Briefs: Walker to meet with President Obama on 'fiscal cliff' situationfWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be in a group of governors meeting with the President next week to talk about the so-called “fiscal cliff” looming at the end of the year.
MADISON - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be in a group of governors meeting with the President next week to talk about the so-called “fiscal cliff” looming at the end of the year.
The Republican leader announced yesterday he will be in the White House Tuesday to discuss possible solutions and the issues the states might face is a deal isn’t reached. The governors who are invited are all on the executive committee of the National Governors Association. There is no deal so far between the Democratic president and Republican leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives. A series of tax cuts are set to expire December 31st. Some experts say combining that with needed federal spending cuts could slow any economic recovery which might be going on right now.
One Powerball ticket sold in Wisconsin was good for a million dollar prize. It was the jackpot of $588 million dollars, but Dennis and Mary Retterath came to the Wisconsin Lottery headquarters in Madison yesterday to cash in. After taxes, the West Allis couple received $672,500 dollars. Retterath says she bought the Quick Pick ticket at a Speedway in West Allis. The ticket matched all five regular winning numbers, but missed on the Powerball. Retterath and her husband will be at a news conference Monday at City Hall in West Allis. A Missouri couple has claimed half of the big prize. The other half goes to whoever has the other winning ticket. It was sold in the Phoenix area.
With National Influenza Vaccination Week starting Monday, Wisconsin health officials are urging everyone to get their flu shots. Those same health officials say the number of influenza cases in Wisconsin is running higher than last year at this time. The flu season started early. There have been 113 confirmed cases, compared to seven at this time last year. State officials say everyone should take the vaccination pledge backed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That pledge would have individuals get their flu shots, then encourage friends and family to do the same.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will officially close the navigation system on the Upper Mississippi next Monday. The shipping season is ending. It started back on March 17th. Traditionally, the last tow heading south of Lock and Dam 2 near Hastings means the end of the season. The two Show Me State went through the lock last Wednesday. While the Mississippi River hasn’t frozen over yet, the Corps plans to start winter renovation and repairs on Lock and Dam 6 near Trempealeau Monday.
Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls will be part of a $120 million dollar federal project to develop smaller, cheaper and more powerful batteries. The batteries are needed for the next generation of fuel-saving cars, both electric and hybrid. The project will be based at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. The funding will cover five years of work at the newly-created Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. The University of Michigan is also participating, making this a major Midwest project. At least initially, the research effort isn’t expected to bring on a major expansion or worker addition at Johnson Controls.
Teenager Koalton Peterson has admitted beating a 20-year old man with a baseball bat, but he tells police he was acting in self-defense. Ryan M. Smith of Fitchburg was left with skull fractures and an injured lung. Peterson made a court appearance in Dane County yesterday. He’s tentatively charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide and is being held on a million-dollar bail. UW Hospital lists Smith in critical condition. A police affidavit suggests he may be brain dead. Peterson admitted the fight was a disagreement over a drug deal.
Disability Rights Wisconsin is calling on the state to suspend or terminate the license of the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. The district attorney’s office is conducting an open John Doe hearing in March on the incident which brought the patient advocacy organization into the matter. Twenty-five year old Brandon Johnson died last month from complications of a broken neck. The group says the system appears to be so badly broken that the needed changes simply can’t happen. The problems are said to be long-standing one, dating back to patient sexual assaults three years ago. Opponents staff retraining and revised policies won’t be enough to fix it.
A former president of Manson Insurance in Wausau is expected to be sentenced in February, after he pleaded guilty to a pair of federal charges. Twenty-two other charges against Timothy Mathwich were dropped in a plea deal that was first announced last week. Instead of going to trial next month as scheduled, Mathwich admits defrauding Manson customers of five-point-six million dollars in fraudulent checks – and swindling Wausau’s River Valley Bank out of four-point-seven million dollars. A grand jury indicted Mathwich in early February. The indictment said Mathwich forged insurance premium financing notes for customers who never asked for them – and the notes were then sold to the bank. Former Manson CEO David Scholfield and former company treasurer Susan Brockman were sent to prison for their roles – and both were ordered to pay more than five-million dollars in restitution to victimized customers. The Mathwich plea deal also includes restitution.
Another group of Wisconsin utility workers will head out East tomorrow to help Hurricane Sandy victims in New Jersey who are still without natural gas service. The Wisconsin Public Service utility is sending four crews from Green Bay, Oshkosh, Stevens Point, and Wausau. They’ll spend two-and-a-half weeks to help bring back service National Grid customers. Among other things, the workers will test pipes, appliances, and other equipment, and re-light equipment when it’s safe to do so. They’ll also replace gas meters where necessary.
If you plan to visit a Wisconsin state park next year, you can buy an admission sticker starting tomorrow. Annual state trail passes go on sale at the same time. The park admission stickers are good for year-round admission to more than 60 Wisconsin state parks, forests and recreation areas. They’re available at the park and DNR service centers all over the state. They feature a drawing of marshmallows cooking over a campfire. The cost is $25 dollars for Wisconsin residents, $35 dollars for out-of-state residents and $10 dollars for Wisconsin senior citizens.
A bill pending in Congress would allow the historic SS Badger ferry to keep running, even though it dumps 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each season. The ferry is currently facing a December 19th deadline for renewal of its federal permit or it would have to make changes eliminating the ash dumping. The bill being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives would force the EPA to approve an coal-fired vessel which is a National Historic Landmark. Currently, there is one – the SS Badger. That ferry carries cars and passengers between Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It is the last coal-burning steamship on the Great Lakes.
Three Wisconsin metro areas are among the best in the nation for college students. The American Institute for Economic Research rates Milwaukee as the sixth-best mid-size metro. Madison is rated second-best among small metros, and Superior-Duluth is 14th. Two major metros that extend into Wisconsin also made the list of the best places for college students to learn and live. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro, which includes Hudson and Saint Croix County, is rated at Number-six in its category. The Chicago area, including Kenosha County, is Number-12 for large metros. Steve Cunningham of the economic research institute says the characteristics of a great college also make its local area ideal for tourism, business, and retirement. The Institute based its ratings on Census and employment data – and each community was then ranked according to its educational-and-cultural environment, quality of life, and job opportunities. 75 metros received ratings in four size categories.
If you went deer hunting and came up empty, you and the governor have something in common. Scott Walker said today that he failed to bag a deer when he went hunting in Vilas County in far northern Wisconsin. Walker said he did not see a deer when he was out in the woods. The DNR said it was a common observation in the far north during the opening weekend of the nine-day gun season. One of Walker’s cabinet members had better luck. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp bagged a seven-point buck in western Wisconsin during the opening weekend. Around 640,000 deer hunters took the woods during the gun season, and they bagged almost 244,000 deer – seven-point-seven percent more than last year.