Overnight State News Briefs: State says number of domestic violence cases fell in 2012Wisconsin News
-- The state Justice Department said Monday that almost five-percent fewer domestic abuse incidents were reported to police last year than in 2010.
The state Justice Department said Monday that almost five-percent fewer domestic abuse incidents were reported to police last year than in 2010.
Officials said that almost 29,000 domestic abuse cases were reported to police and referred to prosecutors – about 14-hundred fewer cases than the previous year. Almost half the victims were 18-to-29 – and arrests were made in 71-percent of domestic abuse calls. Less than one-percent of the cases had more than one arrest. The common penalties for domestic abusers in 2011 were financial – things like restitution and fines. Jail or prison confinement was the second-most common punishment. And third were behavioral conditions like a ban on possessing firearms, and ordering no contact with a particular individual.
The Madison Capital Times said state Assembly Democrat Chris Taylor is on a list of people being closely watched by State Capitol Police during the weekday sing-alongs by the Solidarity Singers. Capitol Police Chief David Erwin began cracking down on protestors last fall – and the Solidarity Singers have refused to get state permits that are required for groups gathering in the Capitol. The Cap Times quoted the Citizens Media Cooperative in saying that law enforcement is keeping tabs on 71 people – and 38 have received individual citations for protesting without permits. Taylor, a Madison Democrat, is in her second term in the Assembly. The Cap Times said she criticized Erwin’s crack down last year – and the chief and a Walker administration official walked out on her during a meeting on the subject.
Though no charges have been filed, newly-released e-mails and other documents show Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his family were the targets of numerous death threats during his first two years in office. Most of the threats came right after he took office in 2011 and were related to his proposal which weakened public employee union collective bargaining. That change sparked huge protests at the Capitol which lasted several weeks. A Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesperson says there are no open investigations into threats against Walker now.
Wauwatosa police are allowing people back into a neighborhood which was blocked off earlier today. A police spokesperson confirms two people have been interviewed at the police station, but no one has been arrested. No injuries were reported. The area from 120th to 122nd street, between Watertown Plank and Elmhurst roads was closed. The action came after a delivery person found a door open in a house in the 1300 block of 121st Street. Police haven’t said what specifically led to the neighborhood being blocked off. Despite the police presence, no people living in the area were evacuated.
Congressman Paul Ryan tells people at a Tea Party event the President’s Affordable Care Act will cost more in the long run than they will gain. The Janesville Republican says the law will lead to less care available, due in part to its price controls. Speaking last weekend in Racine, Ryan predicted Obamacare will, in his words, “collapse under its own weight.” He also warned about a mass exodus of companies giving up their private insurance coverage for workers in favor of the cheaper federal plan.
Governor Scott Walker is expected to use his State-of-the-State address tomorrow night to hint at what he’ll propose in his state budget package that’s due next month. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says some parts of his speech could be released before the day is done. Governors of both parties generally give broad objectives in their State-of-the-State addresses – and waiting until the weeks before their budget speeches to drip out details of their biggest proposals. The Republican Walker has already said he would propose a substantial cut in individual income taxes, to be phased in over several years. And he would not reduce local property taxes but would keep taking steps to limit their increases. The fine print is not expected to come out before Walker delivers his budget document to the full Legislature. So far, Walker has said very little about his other stated budget objectives – to add jobs, improve worker training, and make more education reforms.
Behave or else. That’s what Wisconsin state Assembly Republicans have told visitors to their proceedings. And the GOP-controlled state Senate is expected to do the same tomorrow, when it sets new rules for the upcoming two-year session. Majority Senate Republicans released a resolution today aimed at discouraging protestors from disrupting both floor sessions and Senate committee proceedings – a common occurrence in the last session. Spectators were already barred from posting signs, and using pagers and cell-phones. Now, visitors would be barred from displaying any objects and using any type of electronic device. Violators would be removed for 24 hours – and three-time violators would be banned for the rest of the two-year session. Similar rules were approved in the Assembly last week, when minority Democrats questioned the constitutionality of barring residents.
Retired Judge Tim Vocke was chosen today as the new chairman of the state Government Accountability Board. Vocke is one of six members of the panel that operates Wisconsin elections, and investigates government ethics violations. His name was pulled from a vase, and he’ll lead the board for the next year. Vocke replaces David Deininger as the chairman. Vocke, of Rhinelander, was a Vilas County circuit judge from 1979-to-’83. Since then, he’s been a reserve, a mediator for medical malpractice cases, and a referee for the State Supreme Court. He’s been retired from the law profession since 2009.
Wisconsin election officials are still waiting to learn what the final costs would be for ending voter registrations on Election Day. State elections’ administrator Mike Haas told the Government Accountability Board today he’s still waiting for cost estimates from a couple of state agencies – and he’ll put out the final numbers as soon as he can. In December, Board staffers said they would have to spend five-point-two million dollars to follow federal election rules from which Wisconsin is exempt because it has same day registration. And they’d have to spend another a million-a-year after that on things like federally-required mailings to voters. Also, the state Transportation Department and some other agencies would have extra expenses. That’s because the state would need to adopt a federally-required “motor voter” system, where people can register-to-vote at the same time they apply for drivers’ licenses or public benefits. Some Republicans say it’s worth the cost, in the name of fighting voter fraud. But Governor Scott Walker says he doesn’t want to spend millions to end same-day voter registration – even though he supports the concept. A number of Republicans have complained over the years that same-day voter registration helps Democrats.
Remember when five Wisconsin cities tried to attract the world’s fastest Internet system that Google is testing? Well, it’s just getting off the ground where Google made its first choice – Kansas City Missouri and the adjacent Kansas City Kansas. Other places still have hope. Google says it plans roll out its experimental “Google Fiber” service elsewhere – but it’s not saying where or when. Milwaukee, Madison, Marshfield, Appleton, and Superior had applied in 2010 to host the new network. The Associated Press said the first homes in the KC area were wired up last fall. Google is testing Internet speeds of up to a gigabyte-per-second – much faster than high-speed cable modems. Some homes have opened their doors to new high-tech businesses that want to build super-sized files, and eliminate the buffering which interrupts online videos and live tele-conferences. One place is called the “Home for Hackers,” where owners of start-up businesses have traveled from other parts of the country. They’re living rent-free, while developing their new business plans. Other homes, meanwhile, are testing out various levels of service. Google’s full-speed Internet costs $70 a month, and a cable-type service runs 50-a-month. Slower connections are free, with installation fees of $300. Observers have said the ground-breaking Google Fiber could force other Web providers to speed up their service in order to compete.
A 76-year-old Milwaukee man who’s charged with killing a 13-year-old neighbor will get a mental exam to see if he’s competent to go on trial. John Spooner had a hearing today before Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner. He’s accused of shooting-and-killing Darius Simmons last May. Investigators said Spooner thought the youngster had stolen guns from the man’s home. Defense lawyer Steve McGaver had asked that a jury for Simmons’ trial come from elsewhere in Wisconsin, saying the publicity in Milwaukee makes it hard to have a fair trial. But Judge Wagner disagreed and rejected the change-of-venue. McGaver also said Spooner might not be competent to proceed with his case – and Wagner ordered a mental health exam. A hearing was set for June fourth to review the results. And the start of Spooner’s trial is being delayed until May sixth. He has pleaded innocent by insanity to a charge of first-degree intentional homicide. Spooner also faces a civil wrongful death suit from the victim’s mother.
Wisconsin has eliminated about half of the state’s backlog for handling unemployment benefit claims. The workforce development agency tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that 4,700 requests for jobless benefits filed before December 10th are still waiting to be processed. That’s just over half the backlog of 93-hundred cases from last October. There was a big increase last fall in the numbers of claims that had to be reviewed by hand for various reasons – and those applicants were waiting for months to get their first benefit checks. The state has since added over 30 part-time employees to process claims – and they’re chipping away at the remainder of the backlog. Those are cases in which applicants under-reported their incomes, either on purpose or by mistake. Officials say the most complicated cases take hours to handle – and in other cases, the state must make sure that recipients exhaust their state benefits before getting federal extensions.
A Wisconsin National Guard unit is on its way to Afghanistan. The First Battalion’s Battery “B” of the 121st Field Artillery unit has completed six weeks of training at Fort Bliss Texas – and about 80 troops from Plymouth will now spend nine months in Afghanistan. The unit is nicknamed the “Bravo Battery.” It runs a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, a self-contained vehicle that fires rockets and missiles. Karen Degner heads a support group of soldiers’ family members. She said a number of families visited Fort Bliss during the holidays – and the group will plan to get together several times during the unit’s deployment. Army Brigadier General Mark Anderson tells the Sheboygan Press that the unit has done a “fantastic job” so far – which is not surprising, since some troops very experienced in the Middle East. About a dozen of the unit’s members are making their third trips overseas since Operation Enduring Freedom began.
The statewide contests for Wisconsin’s spring elections were certified yesterday. Supreme Court candidates Ed Fallone, Vince Megna, and incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack will square off in February 19th primary. And the top two vote-getters will run in a general election on April second. There will not be a primary for state public school superintendent. Assembly Republican Don Pridemore of Hartford was the only challenger to run against incumbent Tony Evers – and both were placed on the April ballot. The state Government Accountability Board set the statewide races, after nobody challenged any of the five candidates’ nominating signatures. There will also be numerous local government and School Board contests this spring, which local officials are finalizing.
The Brown County Board plans to honor Green Bay Packers’ receiver Donald Driver this week for his contributions to the community. The 37-year-old Driver is the team’s all-time leading receiver. But he’s not expected to return to the Packers after 14 seasons, and county supervisor Bernie Erickson says he wants to honor Driver before he leaves town. The board plans to recognize him for creating a foundation that deals with homelessness and education. Driver has also hosted an annual charity softball game with his Packer teammates. Erickson says Driver has given both his talents and his money to the community – and now is a great chance to honor him. County officials say the board meeting is on Driver’s schedule, but it’s subject to change. Green Bay has been Driver’s only NFL team since he was drafted in 1999. He says still he wants to play until he’s 40 – but he may also retire as a pure Packer. He hasn’t made that decision yet.
An author who helped tracked down the location of an ancient fort in Dane County will speak at a program tomorrow in Madison. Robert Birmingham helped pinpoint the place where Fort Blue Mounds served as a refuge for white settlers, and played a major role in the nation’s military operations. He’ll speak at the State Historical Society Museum in Madison, and will then sign copies of his book “Life, Death, and Archaeology.” The book describes the fort’s history – and Birmingham’s efforts to track down the fort and recover artifacts when he served as a state archaeologist.