Morning State News Briefs: State Supreme Court will not side-step appeals court on voter IDWisconsin News
-- The Wisconsin Supreme Court said no for a third time yesterday to side-step the appeals courts, and make a quicker decision on bringing back the state’s photo ID requirement for voting. None of the justices signed the ruling, and there was no dissent.
MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court said no for a third time yesterday to side-step the appeals courts, and make a quicker decision on bringing back the state’s photo ID requirement for voting. None of the justices signed the ruling, and there was no dissent.
Two Madison judges struck down the Republicans’ photo ID mandate last year, saying it was unconstitutional and it placed an unreasonable burden on the right to vote. Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen disagreed. And he appealed the case directly to the Supreme Court, with the hope of reinstating the voter ID mandate for last June’s Walker recall election. But the justices said he would have to go through the appellate courts first. Van Hollen then asked the Supreme Court to review the case again, trying to restore the photo ID law for the fall elections. The court again said no in September, calling the request premature. Van Hollen had publicly accused the appellate courts of dragging their feet on the matter, saying they were “thwarting the will of the people.” In November, Van Hollen asked the Supreme Court to consolidate the cases, saying the court’s earlier concerns had been addressed. But the justices disagreed, and the case remains in two appellate courts. The Second District Court in Waukesha is reviewing a lawsuit won in circuit court by black and Hispanic groups in Milwaukee. The Fourth District Court in Madison is reviewing a suit won by the state’s League of Women Voters.
It’s a little warmer than it was yesterday in Wisconsin – but we’re still getting some of our coldest readings of the winter. Temperatures at seven o’clock ranged from zero in Sparta to 16 in Milwaukee. And fewer places have sub-zero wind chill factors this morning. Antigo had the state’s coldest wind chill at minus-eight. It’s supposed to warm up today, with highs expected in the upper-20’s statewide. We might see 30 degrees tomorrow, before a new cold front moves in. Scattered snow showers and flurries are in the forecast for tomorrow – and colder highs in the teens are expected for Thursday and Friday. Another warm up is predicted for the weekend, with highs in the 20’s-and-30’s by Saturday.
Four people have been arrested in Lake Delton, after they allegedly invaded a home near Edgerton and stole 30 guns, cash, and a pick-up truck. Rock County authorities said two men entered the home late Friday night, held a man and a woman at gunpoint, and demanded that a safe be opened. The amount of cash taken was not disclosed. The homeowner’s truck was found abandoned in Janesville on Saturday. Yesterday, two men and two men – all in their 20’s – were arrested. Authorities said they were in a stolen car that was spotted in the Wisconsin Dells area. Police said four people ran out of the moving vehicle as it was about to come to a stop. Two were arrested immediately, and it took an hour-and-a-half to nab the other two. Meanwhile, Rock County officers said they were working with investigators in Walworth County to determine if the suspects were involved in burglaries in that county recently.
Milwaukee County sheriff’s officials are crying foul, after an insurance company settled a lawsuit from a jail inmate over the food he was being served. Sheriff David Clarke was hoping to have a trial this week, so a judge could back up his decision to serve what prisoner Terrance Prude called a rancid mixture known as Nutraloaf. But sheriff’s inspector Edward Bailey said an insurer for the company that makes Nutraloaf settled the case at the last minute. Officials have not said how much Prude will get. Bailey says it won’t case taxpayers anything – but he said more lawsuits would be encouraged because this one was settled. Aramark makes Nutraloaf for jails around the country. It’s made up of things like carrots, cabbage, biscuit mix and a dairy blend. Prude said it made him so sick that he lost 14 pounds over 19 days – and he said there was no reason to punish him with that diet, because he was not a discipline problem. He said he should have been given bag lunches, like other inmates. In his suit, Prude demanded that the county disclose the recipe for Nutraloaf. Federal Judge J.P. Stadtmueller rejected the request, but a federal appeals court ordered that the recipe be disclosed. Other courts have ruled that Nutraloaf is not cruel-and-unusual punishment, but the appellate court said Judge Stadtmueller should have punished the sheriff for not saying what’s in the dish.
Wisconsin food prices rose by two-percent last year. The state’s Farm Bureau Federation says the market has become stable, after a couple of volatile years when the cost of transporting your food fluctuated. Spokesman Casey Langan says energy prices have become a lot steadier – and as a result, the prices of 16 basic food items in 30 Wisconsin cities totaled $49.34 at the end of December. That’s 97-cents more than a year ago – but it’s a $1.20 less than last year’s national average. Also, food prices dropped by a half-percent from October-through-December in Wisconsin. White bread and whole milk had price increases of seven-percent or more in the final quarter of the year. Flour, bacon, and Russet potatoes all went down by seven-percent or more. Langan says you might see higher grocery prices in the New Year as the result of tighter supplies of meat and dairy products.
Catholic leaders say they’ve found a way to safely increase the capacity of a homeless shelter in downtown Green Bay – and they’re asking the city to give its blessing. The Saint John-the-Evangelist shelter has pleaded innocent to a city citation for going over its current legal capacity of 64 residents. Yesterday, shelter officials said they could accommodate 20 more people by extending the facility into two classrooms in the building – and when the numbers get past 84, they propose to use a Methodist church to house additional women when it’s necessary. Since around Christmas, the shelter has been housing overflow residents at Saint Norbert College in De Pere. But that arrangement will end in the next few days, as students return to the campus after their winter break. The next proceeding in the shelter’s municipal court case is set for February 5th.
A UW-Madison scientist has been named the new CEO of the Morgridge Institute for Research. Brad Schwartz replaces Sang Kim, who said last June he would leave to pursue new career opportunities. Kim was the first director of the Morgridge Institute – a private, non-profit research body that’s part of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the Madison campus. The facility opened about five years ago to form collaborations between the UW and private businesses on bio-medical projects. Schwartz is an expert in bleeding disorders and blood coagulation. He had left the UW several years ago for a post at the University of Illinois – and he returned to Madison two years ago. He’s been the director of research education with the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Schwartz said he was asked to consider the Morgridge position – and he took it because it can bridge the public-and-private sectors while making new scientific discoveries to benefit Wisconsin.
Former Antigo football coach and elementary principal John Lund has made a last-minute plea deal to settle his drug-dealing case. Langlade County District Attorney Ralph Uttke said a trial that was set for today is off – and instead, the 48-year-old Lund will enter new pleas and a date for his sentencing will be set. The plea hearing is set for nine this morning in Antigo. Lund is currently charged with seven felony counts of manufacturing and selling marijuana, and maintaining a drug trafficking place. He was accused of helping to sell pot to teachers in Antigo and Merrill. Lund resigned after he was first charged about a year ago. Authorities said the school business was part of a larger drug ring between Wausau and Bass Lake which also sold cocaine. At least 15 people have been charged, mostly teachers who used marijuana supplied by former assistant football Scot Peterson. Most teachers have settled their cases with deferred prosecution agreements. Peterson is the only one getting jail time so far, with a six-month sentence. Only four others still face charges, including John Hunter of Antigo – who’s charged with 50 counts of manufacturing and selling both marijuana and cocaine.
Governor Scott Walker will deliver his third annual State-of-the-State address tonight. He’s expected to discuss his priorities in general, without giving specific details until he releases his next two-year state budget proposal in February. The Republican Walker has talked the most recently about tax cuts. He says he wants a substantial cut in the individual income tax, phased in during the next several years. Walker also said he would not seek to cut local property taxes – but he vows to offer new ways to keep them from going up too much. Walker has also said he wants to improve the state’s infra-structure, continue with public school reforms, and keep working toward his goal to create a quarter-million private sector jobs during his four-year term – something he’s way behind on. Unlike two years ago, Walker has promised not to propose divisive measures like the one that virtually ended public union bargaining two years ago. Walker has also told his majority Republicans in the Legislature to keep focusing on the economy, and not on hot-button social issues or controversial measures like right-to-work. The conservative Americans for Prosperity says right-to-work can wait for now, while the governor tries to shore up the economy.
Two people were shot-to-death overnight in front of a home on Milwaukee’s south side. Police say they’re trying to figure out what happened – and they do not have any suspects. Officers were called to the scene around two this morning.
A Milwaukee alderman wants criminal charges against a woman whose seven-day-old son was crushed to death while the two slept on a couch. Bob Donovan said it would send a strong message that co-sleeping deaths are not accidents, but are caused by neglect and-or abuse. Milwaukee had 10 co-sleeping deaths last year – and the first death of 2013 occurred on January seventh. Authorities said the mother had vodka and pain medication the night before – and she did not remember taking the child from his father to be fed around 1:30 in the morning. A few hours later, the father saw the child dead on the couch with his mother. Deputy District Attorney Patrick Kennedy expects the DA’s office to review the baby’s death – but charges cannot be considered until toxicology test results on the infant are known in February or March. No one in Milwaukee has been prosecuted for a sleep-related death since 2009. Rose Prescott was sentenced to two years in prison for being drunk while letting a six-day-old girl sleep with her on a couch. Prescott was convicted of fatal child neglect.
A 16-year-old Manitowoc boy was killed, and a 47-year-old Chilton man had non-life-threatening injuries when a car and a milk tanker-truck collided. It happened just before 3:30 yesterday afternoon at a rural intersection near Reedsville. Authorities said the car was going west on San Road when it drove through a stop-sign and collided with the southbound milk truck on County Trunk “J.” The truck driver was taken to a Neenah hospital. The victims’ names were not immediately released. The State Patrol was reconstructing the mishap as part of an investigation.