Afternoon State News Briefs: Legislative committees approve mining billWisconsin News
-- Mining committees in both the state Assembly and Senate endorsed a Republican bill today which makes it easier for Gogebic Taconite to open a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.
MADISON - Mining committees in both the state Assembly and Senate endorsed a Republican bill today which makes it easier for Gogebic Taconite to open a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.
The state Senate’s Mining Committee voted 3-2 in favor of the package, with both Democrats voting no. None of the Democrats on the state Assembly panel supported the bill. It was sent on by a 10-6 vote. Republicans said they made a number of changes which address Democrats’ concerns about a reduction in environmental protections. But the Democrats said the changes did not nearly go far enough. Minority members of the Assembly panel wanted a one-month delay, saying the package was being rammed through too quickly. The Senate’s Democrats wanted to scrap the GOP package altogether, and pass an alternative from Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen to restore all environmental protections – and to keep letting the public challenge the DNR’s mining decisions. The GOP package scraps the public challenges. The Republican bill is expected to make a stop in the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee before it goes to the floors of both houses. A coalition of about 15 dozen environmental groups spoke out against the package soon after it was endorsed.
Wisconsin state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) announced a new task force today that will look at the state’s mental health programs and issues, and make recommendations for improvements. Vos said the panel will hold its first meeting three weeks from today. It will be chaired by Polk County Republican Erik Severson and Whitefish Bay Democrat Sandy Pasch. Vos says he hopes the task force will work together with Governor Scott Walker, who said today that he’ll put almost 29-million dollars in the next state budget to expand mental health programs throughout Wisconsin. Specifically, Walker said he would try to expand a program that provides community-based care for those with severe mental illnesses. And the Republican Walker said he would create a new Office of Children’s Mental Health to make sure the needs of young patients are met. Pasch says she agrees with Walker’s plan – but she hopes he’ll also agree to an expansion of Medicaid, saying it would provide extra help to those with mental illnesses.
About $64-million worth of plastics are being buried in Wisconsin landfills each year, when they could be recycled instead. That’s according to a new study commissioned by the state DNR. The agency says it will run a pilot project this spring to expand the recycling of flexible film packaging. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp says it would be a “win-win” for both the state’s economy and the environment. That’s because the expanded recycling would create more jobs, and new opportunities for small-to-medium-sized plastics’ recyclers. The study said the DNR could improve the economy even more by allowing more plastics to be recycled like clam-shell containers, drink cups, and margarine tubs – in addition to plastic bags and other film-type plastics. The report said Wisconsin employs about 40,000 in the plastics industry, the eighth-highest total in the nation.
Rock County authorities said an elderly man shot-and-killed a female acquaintance today, and shot-and-wounded himself. Sheriff’s officials said the man – who’s reported to be in his 70’s – was in critical condition at mid-afternoon at a Madison hospital. Deputies were called around 8:20 this morning to a shooting incident in the town of Plymouth near Orfordville. According to Sheriff Robert Spoden, the man apparently killed a woman in her 50’s in shed. He then ran into another shed, which deputies surrounded. They then heard a gunshot and went in to find the man wounded. He was being guarded this afternoon in his room at Madison’s UW Hospital. Spoden said the crime scene is secure, and the area is safe. More details are expected at a news conference tomorrow.
Human remains found in a house fire in Green Lake County haven’t been identified, but authorities think they are probably those of the 66-year old woman who lived alone there. The sheriff’s office says the homeowner hasn’t been contacted yet, so the victim of the fire could be her. Firefighters responded to the scene at about 4 a.m. yesterday to find the structure fully engulfed in flames. While they were fighting the fire, they found the body. An autopsy done yesterday determined the victim died of fire- and heat-related trauma. The fatal fire is still being investigated.
Dane County Sheriff’s officials have arrested a fourth person in connection with the murder of 27-year old Matthew Graville. Detectives traveled to Washington state yesterday, taking 26 year old Shannon Remus into custody. She was stationed at the Lewis-McChord joint military base as a Military Police Officer with the U.S. Army. Remus is also the wife of murder suspect Jeffrey Vogelsberg. An extradition hearing was being held this afternoon. Prosecutors say Vogelsberg killed his half-brother last June in Mazomanie. Remus faces a felony charge of hiding a corpse. The two other defendants in the case of the victim’s stepmother, 46 year old Laura Robar, and 28 year old Robert McCumber.
Governor Scott Walker says he won’t try to eliminate the state income tax in the new state budget for the next two years. But he plans to at least consider the idea for the 2015 budget, assuming he wins re-election next year. Governors in Kansas and Louisiana are generating a lot of buzz with their ideas to dump the income tax in favor of a higher sales tax. But liberals say it would put more of a squeeze on low-and-middle income families, who have no choice but to spend larger percentages of their incomes on goods-and-services. The subject came up in Wisconsin on Tuesday, when Mike Huebsch – who runs Walker’s administration – answered a question at a meeting of the Wisconsin Counties Association by saying that Walker is considering a dumping of the income tax. Today, the Republican Walker said it would be down the road, if it happens at all. He said he might to want to see how the idea fares in other states.
Former Milwaukee County parks director Sue Black was named today as the new president and CEO of the Milwaukee Wave professional indoor soccer team. Black will also head the team’s “Wave of Hope” charity. Black ran the county park system for a decade before she was fired last summer. County Executive Chris Abele never said why he let her go. Later, Black was a finalist for the parks directorship in Dallas – but that job eventually went to that department’s assistant director. Black says her new job won’t be work – and she’ll use her old community contacts to promote the Wave. She said the players come from all over the world, and Black wants the community to rally around them. The Wave has won 15 straight Major Indoor Soccer League games, and they’ve clinched home field advantage for the first round of the league playoffs.