Evening State News Briefs: Sen. Fitzgerald says school spending won't be frozenWisconsin News
-- The Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate says public school spending won’t be frozen as the governor has proposed.
MADISON - The Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate says public school spending won’t be frozen as the governor has proposed.
Republican Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau told the Associated Press there is “no doubt at all” the spending will increase next year. Two Republican senators called for an increase of $150 per pupil over the next two years last week. Fitzgerald didn’t commit to a specific figure for the increased spending.
The Wisconsin State Assembly has passed legislation which would take the secretary of state’s duty to publish bills away. The job would be transferred to the nonpartisan Legislative Audio Bureau. The measure had been passed by the state Senate last month. It goes next to Governor Scott Walker’s desk and he hasn’t said whether he supports the idea or not. Discussion of the need for a change like this one cropped up when Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette delayed publishing the governor’s controversial law which effectively ended collective bargaining for public employees in 2011.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville says the 2014 federal budget blue-print he’ll propose next week is similar to what majority House Republicans passed a year ago. Ryan said today that the package will seek to eliminate deficits within 10 years – and it will not repeal $600-million in new taxes on the wealthy passed in January. Ryan said he didn’t want to wage the tax battle again. He said it would take relatively small spending cuts beyond those proposed a year ago to put the budget in balance within a decade. Just like the budgets he proposed for the last two years, Ryan’s package would reduce the future growth of benefits like food stamps and Medicaid – and it includes his controversial plan to make those under-55 use reduced tax-funded vouchers for Medicare when they become eligible for it. Majority Democrats in the Senate will propose their own budget plan which includes billions in new taxes to preserve benefit programs the way they are now. The Senate has not approved an annual federal budget since 2009.
State Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack said today that her “heart aches” over the type of campaign waged by her election opponent Ed Fallone. The two appeared at a Rotary Club meeting in Madison, less than a month before they face each other in the April second election. Roggensack, a conservative going for her second 10-year term, said it’s counter-productive for Fallone to base his campaign around the incivility shown over the past few years on the state’s highest court. Roggensack said the whole court is not up for election, just her. She said her 17 years as a judge – including her one term on the state’s highest court – makes her the better choice. Fallone has been a law professor at Marquette for two decades. He said the Supreme Court is dysfunctional – Roggensack’s been a part of it – and he vows to help create a more civil court if elected.
Wisconsinites will soon get Amber Alerts on their cell-phones. The Justice Department said today it will become part of a national effort to send Amber Alerts to wireless devices, in areas where children are reported missing or in trouble. The Amber Alerts have been posted for several years on highway signs and the broadcast media – and many have succeeded in tracking missing youngsters down. Starting in January, the National Center for Missing-and-Exploited Children has also been sending out alerts using the federal government’s Wireless Emergency Alert system. The Justice Department says it has not used the new system yet. A police agency will notify the Dane County Communication Center – and they’ll pass it on to the national center for distribution to local devices which can access the wireless alert system.
The owner of a company that plans to open an iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin could soon face prosecution in Illinois for alleged environmental violations there. The Illinois EPA told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel it plans to ask the state’s attorney general this spring to prosecute Macoupin Energy. Officials said the firm has not done enough to comply with a voluntary plan to clean up groundwater pollution at its Shay coal mine in Carlinville, Illinois. Macoupin is owned by Christopher Cline, the investor who owns Gogebic Taconite – which wants to build a one-and-a-half billion dollar iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. One of Macoupin’s parent firms did not comment on today’s development – but the firm’s CEO said it was quote, “surprised and frankly angered” to receive an initial notice of the reported environmental problems last December. The Journal-Sentinel reported on the Illinois case less than a day before the Wisconsin State Assembly is about to consider amending environmental protections and speeding up the approval process for Gogebic’s project. The mine’s supporters say it will create hundreds of jobs, and the water-rich Penokee region in the far north will not suffer environmental harm – but some of the project’s neighbors strongly disagree.
A memorial service will be held Saturday afternoon at Marion Elementary School for three members of a Pella family who died in a fiery freeway crash in Kentucky. James and Barbara Gollnow, both 62, died in the crash along with their adopted daughter Sereena Gollnow who was 18. The Eberhardt-Stevenson Funeral Home is handling the arrangements for the family, as well as for family friend Marion Chapnoise. Funeral arrangements for the 92-year-old Chapnoise were still pending at last word. The funeral home is not involved in services for two foster children who died in the mishap. All six were in an SUV that was rear-ended by a semi-truck last Saturday about 50 miles south of Louisville on Interstate-65. They were coming home from a vacation in Florida at the time. The Marion school was opened last Saturday to help students and staff members with their grief. District Administrator Mike Gaunt said the school is now gradually returning to normal. And they’ll continue to support the youngsters who need it for as long as necessary.
A man who started a multi-state crime spree in Wisconsin 19 years ago was executed this morning in Ohio. 48-year-old Frederick Treesh was pronounced dead at 9:37 by the warden of a Southern Ohio prison where lethal injection was given. Media reports said Treesh started his crime spree in far southern Wisconsin, by robbing a branch of what was then known as Anchor Savings-and-Loan in Delavan. He then went on to commit other robberies, sexual assaults, and car-jackings. Treesh killed a video store clerk in Michigan, before his spree ended with the slaying of an adult bookstore security guard in Eastlake Ohio near Cleveland. Treesh had no appeals for stopping today’s execution. The Ohio Parole Board and Governor John Kasich recently refused to grant him clemency. In his last statement, Treesh apologized for the security guard’s murder, but he said he would not apologize for the Michigan murder because he was never charged for it. Ohio was the only state that prosecuted his offenses.
The state DNR is shrugging off concerns that it might not have the resources to regulate Gogebic Taconite’s proposed iron ore mine in far northern Wisconsin. The state Assembly is scheduled to vote tomorrow on new state regulations that would make it easier and faster for the company to open the new mine. Kimberlee Wright, who heads the Midwest Environmental Advocates’ law firm in Madison, is worried that the DNR won’t have the staff or the resources to regulate the project. She said the agency has a growing backlog of other wastewater permits that are waiting for approvals – something the agency blames on employee retirements and a lack of replacements. Wright also says the DNR will end up spending more than a two-million-dollar limit set by the Legislature to do a full environmental review of the project. The DNR’s Ann Coakley says her agency can always seek more money in the future for its environmental review. And she vowed that the DNR will be aggressive in regulating the project. Coakley said mining is a priority in Wisconsin, and the DNR will do what it must to get the job done.
The National Governors Association will meet in Milwaukee in early August – and Governor Scott Walker wants his fellow state leaders to join him for a Harley ride. The Republican Walker has invited other governors to take training courses on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He says a few have taken him up on it – and two governors who are already bikers will join him on the open road. Walker is a well-experienced motorcyclist. When he was the Milwaukee County executive, Walker toured the state on a Harley each year to promote the county’s attractions. The national governors’ meeting is set for August second-through-fourth. It’s the first to be hosted by Wisconsin since 1998. The group includes all 50 governors. They’ll also take batting practice at Miller Park before the Milwaukee Brewers play the Washington Nationals.
A woman killed on a Milwaukee area freeway was identified yesterday as 54-year-old Denise Merkel of Sussex. Waukesha County authorities said her vehicle got stuck, and she left it on a shoulder of Interstate-43 near New Berlin last Saturday morning. She was walking across the freeway when she was hit by another vehicle, and she died at the scene. The incident remains under investigation.
Governor Scott Walker says he loves Milwaukee, and he has no beef with Mayor Tom Barrett. The mayor fired back yesterday at recent criticisms from the Republican Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington). They told city officials to stop blaming others for the city’s fiscal plight, get to work on improving the economy, and make city government more efficient. Walker attended the annual meeting of “Visit Milwaukee” yesterday, and said the city’s taxpayers are better off with him as governor. And Walker said Barrett’s comments might pertain to other politicians but not him. Walker cited a number of state-and-city partnerships under his watch. They include new ramps on-and-off the Hoan Bridge, plans to rebuild the Zoo freeway interchange, efforts to grow the Milwaukee Water Council, and a new state office building just west of the city’s downtown. Barrett said yesterday he wasn’t sure if state Republicans would give Milwaukee a fair shake in the new state budget. Walker said he talked with Barrett about city concerns before he released his budget proposal. The governor said he heard the mayor out, and he agreed with some of Barrett’s concerns but not others.
Wisconsin made seven-percent more eggs last year. New figures show that Wisconsin hens put out one-point-four billion eggs during the year ending November 30th. That’s up from one-point-three billion the previous year. Officials credit an increase in egg-laying hens. The Badger State had six-and-a-half percent more hens on the job in 2012, for a total of just under five million. Each hen laid an average of 277 eggs, a couple more than the year before. Wisconsin is 18th among the 50 states in total egg production. That’s unchanged from the previous year. Neighboring Iowa is Number-One by far. The Hawkeye State made 14.5 billion eggs in the most recent reporting year.