State News Roundup: Lawmakers present petitions to reconsider having a MN firm create a statewide databaseWisconsin News
-- Two state lawmakers handed petitions to several officials yesterday, urging them to reconsider having a Minnesota firm create a statewide database of school students.
Two state lawmakers handed petitions to several officials yesterday, urging them to reconsider having a Minnesota firm create a statewide database of school students. About four-thousand people signed the petitions online. They want Skyward of Stevens Point to provide the student database instead of Minnesota’s Infinite Campus – which was awarded a 15-million dollar contract to do the work last month. Senate Democrat Julie Lassa and Assembly Democrat Katrina Shankland, both of Stevens Point, presented the petitions to Governor Scott Walker, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, and state school Superintendent Tony Evers. About half of Wisconsin school districts already use Skyward for their student databases. The lawmakers said it would cost schools thousands-of-dollars to convert to a new Infinite Campus system. Skyward appealed the contract award, saying there were factors that were not considered. If Skyward gets the contract, it promises to add over 200 jobs. If not, the firm says it would have to leave Wisconsin. Lawmakers voted last year to have a single vendor provide the school database. Lassa and Shankland have proposed a bill to reverse that, and let two software firms handle the project.
Redistricting lawsuit plaintiffs say they’ve been stymied in finding new evidence that state Legislative Republicans illegally withheld documents in their 2011 re-mapping. The Republicans recently turned over nine hard drives to Democratic and Hispanic groups that sued the state, so they could try to find documents which a federal court told the G-O-P to provide. But in a new court filing, the plaintiffs said one hard drive was unreadable – and another looked like its metal housing was removed. The plaintiffs lost most of their redistricting suit a year ago, as the court found that all but two of the newly-drawn Assembly and Senate districts were constitutional. Afterward, the plaintiffs said they identified 55 documents which should have been turned over to them by the Republicans, but never were. The judges later ordered the state to give them their redistricting computers, so they could look for fraud in the re-mapping process. In the new court filing, forensic examiner Mark Lanterman said documents were deleted last June, July, and November – and some programs had wiping software so deleted files could not be recovered. A legislative attorney said any allegations of misconduct are unproven – and the Legislature had the right to delete items after a certain amount of time. But the plaintiffs insist lawmakers were ordered to keep all documents from the case.
Kewaunee County is getting a 50-thousand-dollar state grant to help prepare for life after its nuclear power plant leaves. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says the funding will help local economic leaders work on a re-development strategy. Dominion Resources says it will close the Kewaunee plant on May seventh, and will then take about a year to decommission the facility. Most of the 650 workers at the plant are expected to be finished by the end of this summer. The Kewaunee County Economic Development Corporation has formed a group to work on future strategies. The plant pays over a-million-dollars a year to local governments in lieu of property taxes. Officials say those payments will continue in full through 2014, and then drop 20-percent a year until the payments are eliminated in 2019. The state lawmakers who serve the area say they’re looking at ideas to make sure the property continues to provide money to Kewaunee County and the town of Carleton where the plant is located.
Wisconsin has gained about 39-thousand residents since the last Census in 2010. The U-S Census Bureau said the Badger State had just over five-point-seven million people as of last July. Milwaukee County is attracting new people again, after its population dropped by 60-thousand in the three decades ending in 2000. The state’s largest county gained 74-hundred residents in the past two years, and it now has around 955-thousand. Officials say Milwaukee County has gained about 33-hundred immigrants who settled from other countries. Father David Bergner of Milwaukee’s Catholic Charities says many immigrants find work in a relatively short time – and lots of them have trade experience to offer. About half of Wisconsin’s 72 counties saw their populations drop slightly.
Leaders in a dozen Wisconsin communities say they want to be ready the next time the effects of climate change show up. Wisconsin Public Radio says places from Dane County to Superior have created task forces to try-and-become better prepared for dealing with heat waves, flooding, and droughts among other things. Green Bay and La Crosse are making similar efforts. Many include ways to protect the most vulnerable residents, including the elderly and the infirm. The Dane County group in Madison is expected to have recommendations ready by September. County Executive Joe Parisi says the effects of climate change are obvious. He said Madison’s Lake Mendota stayed frozen for four months about 150 years ago – and that’s down to three months today. David Liebl of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts says the number of days exceeding 90-degrees will increase.
A Gouda cheese from central Wisconsin has been judged as the nation’s best. The Marieke Mature Gouda from Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp won the top award last night at the U-S Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay. Marieke Penterman is the cheese-maker who brought the entry – and her cheese scored 98-point-three-one of a possible 100 in the final round of judging. The first runner-up was a semi-hard alpine cheese from the Spring Brook Farm and the Farms for City Kids Foundation in Reading Vermont. Wisconsin cheeses won gold medals in 47 of the 81 categories. Vermont and New York tied for second, with six golds each. The contest attracted a record number of entries, over 17-hundred.