WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Hearing on raw milk bill set for next week
MADISON - Wisconsinites will have their say Wednesday on the latest effort to allow sales of raw milk. The state Senate committee on rural issues has a 2 p.m. hearing set for September 11th on a bill from West Bend Senate Republican Glenn Grothman.
It would let farmers sell unpasteurized milk directly to customers, under certain guidelines. The farms would have to be registered with the state. Grothman proposed the bill after Sauk County dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger had all but one of his four charges dropped earlier this year. Supporters saw raw milk has health benefits. Opponents say even one disease outbreak from the product could negatively affect Wisconsin's multi-billion-dollar dairy industry. Three years ago, former Governor Jim Doyle was almost ready to sign a raw milk bill into law when dairy lobbyists got to him at the last minute. The Democrat Doyle vetoed the measure. Republican Governor Scott Walker has said he might approve raw milk sales, as long as they meet certain conditions.
Eau Claire Authorities say a newborn baby’s death has been ruled a homicide. Police say on August 28, a 15-year-old teen was brought to a hospital with complications from childbirth at her residence. When officers arrived, they found the baby girl was dead. Investigators discovered the baby was born alive and was near full-term, determining the baby died of “homicidal actions”. Police say they later learned the teen was allegedly a sexual assault victim of 48-year-old Larry Johnson, who is believed to be the baby’s father. He is charged with sexual assault of a child. Investigators say the teen’s role in the baby’s death is still being investigated and her identity will not be revealed.
Construction work will continue through autumn on a new Mississippi River bridge along Interstate-90 north of La Crosse. Mark Anderson of the Minnesota DOT says the work is going well so far. Crews have cut into a bluff area on the Minnesota side of the river, so a new and longer interchange can be constructed. Part of the bluff excavation is also intended to create room for new lanes going east into Wisconsin. Traffic lanes that were closed on I-90 will be re-opened around November 15th. Starting next year, drivers going from La Crosse to La Crescent, Minnesota will be detoured through nearby Dresbach, as a westbound exit will be closed until the project is completed in 2016. The existing bridge opened in 1967, and officials say it has seen better days. It's expected to be removed in mid-2017, and the new span is projected to be good for up to 100 years.
A La Crosse man is scheduled to be sentenced November first, after a jury convicted him of breaking into a college student's apartment and stabbing him. Jurors also found 24-year-old Anthony Lee innocent of assaulting a police officer. Prosecutors said Lee and Bret Clark busted into a La Crosse apartment in July of last year. They got into a scuffle with the tenant and stabbed him in a cheek. Officials said a La Crosse police officer later caught them trying to break into another apartment -- and they allegedly attacked him when they learned he couldn't ask for a backup. Lee's five convictions include reckless endangerment and burglary. Before his trial, Lee pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana and bail jumping. Clark was sentenced to a year in jail with five years of probation, after he pleaded guilty to a pair of charges in the incident.
It's about as warm as advertised throughout the western half of Wisconsin today. Siren in the northwest and Boscobel in the southwest both had 87 degrees at one o'clock, with a possibility of hitting 90 before the day's done. Other temperatures in the western half of the state early this afternoon were in the low-to-mid-80's for the most part. Much of eastern Wisconsin was a bit cooler in the 70's. Forecasters say there's a slight chance of thunderstorms this afternoon and evening, and a better chance tomorrow when a cold front moves through. The National Weather Service said it could hit 90 tomorrow in La Crosse and Eau Claire before things cool down throughout the state for tomorrow night and Sunday. Warmer-and-wetter conditions are due to return on Monday.
The first phase of Wisconsin's fall deer hunting season will begin in eight days. An early archery season will open a week from tomorrow and run through November 21st. The DNR says it will interrupted for two days on Oct. 5 and 6, so a statewide youth hunt can take place. A later bow-and-arrow season will go from November 23rd through January fifth. Almost 264,000 archers killed about 94,000 deer in last year's season. Both those numbers were up from the previous year.
The UW Board of Regents was told today about the problems that needed to be fixed involving the university's two-year-old centralized employee payroll system. Many of the weaknesses outlined by a national accounting firm are already being addressed. Still, new board member Margaret Farrow said she was still outraged after the computerized Human Relations network overpaid $34-million in health benefits and pension funds for the 70,000 UW employees. Farrow told reporters she was outraged to see four pages of flaws -- and if the same problems afflicted another board, somebody in that department would be gone. Another newly-appointed Regent, former state auditor Janice Mueller, said the state government has a long history of computer problems. She said the work that's promised is rarely on time, and rarely without issues. By the time the university benefits were made known, about 20-million of the over-allocated money had been returned. Billing errors gave student employees an extra $1.1 million dollars. The UW later decided not to seek that money back.
The 26 University of Wisconsin campuses had almost a billion dollars in reserves by the end of June. Senior vice president David Miller told the Board of Regents in Madison today that the schools' reserves total almost $949-million as of two months ago. About $551 million of that was surplus tuition. University officials have promised to be more open about its budgetary matters, ever since legislators were shocked to learn about the large surpluses in April. Lawmakers were upset to hear that the campus held onto so much money, while raising tuition by five-and-a-half percent year-after-year. The Regents expect to adopt a new reporting policy next month which includes a threshold for reporting cash balances on each individual campus and the UW System offices. University officials say they need strike a balance between austerity, and making sure there's enough money to maintain minimal fiscal health.
Charges were pending today against a 19-year-old man who allegedly killed a co-worker at a Subway sandwich shop in Portage. Police said 22-year-old David Johnson was shot numerous times in cold blood in the restaurant's parking lot yesterday morning. Detective Mark Hahn said both employees were quote, "written up" by their boss last week due to a heated argument they got into. Police said the suspect waited for Johnson to drive into the parking lot before shooting him. The 19-year-old was arrested about an hour after the shootings in Columbus. He faces a possible charge of first-degree intentional homicide. Officials expect the arrested teen to appear in court next week. Divine Savior Hospital was under a lockdown while the alleged shooter was wanted. Portage school officials also said they put extra security in place, and did not allow students outside for almost an hour -- unless their parents wanted to pick them up.
A Wisconsin man, in jail for selling drugs to an undercover officer, is accused of using a child to sell the drugs. Rock County authorities arrested 32-year-old Jamie Jacobson and his wife, 27-year-old Jennifer Jacobson, earlier this week for allegedly selling heroine. According to authorities, the suspects say they would sometimes use a child to exchange drugs in a DVD case for cash. Investigators say the child did not know drugs were in the DVD cases. The Janesville couple were busted when an informant allegedly bought Xanax and one-point-five grams of heroin from them. The couple faces a charge of using a child to distribute drugs, among other drug-related charges.
Appleton has become the third city in Wisconsin to prohibit housing discrimination based on gender identities. The city's diversity coordinator, Kathy Flores, says there are no state-or-federal protections for trans-gender individuals, and those with non-conforming genders. She says everyone is either male-or-female at birth -- but that can change, and it's up to cities to protect those in the grey areas. Landlords that deny rental housing to trans-gender individuals can be fined up to 10-thousand dollars under the new Appleton ordinance. Only Madison and Milwaukee have similar protections in Wisconsin. They're among 160 cities and 17 states which prohibit housing discrimination based on both gender and sexual orientation. Wisconsin became the first state to set up anti-discrimination laws for gay residents. Katie Belanger of Fair Wisconsin says many trans-gender residents still face discrimination when they look for new housing throughout the state.
A Catholic church in Stevens Point wants to tear down an almost 60-year-old convent -- but city leaders are saying no. The Point Common Council has turned down a request by Saint Stephen Parish to take down a convent that was built for nuns in 1954. Church leaders say the structure is in disrepair, and it's a burden on the church's finances. City officials say the building is in an historic district, and that's why it had the authority to save it. Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halvorsen tells Wisconsin Public Radio it's the last parish intact in the city -- where a church, rectory, convent, and school are all in one place. The mayor says he plans to work with the parish to find alternative uses for the convent.
U.S. House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner has filed a court brief in support of a lawsuit against the National Security Agency's collection of citizens' phone records and e-mails. The American Civil Liberties Union is the main plaintiff, accusing the Obama White House of violating the Patriot Act with its bulk collection of people's calling data. Sensenbrenner, who's from Menomonee Falls, says quote, "The NSA's dragnet collection of data is a violation of Americans' privacy rights, and a misinterpretation of the law." The veteran lawmaker says the bulk data collection has quote, "frightening implications," and it makes every phone call made by Americans relevant to terrorist investigations.
College graduates could refinance their student loans, under a bill proposed by Wisconsin's newest U.S. House member. Madison Democrat Mark Pocan held a news conference in his home district yesterday, to discuss a bill he says would make college more affordable -- and prevent adults from being dragged down economically by their long-running student debt. Pocan's bill would let people get the lowest interest rates possible on re-financing student loans, just like they do with homes and cars. He says students face limited options to refinance their college loans. Pocan's bill would remove such restrictions and let those with federal Stafford and Direct-PLUS loans to refinance to get lower interest -- thus giving them more buy homes and cars. Pocan says college grads are bankrolling Washington with total student debts of over a trillion dollars, more than the nation's total credit card debt. The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group says the average student loan balance in the state is just over $26,000 dollars.
Governor Scott Walker has declared September as “Don’t Text and Drive” awareness month. Randy Romanski with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Safety says it’s state law… if you text while driving, you will get a ticket. Romanski says crashes due to distracted driving is very preventable and they hope to raise some serious awareness this month – which includes television advertisements. WisDOT has also partnered with Triple-A Wisconsin and AT&T to speak at 25 schools in the state, reminding over 16,000 kids that it’s illegal to text while driving and is a primary offense in the state. As with impaired and reckless driving, Romanski says if you see anyone texting while driving… call 911 immediately.