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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: New law allows taverns and liquor stores to sue fake ID users

MADISON - A new bill signed into law today would let Wisconsin bars and liquor stores sue underage customers who use fake ID's to buy booze.  

Governor Scott Walker agreed to let retailers file small claims suits for up to a-thousand dollars against 18-to-20-year-olds, or the parents or guardians of minors who try to buy alcohol.  State Assembly Republican Andre Jacque of Green Bay proposed the measure, patterned after Alaska's "Brown Jug Law" which he says has improved compliance dramatically.  Jacque says liquor providers are liable for selling to underage customers -- so it's only fair to sue customers who use false pretenses to get their beer-and-booze.  Critics feared entrapment on the part of alcohol sellers.  In Alaska, those businesses often seek out-of-court settlements that generate to reward employees who catch the illegal drinkers.  The bill was among 23 signed by Walker today.  Others provide limits on public access to open land at the Gogebic Taconite mining site, and give landlords more power over tenants.  


Wisconsin landlords will soon get more power over their tenants.  Governor Walker signed a bill into law today which his fellow Republicans say would ease burdensome requirements for landlords, and hold tenants more responsible for damages to their units. Dwelling owners could dispose of almost anything tenants leave behind without advance notice.  Landlords can remove improperly-parked cars from their lots without having to call the police first.  Tenants can be evicted for crimes committed in their units, if they had the chance to stop those crimes and didn't.  Evictions cannot occur if the tenants are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Walker highlighted the exception in a statement about the bill, saying it quote, "aids tenants."   Democrats said the new law tramples on consumers' rights, and they predicted that more evictions would occur as a result of the measure.  Just over 3,500 eviction cases wound up in court last year.  The bill was among 23 Walker signed into law this morning in his State Capitol office.


At least some public access will be allowed on recreational land at the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine near Lake Superior.  Governor Walker signed a bill today that bans public access within 600-feet of mining roads, and 600-feet of most mining equipment.  The original bill would have closed all 32-hundred acres of the mining site, even though the landowner gets a state tax break to keep it open for things like hunting-and-hiking. State Senate Republican Tom Tiffany wanted to avoid a repeat of an incident in June in which protesters climbed on mining equipment, stole a worker's cell phone, and stole a video camera from an employee taping the vandalism.  Walker accepted a compromise, which came after complaints that people who've hunted on the land for generations could no longer do so.  The site's owner must give up part of its tax break if the land is closed -- and all of it would have to stay open for each November's gun deer hunt.  Democrats still rejected the compromise, with one calling it a "sweetheart deal" for Gogebic Taconite.  In a statement, Walker's only comment was that it quote, "focuses on the health and safety of visitors and workers at mining sites."


The state budget deficit dropped by 23-percent last year, according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles -- the most rigorous financial standards.  Governor Scott Walker said today that the deficit as shown by the accepted principles was $1.7 billion dollars at the end of the last fiscal year on June 30th.  That's down a half-billion dollars from the year before.  And it's the smallest deficit under the accepted accounting principles since 2002, when the shortfall stood at $1.4 billion.  Under the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, liabilities are entered into the books as soon as they're committed -- not when the money is actually spent, which happens under the state's more recognized accounting methods.


Governor Scott Walker says he wants the next state budget to include a new source of funds for state highways that won't dry up if folks keep using less gas.  Gov. Walker told the Forestry Economic Summit in Madison today that he hopes to find a new breakthrough idea that other states can also use.  He indicated that he might propose a new funding package as part of a larger plan to cut sales-and-income taxes.  That of course, assumes that Walker gets re-elected.  He'll have to win another term before he can propose anything in a 2015 state budget.  In his first budgets, Walker avoided tax-and-fee increases -- and he decided to borrow more money for new roads instead.


The head of the state Assembly's Criminal Justice Committee says it will not be easy to pass a bill creating a state board to review deaths involving police officers.  The panel held a public hearing today on the bill, proposed by Assembly Republican Garey Bies of Sister Bay.  It would require police agencies to use outside investigators to look into things like shooting deaths of suspects by officers.  Also, a state Justice Department panel would have to review the deaths, and make recommendations to prosecutors on possible charges.  Committee chairman Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc said the measure would have a hard time getting through the Legislature, because it might suggest that lawmakers don't trust law enforcement.  Bies -- a former chief sheriff's deputy in Door County -- said many police agencies already use outside departments as matters of policy.  He also said the bill is not as critical of officers as Kleefisch might believe.  


The governor's office this week promoted a series of round-table discussions about Wisconsin's tax code, and what changes people would like to see.  As it turns out, though, the discussions are not open to the general public or the news media.  The Beloit Daily News tried reporting on Monday's event at Beloit College -- but the newspaper's reporter was not allowed in until close to the end.  Kleefisch chief-of-staff Casey Himebauch told the AP that it's standard operating procedure for the roundtable discussions with government and business leaders to be closed to reporters.  He said it lets participants quote, "speak freely without worrying about what they have to say."  Those attending are invited -- and Himebauch says the same will apply next week at similar round-tables in Eau Claire and Superior.   


Almost two-thousand Wisconsinites bought health insurance on the federal Web site in the first nine days of this month.  That's according to figures released separately by both the state and federal governments.  Yesterday, the state insurance commissioner's office said 7,200 Wisconsin residents bought coverage on as of Monday.  This morning, the federal government said 5,300 Wisconsinites signed up for Obamacare as of the end of November.  That means 1,900 enrolled from December first-through-ninth.  Any way you count it, it's a pittance compared to the estimated 700,000 Wisconsinites who expect to buy coverage from the federal government's exchange.  Federal officials said over 47,000 state residents completed insurance applications on the Web site through November -- although most didn't complete the process yet.  Washington says many of the early glitches online have been eliminated.


A private attorney in Racine County was suspended for six months by the State Supreme Court today for committing 20 ethics violations.  Suzanne Smith of Burlington was also ordered to pay $13,000 for the costs of prosecuting her.  She must also reimburse about $120, after billing the Public Defender's office for criminal appeal work that she never performed.  The state's Office of Lawyer Regulation originally charged Smith with 22 violations in matters involving four clients.  She pleaded no contest to nine counts.  A referee later ruled that Smith committed 11 of the other 13 alleged violations.  The Supreme Court said Smith missed legal deadlines, did not answer clients' questions, performed sub-standard work, and billed clients for work that was never done.  Smith blamed poor health for her allegations and said the punishment was too harsh.  The justices noted a pattern of problems.


A second man who died in an Adams County house fire on October 28th was identified this week as 55-year-old James Boone.  Sheriff's officers had to check DNA comparisons to figure out Boone's identity.  The fire broke out in Boone's camper near a mobile home where the other victim lived.  79-year-old Ronald Peak was the first victim who was identified soon after the fire occurred.  His wife was hospitalized with injuries in the blaze.  It occurred in the Adams County town of Easton, about 15 miles northwest of Wisconsin Dells.  Authorities believed the fire was an accident, but there's been no word on the exact cause.


Bond has been set at $11,000 dollars for a man accused of hitting-and-killing a Wisconsin teen with his vehicle in Hawaii, and then driving away.  31-year-old Dominic Franklyn of Honolulu has been indicted by a Hawaii grand jury on a felony count of fleeing a fatal accident scene.  Authorities said 19-year-old Mariah Danforth-Moore of Oneida was in a crosswalk on a major highway in November of 2011, when she was struck by a vehicle heading toward Kaneohe, Hawaii.   She died later at a hospital. Franklyn turned himself in two days after the incident, but was never charged until now.


A 53-year-old man could spend the rest of his life in prison, after he was found guilty of killing a teenager 15 years ago in northeast Wisconsin.  Oconto County jurors deliberated four-and-a-half hours yesterday before convicting Peter Hanson of first-degree intentional homicide.  A scheduling conference in the case is set for Monday.  55-year-old Charles Mlados is also charged in the slaying.  He's scheduled to go on trial February 14th on a homicide charge in the death of 19-year-old Chad McLean of Green Bay. Prosecutors said Hanson gave himself away by telling authorities details that were never released to the public -- like the fact that McLean died of gunshot wounds to the head.  Prosecutors said the two defendants argued with McLean before killing him.  A defense lawyer said three witnesses testified about Hanson's confession only because they were trying to get leniency in their own criminal cases.  McLean was last seen riding with Hanson and Mlados in February of 1998 after a night of drinking.  The victim's body was found in the Pensaukee River near Abrams a month later.


Duluth-Superior authorities say they've made almost 10 prostitution arrests over the last six weeks related to human trafficking.  Investigators from the Superior and Duluth police departments, the Douglas County sheriff's office, and the Lake Superior Drug-and-Gang Task Force conducted three sting operations.  They involved online advertising for paid sex, and they netted two women from Superior suspected of prostitution and seven alleged customers.  Superior Deputy Police Chief Nicholas Alexander says the arrests have elements of human trafficking, since many people engaged in prostitution are not doing it voluntarily.  He says somebody might be forcing them into it by withholding money or drugs, threatening to take away food or housing, or involving physical harm or the possibility of it.  


With the assistance of technology, authorities in southeast Wisconsin arrest a man for allegedly stealing over $20,000 in computer equipment. Elm Grove Police say an I-P trace led to the address and location of the computers. Police say at one of the searched homes, a vehicle matching surveillance footage was also found. The equipment was reportedly stolen from an architect company through a broken window on November 23. The suspect, Christopher Edwards of Oak Creek, was arrested and charged with felony burglary to a building. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing tomorrow.


The Ripon Chamber of Commerce is accepting donations for several families affected by a three-alarm fire this morning. Fire officials say the blaze ripped through several connecting stores on Watson Street, including the apartments of seven families. Ripon Fire Chief Tim Saul says this morning’s blaze had the potential to be a deadly fire, but credits fast-acting police officers and first responders for evacuating everyone. No injuries were reported. In addition to cash donations, the Chamber of Commerce has released a list of items needed, including personal hygiene items and clothing. The list can be viewed at


It's not as cold today in northern Wisconsin, where 30-below wind-chills were common the past couple mornings.  Rhinelander had the state's coldest wind-chill at minus-21 at seven o'clock.  Antigo was at minus-20, and most other Badger State locations had wind-chills in the minus-teens.  Unlike yesterday, the actual early morning temperatures did not drop below minus-10 in the north.  However, it did get a little colder in southern Wisconsin.  It was in the single digits this morning, after many parts of the south were in the teens early yesterday.  Cloudy skies kept the mercury from plunging in the north.  Some places had light snow.  Neillsville had one-inch overnight.  It's supposed to get a little warmer the next couple days, with highs in the single digits above zero in the northwest, to the 20's in the south.  All of Wisconsin could see 20-degrees on Saturday, with a new chance of snow through the weekend.


Bus riders in Eau Claire have lost a direct connection to Duluth-Superior.  Jefferson Lines said yesterday that it ended the route it ran for two years between Duluth and Eau Claire, due to low ridership.  People can still ride an indirect route from Duluth to the Twin Cities, and then stopping at Eau Claire on another route that continues to Green Bay.  But last Friday's shutdown of the direct route ended bus service in smaller towns like Bloomer, Chetek, Rice Lake, Spooner, Minong, and Solon Springs.  Kevin Pursey of Jefferson Lines said the firm did not like discontinuing the service -- but the line did not attract enough riders to make it viable.


A family-owned cheese-maker said today it will expand-and-renovate its plants in Antigo and Plymouth.  The Sartori Company expects to create up to 53 new jobs by upgrading equipment with a $14-million-dollar project.  Governor Scott Walker's office said the fourth-generation family company would will upgrade equipment at its 100-year-old plant in Antigo.  The project is designed to enhance safety-and-sustainability, improve ergonomics for employees, and expand capacity and capabilities for future ongoing growth.  The work is scheduled to begin next year, which is Sartori's 75th anniversary.  The state's Economic Development Corporation has certified almost 400-thousand dollars in tax breaks, based on the numbers of new full-time jobs the firm creates over a three-year period.


UW-Madison students get a lot for their money.  Kiplinger's Personal Finance says the Wisconsin flagship campus is the eighth-best value among public universities.  That's two places higher than a year ago.  La Crosse is the only other Wisconsin school on the list.  It ranks 57th, down from 49th the year before.  Kiplinger's says Madison has become a quote, "Midwestern magnet for millennials ... Maybe that, plus solid academics, helps explains why 95-percent of students stick around after (their) freshman year."  Kiplinger says the city of Madison is especially appealing to young adults due to its quote, "masses of young people, political jobs at the State Capitol, and myriad tech start-ups."  The top schools on Kiplinger's list are the universities of North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida.


The historical drama "Twelve Years a Slave" was tied for the most Golden Globe nominations today with seven -- and a Milwaukee native got one of those nominations.  John Ridley Junior was recognized for his screenplay of "Twelve Years a Slave."  It's the story of a free black man who was abducted and later sold as a slave.  Critics call it the most unblinking portrait of the slavery era.  Among its other nominations was for Best Picture.  The comedy "American Hustle" also received seven Golden Globe nominations.  "Behind the Candelabra," the HBO drama about West Milwaukee native Liberace, was given four nominations.  They included Best Mini-series or Motion Picture for Television.  The Golden Globes will handed out on January 12th.


 A Janesville woman does not want her family-and-friends to go through the stress of a funeral.  So instead, 52-year-old Diana Purdy Brown is having a party on Sunday, where she'll tell people how much they've meant to her.  Brown was diagnosed this fall with an inoperable pancreatic cancer.  Doctors told her she'd have up to nine months to live,  However, the cancer is spreading fast and she doesn't believe she'll be around that long -- so she's making the most of each day.  Brown achieved a long-time desire by getting a tattoo which honors her parents.  She took her four children on a cruise.  And she still frets about the idea that she'll see a lot of people for the final time on Sunday.  Brown tells the Janesville Gazette she can't be happy about that.  At Sunday's party, there will be music and lots of memories.  Her two daughters wrote letters that will be read.  Anyone who ever knew Diana Purdy Brown is urged to attend.