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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Milwaukee Archdiocese offers bankruptcy reorganization plan

MILWAUKEE - Almost every one-of-every-four people who claimed they were sexually abused by priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese would be compensated under a plan put forward today.  

The church was filing a bankruptcy re-organization plan with a federal court, that outlined how the church would pay its creditors -- mostly people abused by Catholic priests over a period of decades.  The archdiocese plans to set aside four-million-dollars -- by far the smallest settlement proposed in any of church's bankruptcy cases throughout the country.  Officials said insurance companies might be sued to pry out some more money for the victims they serve.  And the church would borrow up to two-million dollars from a fund that maintains Catholic cemeteries in the 10-county archdiocese.  Archbishop Jerome Listecki said no amount of money would be satisfactory.  He said the church was already insolvent and quote, "What we're trying to do is the best we can with what we have."  A committee for the creditors did not immediately comment.  Peter Isley  of the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests called the four-million dollar offer an "obscene gesture."


A pedestrian killed by a passing train in downtown Ladysmith was identified today as 28-year-old Jacob Lebal of Ladysmith.  Authorities are continuing to investigate how he died.  The mishap occurred around noon yesterday on the Canadian National railroad tracks.  Lebal died at a Ladysmith hospital.


Governor Scott Walker said today he would support an optional holiday for state employees to celebrate the birthday of Hispanic union organizing leader Cesar Chavez.  One of the Legislature's two Latino members -- Milwaukee State Assembly Democrat JoCasta Zamarripa -- is proposing the measure, which failed to pass in previous sessions.  Then again, it never received support from the Republican Walker until now.  He said the idea of honoring Chavez is fine with him, as long as it doesn't cost the state any money.  State employees could take the union activist's birthday off -- March 31st -- as long there are enough other people can keep the government running, and those who take the holiday work on another holiday during the year.  Today, Walker shrugged off suggestions that would oppose Zamarripa's bill due to Chavez' work in creating the United Farm Workers -- and the fact that Walker put a huge crackdown on state government unions.  A Walker spokesman said the governor has always believed that private-sector unions are partners in job creation.  Nationally, Republicans are trying to reach out to minorities for support -- but Walker denied that his support for a Chavez holiday has anything to do with his possible run for the presidency in 2016.


A bill designed to protect student information was endorsed today by a Wisconsin State Assembly panel.  The education committee originally deadlocked 5-5 on the measure -- but a member who was not there cast the deciding vote later on.  The bill puts new restrictions on the state Department of Public Instruction and private firms over information they collect on school youngsters.  Whitewater Republican Steve Nass joined the panel's four Democrats in voting no.  The bill had been recommended by a task force which reviewed the state's Common Core education standards.  Also, the panel delayed a vote today on a bill to prohibit schools from collecting bio-metric data from students -- things like finger-prints and eye-scans.  Changes to the measure are reportedly being considered.


Wisconsin lawmakers were hearing testimony today on a bill to throw out local "living wage" ordinances.  The state Assembly's Labor Committee began a public hearing on a measure from Delafield Republican Chris Kapenga.  He said he wanted to nullify an ordinance passed last week by the Milwaukee County Board.  It requires a minimum wage of $11.32-an-hour for county government employees and those contracted by the county.  Kapenga said it would not totally remove local control on the subject -- because the living wage ban would only apply in cases where state-and-federal money is involved.  County Executive Chris Abele opposes the living wage measure, but has not said whether he'll veto it.  Dane County and the cities of Milwaukee and Madison have living wage ordinances higher than the state-and-federal minimum wage of $7.25-an-hour.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) said he asked Kapenga to scale back his measure.  Vos wants it to apply only when state tax funds to a community are higher than they otherwise would be without a living wage requirement.  Vos said he disagreed with the Milwaukee County Board's measure -- but he said communities do get to make some decisions.


A Democratic candidate for Wisconsin attorney general wants the Justice Department to start an investigation into possible price-gouging by propane fuel suppliers.  Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards says other attorneys general in Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio have opened similar inquiries.  Richards says we should find out quote, "whether or not companies are taking advantage of consumers and homeowners in one of the worst Wisconsin winters in recent memory."  Propane fuel prices more than doubled since late December, although they've fallen slightly in the past couple weeks to a statewide average of just under four-dollars a gallon.  The severe cold -- and its demand for heating fuel -- is partially to blame for the propane shortage.  Officials also said farmers need more fuel than normal to dry their wet crops as they were being harvested last fall.


A Catholic pro-life group says it's being discriminated against, after its request to have a booth at the Walworth County Fair was turned down.  Peter's Net had a booth at last year's fair -- and the Fair's foundation says it won't let the group return because it received at least one complaint from a year ago.  A spokeswoman for the fair had no immediate comment.  The group has asked fair officials for a more detailed explanation by today.  Peter's Net says it promotes Catholic teachings -- and it's accusing the fair of not letting them return because of its opposition to abortion.  The group says the fair is engaging in quote, "unlawful discrimination."


A judge has ordered a Racine County man to stay off the Internet, after he put a false ad on Craigslist which claimed that his neighbor was looking for sex.  The neighbor didn't know about the ad until at least three people knocked on her door -- one wearing only a jacket.  31-year-old Jason Willis insisted it was a joke.  Circuit Judge Pat Torhorst didn't see anything funny about it -- and he gave Willis 30 days to cancel his home Internet service.  He was given two-and-a-half years of probation -- but if he's caught going online during that time, he'll be sent to prison for a year-and-a-half, with another year-and-a-half of extended supervision.  The woman told police that Willis was apparently retaliating, after she picked on him for spending time in jail in the past.  Judge Torhorst told Willis it was "unconscionable" to single out a neighbor like that.  He had pleaded guilty to misappropriating personal data to harm somebody's reputation. 


It never fails  Somebody in Wisconsin will get snowed on whenever the temperatures rise during this bitter winter.  And so it went this morning, when the state's mid-section received up to two-inches of the white stuff.  Independence in far western Wisconsin received the most.  Most of the light snow was expected to end this afternoon -- but a chance of snow continues tonight and tomorrow throughout the state, with lows around 10-above and highs tomorrow near 30.  Dry weather is predicted for today, and -- as you probably know -- colder temperatures.  Most of the state is expected to be back below zero by early Friday morning.