WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Prison guards waiting for a raise other state employees already received
Wisconsin prison guards say they're tired of waiting for a one-percent pay raise that most other state employees received almost a year ago. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the hold-up is due to a dispute over the guards' union status. Once the dispute is resolved, the Walker administration said the guards would get back pay if it's determined that they are not members of a union. Last year, prison guards moved to separate themselves from the state's largest employees union, and form their own association. However, members voted down their certification status in an election four months ago. They had voted 813-to-43 to support the new union -- but not nearly enough guards voted to obtain the required 51-percent support from all 54-hundred members under the Act-10 bargaining limits. Meanwhile, the group has asked the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to reject the election results, and call another vote. That request is pending.
A new report on climate change has dire predictions for Wisconsin's and other states' ability to keep producing the food we need. However, one executive says nothing is mentioned about agriculture's traditional ability to adapt. Greg Page, the executive chairman of Cargill, says farmers will adjust their crop plantings -- and farmers will work together with the food supply chain to mitigate some of the doomsday scenarios. The new report, called "Risky Business," says global warming could cause U-S production of corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton to drop 14-percent by the middle of the century, and up to 42-percent late in the century. It cites extreme heat in the nation's mid-section. Page served on the advisory committee for the "Risky Business" report, and he spoke to agriculture reporters about the possible effects. It predicts lower crop yields in the Midwest and south due to more drought and floods. At the same time, it says warmer temperatures and carbon fertilization could improve productivity and crop yields in northern states like Wisconsin.
Folks along Lake Superior should see their high water levels go down a bit. That's after a joint U-S/Canadian regulatory board decided to beef up the outflow through the gates at Sault Sainte Marie at the east edge of Upper Michigan. The International Lake Superior Board of Control says the flow-settings at the head of Saint Mary's Rapids are increasing today. Anglers are being warned to watch out for the changing levels. The International Joint Commission recently said Lake Superior's water levels were six-point-three inches above their norms for early June. That's due to the recent heavy rains and the brutal winter that delayed the melting of ice. Lake Superior rose eight-inches in May, reaching its highest average levels for the month since 1997. It was only a year ago when concerns were raised about the water being too low. The Great Lakes' governing body said levels on Lake Michigan remain five-and-a-half inches below their average.
Wisconsin's largest county might not join others in giving voters a say on raising the state's minimum wage. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele (ay-blee) is against holding non-binding referendums for November on the minimum wage and two other issues. That's after the county comptroller said it would cost up to 120-thousand dollars to put the items on the ballot and tally all the votes. The County Board will decide tomorrow whether to include advisory referendums calling for a jump in Wisconsin's minimum wage to 10.10-an-hour, to expand federal funds for Badger-Care, and to let counties appoint their executives instead of electing them. Abele says he favors the higher minimum wage and more money for Badger-Care -- but he believes the board can simply pass resolutions to show the county's support. He says the cost of the referendums can be used for better things -- like giving more meals to home-bound seniors. There's already one advisory referendum on the Milwaukee County ballot for November. It asks voters whether the Citizens United Supreme Court decision should be nullified, to again prohibit corporations from spending money on election campaigns.
Repairs are getting underway at the Country View Elementary School in Verona, which had major damage from a tornado eight days ago. School district officials said insurance is covering most of the three-to-four million dollars in damage. Among other things, the building is getting a new roof. The wreckage covered about 17-thousand square feet. Demolition work began earlier in the week, and repair work was expected to start before the week's out. Officials have said they hope to have the school ready for fall classes on September second.
Wisconsin is one of 15 states that already meet new academic performance requirements for public school students with disabilities. The U-S Education Department said yesterday it would tie federal special-ed funding to student outcomes, instead of just focusing on what schools do to accommodate kids with special needs. In Wisconsin, special needs' students perform higher than most on math-and-reading tests -- and they have higher graduation rates. Still, groups like Disability Rights Wisconsin says the state cannot rest on its laurels. Almost seven-of-every-ten students with special needs graduated from Wisconsin high schools last year -- compared to nine-of-every-ten without disabilities. In Milwaukee, just 16-percent of disabled youngsters graduated from the public school system in four years. Several advocacy groups told state officials in March that more needs to be done to improve reading instruction for special needs' children. State figures show that 14-percent of Wisconsin public schools students, or about 120-thousand, have disabilities.
A veteran state lawmaker who resigned last week will head a group that represents the interests of Wisconsin's trucking and bus lines. The state Motor Carriers Association announced Neal Kedzie's hiring yesterday. The former Elkhorn Republican will replace Tom Howells, who's retiring after 35 years as the group's leader. Kedzie spent four years in the Assembly and a dozen years in the Senate, heading the natural resources committee in the most recent session. He said a few weeks ago that he would not run for re-election in the fall. He then said last week he would quit now, but did not say why. Kedzie now says he looks forward to representing a transportation group that has over a-thousand members. He said a vibrant trucking industry is vital to having a strong economy.