GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: State officials not accepting same-sex marriage licenses
Wisconsin officials are not accepting the same-sex marriage licenses given out by almost 50 counties since last Friday. Spokeswoman Jennifer Miller says the state Vital Records Office is not rejecting the licenses -- but it's putting them on hold until it gets "legal guidance from the attorney general." The Justice Department's Dana Brueck says the validity of the same-sex marriages is uncertain. That's after Federal Judge Barbara Crabb failed to tell counties what to do in the wake of her ruling which found that the state's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. Brueck says the attorney general's office has provided legal guidance to the Vital Records Office, which processes and files marriage licenses passed on by county registers-of-deeds. Brueck would not elaborate, citing an attorney-client privilege. The Dane County clerk has said he believes the marriages are legal, and the state should accept them immediately. Hundreds of licenses have been issued, but we don't know how many are processed. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court in Chicago continues to consider the state's request to put Judge Crabb's ruling on hold, while it appeals to try and keep the gay marriage ban in place. Yesterday, the appellate panel gave the state until June 23rd to explain why the regional court has the authority to consider the request for a stay, while Judge Crabb has yet to finalize the same request the district level. The appellate court later pulled back its ruling and said it was issued in error.
Gay marriage is no longer a red-versus-blue issue. We're seeing new evidence of that, as counties decide for themselves whether to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Fifty counties have gone against a directive by Republican Attorney General J-B Van Hollen to keep enforcing the state's ban on gay marriage -- even though Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled it unconstitutional last Friday. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says 27 of the 36 counties carried by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 are now allowing same-sex marriages -- and so are 23 of the 36 counties that went with Republican Mitt Romney. At first, the aftermath of the Crabb decision appeared to follow party lines, as the heavily-Democratic counties of Milwaukee and Dane were the first to issue marriage licenses to gay couples starting late Friday. Other counties followed suit on Monday. A third of them are still holding back to either get more guidance from state officials, or to see how Judge Crabb handles the case as it moves forward. She and a federal appeals court are deciding whether to put her Friday decision on hold while it's being challenged in the higher courts. Fifty-nine percent of state voters approved the state constitutional gay marriage ban in 2006. But a recent Marquette poll shows that 55-percent of registered voters now believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, while 37-percent said no.
Four Wisconsin legislative incumbents will stay on the August primary ballot, despite efforts to remove them. The Government Accountability Board rejected challenges yesterday to nomination papers for Senate Republican Frank Lasee of De Pere, Assembly Republican Kathy Bernier of the Chippewa Falls area, and Milwaukee Assembly Democrats JoCasta Zamarripa and Mandela Barnes. Their nominating signatures were challenged for a number of reasons, but the Board said all four had enough valid signatures to be on the ballot. Democrats argued that Lasee actually lives in Racine, and not in his Green Bay area district. Lasee provided documentation of his residence. He also mentioned the need for his wife to maintain a residence in Racine, due to child custody arrangements. The board said there was not enough evidence to prove that Lasee doesn't live in northeast Wisconsin. Earlier yesterday, the Board allowed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Brett Hulsey and congressional candidates Gary George and Jeremy Ryan to stay on their primary ballots. It cleared the way for Hulsey to run against Democrat Mary Burke for governor in August. Former state senator George will run against Milwaukee House Democrat Gwen Moore. State Capitol protester Ryan will oppose Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan in their primary.
Door County has become the 22nd in Wisconsin to be quarantined for the tree-killing emerald ash borer. The green beetle was found last week on private land south of Fish Creek. The U-S-D-A confirmed the bug's presence yesterday. Firewood is a common carrier of the emerald ash borer -- and with so many campgrounds and cabins in Door County, officials are not surprised that the beetle showed up there. Still, the ag department's Brian Kuhn says it's always disappointing to find. The ash borer killed millions of trees in the eastern U-S and Canada by the time it found its way to Wisconsin in 2008 in Washington County. Under the new quarantine, no one can take firewood from Door County to counties which are not quarantined. And businesses must prove to the state that their wood products are pest-free before they can be shipped.
Two suburban Milwaukee high school students have won a national auto repair skills contest. Colt Morris and Justin Bublitz of Grafton won the Ford/Triple-"A" student skills competition yesterday at the Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn Michigan. They and 49 other state champions raced the clock to diagnose problems with a car, and provide solutions. Bublitz and Morris earned a perfect score by fixing all the bugs with no demerit points. They were judged on their quality, workmanship, and safety. Teams also took a written test which counted toward their final scores. Over 13-thousand youngsters competed in the national contest, which encourages high school students to pursue automotive careers while continuing their educations. Morris will be a senior at Grafton this fall. Bublitz missed his graduation to take part in the event -- but he said it was more than worth it.
State officials are looking for businesses to take part in an 11-day trade mission to Singapore and Indonesia. Deputy Secretary Ryan Murray of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will be the state's lead official on the trip, which takes place from August 11th-through-22nd. The governor normally goes on trade missions -- but Scott Walker is sitting this one out, at a time when his re-election bid will be heating up. Wisconsin companies will have a chance to find new business opportunities in the Far East -- especially in water technology, in which Singapore is regarded as a worldwide leader. Dean Amhaus, C-E-O of Milwaukee's Water Council, says Singapore does a lot of water research -- and it would be a real coup for Wisconsin companies if they can help Singapore address its issues. The W-E-D-C says medical equipment is another major emphasis during the trade mission -- along with defense and security businesses, energy power, aviation and aerospace, food processing, and various agricultural areas. The deadline for businesses to apply is July first.
The U-S House has approved a spending bill that includes a Wisconsin Republican's effort to help rural residents who are on the brink of homelessness. Wausau area Republican Sean Duffy moved to add 10-million dollars to the Rural Housing Stability Assistance program. His amendment was approved on a voice vote, as part of a Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations bill for the fiscal year starting in October. Duffy's measure was spurred by a campaign he conducted last year to prevent hunger and homelessness in his large and rural north central Wisconsin district. He said rural America is too often forgotten -- but the pain of poverty is just as great, even though it's different. Instead of families living on the street, Duffy said up to three families have been known to crowd into a one-bedroom apartment so kids can have shelter. Duffy's amendment would provide money to a program that never got funded since it was created in 2009. The larger housing bill got final passage last night on a vote of 229-to-192. Menomonee Falls Republican Jim Sensenbrenner joined the state's three Democrats in voting no.
Wisconsin is about average when it comes to being a good place to make a living. That's according to MoneyRates-Dot-Com. Its annual survey ranks Wisconsin as the 24th-best state in which to make a living. That's based on things like average salaries, the cost of living, workplace conditions, and employment rates. Neighboring Minnesota is the third best, behind only Texas and first-place Washington. Hawaii is ranked 50th.