WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Milwaukee County Board approves puts increasing minimum wage on November ballot
Milwaukee County could join others around the state in holding November advisory referendums on whether Wisconsin should raise its minimum wage. The Milwaukee County Board voted yesterday to put the minimum wage issue on the November ballot -- along with two other advisory referendums on using federal funds to expand Badger-Care and allowing the state's largest county to have an appointed administrator. County Executive Chris Abele said he would veto all three referendums, saying they cost too much and the board would do better by simply passing resolutions. Supervisors could then consider overriding the vetos. The Raise Wisconsin coalition is trying to get counties and cities throughout the state to hold minimum wage referendums. They said it would send a message to state Republicans who refuse to consider a proposed hike from 7.25-an-hour to 10.10. The Dane County Board okayed a referendum this week. Eau Claire and Kenosha counties also have the issue on their November ballots. Raise Wisconsin has also filed papers for municipal referendums in Neenah and Menasha. Those requests are still pending.
With the Fourth-of-July just a week away, authorities are stepping up enforcement efforts to nab drunk boaters. Starting today, "Operation Dry Water" begins on waters in the Green Bay area. It's the sixth year in a row that the U-S Coast Guard, the state D-N-R, and local sheriff's and police agencies are teaming up to stop drunks on the water. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Austin Olmstead of Green Bay says 17-percent of all boating deaths last year were caused by alcohol. In Wisconsin, the legal limit for boaters' intoxication is the same as that on the highways -- zero-point-eight.
Milwaukee's Summerfest continues to feel the after-effects of a less joyous winter. For the second night in a row, the Big Bang fireworks show was postponed last night due to heavy fog on Milwaukee's lakefront. They'll try again next Tuesday. The problem is the clash of the warm air temperatures, and colder-than-normal water temperatures spurred by a record ice-buildup on Lake Michigan this past winter. It's no problem seeing things on the ground, however. About 18-thousand people saw Lady Gaga perform at Summerfest last night. Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, and Joel Crouse are tonight's headliners.
Summer traffic plus road construction could equal a real mess this weekend on the Interstate 39-90-94 freeway in southern Wisconsin. The state D-O-T is urging drivers to avoid the expressway in Dane and Rock counties this afternoon, and again on Sunday afternoon. Besides the usual tourist traffic, a construction zone is expected to cause delays at the Highway 151 interchange on the northeast side of Madison. Also, there have been pavement repairs going on between Janesville and Edgerton. Motorists can get the latest by calling 5-1-1, or the Wisconsin 5-1-1 Web site and Twitter stream.
Want to know what it was like to be an American soldier during World War Two? The Highground Veterans' Memorial near Neillsville will hold a re-enactment tomorrow. Event coordinator Teresa Hebert says five encampments will be on display, each with fully-uniformed re-enactors who will represent different theaters of operation. They'll also answer questions and pose for pictures. Tomorrow night, the Highground will host a Voices-of-Freedom concert featuring veterans who are musicians and poets. There will also be a fireworks show at dusk. The Highground is located in Clark County, about three miles west of Neillsville on Highway 10.
Federal officials will wait for another six months to decide whether to protect a bat species that's dying off from white nose syndrome. Wisconsin's D-N-R balked at the protections when they were first announced in late April -- and so did natural resource officials in three other states. They said it could hurt the states' forest products industry, with a possible ban on cutting large areas of timber from April-through-September. Right now, the government is simply discouraging those timber harvests with voluntary guidelines. The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service was going to decide by October second whether to add the northern long-eared bat to the endangered species list. The Wisconsin D-N-R's Erin Crain said agencies need more time to give their input on how it would be carried out. As a result, a federal decision won't come until at least next spring. The Fish-and-Wildlife Service is again taking public comments. The proposed protections are in response to the growing instance of white nose syndrome, which has killed almost six million bats in the U-S. The disease was confirmed in Wisconsin for the first time in April.
It's not just farmers who are getting the state's help to boost their dairy production. Seven processors have become the first to receive state funding in Wisconsin's Dairy 30-by-20 program -- which has a goal of producing 30-billion pounds of milk a year by 2020. The current state budget includes grants of 200-thousand-dollars a year for processing firms that explore new technologies and make a variety of improvements. Dairyvative Technologies of Markesan is using its grant to carry out a process it created that allows fresh, lactose-free, pasteurized milk to be distributed without refrigeration. Other processing grants went to facilities at Stratford, Durand, Belgium, Shullsburg, Reeseville, and Weyauwega. State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel has been going around the state this week to present the grants. Governor Scott Walker described all seven of them in a statement yesterday.