STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: Temperatures expected to warm up the next couple of days
It's still bitterly cold throughout Wisconsin -- but some places are 10 degrees warmer than they were at three o'clock this morning. Land O'Lakes in Vilas County jumped from 24-below to minus-15 by seven a-m. The National Weather Service said a low pressure system brought cloud cover to much of the Badger State -- and it warmed things up just a little. Prairie du Chien was the state's warm spot at seven o'clock, with nine above. Most places either had calm air or very light winds, so the wind-chill was not much of a problem. Light snow moved into southwest Wisconsin. Sinsinawa in Grant County had around a half-inch early this morning. Forecasters say two bands of low pressure will move through Wisconsin by the end of tonight -- and it'll produce quick bursts of light snow. No significant accumulations are expected. Once it all clears, drier-and-warmer weather will be in the offing at least through Wednesday. Highs are expected to rise to around the normal readings for this date, in the mid-20's. It could be warm enough for southern Wisconsin to have freezing rain by Thursday.
The sportsmen's group that lost a half-million dollar state grant this summer has still not corrected its federal tax forms, as the group had promised three months ago. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted the United Sportsmen's attorneys as saying they're still working on the proper filings -- and everything will be submitted when the review is complete. A timetable has not been set. Republican lawmakers were accused by Democrats of greasing-the-skids for the United Sportsmen to receive a half-million-dollar grant to encourage young people and others to go hunting-and-fishing. The new state budget had banned some other groups from applying, and a state panel awarded the grant to the United Sportsmen in August. Then came questions about the group's tax status. There were conflicting reports about whether the group was legally a non-profit, and Governor Scott Walker ended up withdrawing the grant. The group hired attorneys from Foley-and-Lardner three months ago to sort everything out.
Governor Scott Walker gave kudos to his fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan on national T-V yesterday. Walker went on N-B-C's "Meet the Press" and stood by the House budget chairman from Janesville, for helping craft a federal budget compromise that many conservatives have blasted. Ryan also appeared on the same show, and basically repeated that you don't get everything you want in a divided government -- and he wanted to find a way to make it work. Walker and Ryan are both speculated to be G-O-P White House candidates in 2016. Walker has said that the party needs a governor to clean up the mess in Washington. He said yesterday that Ryan quote, "is one of those rare people in Washington who's acting more like a governor than just a member of Congress." Walker said the G-O-P has 30 governorships who are pushing for reforms, and not just austerity measures. Hard-line conservatives said too many of the 85-billion dollars in spending cuts in the new budget are scheduled over a decade, and many won't become a reality if a future Congress drops them. Ryan's compromise was endorsed by all four of Wisconsin's other Republican House members, along with two-of-the-three Democrats. Senate Democratic budget chair Patty Murray said the deal assures there were will be no more federal government shutdowns over the next two years.
Thousands of Wisconsin veterans and school students are getting holiday care packages from the Honor Flight program. They're also getting videos of the documentary "Honor Flight -- One Last Mission." It's the story of four older veterans who took a one-day flight to Washington to see their war memorials before they died. That's the same trip which many of Wisconsin's older veterans have taken, thanks to donations from local residents. The care packages are provided by the California group "Operation Gratitude," which gets its own donations. Jim Campbell of the Central Wisconsin Honor Flight program says he and other volunteers are handing out the videos and care packages to schools in 49 area districts -- plus over 22-hundred veterans. They include those who've been on Honor Flights, plus veterans in nursing homes throughout central Wisconsin. That includes almost 850 residents of the State Veterans' Home in Waupaca County. Campbell said many of the schools are familiar with the Honor Flight program, as many have helped raise money to help local veterans make the trip to Washington. Operation Gratitude distributed its one-millionth free care package on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th.
Former Wisconsinite Tom Laughlin -- who played the title role in four "Billy Jack" movies -- has died at age 82. His family said yesterday that Laughlin passed away on Thursday from complications of pneumonia at his home in Thousand Oaks California. He played football at Milwaukee Washington High School and went to college at U-W Madison and Marquette. Laughlin only had 101-dollars in his pocket when he learned acting at Marquette and decided to go off to Hollywood with his wife Delores Taylor. He played in a number of supporting roles before he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the Billy Jack series. His wife also starred in the Billy Jack films, which featured a former Green Beret hero with martial arts skills. The first film, "The Born Losers" was made in 1967 -- and he took on a motorcycle which raped and terrorized people in a small California town. The last film, "Billy Jack Goes to Washington," had him taking on corruption in the U-S Senate. Laughlin, who was also a real-life activist, ran for president three times in 1992, 2004, and '08. Funeral arrangements for Tom Laughlin have not been announced. The family asks that gifts be made to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, or the Friends of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Twenty-to-30 long-term residents of a Wausau hotel lost their homes in a weekend fire. Officials said yesterday that the blaze started in a plumbing-and-electrical space between two rooms at the Days Inn on Wausau's west side. Investigators are still trying to find out why. The fire began just after eight on Saturday night. An hour later, it spread through the back portion of the 120-room facility. Hotel guests were sent to the nearby Plaza Hotel, where the Red Cross helped them find other places to stay. Several hotel guests were treated for smoke inhalation. One person was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Fire-fighters remained on the scene yesterday to guard against flare-ups. Officials said most of the damage was limited to the back portion of the hotel, thanks to concrete "fire stop" barriers designed to help prevent fires from spreading within a building. The rest of the structure had mainly smoke and water damage.
Wisconsin lawmakers will take a closer look at this year's deer hunt on Wednesday. The Assembly Natural Resources Committee will hear from D-N-R officials about the recent nine-day gun season, in which the harvest was down seven-percent. The panel will also be updated on the efforts to implement the recommendations from "deer czar" James Kroll, which were streamlined by four D-N-R action teams earlier this year. Lawmakers will also get an update on the state's effort to fight chronic wasting disease in the deer herd.