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Wisconsin Supreme Court campaigns would be funded by taxpayers instead of special interests under a bill passed by the Legislature Thursday. The Assembly passed the so-called impartial justice bill on a 51-42 vote, and the Senate OK'd it 19-13. Gov. Jim Doyle has said he would sign it. It follows three years of big money Supreme Court races, in which special interests dominated the campaign contributions amid concerns they were buying justice. The new system will let taxpayers donate voluntarily to a Supreme Court candidate fund, and other campaign gifts would be severely limited.
The Wisconsin Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that cracks down on puppy mills where dogs are sold after being raised in unhealthy conditions. The bill requires dog breeders with 25 or more animals to be licensed and they would have to meet state health and safety standards. Critics say Wisconsin say has become a magnet for large scale puppy mills, because it's one of the few states which don't regulate breeders. The Assembly approved the licensing bill earlier. It now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who supports it.
The governor's office would be less involved in hunting, fishing and environmental matters under a bill passed in the Legislature Thursday. The Senate voted to 21-11 to take away the governor's power to appoint the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. The Assembly OK'd the bill earlier, but senators added a requirement that they confirm the board's nominees. The Assembly later approved the change, but by a smaller margin of 49-44. Dan Meyer, R-Eagle River, said a Senate confirmation guarantees that the DNR will continue to be mired in politics. Gov.
The Wisconsin Assembly voted overnight to abolish a state law against using student test scores to evaluate teachers. But Republicans called it a weak measure, and accused Democrats of doing the bare minimum to get the federal stimulus money being offered in President Obama's "Race to the Top" education program. Lawmakers worked late because yesterday was the final day of their floor period for this year. The Senate OK'd the teacher evaluation bill earlier in the day on an 18-14 vote.
One man has been arrested, and Milwaukee police are looking for two others who stole a truck carrying 900 doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. It happened about 7:50 p.m. Thursday, while the truck was running idle outside of a school where almost 2,000 people were vaccinated earlier in the day. Police said the truck driver was picking up medical supplies at the school, and the vehicle kept running so a refrigeration unit holding the vaccine could stay on. Witnesses later pointed officers to a 38-year-old suspect who was walking out of a liquor store at the time.
Gov. Jim Doyle will meet with employees and officials of Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac today (Friday). The governor's office says Doyle will thank the community, the company, and others for doing what was needed to keep the outboard motor plant in Wisconsin. Hundreds of union workers made contract concessions to stop the plant from moving to a non-union facility in Stillwater, Okla. The city of Fond du Lac chipped in $3 million. And Fond du Lac County loaned $50 million to Mercury, funded by a 0.5 percent county sales tax.
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will speak in West Allis tonight. Wisconsin Right to Life is sponsoring the event at State Fair Park. It comes 11 days before Palin's memoirs hit the stores. "Going Rogue" is already a best-seller, based on advance sales. Those attending the speech had to buy their tickets in advance and the Right to Life group is not letting cameras and cell phones inside. The group also received criticism because it did not grant credentials for reporters to cover the speech.
A Sheboygan County woman was among the 31 injured when an Army psychiatrist opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas Thursday, killing 12 others. Her mother said Amber Bahr, 19, of Random Lake was in stable condition at a hospital, after being shot in the abdomen. Lisa Pfund said the only thing she knew what that her daughter was shot in the belly and she was getting upset because she couldn't get more details. Bahr joined the Army Reserves at age 17, and was saving money for college. The attack is being called the worst mass shooting ever at a U.S military base.
The Wisconsin Senate has unanimously approved drunken driving reforms similar to what the Assembly passed in September. Senators agreed to pay for the added enforcement with higher fees which the Assembly chose not to ratify Thursday night. Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan called them "minor differences." He said a final agreement should come either in a special session before the end of the year, or when lawmakers resume their regular session in January. The Senate bill includes the same reforms approved by the Assembly.
Gov. Jim Doyle promises to sign a major bill to reduce fraud and get criminals out of the state's tax-funded child care program for the working poor. Both houses unanimously approved reforms Thursday in the Wisconsin Shares child care program. That's after child care providers fraudulently received millions in state funds for care they didn't provide - or served parents who didn't qualify. Auditors and news reports also found criminals serving as child care providers, and a few sex offenders living in tax-funded care centers.