WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Voters in select Wisconsin communities to decide next month if they support banning corporate money for campaigns
Voters in a number of Wisconsin communities will be asked next month if they support a U-S constitutional amendment to resume a ban on corporate money for political campaigns. The wording of the advisory referendum is similar in most places -- but not in Milwaukee County, where at least some early voters have no idea what it means. Other places give voters some background, by mentioning the U-S Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision which allowed corporate money for campaigns. The Milwaukee County referendum has no such reference. In fact, it doesn't even mention a constitutional amendment. It simply reads, "Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights -- and money is not speech, therefore, regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech." Did you get that? W-I-S-N T-V in Milwaukee says a number of people don't get it -- even after reading it several times. County Supervisor John Weishan says the referendum is clear to him -- that only human beings are entitled to constitutional rights, and not businesses. He said the referendum is necessary to send a message to Washington that people want big money removed from politics.
Wisconsin wolf hunters have taken almost two-thirds of their quota for a season that's only eight days old. The D-N-R said 98 wolves have been shot-and-trapped since last Wednesday. That means only 52 wolves are still available. This season's quota is about 100 wolves smaller than in 2013, due to a 25-percent drop in the state's wolf population from the year before. D-N-R officials say many of the 11-hundred licensed wolf hunters realize the season could be extremely short this year -- so they've been more active in the early going. Four of the six hunting zones are already closed. The only ones still open are Zone-Three in northwest Wisconsin, and Zone-Six in the lower three-fourths of the state. An animal rights group called the Great Lakes Wolf Patrol has set up a camp in northern Wisconsin, and has vowed to record activities in the apparent hopes of finding hunter violations. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says they've found no violations so far.
A state law that prohibits candidates from coordinating their campaigns with outside groups will not be enforced at least through November 12th. Federal Judge Rudolph Randa has extended an order which blocked enforcement of the law -- which is at the center of the state's John Doe probe into G-O-P recall election campaigns. Randa blocked the anti-coordination law at the request of the Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates which wanted to collaborate with candidates on an ad campaign about fiscal responsibility. Randa's order allows such collaborations, as long as the outside groups specifically don't tell people who to vote for-or-against. Without yesterday's extension, the blocking order would have expired next Tuesday. Randa will hear oral arguments in the case a week from tomorrow in Milwaukee.
State transportation officials have agreed to let a memorial plaque stay in place until next June first to honor a jogger killed by a drunk driver in Sun Prairie. The D-O-T originally gave Maureen Mengelt's family until tomorrow to remove the bronze plaque. It was put on state-owned land, about 20-feet from where Mengelt was killed last year while preparing for a race. Last month, the D-O-T ordered the family to remove the plaque, after the agency got a complaint which cited poor maintenance. W-K-O-W T-V said Assembly Democrat Gary Hebl of Sun Prairie, city officials, and others protested the D-O-T's policy of ordering a memorial to be removed due to just one complaint. Hebl now says the agency has revised its policy, granting flexibility to leave memorials in place for up to a year. Next summer, the family says the memorial will be moved to a park in Sun Prairie where an annual running event is now held in Mengelt's honor. Former E-L-C-A Lutheran Bishop Bruce Burnside is serving a 10-year prison term for causing Mengelt's death while driving drunk.
A new regional cancer center is expected to open in 2016 in Appleton. Theda-Care announced yesterday it would build a 44-million dollar facility that provides collaborative team-based care to cancer patients. All services for patients and their families would be provided at one location -- therapy, oncology, behavioral health, nutrition advice, and more. Theda-Care oncology doctor Matthew Weiss says the new center will make things much easier for cancer patients, because they'll no longer have to shuttle from one specialist to another. The Theda-Care system has seven hospitals in the Fox Valley.
A Wisconsin-based therapy program is accused of discrimination, after its center in the state of Oregon allegedly withdrew a job offer from a man who said he was a trans-gender. Sorin Thomas filed a complaint last month with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. He claims that the wilderness therapy firm of New Vision West Coast withdrew a job offer as a field therapist, after he disclosed his trans-gender status. The firm is based in Grafton. It provides therapy services through wilderness excursions for pre-teens through young adults. According to Thomas's complaint -- as reported by a newspaper in Bend Oregon -- New Vision's clinical director was concerned that the man's sexuality might have a negative impact on clients. The official asked Thomas to write a letter which reflects on the subject. Thomas said he filed the letter, but never heard back until early June when he was told the firm was reviewing and interviewing other applicants -- and they didn't have say anything about their sexual orientation. New Vision's has not commented.
With a deadline of tomorrow, Wisconsin has not applied for up to 60-million federal dollars to help pre-school programs help vulnerable kids in places with high needs. The state's three U-S House Democrats wrote to Governor Scott Walker 15 days ago, urging him to apply. The Associated Press said the Republican Walker deferred to the state's education and children-and-families' agencies. And leaders of those two agencies said in mid-September they had "capacity challenges" in preparing another large application for an early childhood grant in addition to its federal Race-to-the-Top grant. The state received a 34-million dollar grant almost two years ago for a host of early childhood programs. That money expires in just over two years. In an October 8th e-mail, Walker policy analyst Jon Hoelter wrote that the administration would keep its focus on the current grant. He said they'll forward to working with the other agencies to pursue "future opportunities when they arise." House Democrat Mark Pocan of Madison said he couldn't believe Walker would turn down the four-year pre-school grant.
Wisconsin is the 17th most energy-efficient state in the nation. That's according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. It said Wisconsin was among the four most-improved in its annual report card on each state's efforts to reduce energy waste. The Badger State rose six spots from a year ago, when it was ranked 23rd. The report's lead author, Annie Gilleo, said the improvement is partially due to a change in management firms for the state's Focus-on-Energy program. The council said the Chicago Bridge-and-Iron Company has run the program on a more consistent basis compared to the previous contractor, the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation of Madison. Electric customers pay for the Focus-on-Energy program, which offers incentives for buying energy-efficient appliances. Meanwhile, the energy-efficiency council says Wisconsin's future rankings might be hurt by proposals from three large utilities to increase their fixed-rates which are assessed no matter how much-or-little energy a customer uses. Council program director Maggie Molina says it's important for those who conserve to see the difference in their energy prices -- and higher fixed charges could reduce that "price signal."
Wisconsin's water usage hit a three-year low in 2013. The D-N-R said surface-and-groundwater use dropped by six-percent from the previous year, to just over two-point-one trillion gallons. Experts cited cooler temperatures and more normal rainfall for the decrease in water consumption, compared with 2012 which featured the largest drought in decades. Almost three-fourths of last year's water usage was for generating power. Only eight-percent came from the home-and-business taps of municipal water systems. Farm irrigation accounted for five-percent of the state's water usage -- five-percent for paper-making, four-percent for cranberry production, and four-percent for other uses. Agricultural use dropped by 24-and-a-half percent in 2013, thanks mainly to less irrigation in July. Municipal water usage dropped by almost 12-percent.
Nobody won the Powerball jackpot last night, so it goes up to 125-million dollars for Saturday. A Wisconsin ticket won the third prize of 10-thousand dollars, by matching all but one of the five regular numbers plus the Powerball. Just over 78-hundred Wisconsin players won smaller prizes ranging from four-dollars to 200. Last night's numbers were 29, 30, 40, 42, and 50. The Powerball was 16, and the Power Play multiplier was two. Saturday's cash option is 79-million dollars. The Mega Millions' jackpot is at 224-million dollars for tomorrow night. Meanwhile, Robert Bogard of Stanley has cashed in a million-dollar Powerball ticket from last Saturday night. He'll talk more about it at a news conference today. Bogard is getting just over 673-thousand dollars after taxes. He bought his winning ticket at the Stanley Travel Stop, which will get a 20-thousand dollar commission for selling it.