Distressed farmers invited to cut hay, graze on state lands; efforts renewed to overturn new abortion rules; more state news
MADISON -- For the second year in a row, Wisconsin farmers are being allowed to harvest hay and graze cattle on state-owned properties. Gov. Scott Walker allowed the practice last year to help farmers survive one of the worst droughts in decades.
Now, the state DNR says farmers can take hay, and let their cattle roam for free, in parts of 32 counties where a state-of-emergency was declared for last month’s flooding – and where disaster areas were declared for crop winter-kill caused by this year’s long winter.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp says the move should help farmers deal with shortages of feed on their own lands. They can use no more than 20 acres.
DNR staffers have identified about 300 fields to be used, totaling over 5,300 acres.
To take advantage of the program, Stepp says they’ll need to sign agreements promising they will not sell the feed they generate off the state properties.
Walker expected to join hubbub of Lambeau Field dedication
GREEN BAY -- Gov. Scott Walker is expected to be on-hand Thursday afternoon when the Green Bay Packers cut a ribbon for the latest improvements at Lambeau Field.
The governor will speak along with Packers’ president Mark Murphy and community leaders. It will mark the official opening of 6,600 seats on two new decks in the South End Zone, as part of a $143 million renovation which took a 18 months to complete.
Those with seats in the two new levels can try them out, while Packer highlights are shown on the new video boards that were unveiled around this time last year.
The project also includes a new gate, suites, viewing platform, concessions, and sound system.
The team paid the entire cost of the renovation, partially with the help of about 250,000 new stockholders who became NFL team owners in late 2011 and early 2012.
Courthouse workers really feeling the heat
MILWAUKEE -- It’s way too hot in many Wisconsin buildings – including the Milwaukee County Courthouse, which cannot use all of its air conditioning due to the recent electrical fire.
On Wednesday, a sheriff’s deputy in a courtroom sought medical attention after feeling faint. Another deputy on security detail asked to be relieved for a short time, so he could get water to cool down.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin said deputies must still wear their bullet-proof vests and other gear in the heat. Clerk of Court John Barrett said two of his staffers soaked their feet in ice-water while they worked.
By Wednesday afternoon, officials said more air conditioning was able to be provided. The courthouse and its adjoining safety building have been using portable generators while repairs continue from the electrical fire.
Elsewhere, a number of Wisconsin hospitals report at least some heat-related illnesses. Many were for dehydration and dizziness.
The heat wave is expected to continue for one more day in northwest Wisconsin, and two more days in the rest of the state with highs in the 90’s and heat indices of up to 105.
Taxpayers investing in start-up businesses --again
MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin taxpayers will again invest in a host of new businesses, under a venture capital program that Gov. Scott Walker was to sign Thursday.
A bill-signing ceremony is set for Thursday morning at MCT Incorporated in Milwaukee.
Lawmakers voted in June to create a $75 million fund to help start-up companies get off the ground in fields that include agriculture, energy, and high-tech.
Taxpayers will provide $25 million, and private sources will supply the other $50 million. The bill received wide support from both parties, even though many Democrats said bio-tech medical firms should have been included.
Venture capital has been a sticky subject in Wisconsin since the late 1990’s, when out-of-state firms were allowed to run a funding program – and millions of dollars were never accounted for.
In the meantime, the state’s Technology Council said many new firms left the state, because there was not enough venture funding to help them survive their early stages.
Capsized towboat recovered at Lock 7
A La Crosse company has recovered a towboat that capsized at a lock on the Mississippi River 15 days ago.
Crew member Tyler Trussoni of Genoa was killed in the accident. It happened when the boat went over a roller gate and overturned at Lock and Dam 7 just northwest of La Crosse at Dresbach, Minn.
Trussoni was trapped in the boat’s compartment during the July third incident. Two other crew members escaped.
They worked for the boat’s owner, Brennan Marine, whose salvage crews set it upright Wednesday and towed it to the company’s La Crosse shipyard.
The Coast Guard said a week ago it would investigate the cause of the mishap.
Brennan and local authorities blamed it on mechanical failures, a strong river current, and high water.
Wausau woman likely to face trial in dog-killing
WAUSAU -- It appears that a Wausau woman will go on trial for allegedly poisoning and stabbing her ex-boyfriend’s dog to death.
Marathon County prosecutors could not reach a plea deal this week with Sean Janas, 21. A four-day trial is set to begin July 29th, with pre-trial issues to be settled on Monday.
Janas is facing a pair of felony charges for poisoning and mistreating an animal, plus a misdemeanor count of obstructing police. Her trial was originally planned for May, but Janas fired her previous attorney in March.
Prosecutors said she forced her ex-boyfriend’s Shepherd-Labrador mix to drink bleach, and then stabbed the pet several times. Officials said Janas also kept a diary in which she described how she liked watching the pet suffer.
The case attracted a worldwide following on social media, as animal rights supporters called for the maximum penalty of five years in prison plus $30,000 in fines.
Janas will also face a trial at the same time on two unrelated retail theft charges.
-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau
Democrats will seek to repeal law requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds
MADISON -- State legislative Democrats are expected to announce an effort Thursday to repeal the state law that requires abortion candidates to get ultrasounds.
The action comes after a federal judge in Madison decided Wednesday to keep blocking another part of the same law.
Judge William Conley said he would decide within two weeks whether to issue an injunction against a requirement that abortion clinic doctors have hospital admitting privileges.
The injunction would prevent the mandate from taking effect until Conley rules on a lawsuit which claims the measure is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the ultrasound requirement remains in effect.
Democrats are planning a news conference to announce plans to try and repeal that measure. But they would have convince at least some majority Republicans to flip-flop, after the GOP acted in unison to pass the abortion restrictions last month.
Republicans say the ultrasounds give women the chance to see their unborn babies in the womb, with the idea that some would change their minds about giving them up. As for the hospital admitting privileges, Planned Parenthood says most abortion doctors don’t need them.
A state attorney said an abortion results in a hospitalization about once every 16 days in Wisconsin.
If the law is upheld, abortions would no longer be performed north of Madison.
Legionnaire’s disease has sickened 20 since June 1st
MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County has now confirmed 20 cases of Legionnaire’s disease in the last month-and-a-half.
Nobody has died – but of the 14 cases in the city of Milwaukee, four patients remain hospitalized. All but six of the 20 involved people with underlying health issues.
Officials said the first case was reported June 1st, but there was not a hint of an outbreak until the July 4th weekend when a cluster of cases was confirmed.
Legionnaire’s disease is a severe pneumonia caused by exposure to contaminated water or mist – either by drinking it, or breathing it in.
Milwaukee officials say it can be treated quickly with antibiotics, but death can result in those who are not treated. The disease kills up to 30-percent of those who get infected.
Legionnaire’s gets its name from the first known outbreak of the disease at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in 1976. Wisconsin records an average of around 50 cases a year. The last notable outbreak was in 2010, when eight people got sick breathing mist from a decorative wall of water at a hospital in Cudahy.
Study: N.D. among most business-friendly
BISMARCK -- North Dakota is ranked as the third most pro-business state in the U.S. Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States report, according to a statement from Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s office.
That’s up from fourth in 2012.
“Our focus on job creation is supported by a dedicated and skilled workforce, a responsive state government and a fair and balanced tax structure,” Dalrymple said in the release. “This report is more evidence that our hard work is getting results.”
The study was released Tuesday. The top 10 states were:
3. North Dakota
8. South Dakota
The annual Pollina report examines 32 factors relative to state efforts to develop pro-business strategies, according to the release. Factors include taxes, human resources, education, “right-to-work” legislation, energy costs and investments in public infrastructure.
-- Forum News Service