Educators more likely to change jobs since Act 10; aid plan could help prevent another propane shortage; 10 more state stories
Wisconsin teachers are more likely to search out better jobs and move on, since the Act 10 collective bargaining limits took effect almost three years ago.
The Appleton Post-Crescent said 145 teachers and administrators resigned from public schools in the Fox Valley in the last school year. That's 41 percent more than previous year, and almost double from 2011 just before the controversial Republican bargaining clampdown took effect.
Retired Neenah high school counselor David Sebora said staffers used to stay put until age 55 so they could get great retirement packages. That's no longer the case, and he wonders how an increased turnover will affect schools and their students.
Menasha Superintendent Chris Vander Heyden said some teachers are doing what talented private sector workers have done for years -- finding better offers elsewhere, then going back and asking their present employers to match them.
With more teachers coming-and-going, Frederick Yeo of U-W Oshkosh says it's harder for schools to adopt new educational practices. That's because principals won't know what their teaching staffs will look like from year-to-year.
The Post-Crescent says many school districts have still not created new compensation policies in the wake of Act 10, which remains under a legal challenge in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Federal aid could help prevent a repeat of winter's propane shortage
MADISON -- Wisconsin's low-income heating assistance program could save up to a million dollars if the state could get part of the program's federal funding earlier.
That's what Gov. Scott Walker recently told President Obama and the federal human service agency.
Walker says an earlier funding allotment would let the state buy up to 15 percent more propane fuel at cheaper prices during the summer. He says it's one way to prevent a repeat of the propane shortage, and its skyrocketing prices, from last winter.
Walker has asked the federal government to provide $8 million of the state's heating funds before the next federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1st.
On Wednesday, a working group from the Midwestern Governors Association met in Madison to discuss ways to ward off the type of propane shortage that affected some 250,000 Wisconsinites last winter. Walker praised this week's announcement that the Federated Co-op and CHS will open a new propane terminal this fall near Hixton in Jackson County.
GAB will tread lightly when enforcing stricter petition rules
MADISON -- An attorney for the state elections' agency says it will not recommend that any candidates be left off this fall's ballots, just because those who signed their petitions were not legible in printing their names. Attorney Mike Haas said Wednesday that a number of candidates had printed signatures stricken, under a new law that requires signers to both write their names and print them legibly. But Haas said nobody fell short of their required numbers of signatures solely because of legibility issues.
Republicans passed the new law after Gov. Scott Walker's camp couldn't determine the identities of everyone who signed the petitions to recall him in 2012.
This week, Assembly GOP elections committee chair Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) cried foul, saying the Government Accountability Board was enforcing the law too strictly.
A board spokesman said it was not enough for a signature to be read clearly and that the person's printed name also had to be completely legible. One candidate accused the board of splitting hairs by rejecting a printed name that was squiggly.
Two candidates had all their petitions rejected because they used old forms which did not have room for signers to print their names. The board is still taking challenges to papers from 316 state and federal candidates.
They'll decide next Tuesday who qualifies to get on the Aug. 12th primary ballot.
State takes issue with criticism on raid techniques in Doe probe
MILWAUKEE -- State prosecutors said a federal judge was wrong to declare that targets were aggressively raided at their homes during the John Doe probe into the state's recall elections.
Milwaukee County D.A. John Chisholm defended his evidence-gathering techniques in a court filing, as he appeals Judge Rudolph Randa's ruling which halted the John Doe last month.
The ruling came in a lawsuit by the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth, which claims its free-speech rights were violated.
An attorney for Chisholm told the federal appeals court in Chicago that the Club for Growth has not produced witnesses or evidence to back up their claims about strong-armed raids on conservatives' homes.
In his ruling last month, Randa said sheriff's deputies used bright flood-lights to illuminate the targets' homes at night and they took business papers and equipment while "their targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their attorneys."
Randa had referred in part to raids last October at the homes of Club for Growth consultants R.J. Johnson and Deborah Jordahl.
Prosecutors are trying to revive the John Doe in the midst of reported settlement talks. The probe is looking alleged illegal fund-raising and coordination between private groups and Republican candidates -- including Gov. Scott Walker's camp -- in the 2011-'12 recall elections.
Pre-teen stabbing incident spurs debate on child adjudication process
WAUKESHA -- The stabbing of a 12-year-old Waukesha girl has put a new focus on a state law that requires adult charges for murder and attempted murder suspects as young as 10. Wisconsin is among 29 states that require adult charges for children accused of committing the most serious crimes.
Many of those laws were passed in the 1980's and '90's, amid concern that America would fall prey to youngsters from broken homes who'd show no remorse for killing.
Some juvenile crime experts say offenders this young do not pose long-term threats to society but a former legislator who wrote the Wisconsin law still stands by it. It's tougher than most states, because it allows adult charges as young as ten instead of the general norm of 13.
In the Waukesha case, a pair of 12-year-old girls are accused of stabbing a friend 19 times to curry favor with a fictional character from a Web site with horror stories.
Former Assembly Republican Bonnie Ladwig of Racine County still believes the law is proper. She tells the Associated Press she has no sympathy for the girls who are now charged.
Ladwig said it was obvious that the stabbings were no accident, amid reports that they had planned it for months. Emily Keller of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia she generally opposes the laws on adult charges for young children.
But she tells the AP that judges would probably send the most heinous juvenile cases to adult courts anyway.
State's cheese production drops slightly but still leads the nation
After a slight increase in March, Wisconsin's cheese production is down again.
According to new federal figures, the Badger State made 241 million pounds of cheese in April -- three-tenths of a percent less than the same month a year ago.
The drop is the fifth for Wisconsin in the last seven months. It comes despite a national increase of 2.2 percent in April.
Gov. Scott Walker recently said cheese Factories have had to bring in more of their milk from outside Wisconsin. That's due to recent declines in the state's milk output, caused by things like unfavorable weather and poor quality feed. In spite of that, Walker said he still believes the state can achieve its goal of making 30 billion pounds of milk per year by 2020. Wisconsin is still the nation's top cheese producer. Second-place California made about 38 million pounds less than Wisconsin in April -- but the Golden State's total of 203.5 million pounds was 6.2 percent higher than the year before.
California had double-digit increases in its Cheddar and Italian cheese production from last year. Wisconsin had a three percent jump its Italian cheeses but state's Cheddar output was down almost 12 percent, while its American cheese production dropped 8.5 percent.
Lake Superior water level up markedly over last year
There's another sign that the brutal winter is actually helping folks along Lake Superior.
The lake's International Board of Control said water levels rose by double the normal amount for May and the largest of the Great Lakes is now about six inches above its normal levels for June 1st.
Lake Superior rose eight inches in May, reaching its highest average levels for the month since 1997. This comes just a year after warnings that the Great Lakes' water levels were too low -- causing problems on beaches, and shippers carrying lighter loads so their boats don't run aground.
Recently, a study found that the cold winter reduced evaporation on Lake Superior, thus keeping water from disappearing.
For more information, visit http://ijc.org/en_/ilsbc/news?news_id=442&myID=1
Homeless man implicated in church break-in, theft of donations
OSHKOSH -- A homeless man faces a possible burglary charge, for allegedly breaking into a church in Oshkosh.
Police said they used surveillance video to identify the 26-year-old suspect, in connection with a May 13th burglary at Grace Lutheran Church.
Police say they'll also seek theft charges, after he allegedly stole money from donation boxes at a Catholic church in Oshkosh.
The man was arrested on Tuesday, after police in nearby Appleton found him. He was returned to Oshkosh, where officers questioned and took him into custody.
Vilas County pushing to attract 'silent sport' enthusiasts
EAGLE RIVER -- Lots of people are interested in a new emphasis on recreational "silent sports" in far northern Wisconsin.
The tourist agency in Vilas County says more than 5,000 people picked up new trail maps in the first two weeks they were available.
The maps show the details for over 60 biking, hiking, paddling, and ski trails throughout Vilas County. The state Tourism Department contributed $40,000 for the new maps. An app is also being developed, so trail users can get helpful assistance on their smartphones.
There's been a recent effort in northern Wisconsin to highlight silent sports, to cater to those who'd rather not hear the noise from snowmobiles, ATV's, and motor boats.
Tourism and Publicity director Cindy Burzinski said many folks don't know about the many trail opportunities Vilas County offers -- and the new project is meant to highlight them.
-- Natalie Jablonski, WXPR, Rhinelander
Stratford man gets 5 years for selling grenades, silencer used in homicide
MADISON -- A Stratford man has been sentenced to five years and three months in a federal prison for selling guns, grenades, and the silencer used in a Wausau murder.
Federal Judge William Conley also ordered Tyler Jenkens to spend three years under extended supervision once he gets out.
Officials said Jenkens was about a year away from having a marijuana conviction expunged when he sold a firearm to a confidential informant.
A search later turned up six weapons -- including a stolen gun, two homemade hand grenades, and a silencer that prosecutors said was used in the January third shooting death of K.C. Elliott in Wausau.
John Lewis is still facing charges in that homicide. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rita Rumbelow wanted at least a six-year prison sentence, saying that Jenkens was "proud to be a criminal." He told the judge that firearms were his hobby and he made the grenades and silencer so he could have things that most people wouldn't.
Conley reminded Jenkens that his prior criminal record barred him from having firearms.
Madison firm awarded for innovative cancer surgery technique
MADISON -- A Madison company that's working on a system to improve breast cancer surgery has won a statewide contest for having the best business plan.
Elucent Medical (http://www.elucentmedical.com) won the 11th annual Governor's Business Plan Contest Wednesday. Almost 300 firms entered.
Elucent is headed by Laura King, a former executive at G-E Health-care. The firm is developing commercial technology which seems to eliminate painful and invasive breast surgeries, by helping surgeons pinpoint the cancerous tumors they try to remove.
Traditionally, when a patient gets a biopsy and a breast lump is found to be cancerous, the patient goes in for a procedure prior to the surgery to insert a wire into the skin to identify the location.
“Our device would eliminate that step, which is a $1,500 cost to the health care system,” King told the Wisconsin State Journal.
King and two other firm principals have developed a tiny tag that is placed in the lump at the time of the biopsy, King said. It means patients can avoid going through a separate procedure, performed by a radiologist under either ultrasound or X-ray.
The Wisconsin Technology Council organizes the contest.
Elucent and a dozen other finalists will share some $150,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.
DNR shutters unofficial shooting range in wildlife area
PORTAGE -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has closed part of a wildlife area near Portage that has become a make-shift shooting range and a headache for neighbors.
Workers set up a snow-fence Wednesday to close a parcel in the Swan Lake Wildlife Area. It's where shooting activity increased over the past three years, just a quarter-mile from a subdivision.
Residents have complained that stray bullets land in their yards, and the heavy shooting activity often begins at 6 a.m.
The shooters took advantage of tall and sandy berms at the site, plus a state law which allows shooting on public lands in 54 counties -- including Columbia,where the site is located.
The DNR says it has negotiated more public access at other ranges and gun clubs throughout the area, to preserve opportunities for recreational shooting.