Walker urges repeal of Common Core; work starts Monday on new Mississippi crossing at Winona; 8 more state stories
MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker says he wants lawmakers to repeal the Common Core education standards adopted by all but a handful of U.S. states.
The Republican governor issued a one-sentence statement Thursday, calling on the next Legislature in January to replace Common Core with standards "set by people in Wisconsin."
Walker was among several GOP leaders condemning Common Core last weekend at a meeting of the National Governors Association. He told that group he doesn't want people outside Wisconsin "telling us what our standards should be."
The Badger State endorsed Common Core several years ago, but the debate over it didn't heat up until last year when tea party conservatives feared it would lead to a national education system.
Other critics say Common Core departs from traditional methods of teaching math, it relies too heavily on student test scores, and smaller schools may not have the technology to administer the new online tests that are due to begin next spring in Wisconsin.
Supporters say the tougher standards are needed to get students ready for a more complex world.
Joe Zepecki, a spokesman for Walker's main challenger Mary Burke, called the governor's statement a "desperate election-year move" to boost what he called Walker's "extreme right-wing base." Burke, a Madison School Board member, supports Common Core.
Meanwhile, Trek Bicycle's president wants Walker to stop running his latest campaign ad which attacks Burke, his main Democratic challenger.
John Burke told the Associated Press that Walker's ad is false, and the Republican governor should be embarrassed by it.
The ad infers that John Burke's sister made decisions about locating Trek jobs overseas. He said he made all those decisions for the Waterloo firm, and Mary Burke didn't. John Burke also said the ad wrongly implies that Trek employs children overseas.
The Walker camp said there's no disputing that Mary Burke made millions of dollars as the result of her former company's out-sourcing.
Tribes seeking environmental review of Gogebic mine
Six Wisconsin Indian tribes will meet with the federal Evironmental Protection Agency next month, to explain why they want an environmental review of the Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine.
The meeting is set for Aug. 16 in Traverse City, Mich.
Last May, the tribes asked the EPA to invoke part of the federal Clean Water Act to try and stop the proposed iron ore mine near Mellen in Ashland and Iron counties.
Bad River tribal chairman Mike Wiggins tells Wisconsin Public Radio that the state mining laws don't protect the environment -- and the EPA's intervention would let regulators gather information at the site.
It could veto decisions from other government agencies on things like dredging, and digging close to waterways.
The tribes say the proposed mine would harm water supplies on and off the nearby Bad River reservation.
Supporters say the region desperately needs the jobs the mine would provide, and Gov. Scott Walker says he's committed to an environmentally-safe process.
Walker said two weeks ago that the EPA would endorse the mine if its bases its decisions on science instead of what he called "plain politics."
Gogebic Taconite says it will keep moving forward with its plans.
Ground-breaking Friday for new Mississippi crossing at Winona
FOUNTAIN CITY -- A ground-breaking ceremony was to be held late Friday morning for a second bridge over the Mississippi River between Wisconsin and Winona.
The Gopher State is in charge of the project. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar was to be among the speakers at Friday's event.
Construction is scheduled to begin next week on the two-lane bridge, to be built just north of the current structure which connects Wisconsin Highway 54 and Minnesota 43.
Once the new bridge is completed, the existing two-lane structure will be rehabilitated, giving Winona four lanes of traffic from Wisconsin. The whole project is expected to run for five years, at a cost of $150- to $175 million.
The new bridge was proposed after the old one was temporarily closed in 2008 with corroded gusset plates. Hundreds of Wisconsinites drove miles out of their way to get to their jobs in Winona, until a temporary ferry was brought in.
The old bridge was built in 1941, and it's a source of pride for Minnesotans. It was featured on a 2008 postage stamp marking the Gopher State's 150th birthday.
-- Minnesota News Network
Starting thinking about winter propane now, officials urge
MADISON -- After last winter's propane fuel shortage, Wisconsin officials are urging folks who use that fuel to plan ahead.
The state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection has put out a tip sheet for buying propane. Officials say it's good idea to start securing fuel now, because prices are lower.
Their sheet includes advice on securing contracts, scheduling deliveries, and more. It also has a list of questions that consumers should ask suppliers.
Last January, propane prices more than doubled due to frigid cold, a pipeline shutdown, and heavy propane usage by farmers who dried their grain.
There were scattered reports that some suppliers failed to honor residential contracts.
Media groups appealing judge's choice to seal some Doe records
MILWAUKEE -- Five media groups are appealing a federal judge's refusal to release all documents related to the John Doe probe into the state's recall elections.
Milwaukee District Judge Rudolph Randa rejected a complete unsealing of the records last month.
He said it would subject those involved to "unwanted public scrutiny" and he ordered all parties to identify specific documents that should be made public.
They're reviewing thousands of records, and Randa has extended their deadline twice to get the job done. They now have until Aug. 7 to finalize their list.
Randa halted the John Doe probe in May, saying the probe's secrecy order violates the free-speech rights of the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth. The probe was looking into allegations that Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans were illegally coordinating GOP recall campaigns with various outside conservative groups. Walker denies wrongdoing.
Disputed island returned to tribal hands
An island on the Lac du Flambeau Indian reservation in Villas County, northeast of Woodruff, is back in tribal hands, over 100 years after they lost it.
A ceremony was held Thursday to celebrate the return of Strawberry Island to the tribe.
The Mills family of Aspen, Col. had owned the 26-acre site on Flambeau Lake since 1910. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places as as a likely Indian burial ground.
The tribe started negotiating in the mid-1990's to get the island back. That was after Vilas County rejected a building permit for a new home and garage, because it might disturb Indian burial grounds from a territorial dispute decades ago between the Chippewa and Sioux nations.
In 1999, tribal voters rejected a referendum to buy the island for $1.5 million. Walter Mills later filed suit, to force the tribe to buy the site but a state appeals court ruled in 2003 it had no authority to overturn the "decision of a sovereign nation."
Negotiations then resumed, but the tribe could not afford the asking price until it got down to $250,000.
Besides the historical significance, Lac du Flambeau chairman Tom Maulson says Strawberry Island also has spiritual importance. He said the Ojibwe people owned it for hundreds or years until they lost it.
See a map of Flambeau Lake here: http://www.lake-link.com/Wisconsin-Lake-Finder/lake.cfm/4878/Flambeau-La...
-- Natalie Jablonski, WXPR, Rhinelander
Milwaukee man facing prostitution charges in North Dakota
A Wisconsin man has pleaded innocent to federal charges that he took young women to North Dakota's oil fields and forced them to be prostitutes.
A trial date of Sept. 16 was set for Levell Durr, 31, last known address of Milwaukee, who's charged in Bismarck with coercion and enticement.
Sheboygan Police were told that Durr took three women away against their will, and that he used drugs and physical violence to keep them in line.
Prosecutors said one woman was kept in a dog kennel for a number of days for breaking one of Durr's rules.
The FBI also said Durr maintained pit bulls in the Milwaukee area, as part of a dog-fighting ring. He was arrested in late June.
Man who allegedly voted 5 times in Walker recall, can't remember much
MILWAUKEE -- A suburban Milwaukee man is free on a signature bond, after being charged with 13 counts of illegal voting. Fifty-year-old Robert Monroe of Shorewood is accused of voting five times in the Walker recall election in 2012 -- twice in the last presidential election -- twice in Senator Alberta Darling's recall contest -- twice in the 2011 State Supreme Court election -- and once illegally in an August primary in 2012. He's also charged with registering to vote in more than one place, and giving false information to election officials.
Monroe is due back in court July 31st for a preliminary hearing.
Court records showed that Monroe's son was the initial target of a year-long investigation. The son's father was implicated after he told prosecutors he might have submitted a ballot on his dad's behalf in a recall vote.
Monroe reportedly told an investigator that all of 2012 was "very blurry" to him.
Police chief facing charges for allegedly disparaging local conservatives
A plea deal has been worked out in which a La Crosse area police chief can have an eventual conviction dropped for a flap with tea party conservatives.
Town of Campbell Chief Tim Kelemen was charged Thursday with unlawful use of a computer. The plea bargain allows Kelemen to plead no contest, and avoid a conviction if gets counseling and performs 40 hours of community service.
Kelemen is accused of registering tea party leader Greg Luce for online gay dating and porn sites, after Luce reportedly told tea party supporters to harass Campbell's officers.
That was after the group was told to pull an anti-Obama sign from a freeway overpass last year and Kelemen later convinced the town board to ban such signs to improve highway safety.
Both sides were hoping to resolve the case Thursday, but La Crosse County Circuit Judge Dale Pasell withdrew because he worked with Kelemen in the past.
The chief's attorney, Jim Birnbaum, says they'll try to find another judge from outside La Crosse County. Birnbaum says the charge was not fair, considering the responses from the tea party supporters.
Chief Kelemen is on paid leave, and is free on a signature bond.
Duck hunters, collectors can now buy federal stamps on-line
MADISON -- Wisconsin is one of eight states where hunters can buy federal duck stamps online and four others are about to join them.
Wisconsin and neighboring Minnesota were chosen earlier to sell federal "E-stamps." Starting Aug. 1, duck hunters can also buy them online in neighboring Michigan as well as in Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has links on its web site to all the states that offer E-stamps and hunters throughout the country can use them.
Buyers are told to print temporary stamps from their computers, and they're replaced with permanent stamps which are mailed out within 45 days.