Warm weather lingers; Senate approves small tax cut; Indian team name bill goes to Senate; More state news
A balmy October continues in Wisconsin. Temperatures were in the 40's and low-50's early this morning.
The National Weather Service has issued a frost advisory from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. tomorrow morning for Door County, the Green Bay area and the Fox Valley as far south as Oshkosh. Tonight's lows are predicted to be in the 30's throughout the state with patchy frost in most regions.
The far north might not get out of the 40's today, but highs are generally expected in the 50's statewide at least until Saturday. Sunday is supposed to be a bit cooler, with highs in the 40's. There's a slight chance of rain that day, along with the S-word for the first time this fall -- snow showers. But again, forecasters say those chances are only slight.
Senate approves small tax cut
Five Democrats voted no yesterday when the Wisconsin Senate voted to cut local property taxes by $100 million over the next two years.
Tim Cullen of Janesville, Bob Jauch of Poplar, Mark Miller of Monona, John Lehman of Racine and Fred Risser of Madison were the dissenters. Ten other Democrats voted for the tax relief, though some called it fiscally irresponsible.
Cullen said the average homeowner would only get about $1 a month. He accused Republicans of hyping the statewide total of $100 million to assure Gov. Scott Walker's reelection next year.
The tax relief would come from a $760 million surplus in the last budget, although it would add to an expected deficit in the next state budget in 2015.
Cullen said it would be better to put the surplus into the state's Rainy Day Fund for emergencies. Risser said the state should reduce its $14 billion of debt or cut the state's $2 billion of new borrowing in the current budget.
GOP Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald credited his party for improving the state's finances and said Wisconsinites would welcome the tax relief.
West Bend Republican Glenn Grothman scoffed at the idea that it's a political gimmick. "We're Republicans, that's what we do," he said.
After the vote, Walker praised lawmakers of both parties for getting behind his proposal. Nobody objected to the tax cut at a public hearing earlier in the day when the Joint Finance Committee unanimously endorsed it. It goes to the Assembly tomorrow.
Assembly passes bill to make it easier to keep Indian team names
Democrats said Wisconsin took a step backward in race relations yesterday when the Assembly voted to make it harder to force schools to drop their Indian team names.
The Republican-controlled house passed the measure 52-41. All Democrats voted no along with three Republicans -- Scott Krug of Nekoosa, Jeff Mursau of Crivitz and Ed Brooks of Reedsburg.
Democrats spent 2 1/2 hours decrying the bill. South Range Democrat Nick Milroy said Indians are real people, not mascots. He urged his colleagues to "Stand up for human rights and human dignity."
Whitewater Republican Steve Nass authored the bill after he failed to scrap the 2009 complaint system for dropping Indian mascots. Nass went to bat for the Mukwonago School District, which is fighting a state order to change its long-standing nickname the "Indians." He said the current law is too biased toward those who complain about those names, and it does not give schools enough of a chance to defend themselves.
The new bill requires Indians to prove they've been hurt by school mascots instead of school boards proving it doesn't happen. Complaints would only be considered if petitions are filed with signatures equal to 10% of a school's enrollment.
The state Senate is expected to take up the bill in November. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald wanted a vote today, but Democrats wouldn't give him the two-thirds majority needed for that.
Kids kept at school until 5 p.m. as nearby standoff goes on
A man in Johnson Creek held both police and nearby school students at bay for 3 1/2 hours before he was arrested yesterday afternoon.
A standoff at the man's home forced a lockdown of the Johnson Creek schools. The lockdown ended after 5 p.m.
According to Police Chief Gary Bleecker, the 42-year-old man was sending threatening text messages to relatives. They said the man was intoxicated, had guns in his house and was possibly considering the idea of getting killed by officers.
The man holed himself up in his house while officers surrounded the place, evacuated nearby residents and had Johnson Creek students stay inside. Around 5 p.m., Bleecker said, the man tried running to his car and he was arrested at that point. He's now in jail, awaiting possible charges.
Babies safe after armed man holds police off for seven hours
Two babies are OK after being in a house in Appleton where a gunman held police at bay in a seven-hour standoff.
Police were called around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. They were told that a 34-year-old man was threatening to shoot himself to death. A SWAT team surrounded the house, and neighbors were told to stay in their homes.
Around 9 p.m. the man agreed to bring the two six-month-old children out of the house -- and he did so while carrying a long gun. He was related to the infants but was not their father.
The standoff then continued for another 90 minutes until the man surrendered around 10:30 last night.
Appleton police Sgt. David Lund told WLUK TV in Green Bay that the babies were safely returned to their parents. He said the gunman was "obviously distraught and having issues that he was not effectively able to deal with."
Telemark has new owner -- again
One of Wisconsin's most famous -- and troubled -- ski resorts has a new owner.
The Telemark Lodge near Cable was bought by Newco LLC of Colorado during a sheriff's auction Tuesday in Bayfield County. The firm paid $926,000.
Telemark went into bankruptcy and was abandoned by its former owners last month. It's the third time in 29 years that the property has been through the foreclosure process. The lodge itself has been closed since March.
It was not immediately known what Newco had in mind for Telemark, or if it will be ready for the upcoming ski season.
Telemark was among the first alpine ski areas in the United States. Emeril Lagasse was the executive chef there for four years in the late 1970's. These days, Telemark is best known as part of the route for the American Birkebeiner cross country ski race.
--Thanks Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau
Former cop faces federal, state charges of sexual abuse of boy
A former Mount Horeb police lieutenant is due in federal court today after being indicted for child exploitation.
Dennis Jenks, 44, of Madison is also facing state charges connected with an alleged sexual relationship with a 14-year-old runaway.
The federal indictment accuses him of taking explicit photos and a video of himself and the boy between last November and January. He was arrested yesterday in that indictment.
Jenks resigned from the Mount Horeb police force after his original arrest. He's awaiting trial in Dane County on more than 30 charges of possessing child pornography, child sexual exploitation and repeated child sexual assault.
Authorities said the runaway from Beloit lived with Jenks in Madison from last October until February. Officials said the case came to light when police were investigating another man's alleged sexual contact with the same youngster.
Man admits he shot girlfriend
A Minnesota man has admitted killing his girlfriend near Wausau, using one of over 50 weapons stolen in a rash of area gun-shop burglaries last year.
Richi Vue, 22, of Chisago City, Minn., struck a plea deal Tuesday in Marathon County. He escaped a possible life prison term by pleading guilty to a reduced charge of reckless homicide in the shooting death of Lee Xiong, 20, in her Weston apartment last October. Four other counts were dropped, but they'll be considered when Vue is sentenced Jan. 2.
Prosecutors said he and Xiong were selling methamphetamines from the apartment. The killing resulted from a dispute over revenues from a drug deal. A 14-year-old girl was there and called police.
Officials said Vue escaped in a stolen truck and was tracked down in a wooded area near Abbotsford about 40 miles west of the murder scene. Officers said they recovered two guns stolen from a shop in Lincoln County, including a .357 magnum.
Democrat is candidate for attorney general
A state lawmaker has become the first Democrat to run for the open attorney general's position in next fall's elections.
Milwaukee Rep. Jon Richards says he has filed the necessary paperwork to run for the post that's being given up by Republican JB Van Hollen. Richards' announcement is no surprise. He said a week ago he was seriously considering a bid.
Richards is a private attorney who's been in the Assembly since 1999. Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel is the only Republican running for AG so far. Both say they would continue Van Hollen's recent campaign to fight the growing amount of heroin abuse statewide.
Senate votes to cut state do-not-call list
Wisconsin senators have voted unanimously to eliminate the state's do-not-call list for telemarketers and put those who've signed up onto a national list run by the Federal Trade Commission.
Supporters say it would save money, and give state consumer protection workers more time to go after those who violate the no-call list. The proposal now goes to the Assembly.
Also yesterday, the Senate gave final legislative approval to a Republican bill that gives landlords more power over their tenants. Landlords could dispose of property which tenants leave behind, tow vehicles from their parking lots without notifying police, and evict tenants for crimes in their units if the tenants could have stopped them. The package now goes to Gov. Scott Walker.
Senators also okayed a bill to let bars and liquor stores sue underage customers who use fake ID's.
The upper house also unanimously agreed to allow crowd funding, which lets companies seek capital by letting donors make smaller investments online. That bill also goes to Walker.
The state Senate has voted to let doctors give less information to patients about alternative treatments. The bill nullifies a 2012 Supreme Court decision that required doctors to tell patients about all possible alternative treatments -- even those not related to their main illnesses. The Senate made slight changes yesterday, and sent them to the Assembly to be ratified.
The upper house also voted to give veterans priority over other students when they register for University of Wisconsin and technical college classes. The bill is aimed at saving money by helping veterans graduate before their federal GI benefits expire and before their state benefits would then kick in. The measure passed on a voice vote. It now goes to the governor for his signature.
New Stout memorial honors deceased veterans
UW-Stout is about to honor 40 students, faculty and staff members who died after serving our country.
A memorial will be unveiled Friday on the Stout campus at Menomonie. It will include individual plaques for the 40 military members -- some of whom died during World War I.
The project began a year ago when a scholarship was created in honor of Lt. John Abrams. He was a 1962 Stout graduate who died six years later in Vietnam. From there, a committee was created to identify all those affiliated with Stout who died after the military service. That includes illnesses in later years as well as deaths in action.
DNR plans hearings on looser rules for fishing tournaments
The state Department of Natural Resources will hold three public hearings on the idea of having looser state regulations for fishing tournaments.
Organizers would no longer need state permits for season-long tournaments. Small events would not count against state limits on tournaments for a particular body of water. The maximum number of entrants in ice-fishing tournaments would increase.
And Minnesota permits would be recognized on events at the state's borders, including the Mississippi and Saint Croix rivers.
The public hearings are scheduled for Oct. 30 in La Crosse, Nov. 4 in Fitchburg and Nov. 6 in Oshkosh.