Wisconsin roundup: Thanksgiving travelers greeted with sloppy roads; judge blocks Obama rule on overtime pay hikes; 9 more state news stories
Getting home for Thanksgiving will not be easy for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites.
The first noteworthy snow of the season began Tuesday night in the northern half of the state -- and a second wave is due in Wednesday afternoon with advisories posted into the evening. Sleet and freezing rain are possible at times in the state's midsection, as temperatures hover around the freezing mark.
The forecast in Pierce and St. Croix counties called for precipitation – a mix of rain turning to snow – around 1 p.m. until about 4 p.m. The Twin Cities area recorded about 3 inches of snow in parts.
Dorchester in Clark County had 3 inches of snow by 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, and Wausau had almost 3 inches by 4 a.m. Parts of northwest Wisconsin are expected to get up to 6 inches by late evening -- 3-5 inches in north central areas, 2-4 inches in central Wisconsin -- and only light rain in the south as more than 1 million state residents are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home sometime between now and Sunday.
Judge blocks Obama rule on overtime pay hikes
The Wisconsin Justice Department scored a legal victory after a judge blocked new overtime pay requirements for salaried workers.
Texas Federal Judge Amos Mazzant has issued a preliminary injunction that delays the mandate until he can fully review it. Wisconsin was among 21 states that filed suit against President Barack Obama's rule that both public and private employers pay overtime to those making less than $47,000 per year, more than twice the current threshold.
It was supposed to take effect Dec. 1, and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has said it could result in government service cuts and layoffs after fiscal experts said it would cost an extra $14 million per year in salaries for state agency workers alone. Labor groups have praised the new rule, saying salaried employees have been working more hours with no extra pay -- but business groups said labor costs would skyrocket and employee morale could be hurt as managers get demoted to hourly employees.
UW-Madison no longer in the Top 5 for research spending
MADISON -- For the first time in 44 years, UW-Madison is not among the national Top 5 for research and development spending.
The National Science Foundation says the UW dropped two places to sixth in the last fiscal year -- and its "R and D" spending dropped by 3.6 percent while the nation's top 30 schools had an average increase of 2.7 percent. Madison vice chancellor Marsha Millick blames what she calls "continued disinvestment by the state," and it's affecting the university's ability to compete for research grants -- most of which come from the federal government.
Gov. Scott Walker's spokesman Tom Evenson says Madison is among the most "well funded" universities in the nation, and it's still a "research powerhouse." He also reiterates that Walker will increase UW spending in the next state budget.
Smokeless tobacco banned at Brewers games
MILWAUKEE -- If you go to a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game next year, you'll have to leave your smokeless tobacco at home.
City aldermen voted Tuesday to ban things like snuff and chewing tobacco at Miller Park and the tailgating areas around it. Chewing has long been a tradition among players, and Alderman Michael Murphy says banning it will send a message to young fans.
The Brewers, Major League Baseball, and health advocates support the ban -- but the players' union is not on that list, and some critics say baseball is getting local governments to do what the players won't. The Milwaukee ordinance includes up to $250 in fines for those who chew tobacco at the ballpark, and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids says 12 of the 30 Major League stadiums will ban the products by the start of next season.
Possible murder-suicide investigated in Green Bay
GREEN BAY -- Green Bay Police continue to investigate what they call an apparent murder-suicide.
Police say a man called 911 after going to a west side house to check on the residents, and officers found the bodies of a man and a woman in their mid 50s. Officials say one of the two people died from a gunshot wound -- and it's not known how long the couple had been dead, but police say the incident could have occurred in the last day or two. A medical examiner is determining the cause of the deaths, and the victims' names have not been released. A cat was also shot to death.
Despite election recount, Shilling renamed Senate Dem leader
MADISON -- Wisconsin Senate Democrats have renamed Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse as their minority leader, on the same day her election opponent said he would seek a recount of their very close contest.
The official ballot canvass shows that Republican Dan Kapanke lost to Shilling by 56 votes out of 89,000 cast on Nov. 8. He expects to file a formal request Wednesday, and the recount would start Monday in La Crosse, Monroe, Crawford, and Vernon counties. Shilling says she's putting the election behind her and focus on "moving Wisconsin forward" -- and she says Kapanke is putting "taxpayers through a costly recount." Shilling was reelected unanimously to another two years as the Senate's minority leader, with no opposition -- and it will be the smallest minority in the upper house in about 40 years.
Businesswoman seeks larger goal with state redistricting suit
GERMANTOWN -- A former Wisconsin businesswoman says she helped Democrats win a legal challenge to the state's Republican legislative maps because she wants a fairer process nationally.
Katherine Gehl, former president of Gehl Foods of Germantown, says both parties have long used the redistricting process to choose their voters -- and she tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it's why she donated $10,000 toward the lawsuit. It's part of a national effort by Democrats to adopt a standard that measures "wasted votes" to stop majority parties from concentrating opposing voters into fewer districts -- while loading most districts with their own voters.
A three judge Wisconsin panel ruled the 2011 GOP maps unconstitutional this week. Attorney General Brad Schimel says he'll appeal the case, which would automatically go to the U.S. Supreme Court -- and Rick Esenberg of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty says he believes the justices would uphold current redistricting systems.
Waldo man gets 15-year sentence for causing home explosion
SHEBOYGAN -- A Sheboygan County man will spend 15 years in prison after his house blew up with illegal fireworks inside.
Forty-two-year-old Daniel Shilts of Waldo was on extended supervision for a previous case of making explosives, hence the longer prison term on nine counts of possessing improvised explosive devices and one charge of possessing items to make explosives. He pleaded no contest to those counts, with 42 others dropped in a plea bargain.
He also gets 15 years of extended supervision after his release. Shilts' house exploded in February, and specialists from the Milwaukee Bomb Squad and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives later found 51 improvised fireworks in his home. ATF agents said that if all the fireworks had exploded, neighboring homes would have been destroyed.
Stevens Point man gets 10 years for robbing 6 financial institutions
GREEN BAY -- A Stevens Point man got 10 years in federal prison, along with seven years in a state facility, after he admitted to robbing four credit unions and two banks in Wisconsin.
Thirty-nine-year-old Jason Kiedrowski will be sent to federal prison after he completes a seven-year state sentence. Federal Judge William Griesbach also sentenced Kiedrowski to three years of supervised release following the federal sentence. Kiedrowski admitted robbing the Fox Communities Credit Union in Grand Chute, Royal Credit Union in Eau Claire, Hometown Bank in Fond du Lac, Educational Employee's Credit Union in Janesville, the First National Bank in Appleton and the Unison Credit Union in De Pere. The robberies took place from February to July last year.
Family escapes intense fire in downtown Clintonville
CLINTONVILLE -- A family of five escaped unharmed from a fire that ravaged a building in northeastern Wisconsin early Wednesday.
Clintonville Fire Chief Todd Prellwirz says his crews were called to the China King restaurant around 2 a.m, with reports of heavy smoke from the second floor. Clintonville is about an hour's drive west of Green Bay.
Television reports indicate that the building has been destroyed, about 80 percent of the roof had collapsed, and smoke damage occurred in adjacent buildings. Officials say the family who escaped was alerted by a smoke detector, and the local Red Cross is now helping them. No one else was in the building when the fire broke out, and no injuries have been reported.
Building collapses onto Milwaukee street
MILWAUKEE -- No one was injured after a building being torn down in Milwaukee collapsed onto the street.
The incident happened Monday near the corner of North Farwell Avenue and East Kane Place. A nearby building sustained a small amount of damage. Farwell Avenue was temporarily closed while crews cleared debris from the street.