Wisconsin roundup: Bill calls for automatic prison in OWI fatalities; vets in line for entrepreneurship aid; 7 more state news stories
MADISON — Drunk drivers who kill other motorists in traffic crashes would have to spend at least five years in prison, in a bill set for a public hearing on Thursday.
It's part of a new effort by Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon and Senate Finance Chair Alberta Darling of River Hills to crack down on OWIs. The two have introduced numerous bills the past few years, many of which were never passed amid concerns that they would cost too much for the additional court cases and prison sentences.
They have three new measures for up for hearings by the Assembly's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Thursday morning. The other measures would raise minimum terms for five and six time drunk drivers from six months to 18 — and bar all OWI offenders from driving without needing sobriety interlocks to start their vehicles.
Veterans in line for entrepreneurship aid
MADISON — Military veterans will get state help to start their own businesses, or improve their current operations.
Six organizations will share $400,000 in state grants to provide entrepreneurship training and other business and technical assistance for those who've served. State Veterans Affairs Secretary Dan Zimmerman says vets already have many of the "essential skills and intangibles that make a good business owner."
Bunker Labs of Madison is getting the largest state grant — $238,000 to train veteran business owners in its Innovator Academy. The Fox Valley Technical College Foundation was also funded, as well as Legal Action of Wisconsin, Michaelangelo's Workshop of Middleton, Project Echelon of Waukesha, and the UW-Milwaukee Upward Bound program for veterans.
Report: Police sergeant drove to work drunk
SHOREWOOD — A suburban Milwaukee police sergeant was placed on administrative leave after he allegedly showed up for work intoxicated.
Officials did not immediately release the officer's identity, except to say he is a 31-year-old man who's been with the Shorewood police force for 14 months. Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies gave the man a sobriety test and his blood alcohol level was 0.16, twice the legal limit for drunk driving. He was cited for OWI and booked on a misdemeanor of endangering safety because a handgun was found beneath one of the seats in his car.
Man arrested on suspicion of shooting pellet gun at cameraman
MADISON — A 51-year-old man faces a possible felony charge for allegedly shooting a pellet gun at a TV photojournalist at the scene of a duplex fire near Madison.
The suspect told Dane County sheriff's deputies he shot at a crew from WKOW on Sunday because he felt they infringed on his property. Deputies were already at the scene in the town of Burke because of the fire, and they responded after hearing shots from the area. The 40-year-old photojournalist was said to be struck from behind by a pellet, and his injuries were minor. Deputies said they booked the alleged shooter for endangering safety.
Wisconsin, other states could make Medicaid recipients work
WASHINGTON — Wisconsin and other states would get the option of forcing able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work for their benefits as early as this fall.
That's part of a package of amendments from Janesville House Speaker Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans Monday night — something Ryan hailed as a cooperative effort with the White House to improve the replacement to Obamacare. Conservatives pushed for several changes that GOP leaders added to the package in advance of a House vote set for Thursday.
Taxes that the wealthy and health care groups pay for expanded Obamacare coverage would expire this year instead of next. And the House GOP decided to let the Senate figure out how to help older workers pay for their health costs, which could be as much as five times higher than for younger people instead of the current limit of three times higher.
State tax credit loophole costs taxpayers $27M
MADISON — A Wisconsin tax credit loophole that Gov. Scott Walker wants to eliminate has cost taxpayers $27 million since 2013.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the sweeping income tax credit for factories and farm related businesses has let several hundred filers get tax breaks for income taxes paid in other states — and they get a double benefit if they can also claim credits offered in those states as well as Wisconsin. The State Journal of Madison says the Wisconsin credit will give farm businesses and factories $284 million this year, almost twice as much as initially projected for its first full year after a four year phase in.
Walker's two year state budget would eliminate the tax loophole and bring in almost $20 million more in state revenues. Walker calls it "reasonable" but the state's largest business group says it's a tax hike for farms and factories.
State milk production growth streak ends at 33 months
MADISON — One extra day on the calendar is partially to blame for Wisconsin ending a 33 month streak of milk production growth.
The USDA says the Badger State made 2.1 percent less milk in February than in the same month last year, which was a Leap Year with 29 days in the month. Wisconsin dairy farms produced 2.32 billion pounds of milk last month — 51 million fewer pounds than in February of last year. The state had the same number of dairy cows with 1.28 million, but each animal produced about 40 pounds less for an average of 1,815. In the 23 major dairy states, the USDA milk production dropped by 1 percent on a year to year basis — but without the Leap Year in 2016, it would have increased 2.5 percent.
Witness: Police never let suspect surrender before shooting him
MILWAUKEE — A witness says a suspected drug dealer never got a chance to surrender before law enforcement officers shot and killed him in Milwaukee.
Nate Beverly lives in the north side neighborhood where 32-year-old Jermaine Claybrooks was killed last Thursday night. He says he never heard officers' commands before they proceeded to get out and "start shooting." Beverly joined others at a vigil for Claybrooks on Monday night.
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn says officers were confronted by the victim who was in a car with tinted windows rolled up — and they started shooting after they could see a gun in his hand. Claybrooks was the subject of a investigation involving Milwaukee and West Allis Police, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — and a suburban investigative team led by Wauwatosa Police is looking into the shooting.
Test results: Smaller percentage of deer died from CWD
MADISON — The state Department of Natural Resources says 7.3 percent of the deer it tested last year had chronic wasting disease.
That's down from the 9.4 percent death rate from 2015 that alarmed some state lawmakers. The DNR's website says 441 of the 6,039 deer taken by hunters and analyzed by lab technicians had CWD. That's about twice as many samples as the previous year, which had the highest percentage rate of CWD infections since the fatal deer brain disease was first discovered in the Badger State in 2002. The DNR has been working on revisions to its long term plan to keep chronic wasting disease in check — and that work could be finished by the end of this year.