Wisconsin roundup: UW responds to campus 'free speech' bill; baked-goods question goes before judge; 9 more state news stories
MADISON — The UW-System says it already has a resolution committed to the free exchange of ideas on campus.
And officials say a bill that calls for the suspension or expulsion of students who heckle speakers more than once would take away the flexibility that campus disciplinary panels now have. On Thursday, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Republican Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum proposed penalties for hecklers, similar to what Colorado has passed and five other states are considering.
That's after a Breitbart News editor was heckled at a Madison campus visit. A UW spokeswoman says the university is reviewing the bill and will work with lawmakers to assure free exchanges of ideas — but the state's ACLU says the proposed sanctions could discourage pointed questions from audience members at speeches.
Court hears lawsuit against ban on selling home baked goods
DARLINGTON — A judge in southwest Wisconsin plans to issue a ruling by May 31 on a legal challenge to Wisconsin's ban on selling home baked foods without licenses.
The Institute for Justice helped Dela Ends, Kriss Marion, and Lisa Kivirist in a lawsuit against the ban. Lafayette County Circuit Judge Duane Jorgenson heard arguments in the case Thursday.
There's a bill pending in the Legislature to make Wisconsin the second-to-last state to allow home baked food sales without licenses and state inspections. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says the bill would hurt small businesses that have to follow the rules — but the plaintiffs say it's not a legitimate government interest to protect businesses from competition, and allowing sales of home foods could help farmers who are struggling.
Bill would let some police body-cam footage stay secret
MADISON — Two Republican state lawmakers are proposing a bill to let crime victims, witnesses and property owners keep police officers' body camera footage secret.
Also, Senate Republican Patrick Testin of Stevens Point and Kewaskum Rep. Jesse Kremer would exempt any footage from the state Open Records Law if it does not directly show deaths, injuries, arrests, or police searches. In a message to potential cosponsors, Kremer and Testin said people expect privacy, and they want to prevent witnesses and crime victims from becoming targets of media examinations and YouTube videos. Law enforcement agencies from around the country have added body cameras as a measure of accountability following a spike in deaths at the hands of officers.
Alcohol use among Wis. senior citizens on the rise
MADISON — A state agency reports that alcohol use among Wisconsin senior citizens is on the rise.
The state Department of Health Services reported Wednesday that annual rates of alcohol use, binge drinking and heavy drinking among people age 65 or older was higher as measured in 2014 than the previous year. The per capita alcohol consumption rate in Wisconsin is 1.3 times the national rate.
The state report also shows that 56 percent of people over age 65 had at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days. Nine percent reported binge drinking — four or more drinks in about two hours for women and about five or more drinks for men. Six percent reported heavy drinking which amounts to eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks for men.
Elderly man dies after car hits semi
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Wisconsin Rapids Police continue to investigate a two vehicle crash that killed an 88-year-old man.
It happened Thursday morning at a city intersection along Highway 54. Police say the elderly driver pulled his car onto the highway in front of a semi-trailer that was going south. The man died at the crash scene, and the trucker escaped injury. It was raining and snowing at the time, but police say the weather was not a factor. The victim's name was not immediately released.
Fired Lincoln Hills psychologist reaches settlement
MADISON — A psychologist who was fired from the state's Lincoln Hills juvenile institution has reached a settlement after he was let go last December.
Reports say Derek John failed to respond to requests for help from more than 20 inmates in a three month period. As part of his settlement, the state Corrections Department recently agreed to call John's firing a "resignation." This comes after chief psychologist Vincent Ramos was fired in late 2015 for being underdressed while photographing interns in a hotel room — and Ramos has given up his state psychologist's license as a settlement. T
he Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quotes state officials as saying that adequate psychology services are now being provided at Lincoln Hills, which has been the subject of a two year federal investigation into alleged inmate abuses. It's not known when the probe will be completed.
Jail staffers point fingers at each other during inquest
MILWAUKEE — Two Milwaukee County jailers and their boss blame each other for not reporting that a prisoner's water was shut off one week before he died.
The finger pointing took place on the fourth day of an inquest into last April's death of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas, a bipolar inmate in solitary confinement. Jail Lt. Kashka Meadors and officers James Ramsey Guy and John Weber gave different accounts of what happened, each saying they thought somebody else wrote notes in jail logs that Thomas' water was cut off — and Meadors said she thought the matter was resolved before she went home.
Two other Milwaukee sheriff's officials have testified about policy violations that resulted in an order that Thomas' water be cut off. The inquest is expected to be finished early next week, when a jury decides whether to recommend charges to the district attorney.
Hearing set for man charged in 4 drunken-driving deaths
MADISON — A judge could decide Friday whether a Mayville man is mentally competent to stand trial in the drunken driving deaths of four people last fall.
Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke is expected to review a neuropsychological report and determine if 33-year-old Brysen Wills can help with his own defense. He's charged with 15 felony counts for a head on interstate crash last November which killed Clenton Hall, Kimberly Radtke, Katey Pasqualini and Patrick Wasielewski — all younger than 30. Prosecutors say Wills had a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit when he drove the wrong way on I-94 near Deerfield at speeds above 90, and the crash occurred as a state trooper was chasing Wills.
All but a handful of Grassland milk suppliers find new buyers
MILWAUKEE — Farm groups confirm that all but a few dairy farmers who lost Grassland Dairy as their main milk buyer will now have other buyers.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says at least some farms will not get the prices they received from Grassland, but it will be enough to keep them going. Fifty-eight Wisconsin farms that were contracted with Grassland are having their sales cut off Monday because of a trade dispute with Canada.
The state's largest news outlet says Mullins Cheese of Knowlton, The Rolling Hills Cooperative, and the Dairy Farmers of America have stepped in to help, among others. John Pagel of Green Bay's Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative says 19 of its 23 affected farmers have new milk buyers, at least in the short run. The affected farms have between 80 and 3,000 cows.
Chippewa Falls moves ahead with next phase of Riverfront Park
CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa Falls is moving ahead with the next phase of its development of Riverfront Park.
The city public works board learned Monday that bids for the next phase were $600,000 over the original budget. The redesign of the amphitheater stage contributed to the increase in costs. Plans to build picnic pavilions were put off to cut costs on the project.
Walker: Trump has 'really gotten Canada's attention'
MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker says President Donald Trump has "really gotten Canada's attention" in a trade dispute involving Wisconsin dairy farmers.
There were indications Wednesday that Trump would issue an executive order ending America's participation in the NAFTA free trade agreement. Trump later told Canadian and Mexican leaders he would not pull out, and the White House says all three countries plan to quickly move toward renegotiating the long running trade pact so all the nations benefit.
Walker told reporters in Madison Wednesday that he hopes Trump's "aggressive actions" will push Canada to offer at least temporary relief for Wisconsin dairy farmers, dozens of whom are losing their main customers for their milk because Canadian processors are no longer taking that milk for a highly specialized cheese product. Meanwhile, state agricultural administrator Daniel Smith says his agency has made a lot of progress the past couple days finding new suppliers for the farmers' milk.