Wisconsin roundup: Jarchow among lawmakers proposing to relax pot laws; 8 more state news stories
MADISON — A Republican representing St. Croix County joined three urban Democrats in proposing small fines for having small amounts of marijuana.
GOP Rep. Adam Jarchow of Balsam Lake joins Milwaukee Assembly Democrats Evan Goyke and Jonathan Brostoff, and Senate Democrat Fred Risser of Madison as the sponsors of a bill to make Wisconsin the 22nd state to decriminalize small amounts of pot. Jarchow's Assembly district includes Somerset and other small St. Croix County communities.
The bill calls for $100 fines for possessing 10 grams or less, something that's now a felony for a second offense. Previous decriminalization efforts have failed, but Jarchow says he's surprised by how many voters in his northwest Wisconsin district bring it up — even though he realizes it probably won't pass this session. Jarchow says he wants the public to start thinking about how much tax money it would save, while keeping those who commit minor offenses out of jail.
State Supreme Court rejects frac sand mine
MADISON — After a county panel said no, the State Supreme Court will not say yes to a new frac sand mine near Arcadia.
The justices voted 4-3 Wednesday to uphold Trempealeau County's rejection of a permit for a silica sand mining facility owned by All Energy Corporation of Des Moines, Iowa. The county's land use panel turned down the permit in 2013, saying the application was not complete — and it raised concerns about public health and the environment.
The company said its application met legal requirements, and the county basically approved the permit by endorsing 37 conditions before voting the whole project down. Dissenting Justices Daniel Kelly, Rebecca Bradley, and Michael Gableman said the county acted arbitrarily.
Several hot-button issues await finance panel
MADISON — Some hot button issues will be up Wednesday afternoon when the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee gets back to rewriting the next state budget.
The panel will decide whether to accept Gov. Scott Walker's request to eliminate the state portion of the property tax for forestry and have the funding come from the state's general account where critics say forest upkeep would have to compete with schools and prisons. Other measures affecting the DNR would raise state park admission and camping fees, stop picking up dead deer along roadways, and stop publishing the popular Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.
The finance panel will also consider plans to eliminate the state Parole Commission and give pay raises to judges, district attorneys, and public defenders. The Republican Walker proposes a 2 percent annual pay hike for judges, while State Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack wants a hike of 16 percent for both years.
Walker open to interstate tolls
BELOIT — Gov. Scott Walker now says he's open to charging tolls on Wisconsin Interstates to help raise money for new and improved highways.
In Beloit Tuesday, Walker said he's considering tolls, but only if the state's gasoline tax of nearly 31 cents a gallon is reduced. Walker made the remarks at a news conference where he again urged his fellow Republicans in the Legislature to pass a transportation budget without gas tax or fee hikes — and if not, the governor warned there would be more delays for major projects, including the expansion of Interstate 39/90 to six lanes from Beloit to Madison.
Meanwhile, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the gas tax fund will end the budget period on June 30 with almost $102 million due to lower debt payments and higher tax revenues. That's much higher than an earlier projection of an $8 million balance.
Corn planting remains behind schedule
MADISON — Wisconsin's corn planting remains behind schedule.
The state Ag Statistics Service says 77 percent of this year's crop is in the ground, 12 days later than last year and five days later than the average for the past five years.
Almost half the state's corn can now be seen, also behind schedule — and 61 percent of the crop is rated good to excellent. Forty-five percent of Wisconsin soybeans have been planted, six days behind the norm and 10 days behind last year. Some farmers say they've been cutting hay while waiting for their unplanted fields to dry out from the occasional heavy rains the past two months — and the spring field work is only 89 percent finished, almost two weeks later than last year.
Assembly panel endorses UW speech bill
MADISON — While critics fear political witch hunts, a state panel has endorsed a bill to punish students who disrupt speakers on UW-System campuses.
The Assembly Colleges Committee sent the measure to the full house on an 8-6 party line vote Tuesday. Republicans said it would assure that all types of speech would not be shouted down, especially conservative views in liberal settings — while Democrats said it would result in students filing complaints against people they disagree with, and having politicians set policies that the Board of Regents are supposed to set.
The bill would order the Regents to create a policy that punishes students for "violent and other disorderly conduct" that disrupts the free expression of others — and that's more detailed than what Republican Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum originally proposed. The panel also ordered mandatory expulsions for those violating the policy three times.
Democrat moves from Ohio to run against Ryan in 2018
KENOSHA — One of Kenosha's newest residents will try to convince folks to elect him to Congress in 16 months, and unseat Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
David Yankovich said he just moved from Ohio to become the first Democrat to run for the 1st District House seat. In a statement, Yankovich calls himself "one of the original voices of the resistance against Paul Ryan and Donald Trump," and his campaign website calls him a "nationally recognized progressive voice."
Ryan, a native of Janesville, got 65 percent of the vote last November against businessman Paul Nehlen. who's reported to be considering another Democratic bid along with Forward Kenosha member Charlie Breit. Yankovich has been raising money on Crowdpac, with $22,000 as of Tuesday while Ryan's last campaign filing showed him with $9 million in the bank.
Man shot to death in Madison apartment invasion
MADISON — Madison police have been looking for three or four people suspected of busting into an apartment and shooting a 33-year-old man who later died at a hospital.
It happened about four Tuesday afternoon at a complex on Madison's north side. Police Chief Mike Koval says there were also two other victims, and one was unharmed while the other had minor injuries. Police say they've been looking at footage from surveillance cameras that were aimed toward the entrance to the unit. The victim's name was not immediately released.
Busy weekend for Wisconsin tourist spots
Summer is off to a busy start in Wisconsin's hottest tourist meccas.
Places like Wisconsin Dells, Door County, and Minocqua were filled with visitors during the Memorial Day weekend. Statewide tourist spending in Wisconsin has grown by 35 percent in the last six years. Door County attracts an estimated 250,000 visitors each year who spend almost $350 million there, much of it from the Chicago area.
Some Illinois visitors told television station WLUK that they've been coming to Door County since they were born. Others said they liked the food, shopping, and views of Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Bayfield gets lots visitors from Minnesota and the Twin Cities, and stores in Minocqua were not disappointed as they counted on folks opening their summer cabins in secluded northern Wisconsin.