Wisconsin roundup: Survey names Wis. drivers as among nation's rudest; 9 more state news stories
LAKEWOOD, N.J. — Wisconsinites are among the most rude drivers in the nation.
That's according to a survey from "Kars 4 Kids," the charity that helps children by buying donated used autos. Twenty-five-hundred licensed drivers were surveyed around the country this past spring, and they ranked Wisconsin as having the 46th most courteous drivers for a grade of "D" — and the state got "F's" for not letting other cars merge in front of them in heavy traffic, and for stealing others' parking spaces.
Wisconsin drivers got an "A" plus for using their turn signals, and average marks for the way they respond to slow drivers, and responding rudely when being tailgated. State drivers also got a "D" for speeding up to stop drivers from passing them. The survey ranked Idaho as having the most courteous drivers, and New York the least courteous.
GOP senators huddle on overdue state budget
MADISON — Wisconsin Senate Republicans are meeting Thursday to see if they can find points of agreement on a funding package for highway work.
It's the biggest bone of contention in a two-year budget that was supposed to take effect last Saturday, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has challenged Republicans in both houses to hammer out an agreement by Monday. Senate and Assembly Republicans disagree on whether to borrow more — or limit the bonding and raise revenues through some kind of fee hike.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald had opposed any tax or fee hikes until a new fee on heavy trucks was proposed last month — and he said he could at least consider that, while five conservative members of his caucus came out against it, and the state's largest business lobbying group called it "anti business" and "anti consumer."
Slender Man suspects due back in court
WAUKESHA — Two girls are due back in court Monday in Waukesha's 3-year-old Slender Man court case.
Morgan Geyser, who's now 14, will ask a judge to sequester her jury so they don't hear news stories about her three week trial that's due to begin Oct. 16. Fifteen-year-old Anissa Weier will have a hearing Monday on the status of her case, which is also scheduled to have a three week trial starting Sept. 11 so it's finished before Geyser's trial is due to begin.
Both girls were 12 when they allegedly stabbed classmate Payton Leutner 19 times at a sleepover in May of 2014, reportedly in allegiance to the fictional horror character Slender Man. Both girls have pleaded insanity to attempted homicide — and if they're found guilty at the trials, jurors will then decide whether to send them to prison or to mental institutions.
More storms rumble through state
Another band of thunderstorms rumbled through central and northern Wisconsin Thursday morning, with more heavy rains and small hail.
Marshfield and parts of Vilas County had quarter inch hail. Almost two and one half inches of rain came down at Marshfield in the 24 hours ending at 7:30 a.m., and the city had wind gusts of 54 mph late Wednesday. In northwest Wisconsin, Trade Lake in Burnett County had 2 ¾ inches of rain — Bayfield had 47 mph winds — and in western Wisconsin, trees and power lines went down near Tomah. Almost 1,500 electric customers in the state were without power as of 10:15 a.m., most in the far northwest, and a general flood warning is in effect until 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon in parts of Burnett County.
Two stolen Siberian lynxes returned
DELAVAN — Police near Delavan say they have suspects in the thefts of two baby Siberian Lynxes stolen Monday from the Animal Gardens petting zoo — but no one was in custody at last word, as an investigation continues.
Officials say the pair of 7-week-old animals were returned Wednesday night by two women who gave them to an employee. Except for being hungry, the lynxes appeared OK. Zoo owner Dana Montana guesses that the animals were stolen so they could be sold on the black market. A security camera showed a truck driving up to the petting zoo area late Monday night, and then to a nursery on the site.
Trump commission defends request for personal voter data
WASHINGTON — The head of the president's commission that's seeking personal voter data says it's not true that 44 states refuse to cooperate with the request.
Kris Kobach says only 14 states and Washington, D.C., have rejected his group's request for what it calls "publicly available voter information" — but as Wisconsin has shown, it's not a rigid yes or no question, as many portray it. Badger State officials say the commission can obtain what the state considers to be public — names, addresses, and when they've voted — and like many candidates do, the Trump panel would have to pay $12,500 for a statewide list.
Meanwhile, the Washington news outlet "The Hill" says the Trump request might violate federal law, because agencies are required to clear their data requests with the Office of Management and Budget — which mandates specific details on how it would be used and protected. The commission says it's not an agency, which an analyst quoted by "The Hill" disputes.
Assembly leaders use budget stalemate to confirm Foxconn plans
MADISON — Three top Wisconsin Assembly leaders confirm that Foxconn is looking at a new technology plant that could bring up to 10,000 jobs to southeast Wisconsin.
GOP Speaker Robin Vos, Majority Leader Jim Steineke, and Finance chair John Nygren alluded to the company's plans in a memo that sought to resume talks on a new state budget that's five days overdue. Majority Republicans disagree on how to pay for major highway work — and the Assembly leaders' memo challenged them to reach an agreement by Monday, referring to a "desire" by the Taiwanese Foxconn to locate a megaplant close to where an Interstate 94 expansion continues to be delayed in Racine and Kenosha counties.
That freeway goes through Vos' district. Last month, President Donald Trump told a crowd in Waukesha that officials were negotiating with a "major" manufacturer of phones, computers, and televisions — and the next day, it was reported that Foxconn was considering Wisconsin and Michigan.
State Democrats propose 'Badger Care For All'
MADISON — Wisconsin Democrats have joined some other states in pursuing an expansion of government health care, saying it would assure high quality care and reduce costs for thousands while Republicans in Congress seek to scale back private Obamacare plans.
State Rep. Eric Genrich of Green Bay and Sen. LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee unveiled a bill Wednesday for what they call "Badger Care for All." It would be offered through the Obamacare insurance exchange at the state's cost. California passed a single payer government plan last month, while Nevada's governor vetoed a proposal to open its Medicaid to all residents.
The Wisconsin measure is not expected to go far in the Republican controlled Legislature, and GOP officials have said in the past that expanding Medicaid and Badger Care would hurt the health care industry because the government does not reimburse the full cost of care to providers.
Man jumps to his death after taking LSD
MILWAUKEE — A medical examiner says a Kenosha County man jumped to his death in downtown Milwaukee right after he took the hallucinogenic drug LSD.
Officials say 22-year-old Justin Perez jumped from a 10th floor railing to a sixth floor landing at the Majestic Loft Apartments late Tuesday night, after he and a friend both took doses of the drug in the form of white paper. The Milwaukee County medical examiner's office says Perez got agitated after that, and some friends tried to settle him down as he punched a wall, left an apartment, and jumped from the outdoor rail. Milwaukee Police continue to investigate.
Second round of loans OK'd for frozen Wis. crops, winter-kill
ATLANTA — A second round of disaster relief has been approved for 23 Wisconsin counties hit with late freezes this past winter.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has granted low interest loans for small businesses, farm cooperatives, aquaculture firms and most private nonprofit groups. Loans of up to $2 million are available, with interest rates of 2.5 percent to 3 1/8 percent. Applicants have until next Feb. 28 to submit their requests. The SBA says its loans are normally granted when the USDA approves similar relief for farmers. Last week, agricultural loans were granted for winter damage in Brown, Calumet, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Manitowoc, Monroe, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Sheboygan, and Washington counties — plus 13 adjacent counties.