Highland wind developers seek PSC reconsideration; mining bill moving forward; Johnsonville co-founder dead, more state news
Developers of a large wind energy farm near Forest in St. Croix County are asking state officials to change their minds about rejecting it.
Emerging Energies of Hubertus has asked the Public Service Commission to re-consider a construction permit on Friday for the new Highland project.
Officials want the developers and the project's opponents to file new documents by Wednesday which outline their stands. The commission will then decide whether to take the matter up again.
The PSC recently voted 2- to 1 against the new wind farm, saying it would occasionally exceed state noise limits, thus causing problems for several homes that are nearby.
Emerging Energies says it does not need to redesign the project to remove the noise concerns. The firm says it can program its turbines to reduce power, when wind speeds would cause the noise limits to be exceeded.
The Highland project is the only major wind energy farm currently pending in Wisconsin.
Senate vote expected Wednesday on mining legislation
MADISON -- A bill which paves the way for a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin will be up for a vote in the state Senate Wednesday. The Joint Finance Committee sent the measure to the upper house Monday on a 12- to 4 party line vote. Republicans went out of their way to show that their package would not hurt the environment, as claimed by Democrats and others who oppose the Gogebic Taconite project in Ashland and Iron counties.
Attorney Larry Konopacki of the non-partisan Legislative Council said the bill allows any wetlands destroyed by a mine to be moved elsewhere and there would be little or no changes in laws on drinking and groundwater standards, sewage permits, and air emissions. Senate GOP Finance Chair Alberta Darling said a mine would still have to meet exhaustive state and federal regulations before getting a permit.
She said the contention that Republicans want to hurt the environment "sort of gets at our integrity." GOP members struck down six amendments from Democrats, including a tax on what the new mine produces instead of the income it generates.
Critics said the mine's profits would be minimal at the beginning and would return very little to state and local governments.
Meanwhile, a group that opposes Wisconsin's mining incentive bill says growing numbers of state residents are against it, too.
The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters said it commissioned a survey earlier this month. It found that 62 percent of the over 900 residents surveyed are against the Republican package in its current form. Twenty-nine percent are in favor.
The bill is designed to make it easier for Gogebic Taconite to get approval to build a new iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Supporters say the region badly needs the jobs the mine would create while opponents are concerned mainly about possible water contamination and other pollution.
The conservation league said its poll was taken earlier this month with a random sampling of residents, and an error margin of plus- or minus three percent. The poll also showed that 78 percent are against a $2 million limit on mining companies' fees paid to the DNR during the state permit process. Seventy-seven percent were also concerned that Gogebic Taconite helped draft the bill before it was made public.
Joint Finance budgets $15 million for job training
MADISON -- A state panel has agreed to budget 15-million-dollars to train employees over the next two years.
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee also voted Monday to spend another $5 million dollars to create a new and improved computer system to keep track of open jobs, and match people to fill them. Four new state employees will be hired to develop the system.
Senate Republican Joe Leibham of Sheboygan said it will help state officials more quickly identify job shortages, so workers can be trained appropriately, but Assembly Democrat Cory Mason of Racine questioned the need for the computer system, saying the $5 million dollars should be added to the training funds instead.
Fraudulent Wisconsin tax filings reported
Growing numbers of Wisconsinites are sitting down to their computers to file their state income tax returns - only to see that identity thieves beat them to it.
State consumer protection officials say they're getting more complaints that somebody filed a tax return in their name - apparently to get another person's refund.
The agency has not said how many people have been victimized, but it has led to a state lawsuit against the owner of a Milwaukee tax service.
Consumer officials say people should report any evidence of fraudulent tax filings immediately.
Snow forecast for southern Wisconsin
SULLIVAN -- New weather advisories have been posted for southeast and far southern Wisconsin, as another strong snow-storm moves into the upper Midwest. The National Weather Service says the southeast half of the Badger State will be affected this time.
Three- to five inches are predicted Tuesday night in most of those places, with possibly another inch Wednesday.
The heaviest snow is projected to be along Lake Michigan from Milwaukee southward. At least six inches is in the forecast for those places, until it all clears out late Wednesday night.
The Weather Service has issued winter weather advisories from Tuesday afternoon until early Wednesday for Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Waukesha, Jefferson, Walworth, Rock, Green, and Lafayette counties. Dry weather is projected for the rest of the week, with highs 30-or-above each day.
Parent volunteer gets 6 years prison for child assault
A parent who volunteered at a Waukesha County elementary school will spend six years in prison for inappropriately touching an eight-year-old student.
Anthony Pico, 42, must also spend 10 years under extended supervision when he finishes his prison term. Pico was charged last April with first-degree child sexual assault for an incident at Summit Elementary School in Oconomowoc.
A jury found him guilty in December. His attorneys promise an appeal.
Johnsonville Sausage co-founder dead at 96
She started a butcher shop in 1945 that eventually became the world-famous Johnsonville Sausage company. Ninety-six year old Alice Stayer died over the weekend from natural causes at her retirement home in Naples, Fla.
She was born in Michigan with 13 brothers and sisters, and moved to Milwaukee after her father's mine shut down. After she got married, Stayer and her husband Ralph saved up enough to join two friends in starting Johnsonville Sausage in 1945.
The firm was named after the rural Sheboygan County town where they made meats from 19th-century Austrian recipes. Johnsonville was a household word throughout Wisconsin in the 1970's and the firm began selling bratwurst and other meats outside the Badger State in 1978.
Today, the company remains headquartered in nearby Sheboygan Falls with 1,400 employees who make a variety of sausages sold in 30 nations, including China.
Stayer's husband died in 2007 at age 92.
Circuit judge who signed recall facing election challenge
One of 29 Wisconsin circuit judges who signed recall petitions against Governor Scott Walker is now facing his first-ever election challenge because of it.
Former Milwaukee prosecutor Joe Voiland is running in April against Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Tom Wolfgram, who's spent the last 19 years on the bench. Voiland accuses Wolfgram of taking sides politically, by joining over 900,000 Wisconsinites who signed petitions that forced the governor to stand in a recall election last year.
On Monday, four of Walker's Republican allies in the Legislature announced their support for Voiland. Mequon Representative Jim Ott said Wolfgram "supported the political chaos in Madison that threatened to shut down Wisconsin's government." Ott was referring to the massive protests at the State Capitol in 2011 over Walker's law that virtually ended most public union bargaining in Wisconsin.
Wolfgram denies taking a position on the issue. He said he signed the petition so he and others could have more time to learn about the union law, which was the main issue in the recall effort. And if a case involving the Walker law ever comes to his court, Wolfgram said he would offer to withdraw and admit that he signed the recall petition.
The judge rolled out a series of his own endorsements Monday, including State Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler.
Wolfgram was appointed to the Ozaukee County bench in 1994 to fill a vacancy, and was unopposed in three subsequent elections.
Madison teens face charges for flashing toy gun
Two boys in Madison face juvenile delinquency, after they allegedly pulled a real-looking gun from a backpack on a transit bus last Thursday.
The two middle school students, ages 13 and 14, were arrested Friday.
Police quoted witnesses as saying the boys pulled out the real-looking gun and might have pointed it at others. Investigators found a pair of BB guns and ammunition at one of the youngsters' homes.
The teens were taken to Madison's Juvenile Reception Center. They face juvenile counts of using a facsimile firearm.
High Court hears arguments involving accused Johnson Wax heir
MADISON -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on whether a Racine businessman can review the mental health records of a young woman he's accused of molesting.
Curt Johnson, an heir to the S.C. Johnson fortune, has pleaded innocent to have illegal sexual contact up to 20 times with the youngster from 2007 to 2010.
His attorney, Mark Richards, told the justices that he wants to find out if the teen ever told her therapists that she was sexually-abused. Richards contends that two therapists who met with the youngster never reported sex abuse to authorities, as required by law.
The woman in the case is now 18. She and her mother no longer live in Wisconsin, and they've been fighting Johnson's request to obtain the victim's mental health records. The justices did not indicate when they might make a decision. Johnson's criminal case is on hold until then.
He had retired from the chairman's post at Diversey Incorporated, a cleaning products firm that was spun off from S.C. Johnson.