Snow likely across region this weekend; new Senate leader urges compromise on mining bill; state's corn harvest down slightly; more state briefs
Parts of northwest Wisconsin could get up to six-inches of snow Saturday night and Sunday - and the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch.
Forecasters say a storm system will bring snow to the western part of the Badger State Saturday night. Then on Sunday, snow accumulations are possible in northern Wisconsin - while rain, possibly mixed with snow, is expected in southern areas.
Whatever snow falls could stay around for a while. That's because colder temperatures are expected behind the low pressure and highs Monday and Tuesday are only supposed to be in the 20's statewide.
Incoming Senate leader urges compromise on mining bill
MADISON -- The incoming president of the Wisconsin Senate says he wants a mining bill that both parties can support.
Neenah Republican Mike Ellis hopes the GOP will incorporate some of the ideas that Democrats proposed Thursday. But a lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite said the recommendations from a Democratic Senate mining panel were nothing more than "talking points" and the state's largest business group says the package does not go far enough to secure much-needed jobs.
The Senate mining panel chaired by Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen proposed a two-year time limit for the state to act on permit requests for new mines. That's twice as long as the one-year review period suggested by Republicans in a package that was narrowly defeated in March.
Also, Cullen's package would not reduce environmental protections as the GOP bill would have done. It also calls for collaboration with federal regulators and Indian tribes - and unlike the GOP package, the public would still be able to challenge DNR decisions in contested-case hearings.
Cullen says he understands the proposals could be meaningless if the Republicans try to ram through their own mining bill but he says some of the panel's ideas will be hard to ignore once the debate heats up in the Legislature.
Ellis says it's better to do mining right, than to do it fast.
Veterans at King will reflect at Pearl Harbor observance
MADISON -- It's Pearl Harbor Day - and Wisconsin's official observance will take place Friday afternoon at the state veterans' nursing home at King in Waupaca County. Gov. Scott Walker will be on hand, as the state commemorates the 71st anniversary of the surprise attack in Hawaii by the Japanese which started World War II.
Former Marine Clyde Stephenson of Appleton will be the main speaker. He was assigned to guard beaches in Oahu from a possible invasion by land and he ended up firing at Japanese planes.
The state Veterans Affairs Department expects about 200 people to attend, including a couple of the half-dozen Pearl Harbor veterans who live at the veterans' home. The attack killed 2,400 service personnel and injured about 1,000 others. Twenty-one vessels were damaged or sunk.
State's corn harvest down but quality was good
Farmers produced less corn this year due to the drought - but overall quality of the crop is high.
The U.S. Grains Council gathered corn samples from Wisconsin and 11 other states - and the quality tests showed a heavier and healthier test-weight than a year ago.
The report said the average test weight was almost 59 pounds a bushel, more than two pounds above the grade limit for the No. 1 grade of U.S. corn.
The council said damaged kernels, moisture, and foreign material in the corn were all less than a year ago. The protein numbers were higher, the starch contest was somewhat lower, and the oil content was about the same. There appeared to be more stress cracks than a year ago. The corn quality was assessed as it entered the manufacturing channels and the Grains Council said its report does not reflect potential damage down the line.
As a result of the drought, Wisconsin farmers are expected to put out 431 million bushels of corn this year, a drop of 17 percent from 2011. Neighboring Minnesota expects at 15 percent increase in its crop due to timely rains that didn't always fall on Wisconsin.
Court says Milwaukee Diocese can shield some assets in bankruptcy filing
MILWAUKEE -- Over 200 Catholic parishes in southeast Wisconsin breathed a huge sigh of relief Thursday. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Susan Kelley said the parishes will not put all of their assets at risk, as she decides how much the Milwaukee Archdiocese must pay to sex abuse victims and other creditors in its nearly two-year-old bankruptcy case.
Kelley ruled that the parishes are their own legal entities but they're not out of the woods just yet. The parishes could still be sued, as the creditors try to obtain $35 million the local churches obtained from the archdiocese in 2005.
The creditors say the archdiocese committed fraud by taking the money off its books, to reduce its future legal liabilities related to the nationwide sex abuse scandal by Catholic priests. Archdiocese attorney Frank LoCoco calls the creditors' allegation "ridiculous."
Judge Kelley could decide as early as Friday whether the creditors can sue for at least part of the transferred money. LoCoco says those lawsuits could drag on for years and it would destroy parishes and make it impossible for the archdiocese to continue its local ministries.
Most of the creditors in the Milwaukee bankruptcy case are about 575 victims of sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese over the past several decades.
Compromise found in UW enrollment debate
MADISON -- The UW Board of Regents was to decide Friday whether campuses can increase their numbers of out-of-state students. But the jump would not be as big as originally proposed, after a Regent committee endorsed a compromise Thursday.
Currently, only 25 percent of students can come from outside Wisconsin or Minnesota, whose students pay in-state UW tuition under a reciprocity deal. UW officials wanted to increase the figure to 30 percent, so the Madison campus could attract more of the brightest students from around the world and to collect more revenue as the result of the higher out-of-state tuition.
But critics of the plan feared that it would reduce access by Wisconsin students to the state's flagship campus even though Madison promised to add 200 in-state freshmen. Regent Tim Higgins proposed the compromise, saying there would still be enough money from the additional out-of-state students to pay for the larger numbers of Wisconsin students.
UW president Kevin Reilly called it a win-win proposition.
Earlier this week, State Assembly Colleges Committee chairman Steve Nass called for a delay, so there could be more public discussion of the issue. But Madison's interim chancellor, David Ward, said admission officials must deal with the change now, as it works to admit next fall's freshman class.
More Wisconsinites sickened by A-H-3 bug
The number of Wisconsinites hospitalized by the flu is now up to 33 - seven more than what state officials reported on Monday.
At least four Wisconsin residents have died from the virus, as the nation continues its deadliest start to the flu season since the late 1970's. Health officials encourage everyone to get immunized, especially pregnant women.
State epidemiologist Tom Haupt said four pregnant women were hospitalized after they failed to get flu shots. That compares to nine for all of last winter.
Last year's outbreak was fairly mild, and Haupt says we might be headed to a more severe flu season this time around because the A-H-3 flu type is prevalent.
Former Walker appointee to be sentenced Friday
MILWAUKEE -- A former Scott Walker appointee in Milwaukee County was to be sentenced Friday for embezzling over $50,000 from a program that helps veterans and their families.
A jury convicted 62-year-old Kevin Kavanaugh of embezzlement after a trial two months ago. When Governor Walker was the Milwaukee County executive, he appointed Kavanaugh to chair the county Veterans' Service Commission.
Prosecutors said he made false withdrawals from a private veterans' service organization but his lawyer still claims there's no direct evidence that Kavanaugh kept the missing money for himself, or spent it.
He was charged in January, and was among five former Milwaukee County aides convicted as the result of a John Doe probe into illegal activities under Walker.
November saw fewest highway deaths since 1945
Wisconsin had 36 traffic deaths in November - the lowest for the month since World War Two. That's according to preliminary data released Thursday by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
There were 16 fewer deaths last month than the previous November and it was 13 less than the average for the past five years.
Four people died in Thanksgiving weekend crashes in Wisconsin. That's one fewer than a year ago, with about the same volume of traffic.
The DOT reported 569 traffic deaths in the state for the first 11 months of the year - about 11 percent more than a year ago.
There's been a 34 percent increase in motorcycle and pedestrian deaths, due mainly to an earlier-than-normal spring and warmer fall.
State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable said too many people were killed because they were not wearing their seat belts. Starting Friday, the DOT is waging a crackdown on unbelted motorists and drunk drivers as part of its "Booze-and-Belts" campaign that runs through December 16th.
Meanwhile, the driver of a sport utility vehicle died after colliding with a city transit bus on a Racine street, police said.
Edgerton hospital says improvements made since citations
The Edgerton hospital has been given 22 state-and-federal citations. Officials cited a lack of proper staffing, as two emergency room patients were left alone while nurses responded to a pair of cardiac arrests. One of the heart patients died. The other was a nurse who had a cardiac problem, and officials are not saying what happened to that person.
The Wisconsin State Journal said an anonymous complaint prompted a state investigation of the incident, which occurred on the morning of Aug. 9th. The paper said five of the federal citations accused the hospital of its most serious violation, causing "immediate jeopardy."
A report finalized in October said there was no record of the hospital calling in extra staff members but Edgerton Hospital vice president Caryn Oleston told the State Journal that calls were made - several people did come in - and an off-duty worker stayed in the emergency room to tend to a relative, so the patients were not really left alone.
Still, Oleston said the hospital has boosted its staffing, trained more people in CPR and expanded its on-call system when help is needed.