Wisconsin roundup: Assembly sex harassment allegations to remain secret; more state news stories
MADISON — Leaders of both parties in the Wisconsin Assembly say they will not release official complaints about sexual harassment by lawmakers and their staff members.
GOP Speaker Robin Vos and Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz told reporters Tuesday there have been complaints in the past, and the Wisconsin State Journal said it was told that releasing them would discourage other victims from complaining in the future. A training session was held Tuesday for Assembly members and employees on the current policies in that chamber.
Reporters questioned whether the public could trust that lawmakers could be held accountable if they cross the line — and Vos mentioned the heavy publicity that former GOP Majority Leader Bill Kremer received for harassing a staffer and a lobbyist on a political trip to Washington. Kremer was sentenced to five months behind bars for the incident — and the Assembly never released a report on its own probe into the case.
Johnson votes yes on tax overhaul, still with concerns
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson voted yes as the Senate Budget Committee endorsed the Republican tax overhaul.
The vote was 12-11 on party lines Tuesday to send the package to the full Senate where a vote could come as early as Wednesday. Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said earlier he would vote against the bill if it did not cut taxes on companies in which the owners pay income taxes on their individual returns. He told Fox News he still has serious concerns about that — but he changed his no vote after speaking with President Donald Trump. As Johnson put it, "When the President of the United States tells you that he's going to fix your problem and he asks for your vote, I was more than willing to give it to him" in the budget panel.
Avery appeal rejected again
MANITOWOC — A circuit judge has again rejected a new trial for Steven Avery, the Manitowoc County man whose homicide conviction was questioned in the Netflix series "Making a Murderer."
Circuit Judge Angela Sutkiewicz reviewed new evidence from the defense, but the judge said Tuesday she still did not have a basis to reverse her original rejection from early October for a second trial. Avery is serving a life prison term for the brutal killing of photographer Teresa Halbach on Halloween of 2005 at the Avery family's auto salvage yard near Mishicot.
His lawyer has pointed to one of Avery's relatives as the possible killer. The request for a retrial is now expected to go to the state's Court of Appeals.
Racine County Board OKs Foxconn development agreement
RACINE — The new Foxconn technology plant in Racine County moves another step forward.
The County Board voted 18-0 Tuesday night for a development agreement that commits up to $764 million from county and local tax coffers — mostly for land, street, and utility arrangements for Foxconn's LCD screen plant in Mount Pleasant that could create 13,000 jobs. The local deal is on top of the $3 billion of state tax incentives approved earlier.
Among other things, the Foxconn site will be taxed with a value of $1.4 billion by the start of 2023 regardless of its actual value — and officials say it will guarantee that the Taiwanese company pay off the infrastructure that will be put in. The Mount Pleasant Village has approved the package, and a joint local review board will take up a portion of it in the coming days.
State hunters shoot fewest deer since 1982
MADISON — Wisconsin hunters have shot their second lowest number of deer since 1982, and the state sold its fewest gun licenses since 1976.
In preliminary data released Tuesday, the Department of Natural Resources said almost 196,000 deer were registered for the nine day gun season that ended Sunday. That's the lowest since 2014, when 192,000 were shot.
Media reports cite an increase in crossbow hunters, and sociologists have predicted a drop in hunting across the country as people spend less time outdoors. More than 588,000 gun deer licenses were sold, 10,000 fewer than last year — just the second time in 41 years that fewer than 600,000 licensed hunters were in the woods. The buck harvest rose by o1 -percent in Wisconsin this year, but the antlerless total fell by 2 percent, and the Northwoods was the only region to report an increase with a jump of 28-percent from last year due to mild winters and a now ended ban on doe hunting that was credited for increasing the deer herd.
Two Mississippi River bridge projects get national awards
BUDA, Texas — Two new Mississippi River bridges at the Wisconsin border have received national awards for excellence.
The American Segmental Bridge Institute has recognized the Interstate 90 span near La Crosse and the bridge at Winona, Minnesota that connects with Wisconsin Highway 54. Both were designed and built by the Minnesota transportation department. The bridge institute, based in Buda, Texas, calls the I-90 structure "world class," noting that its elements provide "aesthetically pleasing shapes and forms with the capacity to deliver a record setting concrete span" above a major waterway.
The new Winona bridge on Minnesota 43 was said to have a "nice form and function with overlooks that blend with the environment" — and the old Winona bridge is being renovated to provide additional lanes.
State could lose federal child health insurance funds
MADISON — Wisconsin would lose $115 million in federal funds a year if Congress does not bring back the popular Child Health Insurance program.
The CHIP program expired Oct. 1 when the new federal budget period began, and Congress did not grant a new authorization for it. The program helps about 118,000 Wisconsin youngsters whose families to make too much to get Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage. Some state officials are telling clients they could lose their coverage if Congress doesn't act soon — but Wisconsin has a law requiring CHIP coverage, and state taxpayers would have to pick up the tab if Washington doesn't. The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville says his chamber has reauthorized CHIP, but the Senate has done so yet.
Late state crop harvest season almost finished
MADISON — A late crop harvest in Wisconsin is almost finished.
The state Ag Statistics Service says 81 percent of the corn for grain has been harvested, 11 days behind schedule. The corn's moisture content remains too high in some places, and officials say some of the standing corn will most likely remain in the fields during the winter although other producers say their corn yields are either close to last year or higher. Only four percent of the Wisconsin soybeans have not been harvested, but that's 10 days behind the average. Field tillage work is more than two thirds finished, and it's eleven days later than the norm as frozen ground starts to hamper the field operations in northern Wisconsin.