Wisconsin roundup: UW System chancellors seeking more funding; hand recounts for majority of counties; 8 more state news stories
OSHKOSH -- After absorbing budget cuts in 10 of the last 12 years, chancellors in the University of Wisconsin System are hoping lawmakers will give them a little more money this time.
The system is asking for an additional $42 million from the state. UW Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank spoke on the issue at a meeting with community leaders in Oshkosh. Blank pointed out that the system wasn't even given money for maintenance last year, meaning if a steam pipe breaks, the money to fix it comes from educational funds. Gov. Scott Walker will submit his budget in January.
Report: Most counties plan at least partial hand recounts
MADISON -- Fifty six of Wisconsin's 72 counties plan to recount all or part of their presidential ballots by hand, although a judge says they don't have to.
The Wisconsin State Journal says Milwaukee and at least 12 other counties will use scanning machines for their tallies. The statewide recount begins Thursday after the Green Party's Jill Stein wanted to find out if computer hackers kicked out ballots in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania -- and Stein's campaign is covering the entire $3.9 million cost of the recount.
The State Journal says it averages down to $1.31 per vote, including the security of the ballots and extra workers so the tally gets done by the federal deadline of Dec. 13. Costs per county vary widely, from 19 cents per vote in La Crosse to $6.65 cents per vote in Pierce County.
Man accused of starting to snort cocaine in front of cops
STURTEVANT – Police in a Racine-area community have arrested a 34-year-old man for allegedly backing into another man's car at a gas station on purpose, then snorting cocaine in front of officers.
Kenny Ignasiak is accused of cutting off another man in traffic last Friday afternoon in Sturtevant. The two argued at a gas station, then other man says Ignasiak deliberately backed into his car and drove away.
snasiak returned while officers were responding to that man's call. While he was being cited, police say Ignasiak was caught lining up a powdery substance later found to be cocaine and was preparing to inhale.
Eau Claire man found passed out at school with a child, gun and drugs
EAU CLAIRE -- A man arrested in Eau Claire could have picked a better place to pass out.
Eau Claire police responded to Longfellow Elementary School after getting a call saying Kong Meng Lee was unconscious inside a car with a child. Lee is a convicted felon, meaning the gun allegedly found in that car was illegal for him to possess. So was nearly a half-ounce of methamphetamine, according to authorities. Lee was charged with seven felonies, including drug possession.
State GOP vows to file complaint against Wisconsin recount
MADISON -- The state Republican Party will file a federal complaint against those behind the recount of the Wisconsin presidential vote that's due to start Thursday.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says a draft complaint to the Federal Elections Commission accuses Green Party candidate Jill Stein of improperly raising almost $4 million to pay for the recount, because the only person who could benefit is Democrat Hillary Clinton, who lost to Republican Donald Trump in Wisconsin by 22,000 votes.
Stein has repeatedly said she's most concerned about the integrity of the voting process after reports that electronic ballots were hacked. Her campaign says the GOP's complaint has no merit. The party said Clinton had a direct role in the recount by intervening in a lawsuit to seek a full hand recount that a judge rejected, but which at least 56 counties still plan to do anyway. Stein said Wednesday she would not appeal the rejection of the recount, and she promised to watch county tallies close once they begin.
DNR unveils major, long-awaited reorganization
MADISON -- The state Department of Natural Resources is ready to begin its long awaited reorganization that will have direct effects on how water, air, and wildlife are protected.
The agency unveiled its plans Wednesday, vowing to keep personnel changes to a minimum, while making "significant changes" for five percent of the agency's 2,500 full time employees. Some changes would need legislative approval while others would not.
Seven DNR divisions would be cut to five with new units for forestry, environmental management, internal services, external services, and fish/wildlife/parks. The Wisconsin State Journal says the DNR wants more private contractors writing environmental permits, more control of scientific research, re-evaluating its management of wildlife habitat, and reducing the numbers of "armed rangers" in state parks in the next 18 months. Secretary Cathy Stepp calls it a plan that should help protect the DNR from future budget cuts, and make the shrunken agency workforce more efficient and happier.
Board discusses self insurance for state employees
MADISON -- A state board is looking at proposals Wednesday to carry out a new plan to have the government run its own health insurance program for state workers.
Right now, 17 privately run HMOs throughout Wisconsin provide coverage for 250,000 state and local public employees and their families. The Department of Employee Trust Funds is presenting a report to the Group Insurance Board which says a self insured state plan would give officials more control of their benefits -- and it could save millions -- but the state could run a big risk for larger medical claims, and administrative costs may go up.
The insurance board is considering proposals from private firms to administer a self insured program. A decision will be made at a public meeting Dec. 13, which will later go to the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee for its approval.
Overdoses spike in Duluth-Superior area
SUPERIOR -- In Duluth-Superior, more people have succumbed to drug overdoses since Thanksgiving, and officials blame it on a new batch of heroin with questionable quality and potency.
In Superior, a medical examiner is investigating the apparent overdose death of a 25-year-old man whose body was found by his family last Friday -- and Superior fire officials had calls about excess drug doses on Friday, Saturday, and Monday.
Across the bay in Duluth, police say they responded to six cases from Thursday through Monday, and nobody died. Paul Stein, a deputy medical examiner in Superior, says there are fewer drug deaths after firefighters were recently trained to administer the heroin antidote Narcan -- but Stein was not aware of the drug being used, after Wisconsin lawmakers approved it as part of an ongoing package of heroin fighting bills from Assembly Republican John Nygren, who almost lost a daughter to heroin. In Duluth, both police and firefighters carry Narcan.
Body found after house fire in Rock County
TOWN OF NEWARK -- Police have recovered a body after a house fire in Rock County.
Investigators recovered the body Tuesday afternoon from the house in the town of Newark. An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday. The Rock County Sheriff's Department says the cause of death was not immediately apparent.
Investigators say the medical examiner's office will release the victim's name after the autopsy. The Janesville Gazette reports that the cause of the fire has not been determined and investigators aren't sure if foul play is involved. The single-story ranch home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. Investigators say the homeowner's pickup truck is missing.
Carroll University names its first female president
WAUKESHA -- Wisconsin's first school of higher learning has named its first female president.
Sara Ray Stoelinga will start next July as the head of Carroll University in Waukesha -- and she'll replace Douglas Hastad, who's retiring after more than one decade as the school's president. The 43-year-old Stoelinga currently heads the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute at the same place where she earned bachelor's and doctorate degrees in sociology. She joined the institute as an intern and worked her way through the ranks for 22 years. Carroll is a Presbyterian based, liberal arts institution with 3,500 students.