E-registration will be among changes to 2015 gun deer hunt; post-mortem on State of the State speech; more Wisconsin news
State DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp screamed "Yes," just seconds after the Natural Resources Board revamped Wisconsin's deer hunting rules.
After four hours of discussion Wednesday, the board unanimously approved a host of suggestions made by Texas researcher James Kroll in 2011.
Stepp called it a tremendous opportunity that Wisconsin cannot afford to waste. The most controversial change is the elimination of in-person deer registrations at places like bars and gas stations. Starting in 2015, they'll all be reported on line or by phone. Taverns said the change would hurt their business, and some lamented a loss of hunter camaraderie. But other hunters said it ends the inconvenience of driving for miles to register their animals -- and Stepp said eliminating the paper system would make the harvest tallies much more efficient.
The board also approved Kroll's ideas to reduce the number of deer management units -- use simple goals to increase or decrease the herd instead of setting numerical targets -- and form county committees to recommend local population goals.
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation director George Meyer asked why Kroll's proposals are being considered at all. He said hunters were satisfied when the governor and Legislature ended the requirement to shoot a doe before taking a trophy buck.
Board members disagreed, saying northern Wisconsin hunters shot 15-percent fewer deer last year.
Stepp said the current DNR policies -- "ain't working."
Post-address, Walker heads out to promote tax cuts
MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker was expected to fly around Wisconsin Thursday to promote the tax cuts he proposed in his State-of-the-State address Wednesday night.
On Thursday, Walker was expected to speak to members of the state's Grocers Association who are coming to Madison to give their wish-lists to lawmakers. He was also to speak with employees and their bosses at factories in La Crosse and De Pere. Thursday evening, Walker was expected in Hurley to speak at an awards banquet for that city's Chamber of Commerce.
The governor will highlight what he calls his "Blueprint for Prosperity" -- a half-billion dollars in new tax cuts, courtesy of a projected surplus of nearly $1 billion in the current state budget.
Meanwhile, officials in Milwaukee say part of the surplus should be given directly to them to help what they call "the economic hub of Wisconsin."
Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Willie Hines said Milwaukee should get $25 million that banks originally paid the state to settle a lawsuit over their foreclosure practices. They also said the state should make up for its recent funding cuts in shared revenues, recycling grants, and transportation aid.
Walker also said he wants to use about $35 million of the state's projected budget surplus to help workers. He wants to help those with disabilities find jobs. According to the latest federal numbers, only 19 percent of disabled persons are employed, compared to 68 percent of those without disabilities.
Walker's plan would also help technical colleges get rid of their waiting lists for students training in fields with high demand, like manufacturing and computer technology. Walker also said he wants to help students get job training with dual-enrollment courses from their high schools and tech colleges.
Walker's own Republicans say they don't have the votes to approve the big tax cut he proposes. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he doesn't have a majority of 17 votes for anything right now. GOP Senate President Mike Ellis said he'd rather see less money for tax cuts, and at least an extra $100 million toward cutting the projected deficit of 825 million at the start of the next budget.
Meanwhile, one Wisconsin legislator from vented on her Facebook page during the governor's State of the State address Wednesday night.
Assembly Democrat Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee wrote, "OMG, this speech is so full of (blank) ... Wish I could get up and walk out. Bottom line ... The rich get richer, and the poor and middle class continue to get kicked in the butt."
A few of Sinicki's online friends hit their "like" buttons. Asked about it afterward, Sinicki claimed she wouldn't really walk out -- and she was just disagreeing with Walker's remarks about an improved economy and using a state surplus for tax cuts.
GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Sinicki should apologize to both the governor and her constituents. He said voters sent her to Madison to do a job, and quote, "not throw a tantrum."
Democratic leaders brushed aside the topic when asked about it last night. Sinicki did tone down her message later on, posting ... "For the record, my post about the SOS address was not about Walker, it was about his speech." She also thanked her supporters for standing up for her.
South Shore snowfall less than expected
MADISON -- Wind chill advisories continue through noon in all of Wisconsin, as January's second major cold snap enters its final day. Siren in Burnett County was the state's cold spot at 8 a.m. with an actual temperature of minus 21 and a wind-chill of minus-37.
Parts of southeast Wisconsin were the only places above zero. Sheboygan was at three above and the region had wind-chills generally in the minus-teens.
Much of far northern Wisconsin along Lake Superior did not get as much lake-effect snow as predicted.
Herbster in Bayfield County had just more than an inch, and Cornucopia picked up three inches before the snow tapered off this morning.
Gile in Iron County had just under six inches as of last night, and it was still coming down. That area could get the predicted total of seven or more inches.
A sunny day is in store for Thursday with highs from zero to 10-above. Temperatures may drop to minus 12 Thursday night before warming up into the 20's Friday with more light snow. Colder highs in the single-digits are forecast for the weekend.
Bill restricting employer Facebook access awaits Walker's signature
MADISON -- A bill to prevent employers and other superiors from snooping into people's private Facebook accounts is heading to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.
The Senate approved a final amendment to the bill Wednesday. It would let employers ask their workers to accept them as "friends" on Facebook and other social media.
The Assembly created that provision when it passed the bill on Tuesday. The Republican Walker has indicated that he'll sign the measure. Other states have adopted similar legislation, to make sure people don't lose out on job opportunities because they won't let companies look into their private social media conversations.
Also, the Senate has voted unanimously to let companies transfer their state tax credits to another firm, if the original recipients don't pay enough in taxes to use the credits.
Those original firms would have to meet several job creation standards in order to make the transfers. The bill now goes to the Assembly.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin is one step closer to boosting its resources for treating those with mental health issues.
The state Senate gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a dozen bills which are now on their way to Walker.
The Republican governor started talking about the need to address mental health concerns after a pair of mass shooting incidents in 2012. That was when six worshippers were killed at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek -- and Radcliffe Haughton killed his wife, two other women, and himself at a Brookfield spa.
Ten bills were approved unanimously Wednesday.
West Bend Republican Glenn Grothman voted no on two other measures. He has said he's concerned about over-prescribing drugs for psychotic matters, especially to children. The new measures would spend about $4 million for treatment. Health care providers would get new ways to share information, and a child psychiatry hotline would be set for doctors.
A quarter-million dollars in grants would be made available every two years for law enforcement to have mental health intervention teams to deal with crisis situations.
Among other things, more funding would also be available to encourage mental health professionals to locate in under-served parts of Wisconsin.
Farm activist John Kinsman dead; opposed BGH, genetic engineering
Wisconsin farm activist John Kinsman died this week. The 87-year-old organic farmer from Sauk County created a summer exchange program in the 1970's, in which black children from Mississippi would spend time on Wisconsin farms and youngsters from the Badger state would do the same down south.
Kinsman said the program showed him that black farmers were not being treated fairly by the USDA. He helped them pursue a discrimination suit which was later settled with U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In the 1990's, Kinsman was a key player in a "Dump the National Dairy Board" campaign. In '94, he founded the Family Farm Defenders' group, in which he served as president until his death. It allowed him to travel the world to speak about food sovereignty, help farmers organize and make progress, and meet heads of state.
Kinsman was steadfast in opposing bovine growth hormone, genetic engineering, and dairy pricing policies.
He lived what he professed, raising 10 children on a 175-acre dairy farm at Lime Ridge in Sauk County.
Profits soar at Johnson Controls
MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's largest company repored a 31 percent increase in its quarterly profits from to a year ago.
Johnson Controls of suburban Milwaukee said Thursday it made $469 million from October through December. That's up from $359 million for the same period last year.
Earnings per share totaled 69 cents, 17 cents more than a year ago, and a penny higher than what independent analysts projected.
CEO Alix Molinaroli said Johnson Controls benefited from an increase in motor vehicle production around the world -- plus cost-cutting in its auto-related businesses that don't involve car seats or state of the art lead-acid batteries.
Johnson Controls is the world's leading supplier on both those items. It also provides heating and cooling systems for large buildings. Molinaroli said the building business had lower revenues than the year before, but there are signs that the global commercial building market will improve later this year.
As for cutting costs, Johnson Controls recently sold its automotive electronics' operation -- and it's looking into a sale of an auto parts division that does not involve car seats.
Oneida County business park is an official flop
RHINELANDER -- If you build it, they may not come after all. Oneida County found that out the hard way after it spent about $500,000 on a sustainable business park in 2006 -- and nobody moved in.
This week, the County Board declared the project dead, after it bought 272 acres in Rhinelander in the hopes of attracting modern manufacturers and young entrepreneurs.
The board voted to form a new committee to consider other options for the site. Recommendations are due in August. A feasibility study turned up problems getting enough tax revenues, plus access problems at the site.
Also, local trout anglers were concerned about what might happen to a popular fishing stream on the property. It's near a golf course, and County Board member Tom Rudolph says the potential for new recreation opportunities should be considered.
Supervisor Bob Martini said all options should be looked at. Board member Jerry Shidell said the large expense from seven years ago was symptomatic of other problems. He said Oneida County needed to hire an administrator and have fewer board supervisors.
-- Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander
Reward offered to help locate missing woman
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information about a northeast Wisconsin woman who's been missing for almost nine months.
Victoria Prokopovitz, age 60, of Pittsfield in Brown County was last seen at her home on April 25th.
Authorities said she left her purse, cell-phone, and I.D. behind. She had no medications when she disappeared, and her family said she might be a harm to herself as she suffers from depression.
Those with information are asked to call the Brown County sheriff's office.
Milwaukee man facing murder charge in parking lot shooting
MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee man has been charged in the shooting death of another man outside a strip club.
Ezra French, 27, is facing a count of first-degree reckless homicide in the death of 30-year-old Julian Noblin last Nov. 16th outside the Cheetah Club on Milwaukee's north side. Prosecutors allege that French walked to a car and pointed a gun at Noblin's brother. Noblin batted a gun away from his brother, and he tried getting out of the car when he was shot through an open window. Noblin was hit in the back and died at the scene. French is currently in the Manitowoc County Jail. That's after he was charged in Manitowoc last month with obstructing an officer as a repeat offender, and illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.