Thursday statewide news roundup
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Virtually all of the Wisconsin corn crop should be planted by Memorial Day.
The USDA says 91 percent was in the ground as of Sunday -- same as last year, and way up from the average of 69 percent during the past five years.
State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel says it's a big improvement for growers, after a heavy frost earlier this month damaged grapes, apples, and cranberries.
The USDA says 98 percent of the Wisconsin oat crop has also been planted, 14 percent more than the norm -- and two-thirds of the state's soybean crop is also in the ground, much more than the five-year average of 39 percent.
Seventy one percent of Wisconsin farm fields have adequate topsoil moisture, and 81 percent of the fields have adequate subsoil moisture.
Wildfire risk virtually disappears
MADISON -- The risk of wildfires in Wisconsin has virtually disappeared due to cooler and more humid weather.
It was so dry on Monday that the state had red flag warnings for much of the far north and northeast -- and about the northern half of the state had very high fire dangers. Now, the DNR says the risk is low in most of the northern third of Wisconsin -- and only Juneau, Adams, Menominee, Oconto, and Marinette counties have high wildfire risks, with the rest of the state listed as moderate.
It's been a busy season for state fire crews, as they've been called to more than 490 wildfires this spring that burned a total of 523 acres.
The National Weather Service says the soils should get a lot of moisture the next few days, as a new round of showers crosses Wisconsin from the rest to the northeast through tonight -- with lesser chances of rain and storms each day through Memorial Day.
Large increase in Wisconsin pre-Memorial Day boat deaths
MADISON -- For lots of people, the Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer boating season in Wisconsin.
But the DNR says 13 people have already died in state boating mishaps this year, compared to just one death before Memorial Day last year.
Officials say the overwhelming reason for boating deaths is the refusal to wear life jackets on board. The DNR's April Dombrowski tells WISC-TV in Madison that 85 percent of those killed in this year's boating accidents were not wearing life jackets, even though she calls it a "critical tool that can save a life."
The state has a program called "Kids Don't Float" that encourages boater safety by offering the temporary use of life jackets at various locations for those who forget their own.
DNR board reduces 'buck only' deer hunting counties for fall
MADISON -- More deer will be open to hunters in northern Wisconsin this fall, under a plan approved unanimously Wednesdayby the state Natural Resources Board.
Only 10 counties will be off limits to female antlerless deer, down from 19 last fall. The so-called "buck only" zones were established in places where there were not enough females to maintain adequate deer herds.
The DNR's Bob Nack says the herd in the north is now growing after rough winters reduced their numbers in recent years. Also, the plan includes a nine-day "antlerless only" hunt between Christmas and New Year's Day in 13 central and southern Wisconsin counties.
Ryan to endorse Trump? Not true yet
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Donald Trump's campaign manager says House Speaker Paul Ryan is about to endorse the Republican presidential hopeful, but Ryan's camp denies it -- at least for now.
A spokesman for the Janesville House leader says Ryan has not told the Trump campaign that an endorsement is forthcoming, and Ryan has not told anyone he regrets anything he has done.
Ryan recently made waves when he said he was not ready to support Trump as the GOP White House nominee.
The Republican National Committee quickly arranged a meeting between the two to see if they could smooth things over. According to Bloomberg News, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort told a small number of Republicans Thursday morning that he expects a Ryan endorsement before the week's out.
'Screech' back in jail
PORT WASHINGTON – The entertainer known to many as "Screech" is back in jail.
"Saved By the Bell" actor Dustin Diamond of Port Washington was booked Wednesday into the Ozaukee County lockup for violating terms of his probation.
State and local officials would not say what prompted Diamond's arrest, and no charges have been filed. The 39-year-old Diamond was convicted last year of stabbing a man during a tavern dispute on Christmas Night of 2014 in Port Washington.
He was sentenced to four months in jail, and he was let go for three months after earning "good time" as a custodial maintenance porter.
Democrat calls Wisconsin bathroom lawsuit 'political litigation'
MADISON -- An Assembly Democrat says the state Justice Department should fight crime instead of filing what she calls "political litigation."
Chris Taylor of Madison was referring to Attorney General Brad Schimel's decision to join 10 other states in suing against the new federal "bathroom rules" that let transgender school kids use restrooms of their chosen genders.
The governor's office says Scott Walker approved the lawsuit, but he remains undecided about a Wisconsin bill to make people use restrooms of the genders they were born with. A state G-O-P bill for public schools failed to pass this year, and Kewaskum Assembly Republican Jesse Kremer says he'll try again next session -- and he'll apply it to all public restrooms, similar to the North Carolina law that triggered the federal action.
Schimel says Wisconsin won't tolerate President Barack Obama's efforts to "rewrite" laws without congressional approval, but Taylor says it's turning the state Justice agency into a "right wing law firm."
State's largest land conservation site gets bigger
MADISON -- Wisconsin's largest land conservation site will soon get larger.
The state Natural Resources Board has agreed to buy a 7,100-acre easement in Douglas County, which will be added to the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest that covers four counties in northwest Wisconsin.
It allows the Lyme Timber Co. of New Hampshire to keep logging on the site, while it stays open for public recreation.
The state will use funds from its Stewardship Program to buy the property from Lyme, for more than $3.5 million. This is the last of three easements offered at the forest, which will now have about 73,000 total acres.
State confirms one new Elizabethkingia case
MADISON -- The state health agency has confirmed one more case of the Elizabethkingia bacteria.
It now confirms 61 cases in 12 counties in the southeast quarter of Wisconsin. The number of possible cases remains at four -- and 19 people have died in the state after contracting the bacteria, and that includes one of the unconfirmed cases.
State and federal health investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the outbreak, which began late last year in the Badger State. One person has died in Michigan from the Wisconsin version of the bacteria, and one has died in Illinois -- and most deaths involve elderly people with other underlying health issues.
All Three Wisconsin Spelling Bee Contestants Eliminated
All 3 Wisconsin spelling bee contestants eliminated
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Wisconsin will not be represented inThursday's finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
All three Badger State contestants were eliminated after a pair of preliminary rounds in National Harbor, Md. Thirteen-year-old state champion Veronica Goveas of Menomonee Falls and 12-year-old Martius Bautista of Janesville each spelled both of their verbal words correctly to a team of judges -- and their eliminations were based on their scores from a written multiple choice test on Tuesday.
Wisconsin's third contestant, 13-year-old Nathan Jarrett, spelled "euphotic" incorrectly in his second verbal round. Forty-five of the 285 national contestants will compete in two sets of finals today and Thursday.
Unemployment insurance trust fund balance hits $1B
MADISON -- Unemployment taxes will likely be dropping again this year for Wisconsin businesses as the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund now has a balance of over $1 billon.
Gov. Scott Walker says the growth in the fund could trigger a second consecutive drop in the tax schedule. He says covered employers will likely save around $38 million in U-I taxes starting in 2017.
UW's longest-serving chancellor stays put
LA CROSSE -- The longest serving chancellor in the University of Wisconsin System is staying put.
Joe Gow told students and staffers he withdrew as one of three finalists as the next president of Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D. That campus has around 3,500 students in a city that's half the size of La Crosse, where he's about to complete his 10th year as the chancellor.
This is the not the first time Gow has withdrawn his name from consideration for a different job. He was a finalist for the leadership post at the New Paltz campus of the State University of New York five years ago.
Ariens Muslim employees file discrimination complaint
MILWAUKEE -- It's now up to the federal government to decide whether the Ariens Co. of Brillion violated the rights of Muslim workers by not allowing unscheduled breaks for prayers.
The Council on American Islamic Relations has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Milwaukee. Ariens, which makes lawn mowers and snowblowers, terminated seven Muslims earlier this year for taking prayer time outside of the two scheduled 10-minute breaks they normally receive each workday.
Fourteen others resigned, and 15 workers are listed as plaintiffs in the complaint. Ariens has not commented on the new action, but it earlier said it provides reasonable accommodations with prayer rooms employees can use on their regular breaks.
Madison murder-suicide victims ID'd
MADISON -- Two people killed in an apparent murder-suicide in Madison have been identified as 39-year-old Mike Jackson and his 19-year-old daughter Tuneija Tornai-Jackson.
Police say Jackson most likely shot his daughter before turning the gun on himself, and an investigation continues into the late Tuesdayafternoon incident.
A family friend who heads the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County identified the victims Wednesday. Madison Police say the shootings did not appear to be related to other recent gun violence in the city.
Body found in Milwaukee River ID'd as missing woman
RIVER HILLS -- A body found in the Milwaukee River has been identified as a woman missing for six months.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's office used dental records to identify 53-year-old Jacquelyn Ranallo of Mequon. Her remains were found Tuesday in the Milwaukee River in River Hills. The cause of death has not been determined, and police are waiting for the results of toxicology tests that are expected in six to eight weeks.
Officials say Ranallo signed in at a nursing home in Germantown to visit her mother last Nov. 18 -- but three days later, she failed to show up for a dinner date with friends.