Wisconsin roundup: So long to sub-$100 Packer tickets; large freshman class on tap at UW-River Falls, despite earlier concerns; 9 more state news stories
GREEN BAY — For the first time, no seat will cost less than $100 for a Green Bay Packers regular season home game.
The Packers have announced a $7 price hike for all seating categories at Lambeau Field this fall. The Pack shares ticket revenues with its opponents, and team president Mark Murphy says they try to stay close to the league average so visiting teams don't get shorted.
Green Bay sells all its seats to season ticket holders, with face prices for the regular season ranging from $102 to $129, and the Packers are giving season ticket holders a chance to commit to one playoff game now to avoid a possible logjam of unsold seats in December. Last year, Green Bay started charging less for exhibition games and more for the regular season — and that resulted in tickets being resold at less than face value on StubHub for the December home wins against Seattle and Minnesota.
Large freshman class on tap at UW-River Falls, despite earlier concerns
RIVER FALLS — Despite concerns from University of Wisconsin leaders about a decline in graduating high school seniors, freshman enrollment at UW-River Falls is looking up.
According to data from UWRF’s admission office, the university had admitted 1,974 incoming freshmen as of Feb. 1 for the 2017-2018 school year, up 13 percent from this time last year. The number comes as good news for university officials who have been working to increase enrollment after struggling to balance the university’s budget during a period of decline and a tuition freeze.
Higher enrollment is also a welcome sight for the university’s admission counselors who have worked to offset the declining number of high school graduates in the region due to lower birth rates in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sarah Egerstrom, UWRF’s executive director of Admissions & New Student and Family Programs, said the higher enrollment is a result of collaboration across campus.
“We’re working closely with University Communications and Marketing,” Egerstrom said. “Our branding and brand awareness as an institution is continuing to reinforce that UW-River Falls is a great place to live and learn.”
(Courtesy of Matthew Clark, Falcon News Service)
Wisconsin, 10 other states drop transgender lawsuit
NEW ORLEANS — Wisconsin and 10 other states have agreed to drop their lawsuit against letting transgender school students use the bathrooms of their choice.
State Attorney General Brad Schimel called it another example of Obama "overreach" when he challenged the former president's executive order that threatened schools with a loss of federal funds if they make transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms of their birth genders. After the White House changed party control, President Donald Trump issued an executive order snuffing out the Obama directive, saying it was a matter for states to deal with. The states filed their lawsuit last May, and they filed requests Thursday with the federal appeals court in New Orleans to drop both the lawsuit and the judge's stay of the case.
State adds 25,600 private sector jobs in one-year period
MADISON — Wisconsin added more than 25,600 private sector jobs during the year ending last Sept. 30.
That's down from a net of 30,000 jobs created during the same period the previous year. State officials say the private sector workforce grew by about 1 percent during the most recent one year time period — and the federal government will soon tell us how Wisconsin's percentage of job growth compares to other states.
The report has a time lag because it takes a while for officials to survey nearly all nationwide employers — as opposed to the monthly unemployment reports that survey less than 4 percent of companies. Wisconsin officials also highlighted an average wage hike of seven percent among the private sector firms surveyed.
Wisconsin cheese production back on the rise
MADISON — Wisconsin's year-to-year cheese production is back on the rise, after it fell in December for the first time in 26 months.
The USDA says the Badger State made 268 million pounds of cheese in January, an increase of 1.9 percent from the same month in 2016. But Wisconsin is still not keeping up with the nation as a whole, as American factories boosted their cheese output by 3.7 percent in January with the help of a nearly 12 percent increase in New York State.
Wisconsin's biggest increase was for Italian cheese, with a jump of 4.5 percent from the previous year. The state's mozzarella production was up by less than 1 percent, while cheddar production dropped by almost 4 percent.
Pence, Ryan, health secretary appearing at Janesville firm
JANESVILLE — Vice President Mike Pence will talk about the Trump economic agenda and replacing Obamacare when he speaks in Janesville Friday.
Pence is scheduled to hold a listening session with local business leaders and farmers at the headquarters of Blain's Farm and Fleet — and he'll then tour the facility before making a formal speech around noon to about 350 employees and invited guests. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will join Pence.
Protesters have said they'll picket across the street. Pence is making his first visit to Wisconsin since becoming Donald Trump's vice president in January. Blain Supply CEO Jane Blain Gilbertson says her firm is hosting the event to give those representing farm owned businesses a chance to let the vice president know about issues which affect them.
Minnesota Sunday liquor sales one step away from approval
ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers have given their final approval to a bill allowing Sunday liquor sales, thus cutting into business across the border in Wisconsin.
The state House voted 88-39 on Thursday to ratify a change made by the Senate, in which Minnesota liquor stores could open at 11 a.m. on Sundays instead of 10 a.m. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the measure, which means Sunday sales would begin in July — and one liquor shop owner in Hudson said this week he expected the move long ago. Minnesota is one of 12 states that still prohibit Sunday liquor sales, and it's been in effect since statehood 159 years ago.
DOT drops plans to expand interstate north of Madison
MADISON — Wisconsin transportation officials have given up plans to expand the interstate routes between Madison and Wisconsin Dells.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports the state DOT had been studying adding new lanes to Interstate 39/90/94 between Madison and Portage and expanding I-90/94 from Portage to Wisconsin Dells. DOT officials said work on the studies ended Friday.
The studies began in 2014 and have cost about $3.5 million so far. A DOT spokesperson said ending them now will save $5 million, which can be put toward a new study on replacing interstate bridges over the Wisconsin River.
Nine arrested, 11 charged in Fond du Lac County heroin case
FOND DU LAC COUNTY — The Fond du Lac County District Attorney’s office says 11 people are facing drug charges, and nine people were arrested after a joint investigation into a heroin ring in Fond du Lac and Winnebago Counties.
Prosecutors believe that between March 2015 and February 2017, 7,000 of heroin with a street value of over $1 million were distributed. Television station WBAY reports that the investigation started after Fond du Lac sheriff’s deputies pulled over a car, and found more than 100 grams of heroin.
That led to a number of arrests, and the seizure of drugs, money, and firearms. The investigation involved the City of Fond du Lac Police Department, Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group (MEG), and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office and the Fond du Lac District Attorney’s Office.
Nygren urges approval of 3 more anti-opioid/heroin bills
MADISON — State Rep. John Nygren, who has spent the last three sessions writing bills to fight opioid and heroin abuse, wants lawmakers to pass three more.
The Assembly's Criminal Justice committee heard testimony Thursday on measures to let school employees give antidotes for overdoses, hire four more state drug agents and spend another $2.4 million on treatment programs. Those bills are among 11 included in a special session called by Gov. Scott Walker in January to fight the state's growing problems with heroin and opioid abuse. State Attorney General Brad Schmiel gave the committee written testimony to support the three bills up at Thursday's hearing.
Traffic deaths drop despite record February warmth
MADISON — Wisconsin traffic deaths took a big drop in February, despite the fact that lots of people hit the road to enjoy record warm weather.
Preliminary numbers from the state DOT show that 34 people were killed in state crashes last month, 21 fewer than the same month in 2016. The drop in fatalities occurred even though there was busy highway traffic on weekends during the warmest February on record in both Madison and Milwaukee. Seven pedestrians were among those killed last month, when temperatures hit 70 degrees in some areas during the weekend after Valentine's Day. For 2017 as a whole, 70 traffic deaths were reported throughout Wisconsin in the first two months, 15 fewer than last year but one higher than the average for the past five years.