Wisconsin roundup: Johnson finally holds town hall, sponsors OK with opponents; 9 more state news stories
FRANKLIN — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson finally appeared at the town hall meeting he's been criticized for weeks for not holding.
The Wisconsin Republican joined the Tea Party's Grandsons of Liberty on Sunday at a session in Franklin attended by about 60 people with 35 protesters outside. The picketers held signs in favor of government run health insurance and an expansion of BadgerCare. Inside, Johnson was peppered with questions and stories from those worried about the future of their care.
St. Francis cancer patient Gail Campbell said her doctor warned that her treatments would be restricted — and the House health package would make her lose coverage for physical therapy and asthma medicine, but Johnson said it's "way too soon" for her doctor to say that. Republicans have been getting hammered at in person town hall meetings from Obamacare supporters, but Grandsons of Liberty president Tim Dake said the large numbers of opponents were OK with him — and as he put it, "It's dull" if Johnson was "just preaching to the choir."
State now has guidelines to probe police shootings
MADISON — The state Justice Department has created guidelines for its investigations of local shooting deaths by police officers.
Agency spokesman Johnny Koremenos says the 20 page guidebook includes a review of the best policies throughout the country — plus what state agents have learned in 60 police shootings the department has investigated since 2014. Among other things, the guidebook reflects lessons from a 2015 shooting death of a hostage in Neenah — in which reports cropped up that state agents questioned a hostage taker differently than it quizzed two officers involved.
The guidelines also include an end to the practice of letting officers see evidence before being questioned — which according to critics, gives the officers an advantage others don't have in the state's investigations. A state law allows police to use other outside agencies to probe officers' shootings, but the Justice Department is chosen in most incidents.
Barron County tornado damage estimated at $10M
BARRON — Barron County officials have issued an early damage estimate of $10 million from last Tuesday's tornado that killed mobile home park resident Eric Gavin and injured 27 people.
Sheriff's deputies said Sunday that a total of 231 houses and four businesses were damaged throughout Barron County, but damage assessments continue and those numbers are likely to change. Homes and personal property about half the initial damage estimate, while business damage covers the other half — and tree damage has not been included.
Cleanups are expected to take several more weeks, and the Chetek Chamber of Commerce says it will keep offering basic help to residents as long as it's needed — and as long as volunteers remain available for things like cooking and food delivery, raking, excavating, and office work.
Protesters' tombstones greet Sensenbrenner
HARTLAND — Black tombstones greeted Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and others attending his town hall meeting in Hartland.
The Menomonee Falls Republican voted in favor of the House GOP replacement to Obamacare, and that attracted dozens of people dressed in black holding tombstones reading "Killed by ignorance," "Suicide, no mental health coverage," and "Killed by profits and tax cuts for Republicans." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the protest was a "die in" similar to hundreds of others around the country that followed scripts from former congressional staffers called the "Indivisible Guide."
Inside the town hall meeting, Sensenbrenner twice slammed a gavel and threatened to cut his meeting short as people applauded critical remarks about the GOP's health package. He also said he supported the naming of former FBI director Robert Mueller to head a probe into the Trump campaign's alleged ties with Russia.
Annual 'Click It or Ticket' campaign begins
The annual Memorial Day "Click It Or Ticket" campaign began Monday as officers throughout Wisconsin, including St. Croix and Pierce counties, stepped up seat belt enforcement laws.
The two week campaign running through June 4 is aimed at getting drivers to buckle up. In St. Croix County, that includes participation in a “Border to Border” operation where deputies here will join forces with agencies from Minnesota to provide heightened enforcement. That will mean tickets for offenders, according to a news release.
Nearly 10,000 people killed in auto crashes were unbuckled, according to 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures.
And while seat belt usage has risen to 88 percent in the past two decades, it's still below the national average of a little more than 90 percent. State lawmakers have not touched the original $10 ticket for not buckling up, despite reports that other states have dramatically increased their penalties in recent years. But State Patrol Lt. Nathan Clarke tells WITI-TV in Milwaukee that seat belt tickets go on the offenders' driving records — and they could face higher insurance premiums from their carriers, especially if injuries force insurers to cover high medical costs for those not buckling up.
Wis. milk output rises, but slower than nation
MADISON — Wisconsin's year-to-year milk production has grown for the second straight month, but not nearly as much as the national average.
The USDA says the Badger State had a 0.60 percent increase in April, compared to the same month last year — but that's smaller than the 2 percent hike in the 23 major dairy states. Wisconsin made about 2.5 billion pounds of milk last month, still second highest behind top producing California, which reported a 1.1 percent decrease.
Wisconsin had a slightly higher number of dairy cows than the year before, with 1.28 million head producing an average of 1,975 pounds each. That's ten pounds more than in April of last year.
High school student dies in northern Wis. bus crash
ASHLAND — The Ashland County Sheriff's Office reports a 16-year-old high school student died of the injuries he sustained in a school bus crash Friday morning.
The teenager's name hasn't been released. He was killed when the car he was driving hit the back of a school bus about two miles south of Ashland. The Lakeshore School bus was carrying 18 students when it slowed to make a left turn.
The boy who was driving the car was dead at the scene. Two students on the bus were taken to a hospital. Two more students were injured in an unrelated bus crash in Kenosha County Friday. Their names and medical conditions weren't released.
Woman accused of dragging officer
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — An 18-year-old Wisconsin woman is being held in the Wood County Jail on charged she dragged a police officer alongside her car, then led authorities on a chase.
Mariah Czappa made a Friday court appearance. She is charged with fleeing an officer and endangering public safety in Nekoosa May 14. Investigators say Czappa dragged the officer for a short distance when he tried to stop her from driving away. She was arrested when she wrecked her vehicle. The officer suffered a minor wrist injury, but he was involved in the high speed chase and didn't require hospitalization.
Eye scanners unveiled at Milwaukee County Jail
MILWAUKEE — Inmates booked into the Milwaukee County Jail will have their irises scanned, in addition to being fingerprinted.
Milwaukee County is the first Wisconsin law enforcement agency to use the technology. The scans are used to help jail workers confirm the identity of people who are taken into custody and to make sure the proper inmates are released when the time comes. If there is any question, the scanner and the associated software takes about 20 seconds to confirm the identity of anybody in the system. The county also plans to put the iris-scanning cameras in its patrol cars.
DNR looks to reduce buck-only counties again this fall
MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wants to again reduce the number of counties where hunters can shoot only bucks this fall in a sign that the state's herd continues to grow.
The agency's board is poised Wednesday to approve a 2017 season structure that would designate Ashland, Iron and Vilas counties and the eastern half of Eau Claire County buck-only. The designation protects does so they can give birth, leading to larger herds. The board designated 19 counties as buck-only in 2014, 12 counties in 2015 and 10 counties last year.