Wisconsin roundup: Girl survives 40-foot fall from cliff at state park; 9 more state news stories
SHERWOOD — A fire department captain says a 14-year-old girl is lucky to be alive after she and her mountain bike fell 40 feet from a cliff onto a rocky area below.
It happened Wednesday at High Cliff State Park near Sherwood, southeast of Menasha in Calumet County. Harrison town fire captain Mark Gackenheimer says the teen was conscious when speaking with rescuers — and he told the Appleton Post Crescent that was "pretty miraculous." The girl's name was not released, but officials at a Neenah hospital say she was in good condition at last word. Gackenheimer says she was biking on a splinter from a trail that goes to the edge of the cliff, which was soft due to recent rains — and he said others have died while falling from lesser heights.
Assembly OKs 'Campus Free Speech Act'
MADISON — Lawmakers predict divisiveness, silencing of voices, and lawsuits from the "Campus Free Speech Act" that passed the state Assembly Wednesday night.
The vote was 61-36 to send the measure to the Senate. West Bend Republican Bob Gannon joined all Democrats in voting no, saying that liberals could use the measure to stop protests by conservative U- students against issues like gun control and abortion. The bill from Kewaskum Republican Jesse Kremer would suspend a student for one semester for disrupting speakers twice, with expulsion for a third violation.
The GOP says it's needed to make sure conservative speakers are heard on campus without interference — but Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca predicted a lawsuit in the very first disciplinary case, and Madison Democrat Terese Berceau called it a "big government gag rule intended to divide students on campus."
Alleged Lincoln Hill abuses discussed in court for first time
MADISON — For the first time, a public court proceeding is shedding at least some light Thursday on the alleged abuses of juvenile offenders at Lincoln Hills.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the teenage inmates — and it seeks to end the use of pepper spray and solitary confinement at the Lincoln Hills' boys facility and a similar one for girls, both at Irma in Lincoln County. U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson of Madison could decide Thursday whether to stop the pepper spraying and other actions while he considers the merits of the lawsuit.
Thursday morning, Petersen turned down a request by the state and the ACLU to remove spectators when videos of the alleged abuse are shown. Peterson decided to make spectators sign pledges that they won't disclose names or other details of the inmates shown.
Assembly GOP acts to help those with pre-existing health conditions
MADISON — Majority Republicans in the state Assembly pulled a surprise overnight, and passed a bill to help those with preexisting health conditions.
The vote was 65-32 at 1:15 a.m. Thursday to pass a substitute to a Democratic bill on lifetime insurance limits, designed to reduce uncertainty as Obamacare disappears. The new bill, drafted by GOP Reps. Joe Sanfelippo and Kevin Peterson, would bar insurers from denying claims from those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes — and it would make state Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel draft a plan to help those people buy and keep coverage.
Democrats opposed the change, as Eau Claire Rep.e Dana Wachs called it a "bait and switch." Except for the budget, the late night Assembly meeting was the last until this fall — and it dealt with several issues like protecting conservative speech on UW campuses and tightening the process for election recounts.
State Supreme Court ends administrate debates in public
MADISON — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ended public debates about administrative policies, after 18 years of doing that.
The justices voted 5-2 Wednesday to keep all administrative deliberations private — including talks on ethics rules for the state's highest court. All five conservative justices, including Chief Pat Roggensack, voted in favor of closing their debates, while the two liberal justices voted to keep them open including former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Conservative Michael Gableman, who's not running for re-election next spring, said, "It is time for us to return to how a court actually operates."
Packers fan marries into Packer family
CHICAGO — Here's an "only in Wisconsin" story that did not quite happen in Wisconsin.
Lifelong Packers fan Ryan Holtan Murphy married Marie Packer last weekend in Chicago, and he took his wife's last name — figuring it was the only way he could become a Packer himself. The 41-year-old husband is originally from Wauwatosa, and he met the 37-year-old Packer, a Michigan native, at a reunion in 2014 for UW Law School graduates in Madison.
They instantly hit it off. When they got engaged last year, he was living in New York while she was in Chicago — and when they tied the knot last Saturday, she wore a white wedding ring while he wore a green and gold suit with Packer logos filling his jacket. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which first reported on the engagement last year, has photos of the couple on its website Thursday.
Johnson objects to quick Senate Obamacare replacement vote
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says his fellow Republicans should slow down and get public input before voting on a replacement to Obamacare.
The GOP majority unveiled its package Thursday, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants a full Senate vote before the lawmakers head home for their July Fourth recess. But Johnson says the markets for individuals have to be stabilized first, as Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield said it would pull most of its plans from the Wisconsin Obamacare purchasing exchange next year.
Johnson also says a lot more people need to know what's in the Senate bill, and weigh in on it. The Washington Post says the package would roll back taxes from Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, and end the Medicaid expansions that Gov. Scott Walker rejected a few years ago — and Walker said Wednesday that keeping the expansions would go against the GOP's promise to "repeal and replace" Obamacare.
Walker signs bills to end work permits, allow delivery robots
MADISON — State work permits will no longer be needed for 16- and 17-year-olds to get jobs.
Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Wednesday that repeals the requirement, in which older juveniles needed to get their parents' permission to go to work. The bill's supporters said it would be easier for kids to learn the value of work and make some money for themselves — but opponents feared it would make parents know less about what their teens are doing. Also, the Republican Walker signed a bill that lets delivery robots use crosswalks and sidewalks to send things like groceries to customers at home. Operators would have to monitor the robots as they move by themselves.
Assembly votes to tighten opioid restrictions, more
MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly has voted to stop letting drug dealers sell more potent versions of fentanyl to get around state rules on selling the painkiller.
On a voice vote, a bill to regulate "fentanyl analogs" was sent to the Senate. It more clearly defines the analogs to help prosecutors convict dealers who sell alternative drugs that are more lethal than the originals. Also Wednesday, the Assembly sent bills to Gov. Scott Walker to make voucher schools conduct background checks on their employees — create shorter time limits for deer feeding bans where animals have had chronic wasting disease — and give tougher penalties to those using credit card scanning machines to commit identity theft. A bill to allow year round woodchuck hunting was sent to the Senate, along with letting chiropractors conduct physical exams for youth sports teams.
No protests apparent following officer's verdict
MILWAUKEE — There were no apparent protests in Milwaukee after the acquittal of former police officer Dominique Heaggan Brown.
Dozens gathered at a playground Wednesday night to talk about the verdict, in which the fired officer was cleared of reckless homicide in last summer's shooting death of Sylville Smith. Mayor Tom Barrett promised a strong police presence in the Sherman Park neighborhood where the killing and two nights of violence took place last August.
Right after the verdict, some of Smith's family members swore as they left the courtroom — and they held one man back after he shouted obscenities to an officer — but both Barrett and Smith's father urged people not to act "irrationally" to the acquittal. Smith's family filed a civil wrongful death suit Wednesday against the city and Heaggan Brown.