Wisconsin roundup: Assembly passes state budget with Senate vote up next; 8 more state news stories
MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly debated the new state budget for 11 hours before passing it late Wednesday night 57-39.
Five majority Republicans joined all Democrats in voting no — Joe Sanfelippo, Janel Brandtjen, Scott Allen, Bob Gannon, and Adam Jarchow. The two-year, $76 billion package now goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain as up to six senators have concerns that reportedly include a record amount of public school aid.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he won't concede to individual members, and he rejected such measures as an earlier ending to the prevailing minimum wage for state projects — which Gov. Scott Walker had endorsed. Senate Republicans are expected to meet today Thursday to see if they can get enough votes to pass the budget in its current form so lawmakers don't have to return next week to debate last minute changes.
Trial set for man charged UW-Stout student’s death
MENOMONIE — A trial date is set for a man accused of killing a UW-Stout student last year.
Twenty-seven-year-old Cullen Osburn appeared in a Dunn County courtroom Tuesday. His trial has been set to start April 10.
Osburn is charged with felony murder and aggravated battery in the death of Hussain Saeed Alnahdi. Investigators say Alnahdi died from a brain injury following a fight in downtown Menomonie last October. A witness told police she saw Osburn hit Alnahdi more than once.
DNR’s apps going away for hunters, anglers, park explorers
MADISON — The state DNR says it's eliminating two popular smartphone apps which served as guides for hunting, fishing, and state park features.
Spokesman Jim Dick says the supplier, Pocket Ranger, could not keep up with technology when the quality faded as smartphones kept upgrading. Almost 300,000 users downloaded the DNR's app for hunting, fishing, and wildlife. Also, 157,000 users downloaded the guide for state parks and forests.
The DNR says Pocket Ranger has been asked to shut down the 4-year-old apps immediately, and users are being asked to stop calling them up. The agency says it will look for suitable replacement apps. For now, people can use the DNR's website that's friendly to both computers and mobile phone users.
Speaker hopes for road funding solutions — next time around
MADISON — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he hopes the next state budget in 2019 will have less borrowing and more tax and fee hikes for highway work.
The Republican Vos says he hopes voters can persuade the governor and conservative lawmakers to find long range funding solutions that he says "don't just encourage us to run up the credit card." The budget the Assembly sent to the Senate Wednesday night includes $402 million in bonding for road work, less than in previous budgets.
There's also a new $75 annual fee for electric and hybrid vehicles. Some major projects will continue to be delayed including Milwaukee's Zoo Interchange and Interstate 94 expansion, and Highway 15 in the Fox Valley — and Milwaukee would be barred from using state transit dollars or a tax incremental financing district to run its planned streetcar in the city's downtown.
State National Guard reduces hurricane relief corps
MADISON — The Wisconsin National Guard troops sent to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma have been cut back from 2,500 to about 650.
That's because the damage was not as widespread as expected, even though it was bad in some places. About 600 Wisconsin Guard soldiers will remain in Florida to help with security and humanitarian aid, after flying there from Volk Field in Juneau County on Monday — and about 50 troops who went down in advance will also stay there.
But the Guard says hundreds of its members who left in convoys on Monday turned around and came home the next day. Units that were scheduled to leave Tuesday and Wednesday never did.
Report: State justice Gableman considered for Trump post
MADISON — State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is reportedly being considered for a job in the Trump administration.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says it appears to be an administrative post — and the FBI has interviewed those close to him but neither the White House nor Gableman are commenting. The conservative Gableman said in June he would not run for a second 10 year term next spring — and if he leaves early, Republican Gov. Scott Walker can appoint a replacement who could have an early edge on those running in February's Supreme Court primary.
Two of those hopefuls, attorney Michael Burns and Milwaukee Judge Rebecca Dallet, are criticizing the situation. Burns says Walker "abuses his power" to "keep the court at his bidding," and Dallet's camp calls this proof that the Supreme Court is "infected by partisan politics."
Doctor: Friend shared ‘delusion’ with Slender Man defendant
WAUKESHA — A psychologist says Anissa Weier was given a "shared delusion" by a friend who thought they had to kill a classmate to please Slender Man.
That's what Melissa Westendorf told jurors in Waukesha on Wednesday as the defense kept making its case that the 15-year-old Weier had a mental defect when she and Morgan Geyser stabbed and wounded Payton Leutner in 2014. Westendorf, who evaluated Weier soon after her insanity plea, admitted that the delusional disorder is rare and often involves spouses. Prosecutors quizzed other witnesses to convince jurors that Weier did not know about Slender Man's influence until after the stabbing when Geyser said she made a deal with the character. Weier has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, so her trial will determine whether she goes to prison or a mental institution.
Loans requested for flooded western Wis. counties
MADISON — The governor's office is asking for low interest loans to help flood victims in western Wisconsin.
A request was sent Wednesday to the U.S. Small Business Administration to help home and business owners in La Crosse and Trempealeau counties where up to eight inches of rain fell in July. The adjacent counties of Buffalo, Eau Claire, Jackson, Monroe, and Vernon would also get assistance.
The region did not have enough uninsured losses to approve direct FEMA grants but Gov. Scott Walker still has a request pending with that agency to help fix public items like road and bridges. The SBA status could help fix some of the 67 homes and businesses in La Crosse and Trempealeau counties that had major flood damage.
Walker says he’s fine with Foxconn changes
SEOUL — Gov. Scott Walker says he's OK with two major changes the Senate made to the state's incentive package for Foxconn.
In a conference call from his trade mission in South Korea, the Republican Walker said he looks forward to signing the $3 billion package once the Assembly acts on the changes Thursday. Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to tighten the job creating requirements that Foxconn must follow to get up to $1.3 billion for hiring thousands of people at its new LCD screen plant. The second change gives the State Supreme Court the option of hearing appeals to litigation involving Foxconn — as opposed to automatically sending all appeals from circuit judges to the state's highest court.