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PSC: People who cut energy costs need to pay more for power lines; Walker visits tech colleges, declines to speak at UW regents’ meeting; More state news

A state panel agrees that customers who don't use much electricity should pay more to help maintain power lines and poles.

On a 2-1 vote yesterday, the state Public Service Commission approved an increase of $9 a month in the fixed charges paid by Wisconsin Public Service customers in north central and northeast Wisconsin. That's $6 less than the $15 jump the Green Bay utility had asked for.

The commission also voted to reduce WPS usage rates by two cents per kilowatt hour. Together, the agency says it will mean an average monthly rate hike of 3% for almost 450,000 Public Service customers.

Utility spokesman Kerry Spees called the state's approval a "big step" in getting its fixed charges more in line with what the utility pays for things for its infrastructure.

Public Service and other utilities say low-usage customers need to pay their fair share of those costs. Opponents say they're being punished for doing what the government and utilities have encouraged them to do -- save energy.

Madison Gas and Electric and We Energies have asked for similar increases in their fixed charges. The commission is expected to act on those requests later this month.



Walker visits tech colleges, declines to speak at UW regents’ meeting

Gov. Scott Walker says he's committed to supporting Wisconsin's 16 technical colleges to make sure they can provide well-trained employees that businesses need.

Walker visited five tech schools yesterday, including the ones in Milwaukee and Madison. In doing so, he turned down an invitation to speak to the UW Board of Regents which was meeting in Madison.

Walker said businesses need to have the "certainty" of knowing they can find a "steady supply of well-trained, well-prepared potential employees." The governor said Wisconsin tech schools are doing what he called a "tremendously positive job" of that.

Walker called it a major cog in his efforts to grow Wisconsin's economy as he enters the second term that voters gave him on Tuesday.



Child sitting on grandpa’s lap killed by bullet

A five-year-old girl was sitting on her grandfather's lap when she was killed by a bullet that pierced into her family's house at around 6:20 p.m. yesterday on Milwaukee's northwest side.

Police Chief Ed Flynn said two people approached the house and fired numerous shots. One bullet drove through a wall and struck the five-year-old in the head. She and another child were watching TV at the time.

The young victim was taken to a hospital with critical head injuries and died later in the evening. Captain Ed Moore said the home was targeted, and officers spent the night looking for suspects. Flynn said he could think of no conceivable reason for the shootings in what he called a "stable working-class neighborhood where everybody is trying to do the right thing."

A woman across the street heard a half-dozen gunshots before she called 9-1-1. The girl's grandparents live in the home, located at 58th Street and Fairmount Avenue -- which is close to the major streets of Hampton and Fond du Lac avenues. 



Wisconsin companies inquire about disposing of Ebola-tainted waste

At least some companies are making contingency plans to dispose of waste carrying the deadly Ebola virus.

A firm in North Dakota that incinerates medical waste says people should not yet be thinking along those lines. But somebody in Wisconsin is. Healthcare Environmental Services of Fargo has received inquiries from companies in Wisconsin and Indiana about taking Ebola-contaminated wastes.

Only six states have medical waste incinerators, and Director Chad Wold of Healthcare Environmental says it has no plans yet for taking Ebola-related waste and will only consider requests from more distant states after careful consideration.

Healthcare Environmental recently appeared on a California list of potential places for its Ebola-related waste.

Wold says there's an "element of hysteria," and his firm is trying not to encourage any more people thinking in that area. Wold said his company has years of experience in disposing of medical waste, and it will consider Ebola-related requests on a case-by-case basis.

Healthcare Environmental has been in business since 1978. It's now a subsidiary of Sanford Health, which the state of North Dakota has designated to handle its potential Ebola cases.


Rhinelander schools bring in DOJ agent to talk about dangers of sexting

The first time many of us heard of "sexting" was in 2009 when Waukesha high school students texted a 14-year-old girl's nude photo to hundreds of other kids in revenge over her breakup with a guy.

Since then, sexting has become more prevalent in Wisconsin schools both large and small. In Rhinelander, officials are bringing in a state Department of Justice agent to alert both students and parents to the dangers.

Ten Rhinelander students were recently suspended, but that was only for sexting on school grounds during school hours. Superintendent Kelli Jacobi said the problem is larger than that.

DOJ Special Agent Eric Szatkowski, part of the state's Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, will be in Rhinelander Tuesday for presentations to students and adults about the risks involved in sharing digital information and the dangers of online predators.

Among other things, those who possess nude photos of children under 18 can face criminal child pornography charges. For the youngsters, Szatkowski plans to tailor his presentations to various age-and-grade levels.

--Natalie Jablonski, WXPR, Rhinelander


Mining equipment maker subpoenaed by SEC

Joy Global -- one of Wisconsin's largest makers of mining equipment -- has been subpoenaed by the federal government to answer questions about one of its biggest acquisitions.

The Milwaukee firm said yesterday it was subpoenaed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about the purchase of International Mining Machinery of China in 2012. Joy Global said the government wants information about the acquisition and related accounting matters.

The firm said it was cooperating, and it assured stockholders it would not have an adverse effect on its operating results and financial position.

Joy Global paid about $1 billion to acquire International Mining Machinery.

Last Friday, Caterpillar said it was subpoenaed by the SEC for accounting information related to its acquisition of Bucyrus International of South Milwaukee in 2011.


Senate leader supports more school vouchers for Milwaukee County, Racine

The Wisconsin Senate's majority leader says he could see up to 9,000 students get tax-funded vouchers to attend private schools outside of Milwaukee County and Racine.

The current limit is 1,000, and Republican Gov. Scott Walker has talked about expanding that. Scott Fitzgerald, who was reelected as the Senate's GOP leader yesterday, said he believes the most who would enroll out-of-district is about 9,000, but he's not sure whether the cap will be raised to a certain level or removed entirely.

Fitzgerald does believe school choice will be a top priority in the next session. The task could be made easier by a Senate majority which grew by one member in Tuesday's elections.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said one of his first priorities will be to approve a package aimed in part at making voucher schools more accountable.


Man convicted of reckless homicide in revenge killing

A jury in Milwaukee has convicted a 22-year-old man in a drive-by shooting that was said to be spurred by revenge.

Prosecutors said Dominique Wilder went after Erick Perry, 25, after he committed a series of beatings against Wilder's sister.

Prosecutors said Wilder and his younger brother Louis found Perry's vehicle last October, and Louis shot at the vehicle while Dominique Wilder drove. Perry was killed, while three others with him had minor injuries.

Yesterday jurors found Dominique Wilder guilty of first-degree reckless homicide and not guilty of illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

He'll be sentenced Dec. 19.

Louis Wilder has not been charged in the case. Prosecutors say they're still considering possible charges.


Rudolph’s Forever stamp unveiled in Wisconsin village

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was honored yesterday in the central Wisconsin village of Rudolph.

The U.S. Postal Service held a ceremony there to unveil four new Forever stamps. They highlight characters from Rudolph's TV special, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary Dec. 9 on CBS.

For years, the Rudolph Post Office has issued postage envelope cancellations featuring the famous reindeer, and folks around the world send cards to Rudolph to get the moniker.

WSAW, the CBS affiliate in Wausau, said kindergarten through fourth graders joined local leaders in the ceremony which also promoted literacy.

State Senate Democrat Julie Lassa of Stevens Point said Rudolph will encourage youngsters to write cards and letters, not only to Santa Claus, but to distant relatives.

The four new stamps show Rudolph, Santa, the elf Hermey and the Abominable Snow Monster. The Postal Service also used the occasion to announce seven-day package deliveries in high-volume areas starting Nov. 17.  The agency expects a 12% increase in its package business this holiday season.


Senate leader supports return of Elections Board

The Wisconsin Senate's majority leader says he might try for a second time to bring back political appointees to the agency that runs elections.

Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau was reelected yesterday to his fourth two-year term as the Senate's GOP leader. He told reporters he was open to a full restoration of the Elections Board, but that's still in the talking stages.

Earlier this year, Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos sued the Government Accountability Board for creating a model November ballot which the GOP leaders said had favored Democrats. Many clerks never used the model, and the suit was dropped.

Fitzgerald first mentioned restoring the partisan Elections Board a couple years ago in response to the agency's handling of the recall elections. But the idea never went anywhere.

Vos has proposed a less drastic change, possibly reducing the influence of board staff members.

The board is made up to six retired judges. It replaced the former Elections and Ethics boards in 2006 and was the Legislature's response to a caucus scandal in which some lawmakers and aides were criminally charged with running campaign operations from their Capitol offices.


Another official refuses to investigate DA who investigated Walker fundraising

A Dodge County judge says he won't investigate a chief prosecutor in the Walker John Doe probe into alleged illegal campaign fundraising procedures.

Circuit Judge Steven Bauer turned down a request by the conservative Citizens for Responsible Government to look into the possibility of misconduct by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.

The CRG and the head of the Wisconsin Club for Growth said Chisholm may have gone after Gov. Scott Walker for virtually ending public union bargaining -- a move which directly affected Chisholm's wife in her role with a school union.

At one point, Chisholm was asked to have a special prosecutor investigate himself, and he wouldn't do it. He said Milwaukee County's chief judge could investigate if he wanted, and that judge declined.

The head of the CRG originally asked Dodge County DA Kurt Klomberg to investigate Chisholm, but he cited a conflict of interest in saying no. The state attorney general and DA’s in 48 other counties also said no, citing either conflicts or lack of resources.

A federal judge halted the John Doe in May before charges could be recommended. Walker has denied wrongdoing in the probe, which involved alleged coordination between recall candidates and outside groups.


16 years later, Green Bay police still looking for evidence in woman’s disappearance

Green Bay police have finished their search of a central Wisconsin property but would not say if they found any new evidence in the 1998 disappearance of a college student.

Police issued a statement yesterday declaring the search over. They were looking for any trace of Amber Wilde, who was 19 and pregnant when she got into a traffic accident on her way to class at UW-Green Bay. She has not been seen since.

Officers combed about 30 acres on Wednesday in Portage County west of Waupaca -- the same place they searched in 2000, a couple years after Wilde vanished. Her car was later found at a tavern near Lambeau Field, and officials had believed she was not the one who drove it there.


Electric company aims to build new gas-fired plant

The parent company of Wisconsin Power and Light wants to build a new natural gas-fired power plant just north of Beloit.

Alliant Energy said yesterday it would ask state regulators for approval to build a 650-megawatt facility on the site of its existing Riverside Energy gas-fired plant in the town of Beloit. The company says it's needed to replace less efficient plants.

Alliant had reached an agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to close its coal-fired power plant at Cassville in Grant County. The firm also plans to shut down coal-burning boilers at its Sheboygan plant.

Alliant hopes to start construction of the new Beloit plant in 2016, with an opening in 2019. A Power and Light spokesman says customers should start seeing added costs in 2017 for the new plant. It's not know how much they'll be paying.

Alliant announced the project at the same time it unveiled its most recent quarterly earnings. Its net income fell 3% from July through September, compared to a year ago. Stockholders made $1.38 a share, four cents less than in the same quarter of 2013.


National Christmas tree will stop in Madison, Milwaukee

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree will travel through Wisconsin next week on its way to Washington, and folks will get a couple of chances to see it.

The 88-foot white spruce comes from northern Minnesota where it was cut Oct. 29.

It will arrive in Wisconsin Monday and travel down I-94. The tree will make a stop at the Forest Products Lab in Madison from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and will appear at Community Spirit Park in downtown Milwaukee 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Folks can monitor the tree's journey by going online at