Deadbeat dad ordered to tell women he's a felon; Mayors, sheriffs divided on Obama gun regulations; Disappointed over loses, Dems hire political directors; more briefs
It's not a very good pickup line, but a Hayward man will go to prison unless he tells any woman he meets that he's a convicted felon and that he owes past-due child support.
John Butler, 28, was recently ordered to stop fathering children until he has caught up with his support payments for the kids he has. And Circuit Judge Eugene Harrington ordered Butler to tell women about his felony matter within three minutes after he meets them.
Butler must also keep a job, get counseling and stay sober. Butler was put on probation for two years for getting more than four months behind on his child support in 2011.
Other Wisconsin judges have ordered deadbeat dads to stop making babies, but the judge in the Sawyer County case is pushing the envelope into new areas. Harrington said he would not elaborate on his sentence.
In December, Corey Curtis of Racine was told to stop having kids until he pays $90,000 to support the nine children he's had. Judge Tim Boyle said he wished he had the authority to sterilize Curtis.
Mayors, sheriffs divided on Obama gun regulations
As the mayor of Oak Creek looked on, President Obama called on Congress Wednesday to approve the nation's most sweeping gun regulations in at least 20 years.
Steve Scaffidi said that as a Republican, he did not agree with all of the president's ideas. But as the mayor of a city where six Sikh worshippers were killed at their temple last August, Scaffidi said it's time to get past politics and start a discussion on gun control.
Obama called on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and require universal background checks for all gun transactions - both of which Oak Creek's mayor supports.
Scaffidi said Republican President Ronald Reagan supported a ban on assault rifles in the 1980's. The mayor also said he could support a proposal to limit high-capacity gun magazines to 10 rounds per clip.
Obama also announced 23 executive orders that don't need congressional approval. Among other things, they'll make the Centers for Disease Control do studies on gun violence and make more data available for background checks.
The president's announcement came just over a month after 26 people were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a long-time gun control supporter, said the killings of three women at a Brookfield spa might not have happened had President Obama's new gun measures been in place. Barrett said the Obama package makes sense and is a "bold initiative."
Barrett said the universal check would have stopped domestic abuser Radcliffe Haughton from getting a gun the day before he killed his estranged wife, two others and himself in Brookfield last October.
But James Fendry of the Wisconsin Pro-Gun Movement said a limit on high-capacity magazines will not reduce violence. He said a universal background check would be too broad, and it would require a check for somebody that wants give a gun to a family member.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke called the Obama measures meaningless. He said they're an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to last month's Sandy Hill school shootings.
Clarke said judges and prosecutors need more backbone to enforce what's already on the books. He also wants to eliminate what he calls "watered-down sentences" for crimes that involve guns.
Some sheriffs around the country have said they won't enforce the president's gun measures. Clarke said he wouldn't go that far.
Disappointed over losses, Dems will spend $500,000 on political directorss
Wisconsin Democrats will hold a news conference today to explain how they'll try to overcome an apparent Republican advantage in the state's elections for 2014.
Graeme Zielinski of the state Democratic Party said his group will work harder to win Assembly and Senate contests next time.
He said the party will spend $500,000 to hire political directors in the Eau Claire, La Crosse and Fox Valley regions. And they'll try to change what happened in November when Democrats won the statewide votes for president and U.S. Senate, but Republicans won control of the Legislature.
Zielinski said the Republicans won the Legislature after loading enough districts with their own voters through the redistricting process. Zielinski called it gerrymandering.
A panel of three federal judges said the GOP did meet the constitutional requirement for drawing districts with relatively equal populations, but the judges criticized the secrecy of the process and said Republicans tried to hide the way the maps were drawn.
Cold snap coming
Get your furnace ready. The coldest temperatures of the winter are expected next week in Wisconsin.
The National Weather Service says a series of Alberta Clippers are moving in and out of the state, and a big one will settle in, starting on Martin Luther King Day.
Low temperatures on Monday night are predicted to be 10 to 17 below zero statewide - except along Lake Superior where it will be as warm as minus-six.
But first, we're due to get one more warm spell. Forecasters say it will be in the 30's to near 40 Friday and Saturday before the big Arctic push begins.
Colder readings in the teens are in today's forecast. Northern Wisconsin had wind chills colder than 10 below at 6 a.m. today.
It could have been worse. The Weather Service canceled a wind-chill advisory for Duluth-Superior overnight, after clouds moved in unexpectedly.
Much of northwest Wisconsin got at least a little snow yesterday. Rural Rusk County had the most, with 1.2 inches near Bruce.
Bomb threat closes schools
Students at Kettle Moraine High School are off until Friday after somebody wrote that a bomb would go off at the Waukesha County school today.
Officials said the threat was specific to the high school, and no other schools were mentioned - although youngsters at Wales Elementary also have the day off as a precaution.
All extra-curricular activities at both schools were canceled for last night and today.
High school principal Jeff Walters said bomb-sniffing dogs had planned to check the building last evening. School officials and Waukesha County sheriff's deputies secured the school after Wednesday's classes ended.
Walters says the bomb threat is not deemed to be credible, but he said precautions needed to be taken in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings and the move toward heightened security.
Proposed regulation changes would demand more from unemployment recipients
A small business task force has recommended about 200 changes to state government regulations, and some of them would make it harder to collect unemployment benefits.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker said during Tuesday's State of the State address that he would pursue rule changes to make it easier to do business in Wisconsin and create jobs.
Walker could approve one rule change himself - requiring those who get jobless benefits to fill out four job applications per week instead of the current two.
Legislators would have to approve the other proposed changes - like making applicants provide more documentation to cut down on fraud and reducing the number of situations in which a worker can quit a job and still get unemployment benefits.
Wisconsin has 18 exemptions. Minnesota has the next highest number with nine.
The changes are designed to keep more money in the state fund which provides jobless benefits. That fund owes $1.2 billion to the federal government, which was loaned to the state so it could provide jobless benefits during the Great Recession.
GOP offers mining bill similar to previous one
The state Department of Natural Resources would have 480 days to act on permits for new mines in Wisconsin under a bill introduced Wednesday by majority Republicans in both houses.
The measure is similar to a package defeated in the Senate last March amid concerns about reduced environmental protections. Like the old bill, the new one would let mining companies offset damage to wetlands by restoring wetlands elsewhere, and opponents would lose their right to challenge DNR decisions before permits are issued.
"The standards in the bill are similar in many respects to the DNR's current rules and are less stringent in other respects," according to the non-partisan Legislative Council.
Republican supporters say the bill would create thousands of jobs without hurting the environment. But even before it hit the media, a coalition of 75 environmental groups was announced to fight the measure.
Sierra Club mining chairman Dave Blouin called the iron ore mine that's proposed for Ashland and Iron counties "the most destructive industrial project the state has ever faced." He said it would be the largest taconite mine in the world.
Gogebic Taconite scrapped its plans for the northern Wisconsin mine after last year's bill was defeated, but Republicans hope to bring the firm back.
Gov. Scott Walker said he applauded the Legislature for its proposal, saying it would create jobs.
But Madison Assembly Democrat Terese Berceau said the package sets up "years of costly litigation." By not considering a more openly designed Democratic alternative from last year, Berceau said Republicans gave up a chance to make the issue "less divisive and polarizing."
Democrat promises alternative mining bill
A Democratic state senator said he'll introduce an alternative mining bill Friday.
Tim Cullen of Janesville chaired a committee last fall that came up with a package that would give more input to Indians and others affected by mining projects, maintain current environmental protections and let citizens challenge Department of Natural Resources decisions on a proposed mine before a permit is issued.
None of those provisions are in the mining package unveiled Wednesday by majority Republicans.
State's third nursing home for veterans opens
Wisconsin's third state-run nursing home for veterans will be dedicated this afternoon in Chippewa Falls.
Gov. Scott Walker and state Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos will appear at the ceremony.
It took a year and a half to build the $20 million facility, which will have more than 70 beds and provide skilled nursing care to veterans their spouses.
It took a while to find a site and get the project going after lawmakers approved funding in 2003 for a veterans facility to serve northwest Wisconsin.
The state's other veterans homes are at Union Grove in Racine County and King in Waupaca County.
For Walker, today's dedication is one of several stops planned around the state. He'll also appearances in Schofield, La Crosse and Superior to hammer home the points he made in Tuesday night's State-of-the-State address. Tonight the governor will speak at an annual Chamber of Commerce meeting at Wisconsin Rapids.
DNR issues 135,000 turkey hunting permits
The state Department of Natural Resources has issued over 135,000 hunting permits for the spring turkey season.
The first permits were issued in a lottery. Another 99,000 turkey permits will be sold over the counter in March.
The season runs from April 10 through May 21. It will be divided into six seven-day hunting periods throughout seven zones.
Last year hunters killed just over 42,000 turkeys.