Election round-up: Refendums voted up at Menomonie, Cashton; down in Beloit, Columbus; judge who signed recall is bounced; more state news
Wisconsin's largest school referendum went down to defeat Tuesday but voters approved several other big-ticket projects across Wisconsin.
In Columbus, about 60 percent of voters said no to borrowing almost $40 million for a new high school, a relocated middle school, technology and security upgrades, and land acquisition.
A new $28 million Beloit Turner High School was rejected two- to one, and a $33 million package in Sheboygan Falls that included a new middle school was rejected 60- to 40 percent.
Some school projects got big-time support. In Menasha, 73 percent said yes to $30 million dollars in school renovations, upgrades, and land acquisition. In Menomonie, 62 percent agreed to borrow $25 million for a host of repair- and replacement projects that will keep Downsville Elementary open. And 57 percent of Menomonie voters also said yes to high school gym renovations and other improvements.
There was a mixed vote in the Pulaski school district where $4.3 million for remodeling and maintenance was approved by just seven votes out of 6,000 cast. But Pulaski voters said no to $17 million dollars of other projects such as a new swimming pool.
In Cashton, there was just a two-vote margin - 388 to 386 - in favor of $12 million in school improvements
Arcadia voters rejected a new $23 million-dollar elementary school. Other large school projects were approved in Blair-Taylor and Hortonville, and rejected in Johnson Creek.
Supreme Court continues to have a conservative majority with Roggensack's win
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will continue to have a conservative majority, after incumbent Pat Roggensack was re-elected to a second 10-year term Tuesday.
With some 99 percent of the vote counted, incumbent Pat Roggensack had 478,420 or 57 percent compared with challenger Ed Fallone's 355,591 or 43 percent.
Roggensack ran on her 17 years of experience as a judge, while Fallone's experience was as a private attorney and a legal instructor. Roggensack's campaign attracted more money, and she was the only one to have advertising support from outside groups - including the State Republican Party.
The incumbent said the public understood that it's better to have a justice who's experienced on the bench. Fallone's campaign centered on the public divisions within the Supreme Court. They culminated with a physical altercation in 2011 between Justices David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley.
Roggensack promised to work to heal those divisions, and Fallone said he hopes that she does. The professor said he'll return to his classes at Marquette Wednesday morning, and will continue to speak out on issues he raised during the campaign.
Evers holds off Pridemore to continue as Superintendent
State public school Superintendent Tony Evers was easily re-elected to a second four-year term Tuesday, winning 61- to 39 percent over state Assembly Republican Don Pridemore.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Evers had 475,339 votes to Pridemore's 301,132 votes.
Evers said it reaffirmed the strong support that Wisconsinites have for public education. Pridemore said his campaign was hurt by Gov. Scott Walker's refusal to endorse a candidate.
The lawmaker said he knows the Republican Walker's in a tight spot politically, especially as he considers a presidential run in 2016, but Pridemore said he would have been much friendlier than Evers to Walker's conservative policies and a lot of people will question why the governor didn't support someone like that.
Evers signed the recall petition against Walker a year ago but Walker never held it against him, as the two later worked together on new education standards.
The major campaign issue was the governor's state budget proposal to increase tax-funded vouchers for lower-income kids to attend private schools in public districts that are not up to snuff. Evers opposed the measure, while Pridemore supported it.
Evers raised more money, and he got heavy support from Democrats and unions - including teachers.
Ozaukee judge who signed recall petition gets tossed
One of 29 Wisconsin circuit judges who signed recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker lost his job Wednesday.
Ozaukee County Judge Tom Wolfgram was defeated by attorney Joe Voiland, who got over 60 percent of the vote to win a six-year term on the bench.
Wolfgram was appointed in 1994 to fill a vacancy and in three terms, he never had an election opponent until now.
Voiland announced his candidacy in January, accusing Wolfgram of being impartial by joining 900,000 Wisconsinites in petitioning for a recall election against the Republican governor.
Wolfgram denied taking sides, saying the recall vote gave people a chance to learn more about the major issue in the recall - the law which virtually ended collective bargaining for most public employee unions in Wisconsin.
The state Judicial Commission investigated, after Gannett's Wisconsin Newspaper used a searchable database to identify the 29 judges who signed the recall petitions. There was no public word on any of the judges being disciplined as a result of their actions.
Wolfgram said he was proud of his 19 years as a judge, and said no one ever questioned impartiality in his rulings.
Voiland thanked Wolfgram for his service, and he promised to be an impartial judge.
Milwaukee, Dane County voters affirm same-day registration
Voters in Milwaukee and Dane County have overwhelmingly said Wisconsin should keep its long-running practice of letting people register-to-vote at the polls on Election Day.
Almost 75 percent of Milwaukee voters approved an advisory referendum on the subject Tuesday.
In the Madison area, the Dane County vote was 82- to 18 percent in favor. Liberal voting rights groups like United Wisconsin and One Wisconsin Now were among those calling for the referendums, so supporters could send a message to Republicans who had talked about ending the three-decade-old practice of same-day voter registration.
Some Republicans have said the system favors Democrats but they toned down their rhetoric after learning that it would cost $15 million to scrap same-day registration because the state would have to start following federal election mandates that include letting people register when they apply for public benefits and drivers' licenses.
Walker now says he'd veto a bill to eliminate Election Day sign-ups even if his fellow Republicans in the Legislature pass it.
Republicans propose a package of unemployment benefit reforms
MADISON -- Wisconsin still owes almost $1 billion that the state borrowed from the federal government to provided expanded unemployment benefits during the Great Recession. Now, a group of Republican state lawmakers is offering a package of 30 reforms designed to keep the benefit fund solvent in future crises.
Germantown Representative Dan Knodl said it would root out fraud, waste, and abuse of the benefit system.
Currently, there are 18 situations in which employees can voluntarily quit a job and still collect jobless benefits. The GOP bill would reduce that to eight and it would put new restrictions on those fired for committing crimes against their employers, like embezzlement.
Knodl said he's heard of companies that had to approve jobless benefits for their fired criminals, just because the issue was not addressed in their employee handbooks. The package would also pay down what the state owes to Washington.
Tax funds would cover $36 million dollars of interest, and the state would borrow to pay back some of the $900 million that's owed.
Knodl says businesses are paying $60,000 a day just to cover the interest.
The lawmakers sent their proposal to the state's Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, even though many changes would have to be approved by the Legislature and governor.
Unclaimed property offered to rightful owners
MADISON -- The State Treasurer's office is stepping up its effort to return unclaimed property to its rightful owners.
Things like forgotten bank accounts, securities, and contents of safe-deposit boxes are turned over to the treasurer's office each year.
Owners of the newest unclaimed property from this year will have their names published in newspaper ads around the state over the next three months and a complete list of unclaimed property owners is always online at WisMissingMoney.com
State Treasurer Kurt Schuller says his office has a total of over $400 million in unclaimed items.
Rock River only stream with flood warnings
Wisconsin's potential flooding situations have eased.
Only one river in the state has flood warnings Wednesday - the Rock River at both Afton and Newville, located between Madison and Janesville in Rock County.
At Newville, the river was about three inches above its flood stage at 4 a.m., Wednesday. At Afton, the Rock River was expected to go above its banks by Wednesday evening then peak Thursday night at a couple inches above its flood stage. Only minor flooding is expected.
Melting snow has caused a number of rivers in Wisconsin to rise in recent weeks but in general, the situation is not nearly as bad as in many recent springs.
Much of the Badger State has been dry for several days but forecasters say there's a chance of rain and snow Wednesday night into Thursday. Highs Wednesday were expected to be in the 30's-and-40's statewide but southern Wisconsin could get close to 60 Thursday and then down to 50 on Friday and into the weekend.
Duluth man gets 6.5 years for bilking investors
MADISON -- A federal judge in Madison has sentenced a Duluth man to 6.5 years in prison for stealing $2.5 million from investors.
Judge Barbara Crabb refused to let 67-year-old Garry Milosevich get an early parole. She also told him to pay back $775,000 to 19 victims of his investment scheme.
Milosevich pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud. He was arrested in Honduras last year after his partner in the scheme, Daniel Tepoel, was sentenced in 2008 to 11.5 years behind bars.
Authorities said the two claimed to have access to international trading programs that never existed. They said their investors were guaranteed to make money. Instead, they lost their entire $2.5 million in principal which Milosevich and Tepoel used to travel and buy construction materials for a resort in Grenada that never worked out.
Burglary suspect claims sleep-walking made her do it
A Fox Valley burglary suspect told police she was sleep-walking at the time her neighbor's apartment was entered.
Julie Angell, 52, of Kaukauna is charged in Outagamie County with felony burglary and misdemeanor theft.
Prosecutors allege Angell first told officers she couldn't remember stealing anything because she was sleep-walking but she reportedly changed her story later, saying she heard noises from the neighbor's apartment and she went in to take some items for safe-keeping.
The victims told police they noticed some of their possessions were gone, while they were planning to move. One of the victims reportedly noticed that some of the missing items were in Angell's apartment.
Angell is scheduled to make her first court appearance on April 18th.
State will help with road improvements to accommodate expanded dairy
The state will help pay for road improvements to accommodate an expanded dairy farm in Adams County -- south of Wisconsin Rapids -- that will equal Wisconsin's largest.
The firm of Milk Source plans to double the size of its dairy herd at the New Chester Dairy in Adams County. It will have 8,400 cows, same as Wisconsin's largest existing dairy farm - the Rosendale Dairy near Pickett, which is also owned by Milk Source.
On Thursday, state Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel and Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb will present a $240,000 grant to the town of New Chester to re-do the road that serves the dairy.
The company put up $300,000 last month for the road project.
Milk Source also owns dairies at Omro, Coloma, and Kaukauna - plus a show-cow farm in Freedom, and a calf-raising facility at Greenleaf.
Moratorium on overdue utility bills ends soon
Wisconsinites with overdue electric bills are being warned that the state's winter moratorium for cutting off service is about to end.
The state Public Service Commission bars utilities from cutting off electric and natural gas service between Nov. 1st and April 15th so no one gets left in the cold. Utilities can start cutting off those in arrears in 12 days.
The PSC urges those customers to contact their utilities and set up payment plans.
Those who try and fail to arrange plans can call the PSC's consumer affairs office in Madison.