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Investigation offers glimpse at member remuneration from casinos; defense cuts would slash Marinette ship-building; 10 more state stories

Most Wisconsin Indians get at least some benefit from the casinos their tribes operate, but the amount varies greatly.

Gannett Wisconsin Media examined mandatory audits submitted to the federal government. They showed that in 2012, members of the Forest County Potawatomi got $80,000 each in profits from their casinos in Milwaukee and Carter.

The next-highest payments were about $12,000 to each Ho-Chunk tribal member. Menominee Indians received the smallest reported casino profits, around $75 each.

Some tribes reported annual pay-outs of $500 to $2,000. Others did not list their member payments in their 2012 audits.

Gannett, which operates 10 Wisconsin daily newspapers, said tribes with the lowest payments are concerned that the money can cause drug-and-alcohol problems within the tribal communities.

Potawatomi officials said the payments reflect wise management and re-investments in its casinos over the last quarter century. Gannett reported the Potawatomi's gaming operations netted $226 million in 2012 -- and its 1,400 members received about half those profits.

The Potawatomi's Milwaukee casino has a monopoly in that market -- something the tribe has fiercely protected in its long opposition to a new Menominee tribal casino about 30 miles down the road in Kenosha.

Proposed defense cuts would slice Marinette Marine's workforce

Thousands of jobs in northeast Wisconsin could be at risk, after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new military budget Monday.

The 2015 package would reduce the numbers of littoral combat ships built in Marinette and Mobile Alabama from 52 to 32.

If approved by Congress, the cuts could put a major dent in Marinette Marine's workforce of 2,000 employees within six years, and eliminate jobs at hundreds of the boat-maker's suppliers.

Marinette has built two of the Navy warships, and is working on four more. They're designed to operate in shallow waters, with speeds approaching 50 mph. Questions have been raised about the boats' capabilities. Hagel said the Navy must determine whether the littoral ships have the firepower to survive against more advanced adversaries.

Marinette's congressman, Republican Reid Ribble, said the program's future is far from settled -- and it will have numerous debates on Capitol Hill.

The defense package is part of the next federal budget that President Obama will propose to Congress, and it's due to take effect in October. Hagel says his new defense budget is designed to preserve a technological edge over other nations which are modernizing their militaries.

Among other things, the active Army would be cut from 522,000 soldiers to around 450,000, its lowest level since 1940.

Bill would let communities veto roundabouts MADISON -- Wisconsin communities that don't want roundabouts would have the right to veto them under a bill that's up for a public hearing Tuesday afternoon.

The Assembly's Transportation Committee will take testimony on a measure introduced last July by West Bend freshman Republican David Craig.

It would require local government approval before the state DOT can install the circular intersections. Right now, state and county officials can decide where and when to build the roundabouts.

Craig says the developers should have to consider the concerns of local businesses and motorists before putting them in as replacements for intersections with stop signs and traffic lights. Most of the bill's co-sponsors are Republicans.

Wisconsin has about 200 roundabouts -- some of which are almost right next to each other in groups of three. State officials say drivers normally don't like the circular corners -- but they favor them once they get used to them.

State's tax department unveils mobile app

MADISON -- The state Revenue Department is encouraging folks to use its new mobile-app. Income tax filers can check the status of their refunds there, as well as on the Revenue agency's Web site and automated refund line.

Officials expect four of every five state tax returns to be filed electronically, with the filing deadline just over six weeks away.

The Revenue Department is also urging college students to file electronically as soon as possible, so they get their refunds for their spring breaks.

About 3 million Wisconsin returns are expected to be filed this year.

Van Hollen bristles at advice offered by AG Holder

Wisconsin's attorney general takes issue with advice from the head of the U.S. Justice Department on the issue of gay marriage.

Eric Holder said Monday that state justice agencies are not obligated to defend their states' laws against gay marriage, even if they believe they're discriminatory.

Wisconsin's J.B. Van Hollen says it's not Holder's job to give advice on defending state constitutions and it's not the states' roles to give Holder advice on how to do his job.

Van Hollen made the remark in his role as the president of the National Association of Attorneys General. He said state AG's are "the ultimate defenders of our state constitutions."

Holder made his remarks to the New York Times, as he tried to inject the Obama White House view on gay marriage into court cases being carried out in a number of states. Wisconsin's 2006 constitutional ban on gay marriage was challenged earlier this month, in a federal lawsuit that Van Hollen says he'll try to strike down.

Holder was expected to discuss his stance in a speech later Tuesday to the national AG's group.

Democratic attorneys general in several states have refused to defend their state gay marriage bans, while Republicans said they have an obligation to defend all state laws -- not just the ones they agree with.

USDA launching new effort to protect, perpetuate honey bees

Farmers in Wisconsin and four other Midwest states could soon get federal funds to make their pastures more attractive to honey bees. The USDA will try to prop up a struggling industry in which bee-keepers bring hives to the Midwest to be fed, before sending them to places like California where they help pollinate a variety of produce.

It's a $15 billion a year industry. To give it a boost, the Associated Press reports the USDA will announce Tuesday that dairy farmers and ranchers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and the Dakotas will share about $3 million.

They'll use it to re-seed pastures with alfalfa, clover, and other plants which appeal to both honey-bees and livestock.

Farmers can also get help in providing facilities which improve animal movement from pasture to pasture, so vegetation does become depleted.

The USDA is reportedly focusing on Wisconsin and the other four states because two-thirds of the nation's 30,000 commercial beekeepers bring their hives to the Midwest for at least part of the year.

Woman gets 2 years prison in daughter's crash death

WASHBURN -- A Bayfield County judge rejected a lenient plea deal, and sentenced a mother to two years in prison for killing her young daughter in a traffic crash.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed to probation and a year in the county jail for Chelsea Cadotte, 24, Bayfield. Instead, Circuit Judge Kelly Thimm sent Cadotte to a state prison Monday for twice the amount of time agreed upon plus an extra six-months in jail.

Thimm said Cadotte deserves a tougher sentence because she put her own seat-belt on, but did not restrain her children when her sport utility vehicle rolled over in July of 2012 on Hwy. 13 near Washburn.

Her two-year-old daughter Mariah Gordon died, and four-year-old Miley Gordon was left with a traumatic brain injury. Two other kids were also hurt.

Last October, Cadotte pleaded no contest to negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless injury.

Thimm said Cadotte was ticketed in the past for seat-belt violations -- and she kept putting her children at risk. By buckling herself up and not her kids, Thimm said she violated her responsibilities as a parent.

Kenosha man convicted of woman's homicide

KENOSHA -- A jury in Kenosha only needed an hour Monday to decide that a man was guilty of killing a woman and leaving her body in a cemetery.

Javier Garcia, 53, will be sentenced April 21st after jurors convicted him on all five charges against him -- homicide, false imprisonment, sexual assault, aggravated battery, and theft.

Prosecutors said Garcia was the last person seen with Lisa Mezera, 26, before her body was found by a police officer passing near a cemetery. The crime occurred August, 2012 in the Kenosha County town of Somers.

Mezera died from strangulation, and officials said she was also beaten in the head.

The homicide conviction carries a life prison sentence, but the judge can order a release date for a possible supervised release.

Puppy splashed with bleach, bagged and discarded

FOND DU LAC -- Criminal charges may be sought against a woman and her eight-year-old son, after the youngster allegedly abused two puppies last weekend.

Assistant police chief Steve Klein said a six-week-old pup was biting playfully with some children, when the eight-year-old boy got angry and doused the pet with bleach -- also splashing some on the second dog. Klein said the first animal was then put in a plastic bag and tossed in a trash bin.

That dog and four others were taken into protective custody. Humane Society officials said two puppies were being treated for chemical burns to their eyes and faces, tongue ulcers, and respiratory problems. Klein says police expect to ask prosecutors to charge the youngster with juvenile cruelty to animals, and the mother with being a party to animal cruelty.

Providers disagree on proposed rule change to expedite DNR decisions on power lines

MADISON -- Wisconsin utility companies do not agree on a proposal to change the way the state DNR grants permits for electric transmission lines.

A proposed bill would force the DNR to either approve or deny a permit for a transmission line within 30 days after it's requested.

Right now, the process can take months. Also, the DNR would have just one opportunity to seek more information about a project.

Xcel Energy and the Dairyland Power Cooperative favor the measure.

Xcel's Matt Pagel says it would streamline the process, and avoid delays that can cost more for electric customers. Not all utilities and power line companies agree.

The American Transmission Company tells Wisconsin Public Radio the bill could reduce the DNR's involvement in the permit process and it may have effects on the environment.

We Energies, Alliant Energy, and Madison Gas & Electric also oppose the bill. Some say the current process works fine.

Photo ID law before high court Tuesday

MADISON -- Wisconsin's photo identification law for voting goes on trial Tuesday in the State Supreme Court.

The justices will hear arguments on two challenges to the ID law, filed by the League of Women Voters and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In each case, Dane County judges ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. A state appellate court later ruled that voter ID was constitutional in the League's case.

Once the league appealed to the Supreme Court, the justices decided to consider the NAACP's challenge at the same time.

On Tuesday, justices have allotted one hour for each case. It's not known when final rulings are expected.

Meanwhile, two other challenges to the photo ID voting law are pending in a federal court in Milwaukee. Republicans adopted the law in 2011, saying it's needed to fight voter fraud. Opponents say the law discourages the poor and elderly from going to the polls.

Wisconsin's ID law has been held up until the courts could decide whether it's constitutional. It's only been used once, in the February primary elections in 2012.

Waukesha man sentenced in Fargo child porn case

FARGO – A Wisconsin man was sentenced Monday in federal court here after he was found with more than 22,000 images of child porn.

Robert Carey Evans, 58, of Waukesha, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson to 10 years in prison on 14 counts of possession of materials containing child pornography, according to a news release by federal prosecutors.

Evans is also ordered to pay a $1,400 special assessment to the Crime Victims Fund and register as a sex offender for life.

Evans was found guilty of the charges by a 12-person jury in October after an investigation of Evans began when officers found two computers in North Dakota were sharing child pornography.

After a search warrant was issued for Evans’ Fargo apartment, investigators found more than 13 hard drives and 43 DVDs containing child pornography. Forensic examination revealed more than 22,000 images and nearly 1,400 videos.

Evans, a resident of Wisconsin, was living and doing consultant work in Fargo at the time.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Fargo Police Department.

-- Forum News Service