Late spring, more walleyes prompt lawmaker to back off funding threat affecting tribes; Milwaukee falls to 30th largest U.S. city; more state briefs
MADISON -- The vice-chairman of the State Building Commission backed off Wednesday on a threat to withhold a $250,000 in grant money for the Lac du Flambeau Indian tribe.
Assembly Republican Dean Kaufert of Neenah said a few weeks ago that he wanted to pull back funding that the commission approved in 2011 for a new tribal cultural center. That was because six Chippewa tribes said they would jack up their federally-approved spearfishing quotas, leaving less fish for sport anglers in northern Wisconsin.
Kaufert pulled back on his threat Wednesday. He said the cold spring hampered spear-fishing, and DNR promised him that more fish would be made available for others.
The Building Commission was originally scheduled to consider the funding withdrawal last month, but the panel wanted to give Gov. Scott Walker more time to seek a compromise. Walker announced just a few hours before Wednesday's meeting that he'll pursue a major walleye stocking increase that will benefit both sport anglers and tribal fishers.
He said the DNR proposed the program but agency secretary Cathy Stepp told the Associated Press that the stocking plan had nothing to do with the tribal dispute. She said fish experts have been wanting for years to increase walleye stocks.
Walker's plan includes $8 million dollars in bonding authority and $2 million in grants.
The Joint Finance Committee is expected to consider the funding request in the coming days.
Advisory group will suggest for next wolf hunt
How big should Wisconsin's next wolf hunt be? That question was to be address Thursday when the state's Wolf Advisory Committee meets near Wausau.
The 26-member panel is expected to recommend a quota for the state's second wolf hunt that's due to begin in October.
Last year, the quota was 201 wolves, or about a quarter of the state's total population but the final figure was reduced to 117, because Chippewa Indians refused to let hunters kill the animals to which the tribes were entitled.
Recently, the DNR said the wolf population grew only slightly over the past year to between 809- and 834.
The DNR's David McFarland says planning for the next wolf hunt will continue despite a legal challenge from animal rights' groups who seek to put wolves back under federal protections. McFarland said if there's judicial action "We'll change course at that time."
Also, he said the advisory panel will not touch the question of eliminating wolf hunting at night - a provision that's in the proposed state budget. McFarland says that issue is in the hands of legislators now.
Wednesday's recommendations will go to a DNR policy team and agency officials, and then to the Natural Resources Board.
-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau
Highway deficit, rent-to-own rules and UW tuition on lawmaker's agenda today
MADISON -- Another busy day is ahead for the lawmakers who are re-working the proposed new state budget.
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee was to resume its session mid-morning Thursday to tackle several major points of contention in Gov. Scott Walker's two-year spending package.
The panel is scheduled to decide how to eliminate an estimated $63.5 million deficit in Wisconsin's transportation fund. Earlier, the panel said to no to adding two State Patrol safety investigators and inspectors and it reduced funds to ease traffic congestion.
The committee delayed the tougher decisions, like reducing state road aid to local governments, and pushing back repairs on Milwaukee area freeways.
Also Thursday, the finance panel was to consider freezing tuition at UW schools, after millions in campus reserves were recently disclosed.
The committee will also consider paying for a plan to take DNA samples from those arrested for major crimes, instead of just those convicted.
Some panel members have already talked about dropping a provision that would let rent-to-own companies withhold certain details about contracts until after the consumers sign them. That's part of a series of reductions in consumer protections for rent-to-own customers.
Joint Finance sides with farm corporation over water dispute
MADISON -- Wisconsin's budget committee has endorsed a measure that could help the developers of a large dairy farm win a lawsuit against their project.
Late Tuesday, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted to prohibit legal action against water wells, if the DNR chooses not to study the impact of those projects on neighboring wells.
Neighbors of a proposed $35 million dairy farm in Adams County have filed suit to stop the project.
The plaintiffs claim in part that the DNR never determined the mega-dairy's impact on adjacent existing wells.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the case is before a state appeals court, and will be the subject of a contested-case hearing within the DNR next month.
The agency approved two high-capacity wells for the proposed Richfield Dairy in Adams County.
The farm's developers - Milk Source Inc. - said it did not ask lawmakers to step in.
Assembly Republican Dan LeMahieu of Sheboygan County proposed the measure, and has not said why. All four Democrats on the finance panel voted no, while all 12 Republicans voted yes.
Assembly Democrat Cory Mason of Racine said it's a bad idea for lawmakers to limit considering the effects of large wells on other properties.
Domestic abuse suspects could be monitored under proposed law
MADISON -- Domestic abuse suspects who are under restraining orders could soon be monitored by authorities.
The state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee will consider a budget measure Thursday that includes up to $3 million for additional GPS monitoring over the next two years.
Gov. Scott Walker proposed the measure in response to the murders of three women in a Brookfield spa by Radcliffe Haughton last October. Haughton was under a restraining order against seeing the estranged wife he murdered before he killed himself.
Under the budget proposal, judges could order GPS monitoring as part of the restraining orders they issue.
Current law allows such monitors for anyone convicted of violating restraining orders for domestic abuse or harassment.
Also Thursday, Wisconsin lawmakers could decide whether the Justice Department needs a solicitor general to handle a growing number of legal challenges to state laws and policies.
The Joint Finance Committee will take up a number of high-profile budget proposals - including a million dollars to bring back a former division to handle the state's more complex cases and appeals.
Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says he needs a solicitor general, as critics file more challenges to measures from Gov. Scott Walker and majority GOP lawmakers.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the governor can bring in outside lawyers to help the Justice Department, and it's not clear whether the solicitor general would save money.
The non-partisan fiscal agency also said the attorneys in the new division would be paid over twice as much as other state lawyers.
Milwaukee grows, but falls to #30 among nation's largest cities
MILWAUKEE -- More of America's population is gravitating to big cities - and Milwaukee is no exception.
The U.S. Census Bureau says Milwaukee has gained almost 4,000 residents since the 2010 Census. It had over 598,000 people as of last July, making it the nation's 30th largest city - down two places since 2010.
Oklahoma City and Portland Oregon surpassed Milwaukee in population, but Mayor Tom Barrett says he's still pleased with the city's growth.
A lot of it's been happening close to the downtown, with new condos and apartments occupied mainly by younger adults.
William Frey of the Brookings Institution says most cities with a half-million residents have grown since the last Census - and surprisingly, not just in the Sun Belt. Milwaukee used to be a lot bigger at one time.
In 1960, it was the nation's 11th largest city with 741,000 people. Madison has been Wisconsin's fastest-growing city in the past couple years.
The state's capital gained 6,400 residents since 2010, and is now at 240,000. Nine of the state's top-10 cities gained residents.
Racine lost almost 500 people, and is now at around 78,000. Kenosha surpassed 100,000 for the first time.
Of the 1,900 municipalities in Wisconsin, about half gained population since 2010, while the other half saw declines. Most changes were very small.
'Whooper' chick hatched
Two endangered whooping cranes have produced a new baby in central Wisconsin.
The chick was hatched in the wild this week in Marathon County. It's the offspring of a male and female that took part in a migration effort to increase the crane population in eastern North America.
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership says 25 chicks have hatched in the wild since 2006 - but all but five died from a variety of causes. Those five have fledged into the wild.
For the partnership, the hatching is much-needed good news after black flies hurt nesting efforts at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County. All but one of 20 nests were lost earlier this month - and officials say the lone surviving nest has at least one chick.
Walker, Ryan both penning memoirs
Gov. Scott Walker is writing a book - and apparently, Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan is doing the same.
The National Review says Ryan wants to highlight a number of personal topics and policy ideas, as both he and Walker are speculated to be gearing up for Republican White House candidacies in 2016.
Walker's book will be called "Un-intimidated," and it's due out later this year. The Ryan book reportedly has neither a title nor a possible release date.
The National Review says it will touch on Ryan's recent contention that the GOP needs to show those in poverty how to achieve economic freedom. The report also says Ryan will describe his childhood in Janesville, his work as an aide to former Congressman Jack Kemp, and his rise in Congress.
He also plans to write about his experience as the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2012, but don't expect a lot of dirt about that.
The National Review says Ryan has told friends that he'll only praise Mitt Romney - and he won't be writing a tell-all memoir.
He's said to be working with attorney Bob Barnett on the project - but so far at least, Ryan's been writing by himself.
Precious metals salesman heading to prison for tax evasion
A Shawano man who sold precious metals has been sentenced to four years in a federal prison for evading taxes.
Kalmar Gronvall, 69, must also pay over $433,000 in restitution.
Federal prosecutors said he did not file income tax returns, after he made over $1.3 million In The Gold-and-Silver Exchange.
It was an Internet business which took in a total of $7 million from 2006 through '08.
The U.S. Attorney's office said Gronvall converted his profits to cash, and placed it in a bank account he created in his son's name.
A federal jury convicted Gronvall in February on three counts of tax evasion.
Boy's death during gym class remains a mystery
STEVENS POINT -- An autopsy failed to explain why a 12-year-old boy collapsed and died during a Catholic school gym class in Stevens Point.
Joey Miller died late Tuesday morning while on a playground at St. Peter Middle School.
Portage County Coroner Scott Rifleman said Miller died from natural causes - and it might take weeks or months or complete more tests that could provide some answers.
An autopsy Wednesday did not turn up any trauma or foul play. A prayer service was held at the school Wednesday.
Grief counselors were on hand to help students and staffers deal with the tragedy. Stevens Point Area Catholic Schools' president Todd Kuckkahn said people at the school are doing a great job supporting each other, and a long-term support plan is being worked on.
Students and relatives are collecting donations to help Joey Miller's family. Officials say a memorial tree will also be planted in Joey's honor.
-- WSAU, Wausau
Shingles plant worker killed in Superior
SUPERIOR -- Federal workplace safety officials are investigating the death of an employee at a wood shingles plant in Superior.
He was identified Wednesday David Clink, 30, of Superior.
The accident occurred Tuesday night at White Cedar Shingles & Lumber.
Authorities said Clink was working alone when his arm or clothing got caught in a conveyor belt - and he was asphyxiated after he got pinned against the machine.
A co-worker eventually found Clink and called 9-1-1.
Investigators from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration arrived at the plant Wednesday.
LaX' Oktoberfest being trimmed to 4 days
LACROSSE -- Wisconsin's largest fall festival is cutting back. Oktoberfest in La Crosse will be shortened next year from nine days to four - the same number of days the festival had before it expanded in 2000.
Kam-Lin Roswall, who heads the Oktoberfest board, says the idea is to consolidate activities, and have more of them in each of the four days. Also, the change is designed to improve the event's finances. The La Crosse Oktoberfest has lost money in three of the last four years.
The local visitors' bureau says the festival adds about $3 million to the La Crosse economy each year - and bureau director Dave Clements does not expect that to change. This year's Oktoberfest will be the last one with nine days, from Sept. 27th through Oct. 5th.