Meager voter turnout forecast Tuesday; no arrests as Badger masses celebrate; 8 more state stories
Almost nine of every ten Wisconsin voters will stay away from the polls Tuesday in what could be a watershed moment for the state's rural public schools.
The Government Accountability Board predicts a 12 percent turnout. There are no statewide contests but residents will see how taxpayers respond to maintaining their public school programs, as 26 of the 428 districts have referendums to exceed their state-mandated revenue limits.
Many of Tuesday's votes are in rural districts which have fallen behind under the 20-year-old revenue caps. Almost 20 school districts also have bonding requests for various building projects. The largest is in Kettle Moraine near Milwaukee, where voters will decide the fate of an almost $50 million package of technology, security, and maintenance items.
State officials say there are nearly 3,800 elections for local government and school board seats, including the unopposed ones.
Three state appeals' judges are running by themselves for new terms, along with over 40 circuit judges in the various counties. The only judicial incumbents with opponents are in Jefferson and Forest counties.
-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau
Badger fans party, rally in wake of Final Four qualifier
MADISON -- UW Madison officials said about 7,100 people welcomed home the Badger men's basketball team Sunday.
Fans filled the lower bowl of the Kohl Center, and celebrated Wisconsin's first National College Athletic Association Final Four appearance since 2000.
It's the first for coach Bo Ryan, who has taken the Badgers to the national tournament in all 13 of his seasons in Madison. The players showed off the trophy they received for winning the West Regional on Saturday night, a one-point overtime victory over Arizona.
Madison Police said over 10,000 Badger fans partied in a tight two-block area on State Street late Saturday night. Nobody was arrested, and no one was injured.
That wasn't the case in Tucson, Ariz. where 15 people were arrested for throwing fire-crackers and beer bottles at police.
Officers said they had to use pepper spray to break up a disturbance that lasted over an hour.
Wisconsin will play Kentucky around 7:50 p.m., Saturday in a national semi-final on CBS.
Fuel prices remain higher in Wisconsin
Gasoline prices have dropped in some parts of the Midwest, but not Wisconsin.
Wisconsin's chapter of the American Automobile Association said the average statewide price of regular unleaded was $3.60 per gallon Monday morning. That's a penny cheaper than last Monday, but 10 cents more expensive than a month ago.
Minnesota has the cheapest gas price among Wisconsin's neighbors. The Gopher State average was at $3.48 per gallon Monday.
Officials in Minnesota say gas has dropped by over a quarter since early March. They said more crude oil was diverted into making more propane that's been in short supply this winter.
Refineries in the Upper Midwest are finishing their required pre-April maintenance, while converting to summer grades of fuel.
-- Minnesota News Network
Gradual melt has minimized flooding but manure run-off still poses risks
Wisconsin did not have any flood warnings or advisories as of Monday morning, but state agriculture officials say the risk is still high for farm manure running off into lakes, rivers, and streams.
A few weeks ago, forecasters feared heavy floods in the Badger State, due to the heavier-than-normal snowfall we received this winter. However, both the Department of Natural Resources and the Agriculture Department say the run-off problems have been kept to a minimum by a colder-than-normal March, and a more gradual snow-melt than expected.
Thunderstorms were in the forecast Monday for much of Wisconsin, and officials say the new rain plus warmer temperatures in most areas could cause run-off problems.
Both state agencies have advertised on radio this month, urging farmers to use proper manure-spreading practices.
Investigation ongoing into fatal car fire; woman's body found near Oconomowoc
WISCONSIN DELLS -- Authorities continue to investigate the death of a man whose vehicle exploded and burned northwest of Wisconsin Dells Saturday night.
The incident occurred on Highway 12/16 in the Juneau County town of Lyndon. Witnesses reported hearing a blast and then seeing the vehicle on fire.
Dells fire personnel extinguished the blaze, and then saw the man's body inside. A coroner pronounced him dead at the scene.
His name was not released, pending notification of relatives.
Meanwhile, Jefferson County authorities spent the weekend investigating a body found in a cornfield.
Sheriff's deputies said a driver noticed something unusual on Saturday close to a roadway near Ixonia, a few miles northwest of Oconomowoc.
Officials said it turned out to be a woman's body, and the county coroner sought an autopsy. Investigators also asked other law enforcement agencies for information about their current missing persons, to help try to identify the woman.
In Milwaukee, just over 30 miles to the east, police say they'll await the woman's identification and autopsy results and then see if the her death is connected with its pending cases.
E-monitoring for crooks getting 'smarter'
WAUSAU -- Those electronic monitoring devices worn by convicted criminals are getting smarter. Not only do they track a convict's whereabouts more of them can tell when a person violates probation by drinking alcohol.
In north central Wisconsin, a 52-year-old rural Merrill man learned that lesson when he was arrested Sunday evening.
Lincoln County sheriff's deputies said a state monitoring center caught the man drinking against his probation. The Corrections Department then passed the word onto local deputies who arrested the man at his home. Officers took a breath sample, and confirmed that the monitoring bracelet was correct.
The man awoke in jail Monday morning and is awaiting a court appearance in the matter. WSAU Radio in Wausau says that not all monitoring devices show more than a person's location but additional areas continue to get the new technology.
-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau
DOJ, MPD 'Stingray' systems can sleuth cell data
Wisconsin law enforcement agencies have at least two portable devices which can secretly collect personal data from our cell phones in real time.
Gannett Wisconsin Media reports that Milwaukee Police and the state Justice Department have had the Stingray systems for a number of years.
The state Justice Department has had a unit since 2006, which it lends to other agencies throughout Wisconsin. Police around the nation use Stingrays to track murder suspects and look for missing persons. The portable units are like cell towers, sapping up data not just from a targeted person -- but others within about a mile radius, including cell phones in people's homes.
Gannett, which publishes ten daily newspapers in Wisconsin's mid-section, said police agencies and the unit's manufacturer won't comment on the machines -- how they're used -- or what they do with the information they soak up.
Milwaukee Police normally obtain warrants before gathering cell-phone records. The State Supreme Court is currently considering the validity of one Stingray warrant.
In February, the state Legislature voted to require warrants in most cases before tracking people with their cell-phones. Gov. Scott Walker has not signed or vetoed the measure.
Deadline looms for health-care sign-up
A big deadline looms at midnight for Wisconsinites who either don't have health insurance, or will soon lose their state-funded coverage.
Monday, March 31st, the last day that most uninsured people can enroll for insurance under the Affordable Care Act without facing penalties. Wisconsin began the Obama-care program with about 560,000 uninsured residents, including over 70,000 who will lose their Badger-Care or state high risk insurance after Monday.
As of March 1, Wisconsin exceeded the federal government's enrollment target for Obama-care by 113 percent. Many of those signing up were 55-or-older -- and the program's been trying to get more younger people covered so their premium revenues can help pay for older people who are more likely to have health problems.
Those who are supposed to sign up but don't will pay the piper at tax time next year. Their 2014 income tax returns will carry penalties of $95 or one percent of their incomes, whichever is higher.
After Monday, only people with limited circumstances will escape those penalties.
Ozaukee County residents deemed state's healthiest
MADISON -- Residents of Ozaukee County are the healthiest in Wisconsin for the second year in a row.
The suburbs just north of Milwaukee again top the new County Health Rankings put out each year by the U-W Madison Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The 72 counties are ranked on people's life expectancy, future health indicators like obesity and smoking rates, and social factors like education and income.
In general, the survey has shown that wealthier counties are also healthier. Ozaukee is among Wisconsin's richest counties.
Menominee County is again ranked at the bottom. It's the home of the Menominee Indian reservation, one of the poorest counties in the state.
Milwaukee County, with some of the nation's highest poverty rates, is again second to last at Number 71. Dane County, the home of Madison and state government, is the second-healthiest county in the Badger State.
La Crosse County moved up to third. St. Croix County dropped from third to seventh, as it continues to get rapid growth from the nearby Twin Cities.
'Alice' finalists selected
Six finalists have been named for Wisconsin's next Alice-in-Dairyland. The winner will be selected during three days of finals May 15-17th in Clark County.
She'll replace Kristin Olson in a one-year term as a state-employed ambassador for Wisconsin's food and agricultural industries.
Finalists include: Allyson Binversie of Manitowoc, who's pursuing a master's degree at Gonzaga in clinical mental health counseling; Zoey Brooks of Waupaca, who graduates this spring from U-W Madison in animal science; Katie Dogs of Watertown, the public relations manager at Didion Milling; Kristin Klossner of New Glarus, a substitute teacher mainly in special education; Melissa Ploeckelman of Stetsonville, an agricultural teacher and FFA advisor in the Colby school district; and Whitney Rathke of Fredonia, a graduate student at Concordia and an elementary after-school educator in Beaver Dam.