Walker visiting UW-Stout Wednesday; survey shows more than half Wisconsinites now favor same-sex marriage; more state briefs
MENOMONIE -- Gov. Scott Walker is expected to attend and offer some remarks shortly after noon Wednesday at the sixth annual UW-Stout Manufacturing Advantage Conference being held in the Memorial Student Center, 302 10th Ave. E.
The event is not open to the public.
Wednesday marks the second and final day of the event, which provides a forum for manufacturers and industry specialists to collaborate on issues, opportunities and best practices in the market today. Participants hear about success and challenges from peers and collaborate on initiatives important to the continued growth of manufacturing in the region.
Break-out sessions at the conference were to focus on customer-focused innovation; workforce engagement, development, retention and the skills gap; superior process improvement; sustainability; global engagement and reshoring.
Sponsors included UW-Stout, WITC, Wipfli LLP, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, UW-EC's Materials Science Center, Huebsch and Bill's Distributing.
Two more wolf harvest zones closing Wednesday
MADISON -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has closed Wolf Harvest Zone 1 and Zone 5 to hunting and trapping of gray wolves effective 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 30.
With these closures, a total of three wolf harvest zones have closed this season. Wolf hunters and trappers are advised that they can currently continue to pursue wolves in Zones 3, 4, and 6.
The state wolf harvest quota for Zone 1 was set at 76 wolves and the closure process was initiated when 72 wolves were reported as harvested. The state wolf harvest quota for Zone 5 was set at 34 wolves and the closure process was initiated when 33 wolves were reported as harvested.
“Harvest trends in Zone 1 have been steady with an increased harvest rate over the past few days and Zone 5 has been steady with two additional wolves registered late in the day Tuesday, prompting closure ,” said David MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist. “We will be considering harvest trends as we approach quotas in other zones as well.”
“Our ultimate goal is to harvest 251 wolves, distributed across the landscape,” said MacFarland.
Bid for constitutional amendment on Court advances
MADISON -- A Senate committee has voted to make the State Supreme Court elect a new chief justice every two years -- thus making it easier for the court's philosophical majority to have one of its own in charge.
That majority is conservative at the moment, and the conservative majority on the Senate judiciary panel voted 3-to-2 Tuesday in favor of a constitutional amendment for the change. Both Democrats voted no.
Meanwhile, the Assembly's Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the amendment, where its chief sponsor denied trying to give more power to his fellow conservatives on the court -- or to lessen the influence of liberal Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
Brookfield Republican Rob Hutton said the 124-year-old practice of having the most senior justice as the chief is outdated. He said his measure would reduce political differences within the court, and encourage more collaboration on cases.
The Assembly panel plans a vote Thursday. Republican leaders of both houses expect to act on the amendment in November.
It would also have to pass in the next session, and then by voters in a statewide referendum. The earliest the change could take effect is 2015.
The chief justice is normally the public face of the Supreme Court and the administrative head of the state's court system. However, the chief justice does not have overriding veto power in scheduling cases that the high court considers.
New Marquette poll shows that more than half favor same-sex marriages
MILWAUKEE -- A new poll shows that more than half of Wisconsinites support same-sex marriages.
Fifty-three percent in the new Marquette Law School poll expressed support for gay marriage. That's 9 points higher than the 44 percent support in the same poll a year ago. Nineteen percent said there should not be any legal recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions -- down from 23 percent a year ago.
Marquette pollster Charles Franklin says it's the first time in more than a year of polling that Wisconsin has shown over 50 percent support for same-sex marriage.
Franklin says it's very much in line with other polls around the country. It's also quite a change from seven years ago, when 59 percent of Wisconsin voters approved a constitutional ban on gay marriages and civil unions.
The group which promoted that ban, Wisconsin Family Action, is now trying to get the State Supreme Court to throw out a domestic partner registry that gives same-sex couples about one-fifth of the legal benefits of married couples.
Arguments in that case were heard last week, and a ruling could be a few months away.
The new Marquette poll surveyed 400 voters on the question last week. The error margin is five percent either way.
The poll also queried participants as to their opinions about some politicians.
During last year's White House election, pundits could never figure out why so many Wisconsinites supported both the Democratic president and the Republican governor. That trend has not changed, according to the same poll.
The president and Gov. Scott Walker each had 49 percent approval ratings among the 800 voters who were questioned. Forty-seven percent disapproved of the Republican Walker's job performance, while 46 percent disapproved of Obama.
Among Wisconsin Republicans, Walker is the preferred choice at the moment for the 2016 GOP presidential bid. Walker had 29 percent of Republican support in the new poll, with Janesville House Budget chairman Paul Ryan second at 25 percent. Florida Senator Marco Rubio is a distant third at 9 percent. Hillary Clinton is the clear Democratic choice in Wisconsin for the next White House contest. She's at 64 percent in the Marquette poll.
Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren were both a distant second, at 11 percent each.
Temporary trusses nearly done on Green Bay bridge; may re-open in January
GREEN BAY -- Crews are almost finished installing temporary trusses to keep the Leo Frigo Interstate bridge in Green Bay from sagging any further.
Bruce Enke of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said Tuesday that three of the four vertical trusses have been installed.
Horizontal trusses will also be added, to assure the safety of those working to make permanent repairs on the I-43 bridge. Those repairs are expected to begin on Monday -- and they'll cost much less than what the DOT expected.
Zenith Tech of Waukesha submitted the lowest of three bids -- $7.7 million to bolster five corroded support piers, and to extend one support pier so it touches bedrock for the first time. That pier fell two feet into the ground in late September, causing a sag in the high-rise Frigo Bridge that crosses the Fox River on the north end of Green Bay.
Enke says the temporary trusses will be installed by next Wednesday. From there, work on the permanent repairs will be done around the clock.
Officials hope to re-open the bridge in mid-January.
Report provides ammo for voucher critics
A new report gives new ammunition to critics of Wisconsin's expanded private school voucher program.
State education officials said 73 percent of the over-500 additional students who got tax-funded private school vouchers this fall had attended private schools in the past.
At least one Democrat said it was proof that the GOP is bolstering private schools, instead of helping low-income public school students get a chance at a better education -- which is the supporters' stated goal of the choice program.
Assembly Democrat Sondy Pope of Middleton called it "unacceptable" to subsidize private schools, while forcing public schools to do more with less -- and she said it's time to do something different.
School choice supporters said hundreds of public school youngsters tried getting into the expanded program, but couldn't.
Jim Bender of School Choice Wisconsin said almost 2,000 students were turned away.
John Johnson of the Department of Public Instruction said the law was written so that public school youngsters do not get priority over others. He said brothers and sisters of voucher students get a preference.
High Court will wait for appellate decision on Act 10
MADISON -- The State Supreme Court will wait to see what an appellate court decides before getting involved in the latest dispute over Act 10, the law that limits most public union bargaining.
The Justice Department has asked both courts to let the state proceed with about 400 annual re-certification votes for local government and public school unions -- and then decide whether the state was in contempt-of-court for moving forward with those votes.
The Fourth District Appellate Court said it would rule by next Monday on the Justice Department's request for an emergency stay, so the union votes can be held in November as scheduled.
The Supreme Court said Tuesday the losing side in the matter will have one day to challenge the appellate court's ruling.
Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas recently said the state employment relations agency continued with the re-certification process in violation of his decision from last year that the public union bargaining limits were unconstitutional for local-and-school unions.
The state contended that the ruling only applied to the plaintiffs in the case -- the Madison teachers union and a Milwaukee city union.
Meanwhile, a state challenge continues to Colas's original ruling from last year. The justices plan to hear arguments Nov. 11th on that matter.
Whooping cranes heading for warmer climes
For the 13th straight year, Wisconsin baby whooping cranes are flying to Florida to increase the population of the endangered birds in the eastern United States.
The cranes no longer leave in one group from the Necedah refuge, after a risk developed from black flies. So for the second year in a row, the newest cranes left from two locations in southern Wisconsin.
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership said nine young whoopers left the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge late last week, guided by older cranes which have made the trip in the past. On Oct. 2nd, an ultra-light pilot from Operation Migration led eight cranes on their first trip south from the White River Marsh state wildlife area in Green Lake County. They've been stuck for the last five days in Winnebago County, Illinois due to unsuitable winds.
The partnership says the migration project has resulted in 110 cranes living in the wild. About 600 total cranes exist today, almost 450 in the wild.
Wausau woman is accused of tossing baby in the trash
WAUSAU -- A Wausau woman is accused of throwing her newborn baby in the trash. Zoua Yang, 33, appeared in Marathon County Circuit Court Tuesday on a felony charge of concealing a child's death, and misdemeanor bail jumping. She was held under a $1,000 cash bond. Prosecutors said Yang gave birth Oct. 10th in her bathroom. She claimed she didn't realize she was pregnant, and the infant showed no signs of life after apparently being born two months premature.
Investigators said Yang made no effort to get medical help for the child. She told officers she didn't have health insurance.
A witness said Yang placed in the infant in a plastic bag and tossed the baby in a Dumpster. Officers tried recovering the body from the Marathon County landfill, but couldn't find it.
Yang could have escaped criminal charges had she known about Wisconsin's long-running "Safe Haven" law, which lets mothers drop off unwanted infants at hospitals or law enforcement offices within 72 hours of birth with no questions asked.
Instead, Yang faces a pre-trial hearing next Monday, and a preliminary hearing on her felony count on Nov. 6th
-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau
Pedestrian killed in Sheboygan Wednesday
SHEBOYGAN -- Sheboygan Police are trying to find why a car struck and killed a pedestrian.
The accident happened about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon.
Police said a 63-year-old Hingham man struck the pedestrian, who died later at a Sheboygan hospital. The man and his 63-year-old female passenger both had minor injuries. Police said they declined medical treatment.
Investigators do not believe that speed or alcohol were factors in the crash. The victim's name was not released.
Tree stand accident claims Wonewoc man
REEDSBURG -- A southern Wisconsin man died, hours after he fell from a tree-stand he was working on.
Authorities Tuesday identified the man as 64-year-old Albin Ennis of Wonewoc.
Sauk County sheriff's deputies said Ennis fell Sunday afternoon in the town of Woodland. He was taken to a Reedsburg hospital, where he died from his injuries several hours later.
Tips rekindle probe into death of baby found in Mississippi River
WINONA -- Authorities are taking another look at the death of a baby girl whose body was found inside a bag two years ago in the Mississippi River.
Dave Brand, the sheriff of Winona County, said people who called Crime Stoppers offered two new tips over the last week.
Investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are looking into those leads. An infant named "Baby Angel" was found in the Mississippi River near Homer on the Minnesota side in September, 2011. Since then, several searches have taken place, and officers followed up on various leads.
Through it all, there's been no trace of the baby's parents.
-- Minnesota News Network