Want warmer weather? Just wait; School employee insurance contributions cover two-thirds of lost state aid; more briefsWisconsin News
Record-high temperatures from Saturday are already a distant memory this morning. It was 19 degrees at 7 a.m. in Eau Claire and four other places in northern Wisconsin.
Record-high temperatures from Saturday are already a distant memory this morning.
It was 19 degrees at 7 a.m. in Eau Claire and four other places in northern Wisconsin. And it was in the 20’s everywhere else except for Sheboygan and a couple of other southeast Wisconsin spots where the mercury hit 30.
A low pressure system arrived early Sunday, bringing heavy rains and winds to parts of the state. Gusts hit 49 mph at Ashland, while parts of southwest Wisconsin got soaked by more than an inch of rain.
Readstown in Vernon County had almost an inch and a half. Those rains washed away mild temperatures which helped lots of folks enjoy the outdoors on Saturday.
Eau Claire broke a 103-year-old record with a high of 67. Oshkosh had 66, Milwaukee 65 and Green Bay 64 – all of which tied previous records.
Today scattered snow showers and flurries are predicted across Wisconsin. Skies are supposed to clear up tonight with lows falling to the teens in most places.
The National Weather Service says high pressure will then settle in, and it will be dry and increasing warmer as the week goes on. The mercury could reach 50 again by Friday.
School employee insurance contributions cover two-thirds of lost state aid
Wisconsin school boards made up for about two-thirds of their lost state aid by making employees pay more for their health insurance and pensions last year, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance in a new report to be released today.
The report says school districts cut their spending on health and pensions by $287 million in the last school year. That made up for 64% of the $451 million reduction in total state aid to Wisconsin’s public schools last year.
The Taxpayers Alliance said the savings could have been greater. But a number of school districts – including Milwaukee – extended their previous teacher contracts to delay the terms of the collective bargaining limits adopted by state Republicans over a year and a half ago.
In September, a Dane County judge threw out the bargaining limits for public schools and local governments, but the higher health insurance and pension payments remain in effect. The state’s trying to overturn the judge’s ruling, and the issue is still pending in an appellate court.
Hunter dies in deer stand
Investigators with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office say they think Nicholas L. Asmondy Sr., 54, may have had a heart attack before he fell from his tree stand.
No foul play is suspected.
Asmondy had gone hunting near Tomahawk last week. When his son went to check on him Thursday night, he found the man on the ground, unresponsive. Emergency responders determined he was dead.
Officials say it looks like the victim may have suffered a heart attack in the tree stand and subsequently fell 20 feet to the ground.
Walker under more pressure to develop insurance purchasing exchange
Some of Gov. Scott Walker’s business allies are urging him to have Wisconsin create its own health insurance purchasing exchange under the Obama reform law.
According to the Associated Press, the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the state’s Federation of Independent Businesses want a system that’s tailored to Wisconsin. So do the Wisconsin Hospital Association and the state Association of Health Plans.
Minority Democrats in the Legislature have been badgering Walker for months to create the state’s own exchange, and so have advocacy groups like Wisconsin Citizen Action and ABC for Health.
Walker faces a deadline of Friday to get the exchange done, but he insists he has until next fall to take action before the purchasing exchanges take effect in 2014.
Walker told reporters in La Crosse last Thursday that there are questions over how much flexibility a state can have in developing its own exchange. If there’s not much the state can do, Walker said he might let Wisconsin use a standard template designed by Washington.
The AP says Walker has not spoken with the affected stakeholders on what he might do. For months, the governor has refused to do much of anything connected with the Obama health package. He was counting on Mitt Romney to be elected president and for Romney to throw out the health law.
He was just lost, says roommate of man killed by police
A roommate of a man killed by Madison police said he got disoriented, and he thought he was entering his own house when he was shot while going into a neighbor’s place.
Amelia Royko-Maurer told the Wisconsin State Journal that both houses looked about the same, both she and the shooting victim had just recently moved to Madison, and he was an unarmed, non-violent man.
Paul Heenan, 30, was shot early last Friday in what police called an apparent burglary attempt. Police have not said whether he was armed at the time.
WKOW TV first reported that the shooter was Officer Stephen Heimsness, who was suspended for 15 days for using excessive force in a 2001 incident. He’s on administrative leave along with Officer Stacy Troumbly, who provided medical help to Heenan after the shooting.
Maurer said Heenan was a recording engineer and musician who used to live in Madison and moved back recently from New York.
Researcher accused of growing marijuana in UW lab
A former UW-Madison plant researcher is due in court this morning after he was accused of growing marijuana in a campus lab.
Christopher Schwartz, 45, was charged Friday in Dane County with two felony counts of manufacturing and possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver.
Prosecutors said a dozen marijuana plants were spotted in a locked growth chamber used by Schwartz last month in the UW’s biochemistry building. He was put on an administrative leave soon after his arrest, but he has since resigned.
Church groups jump in to help unemployed find work
A U.S. labor official says Wisconsin is among the states with the largest number of faith-based organizations where the unemployed look for help in finding jobs.
Ben Seigel of the Labor Department’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships says thousands of local “job clubs” have been formed around the country. He talked about them during a recent symposium near Milwaukee, which is said to have at least a dozen faith-based job groups.
The Journal Sentinel reports those groups offer everything from informal meetings, where people share their challenges and successes in finding jobs, to study sessions where the unemployed are taught to set goals for their job searches.
Also the centers show people how to make winning resumes and good impressions during job interviews.
One center in Waukesha has had about 100 members in recent years, and coordinator Peter Warra said about half found meaningful careers.
Another program in Mequon has started to help returning veterans. The centers are especially helpful to older workers who haven’t needed to look for a job in years.
Seigel said the economic downturn has killed a lot of industries, many folks have been out of work for so long that they’ve gone to their churches for help, and those churches are responding.
DNR asks hunters to report marijuana fields
Starting Saturday, thousands of deer hunters will stomp over remote public lands where illegal immigrants have grown marijuana worth millions of dollars.
And once again, the Department of Natural Resources is warning hunters to watch for unusual things like the clear-cutting of trees, makeshift buildings and chemical containers.
Authorities broke up huge growing operations during each of the last three summers in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest.
Eleven large-scale remote pot operations have been busted in the northern half of Wisconsin since 2008. Many were found by hunters who called law enforcement.
Wildlife officials warn hunters not to confront anyone in the woods since the growing sites may have armed guards. Instead, hunters are asked to take note of what they see along with the specific area, with GPS coordinates if possible, and call authorities.
State Attorney General JB Van Hollen said it’s unfortunate that people who want to use recreation land are at risk from armed criminals with big cash crops to protect. He calls it a significant problem and a great danger to the public.
David Spakowicz of the state Department of Justice said Mexican drug organizations find Wisconsin appealing because of the state’s rural nature, and they don’t have to worry about getting the product over the U.S.-Mexican border.
Seven people were arrested this summer in the largest pot-growing scheme found by state agents. Most busted in previous years got 10 years in prison with orders to be deported to Mexico afterward.
State’s biggest house up for auction
Wisconsin’s largest single-family house goes up for auction Wednesday in Door County.
It’s a 35,000 square foot mansion with 43 rooms, and it’s located at Ellison Bay in the northern Door Peninsula.
The property also has a three-bedroom guest house, a two-bedroom studio house and a beach house with 700 square feet. The master suite has seven rooms, and the house has its own movie theater, plus an indoor swimming pool with its own kitchen.
Judith Blazer had the estate built in the 1990’s. She was an heir to the Miller Group of Appleton, which made arc welding equipment.
Blazer sold the property to a California couple for $18 million in 2005. But the new owners never lived there because the wife died.
The land has been divided into four parcels, and at Wednesday’s auction, people can bid on any or all of the individual parcels.