Lots of couples -- and Aaron Rodgers celebrating today's numeric novelty; Planned Parenthood sues to decriminalize drug-induced abortions; more state newsWisconsin News
Wednesday's calendar convergence -- 12/12/12 -- has couples around the state making marital vows. Also, the state DNR board Tuesday OK'd limited hunting in Wisconsin state parks.
Wednesday's date, 12-12-of-12 – an easy anniversary date for couples to remember. At least 27 couples plan to get married today at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, as opposed to six on a normal Wednesday.
In Green Bay, at least five couples have signed up to tie the knot on 12-12. It’s also Aaron Rodgers Day, a salute to the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback who was named his league’s M-V-P a year ago. Jennifer Brilowski of Stevens Point came up with the idea of a Rodgers’ day and promoted it on Facebook and that spurred Wisconsin lawmakers into action.
They passed an official resolution declaring this day in honor of Green Bay’s Number-12.
New program promises fast business start-ups
MADISON -- A new state program shows potential industries where they can build the quickest, with the goal of attracting plants that want to open as fast as possible. A seal of approval called “Certified in Wisconsin” is given to business development sites which pass a set of standards which prove that they’re “shovel-ready.”
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has hired the Deloitte Consulting firm to conduct the reviews. Sites which get the seals of approval will be featured on a new Web site called locateinWisconsin.com along with national trade publications directed at companies looking to build somewhere.
The state expects to certify about 30 sites over the next three years. Twenty-seven communities applied earlier this year – and the first nine are now being selected. They include Beaver Dam, West Bend, Fitchburg, DeForest, and Howard. The other four will be announced next week.
DeForest Mayor Judd Blau said time is money for businesses and the state certification allows them to start making their products faster.
Despite cost estimates, lawmaker wants to nix same-day registration
MADISON -- A Republican lawmaker still wants his colleagues to eliminate voter registration on Election Day as one of their first acts in the new session next month.
Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend said he had not reviewed a new report from the Government Accountability Board. It said it would cost the agency millions of dollars to comply with federal voting laws for which the state is now exempt due to its same-day registration policy.
Grothman believes it’s easier to use the same-day system to commit voter fraud even though he admits he cannot prove it.
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson of Milwaukee said the only fraud is Republicans “disenfranchising people and trying to take their votes away.”
Some Republicans have long claimed that same-day registration helps Democrats. Grothman said it would be harder to cheat under the federal “motor voter” law which the state would have to adopt if it dumps same-day registration. It would allow voters to register where they get their driver’s licenses and public benefits.
The new report said the Government Accountability Board would have to spend $5.2 million now and almost $2 two million every two years after that, mostly for federally-required mailings to voters which the state does not have to do now.
Planned Parenthood suit aims to decriminalize drug-induced abortions
MADISON -- Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has asked a judge to throw out a state law in which doctors could face felony charges for performing drug-induced abortions.
The procedure used to cover about a quarter of all abortions by Planned Parenthood but that was before the group stopped offering the non-surgical abortions when the law took effect on April 20th.
Among other things, the law requires that women visit their doctors three times before getting drug-induced abortions and doctors must prove that the women are not being coerced into having the procedure.
Republicans said at the time that the measure would save lives, but Planned Parenthood said the law was vague and it’s hard for doctors to determine if they’re in compliance.
The group is suing the state Medical Examining Board, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and county district attorneys.
Dana Brueck of the Justice Department says her agency will review the lawsuit, and then make an appropriate response.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood continues to perform surgical abortions at its facilities in Milwaukee, Madison, and Appleton.
Judge will hear arguments in night-hunting dispute
MADISON -- A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday on whether six Chippewa Indian tribes can hunt for deer at night in much of northern Wisconsin.
The Great Lakes Indian Fish-and-Wildlife Commission approved a night-time deer hunt last month in places where the Chippewa have exercised off-reservation treaty rights since the 19th century, but Judge Barbara Crabb of Madison held up the deer shining until she could hold a hearing on a challenge filed by the state DNR.
Crabb is the same judge who rejected a similar night-time Indian hunt in 1989. Back then, she agreed with the DNR that it poses a safety risk and she ruled that the state’s ban on night-time deer hunting also applied to the tribes. But the tribes say those concerns are moot, because the state allowed wolf hunters shoot at night during their inaugural season which began in mid-October.
The Chippewa also say they need the deer for food. The Indian Fish & Wildlife agency had authorized the special hunt to run from Nov. 26th through Jan. 6th.
Home sales continue to increase near Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin’s largest metro area had another big increase in home sales last month.
The Milwaukee area’s Multiple Listing Service reports a 24 percent increase in sales of existing houses in November, compared to a year ago.
Realtors sold just over 1,200 homes last month in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties. That’s 234 more than in the same month of 2011.
For the year as a whole, the MLS says home sales are up almost 26 percent.
Realtor Beth Jaworski says there’s been a pent-up demand that was stalled during the recession and its aftermath and there are a lot more home buyers this year than last.
If the current trend continues, industry leaders say the Milwaukee region will have its highest number of home sales since 2007.
WPIRG advocates closing corporate tax loopholes
MADISON -- A Madison think tank is calling on the federal government to cut off corporate tax loopholes more completely.
The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group says Americans are paying $150 billion dollars a year for tax breaks and credits that corporations get.
Program associate Joe Rasmussen says some firms don’t pay taxes and they’re making money by shuffling funds to various places. The Government Accountability Office says at least 83 of the nation’s 100 top publicly-owned firms use tax havens.
Rasmussen says the money can be better spent keeping the country from going over the fiscal cliff. He says that if Washington can get an extra $150 billion in business taxes, it would cover one-third of the congressional debt reduction goal of $4 trillion over the next decade.
But it’s a sensitive issue in Wisconsin. Some Democratic lawmakers used to make constant pleas to end the loopholes but former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle walked on egg-shells, saying that the state’s businesses would never go for large-scale changes.
Calls for a crackdown were all but silenced after voters chose Republicans to run both the governor’s office and the state Legislature in 2010. Lawmakers of both parties then granted millions in new tax breaks in exchange for adding jobs.
-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau
Ag department defends hiring of former police officer
MADISON -- The state agriculture department has justified its hiring of an environmental investigator who was disciplined for fudging payroll records when he was a West Bend police officer.
Andrew Adee beat out 12 other candidates for a $48,000 per year job to investigate violations of laws dealing the use of farm chemicals.
Department of Agriculture spokesman Jim Dick told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his agency knew about the West Bend incident before hiring Adee and it had nothing to do with what the state job requires.
Adee, 38, was suspended for 60 days in 2006, after he reportedly filed payroll reports showing that he worked 126 hours when he didn’t.
Two other officers were given lesser suspensions, and all three kept their jobs. Dick said the agriculture department considered Adee’s experience and knowledge as well as his punishment in West Bend and they found him to be the most qualified candidate for his current job.
Adee is a licensed pesticide applicator, and officials say that’s also a plus in his investigative post. He was hired in mid-July.
DNR board compromises on hunting in state parks
Hunting will be allowed in most state parks. But the Natural Resources Board voted unanimously Tuesday to limit the shooting to two months a year, after park-goers complained that wouldn’t feel safe while the hunting is on.
The governor and Legislature approved a number of steps in the last session to bring new life to what’s been a dwindling hunting tradition in Wisconsin in recent years but hundreds of people criticized the use of state parks and DNR staffers responded by limiting hunting to about two-thirds of park lands.
After hearing three more hours of criticisms Tuesday, the Natural Resources Board further limited the hunting periods to one month in the fall, and another each April. Some of Tuesday’s speakers said it was only a matter of time before people or pets get caught in the cross-fire. Some board members didn’t want any hunting expansions at all.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the panel had no choice but to follow the orders of the elected officials and they ordered that the new hunting law take effect Jan. 1st.
Board chairman David Clausen said lawmakers allowed the board to come up with the exact rules and he believes hunters will approve of the new compromise.
Among other things, it will be illegal to shoot across state trails and all traps would have to be safe for dogs.
Man dies after fall into farm pond
A man died in Eau Claire County after falling through the ice behind his Augusta area farm.
Sheriff’s officials were called to a farm near Augusta around 7 p.m., Tuesday.
Relatives said the man went missing while trying to round up a flock of domestic ducks and he may have fallen on thin ice on a pond behind the farm.
Rescuers found the man in the pond about an hour later and he was pronounced dead a short time after that.
Sheriff’s officials said the victim was from a large Amish family, and was apparently in his 50’s. His name was not immediately released.
Man pleads innocent to impersonating a newspaper photo-journalist
MILWAUKEE -- A suburban Milwaukee man has pleaded innocent to impersonating a newspaper photo-journalist, and calling girls’ high school athletes to arrange photo shoots.
Gary Medrow, 68, of Greenfield entered his pleas Tuesday to two counts of disorderly conduct, and two charges of unlawful telephone use. His next court appearance is set for Jan.17th.
Prosecutors said Medrow called female athletes in Franklin, Hartland, Cedarburg, Mequon, and Verona, claiming he was a photographer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The newspaper and other media outlets said they don’t operate that way and they contact coaches to arrange interviews with high school athletes outside of the actual sporting events.
Court records show that Medrow has been convicted multiple times of impersonating police and illegal phone use.
The Journal Sentinel previously reported that Medrow had a desire for “calling women and trying to persuade them to lift other women and carry them around.”
Lambeau clock runs on 'Lombardi time'
GREEN BAY -- A new clock outside of Lambeau Field is always 15 minutes fast and as it turns out, Vince Lombardi had everything to do with it.
The clock faces Lombardi Avenue – and the hands show what’s commonly known as “Lombardi time.”
Legendary Packers’ coach Vince Lombardi expected his players to be 15 minutes early for practices and meetings and it’s one of those nuances that helped the Packers win numerous NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls in the 1960’s.
The clock’s been up since July, and the Packers never said anything about it until now. Some people called the team’s offices to report that something was amiss outside 1265 Lombardi Ave.
Team president Mark Murphy said they considered putting the words “Lombardi Time” under the clock – but they wanted to let folks could figure it out for themselves. NBC mentioned it during last Sunday night’s broadcast of the Packer-Detroit game.
The clock is located atop the new Bellin Health Gate at Lambeau. It’s part of the latest $143 million renovation package that was partially funded by additional sales of Packer stock.