Snowfall at Osseo was nearing a foot by sunrise; Court will rule on same-sex benefits; Walker advocates GPS bracelets, makes peace with Evers; more briefsWisconsin News
Heavy snow across Wisconsin's beltline has already been blamed for two deaths and is expected to snarl travel for at least another day. Also, the Fourth District Appeals Court will likely rule today on whether the domestic partner registry entitles same-sex couples to many of the benefits afforded traditional married couples. Read on for more state news.
National Weather Service forecasters say most of Wisconsin will continue to get moderate- to heavy snow all the way through Thursday and into the evening and that's bad news for places that have already had up to a foot dumped on them since Wednesday night.
Northfield in Jackson County said it got 12 inches of snow by 6:35 a.m. and Osseo reported 11.2 inches as of 6:45. A Madison TV station measured 8.9 -point-nine inches outside its studios. Howards Grove in Sheboygan County had 7 inches at last word, and West Bend had drizzle along with about 6.25 inches of the white stuff.
Up to 18 inches are predicted along a path from southwest to central to east central Wisconsin. All but the far northwest tip of the state is supposed to get at least three inches.
Wind gusts have reached the 20’s and 30’s in about the southern half of the state. Forecasters say most of the state could get gusts up to 45 mph and blizzard-like conditions when a low that’s now in Missouri moves closer to Wisconsin later Thursday.
The storm has already claimed two lives. Two men from Footville were killed last night when their vehicle slid on an icy Highway 11 in Rock County and hit an oncoming semi-truck.
Sheriff’s deputies said Jaime Paiz-Gutierrez, 41, and Guadalupe Ortiz, 45, both of Footville, both died at the scene. The truck driver was taken to a Janesville hospital with minor injuries.
The crash happened near Footville, which is about 10 miles west of Janesville and not far from Edgerton, which reported sleet as well as more than five inches of snow between Wednesday night and early
Appeals court may decide same-sex couple rights today
We could find out today whether same-sex couples in Wisconsin will continue to have dozens of legal rights.
The state’s Fourth District Appeals Court in Madison is scheduled to rule on a challenge to the state’s domestic partner registry.
The Wisconsin Family Action group says the registry violates the state’s constitutional ban against gay marriage and civil unions. It was formed in 2009, and a circuit judge in Madison ruled last year that it’s constitutional. The registry allows same-sex couples to receive up to one-fifth of the nearly 200 benefits that married couples get in the Badger State. That includes the right for partners to visit each other in hospitals – and to make end-of-life decisions.
The case has been kicked around the courts ever since the domestic partner registry took effect – and before. The Family Action group first asked the Supreme Court to strike it down before it could take effect but the justices said the group had to use the normal channels of going to the circuit court first.
After the law was upheld there, Family Action appealed the ruling to the Madison appellate panel – which refused to rule on it, and kicked it upstairs to the Supreme Court. The justices said the appellate court had to make a ruling, and that’s what we expect today, weather permitting.
Former legislator Fields named to Social Development Commission
MILWAUKEE -- A state legislator who lost his re-election bid in August will serve on Milwaukee’s Social Development Commission.
Gov. Scott Walker named Jason Fields to the 18-member panel Wednesday. The appointment came less than a week after the board of the anti-poverty agency had a major shake-up – and some board members had criticized Walker for not showing enough of a regard for what the commission does.
The Republican governor went almost 18 months without appointing anyone to the SDC. Walker said Fields, a Democrat, has a strong dedication to the people of Milwaukee – and it’s exactly what the commission needs.
Fields served eight years in the Assembly before losing to Mandela Barnes in last summer’s Democratic primary. A group called Wisconsin Progress said it took credit for the defeats of Fields and 29-year Assembly veteran Peggy Krusick.
Fields went against his party by supporting private school vouchers for low-income kids – which the Wisconsin Progress group opposes.
Walker favors GPS bracelets for abuse suspects
MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker says domestic abuse suspects who are under restraining orders should be placed on global positioning system monitors, so victims can know if their abusers are close by.
Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he’s still working on the proposal and it might be included in the next state budget he’ll submit to the Legislature in February.
The governor is under pressure to support gun law changes in response to last week’s school massacre in Newtown Connecticut but Walker says he wants to wait until more is known about the causes of that tragedy and he wants to see what President Obama asks Congress to approve.
Obama has said he would spell out of his gun control measures in the next few weeks. In the meantime, Walker says he’ll address reforms that could avoid a repeat of the Sikh Temple shootings in Oak Creek by white supremist Wade Michael Page and the October murders of three women in a Brookfield spa by one of the victims’ estranged husband.
Walker said he’s cautious to say that any reforms would prevent any violence because quote, “nothing’s fool-proof.” But Brookfield gunman Radcliffe Haughton was under a restraining order at the time of the slayings and nd if he had worn a GPS bracelet, Walker said his wife could have known he was coming.
Earlier this year, Walker signed a law letting judges put violators of restraining orders on GPS if they’re found to be likely to cause harm to the person who sought the order. That law takes full effect in 2014.
Deadline passes for S.S. Badger to cease ash-dumping
MANIOWOC -- A federal deadline came and went Wednesday for the S.S. Badger to stop dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan, when it carries cars and people from Manitowoc to Ludington Michigan.
The 60-year-old ferry is the last steamship of its kind operating on the Great Lakes and it’s been under orders to find a cleaner way to handle its emissions. The company says it’s looking at alternatives, but it needs more time. After getting a four-year grace period in 2008, the Badger says it needs another EPA permit renewal or it will have to shut down.
The EPA says it will make a tentative decision on a permit by March 1st, and will then issue a final ruling after taking public comments.
The agency says it has received about 6,000 letters and e-mails about the subject – many from residents of the Manitowoc and Ludington areas who say it’s part of their heritage, and it should be preserved.
Congressmen for those two areas tried to sneak an extension into a budget bill, but it didn’t work. They say the economy of the two areas is at stake.
A competing ferry, Milwaukee’s Lake Express, says it doesn’t get special treatment from the government and the Badger shouldn’t, either. The Badger issued a statement Wednesday vowing it will run in 2013, and they’ll keep working with the EPA to make it happen.
Walker won’t criticize Evers for signing a recall petition
State public school Superintendent Tony Evers says he has no regrets about signing a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker and Walker says he won’t hold it against Evers, as the governor decides whether he’ll endorse anyone in next spring’s election for state superintendent. Evers is running for a second four-year term next spring, and he’s being challenged by State Assembly Republican Don Pridemore of Hartford. Walker said yesterday that he’s still trying to decide whether to endorse either of the candidates – and he won’t let his decision be affected by Evers’ signing a recall petition. The superintendent was among the 900-thousand people who petitioned for a recall election against the Republican Walker earlier this year – which Walker won by seven points. Evers had been critical of Walker’s proposal to virtually end collective bargaining by most public unions, a move that was since overturned for public schools and local governments. Walker also cut K-to-12 school funding by $800 million but later, the governor and Evers worked together on a number of issues – including new school performance standards, early childhood screenings for literacy, and a new program that allows non-traditional students to use their life experiences toward college credits
Walker and Evers both say their politics have not always been aligned, but they’ve found ways to work together.
Newtown shootings spurring copy-cat threats
Authorities across the nation are trying to put a clamp on copy-cat incidents and threats, in the wake of last Friday’s school massacre in Newtown Connecticut.
In Wisconsin, the Pewaukee School District evacuated students from its middle-and-high school building Wednesday afternoon.
Superintendent Jo Ann Sternke said the threat was aimed at the high school and while officials did not believe it was credible, the youngsters were evacuated anyway as a precaution.
All afternoon and evening activities were canceled at Pewaukee High and the entire Pewaukee district is closed Thursday due to the snowstorm and the expected blizzard conditions.
Five inches of snow had fallen by 6 a.m. at nearby Sullivan.
Service will remember homeless dead
GREEN BAY -- A memorial service was planned in Green Bay and three other Wisconsin cities Thursday, to remember homeless people who died on the streets.
The St. John the Evangelist homeless shelter normally holds the annual service on the shortest day of the year.
Laura Robinson is the shelter’s ministry team coordinator. She says they’ve identified five people who died in the last year while being homeless. A candle will be lit for each of those people, along with a sixth to represent those who went unidentified or unnamed.
Similar memorial services are planned in La Crosse, Racine, and Kenosha.
Robinson tells Wisconsin Public Radio that the homeless have much shorter life expectancies than others – and they’re more likely to be victims of violence.
The Green Bay Catholic Diocese oversees the shelter, which is only open during the cold weather season. Around 60 people have spent the night there this fall and Robinson says more people are expected later in the winter at Green Bay shelters which already have waiting lists.
Waterloo man gets 7 years for possessing almost 40 pounds of drugs
A southern Wisconsin man has been sentenced to seven years in a federal prison, after he admitted possessing almost 40 pounds of drugs.
Chad Ruenger, 33, of Waterloo was arrested in May, when he was caught with 35 pounds of marijuana, three pounds of hashish, and three handguns.
He pleaded guilty in October to federal charges of possessing marijuana with the intent to sell, and possessing firearms while drug trafficking.
In a related case, 27-year-old Josh Campbell of Madison will be sentenced next month after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute pot.
Three men from Fairfax California are scheduled to go on trial in late March on drug possession and conspiracy charges in the same sales ring.