Walker's 'State of the State' airs tonight; high court shuns voter ID case; inmate wins lawsuit over 'Nutraloaf'; more state newsWisconsin News
Gov. Scott Walker has hinted that job creation, not cutting taxes, will be his primary focus for the year to come. Also, Wisconsin's Supreme Court has again declined to hear the voter ID case, food prices inched upward 2 percent in the past year, an inmate has won a lawsuit over bad jail food, plus more news from around Wisconsin.
MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his third annual State-of-the-State address at 7 p.m., Tuesday. The speech will be carried on all Wisconsin Public Radio stations. It will also be live-streamed on Walker's web site.
He’s expected to discuss his priorities in general, without giving specific details until he releases his next two-year state budget proposal in February. Walker has talked the most recently about tax cuts. He says he wants a substantial cut in the individual income tax, phased in during the next several years.
Walker also said he would not seek to cut local property taxes but he vows to offer new ways to keep them from going up too much. Walker has also said he wants to improve the state’s infrastructure, continue with public school reforms, and keep working toward his goal to create 250,000 private sector jobs during his four-year term – something he’s way behind on.
Unlike two years ago, Walker has promised not to propose divisive measures like the one that virtually ended public union bargaining two years ago. Walker has also told his majority Republicans in the Legislature to keep focusing on the economy, and not on hot-button social issues or controversial measures like right-to-work.
The conservative Americans for Prosperity says right-to-work can wait for now, while the governor tries to shore up the economy.
High court again declines to hear photo ID case
MADISON -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court said no for a third time yesterday to side-step the appeals courts, and make a quicker decision on bringing back the state’s photo identification requirement for voting. None of the justices signed the ruling, and there was no dissent.
Two Madison judges struck down the Republicans’ photo ID mandate last year, saying it was unconstitutional and it placed an unreasonable burden on the right to vote. Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen disagreed and he appealed the case directly to the Supreme Court, with the hope of reinstating the voter ID mandate for last June’s Walker recall election but the justices said he would have to go through the appellate courts first.
Van Hollen then asked the Supreme Court to review the case again, trying to restore the photo ID law for the fall elections. The court again said no in September, calling the request premature. Van Hollen had publicly accused the appellate courts of dragging their feet on the matter, saying they were “thwarting the will of the people.”
In November, Van Hollen asked the Supreme Court to consolidate the cases, saying the court’s earlier concerns had been addressed but justices disagreed, and the case remains in two appellate courts.
The Second District Court in Waukesha is reviewing a lawsuit won in circuit court by black and Hispanic groups in Milwaukee. The Fourth District Court in Madison is reviewing a suit won by the state’s League of Women Voters.
Domestic abuse calls down slightly; most result in an arrest
The state Justice Department said Monday that almost five percent fewer domestic abuse incidents were reported to police in 2011 than in 2010.
Officials said that almost 29,000 domestic abuse cases were reported to police and referred to prosecutors – about 1,400 fewer cases than the previous year. Almost half the victims were 18- to 29 years old and arrests were made in 71 percent of domestic abuse calls.
Less than one percent of the cases had more than one arrest.
The common penalties for domestic abusers in 2011 were financial things like restitution and fines. Jail or prison confinement was the second-most common punishment and third were behavioral conditions like a ban on possessing firearms, and ordering no contact with a particular individual.
Food prices inched up 2 percent last year
Wisconsin food prices rose by two percent last year.
The state’s Farm Bureau Federation says the market has become stable, after a couple of volatile years when the cost of transporting your food fluctuated.
Energy prices have become a lot steadier and as a result, the prices of 16 basic food items in 30 Wisconsin cities totaled $49.34 at the end of December, about 97 cents more than a year ago and $1.20 less than last year’s national average, according to spokesman Casey Langan.
Also, food prices dropped by a half-percent from October through December in Wisconsin. White bread and whole milk had price increases of seven percent or more in the final quarter of the year.
Flour, bacon, and Russet potatoes all went down by seven percent or more.
Langan says consumers might see higher grocery prices in the New Year as the result of tighter supplies of meat and dairy products.
Settlement of inmate's 'Nutraloaf' lawsuit raises sheriff's ire
MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County sheriff’s officials are crying foul after an insurance company settled a lawsuit from a jail inmate over the food he was being served.
Sheriff David Clarke was hoping to have a trial this week so a judge could back up his decision to serve what prisoner Terrance Prude called a rancid mixture known as Nutraloaf, but sheriff’s inspector Edward Bailey said an insurer for the company that makes Nutraloaf settled the case at the last minute.
Officials have not said how much Prude will receive. Bailey says it won’t case taxpayers anything, but he said more lawsuits would be encouraged because this one was settled.
Food service provider Aramark makes Nutraloaf for jails around the country. It’s made up of things like carrots, cabbage, biscuit mix and a dairy blend.
Prude said it made him so sick that he lost 14 pounds over 19 days and he said there was no reason to punish him with that diet, because he was not a discipline problem. He said he should have been given bag lunches, like other inmates.
In his suit, Prude demanded that the county disclose the recipe for Nutraloaf. Federal Judge J.P. Stadtmueller rejected the request, but a federal appeals court ordered that the recipe be disclosed.
Other courts have ruled that Nutraloaf is not cruel-and-unusual punishment, but the appellate court said Judge Stadtmueller should have punished the sheriff for not saying what’s in the dish.
UW scientist accepts CEO's post with blood research partner firm
MADISON -- A UW Madison scientist has been named the new chief executive officer of the Morgridge Institute for Research.
Brad Schwartz replaces Sang Kim, who said last June he would leave to pursue new career opportunities. Kim was the first director of the Morgridge Institute – a private, non-profit research body that’s part of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the Madison campus.
The facility opened about five years ago to form collaborations between the UW and private businesses on bio-medical projects. Schwartz is an expert in bleeding disorders and blood coagulation. He had left the UW several years ago for a post at the University of Illinois and he returned to Madison two years ago.
He’s been the director of research education with the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Schwartz said he was asked to consider the Morgridge position – and he took it because it can bridge the public-and-private sectors while making new scientific discoveries to benefit Wisconsin.
Loss estimate on burned Hispanic grocery doubled
MILWAUKEE -- Damage estimates have more than doubled at a Milwaukee grocery store that was apparently set on fire 12 days ago. Officials at an El Rey store on Milwaukee’s south side now say about $750,000 in damage was incurred in the Jan. 3rd blaze, more than double the original estimate.
Co-owner Olivia Villarreal said the early damage total reflected mostly the amount of damaged food that had to be tossed out. Since then, officials learned that the building had structural damage, and a false ceiling had to be removed.
Authorities said the blaze appeared to be started from just outside the store. Two 17-year-olds were arrested as persons-of-interest, and prosecutors are still trying to decide whether to file charges against them. A final decision is expected this week. For now, the two are in jail without bond.
The fire occurred at one of three El Rey stores in Milwaukee. Store personnel have been repairing at least the interior and they expect the store to re-open on Friday.
Former Antigo coach-principal strikes plea in drug case
ANTIGO -- Former Antigo football coach and elementary principal John Lund has made a last-minute plea deal to settle his drug-dealing case.
Langlade County District Attorney Ralph Uttke said a trial that was set for Tuesday is off and instead, the 48-year-old Lund will enter new pleas at 9 a.m. today and a date for his sentencing will be set.
Lund is currently charged with seven felony counts of manufacturing and selling marijuana, and maintaining a drug trafficking place. He was accused of helping to sell pot to teachers in Antigo and Merrill.
Lund resigned after he was first charged about a year ago. Authorities said the school business was part of a larger drug ring between Wausau and Bass Lake which also sold cocaine. At least 15 people have been charged, mostly teachers who used marijuana supplied by former assistant football Scot Peterson.
Most teachers have settled their cases with deferred prosecution agreements. Peterson is the only one getting jail time so far, with a six-month sentence.
Only four others still face charges, including John Hunter of Antigo, who is charged with 50 counts of manufacturing and selling both marijuana and cocaine.
Big shareholder scolds Wausau Paper management
MOSINEE -- The largest shareholder in the Wausau Paper Corporation issued a blistering indictment of the company’s management Monday.
The Wall Street investment firm of Starboard Value has pushed for a major restructuring of Wausau Paper ever since it began to accumulate its stock in the spring of 2011.
Last Friday, Wausau said it would sell its long-running paper mills in Mosinee and Rhinelander, plus one in Brainerd, Minn.
Starboard said it was not impressed. It accused Wausau board chairman Tom Howatt of acting in bad faith, by making other stockholders believe that Wausau has a strategy for selling off under-performing paper mills and Starboard said it would be “highly inefficient” for Wausau Paper to keep its headquarters in Wisconsin. Wausau did not comment.
Wausau Paper Corp. plans to divest two of its mills in Wisconsin and one in Minnesota.
The three mills up for sale make paper used for packaging, the food industry, linings and masking tape.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the company will switch its focus to making only tissue and toweling, which are produced at its mills in Kentucky and Ohio.
Last year, Wausau closed its oldest mill in Brokaw, which made paper for printing and writing, eliminating 450 jobs.
Alderman wants criminal charges in 'co-sleeping' death
MILWAUKEE -- A city alderman wants criminal charges against a woman whose seven-day-old son was crushed to death while the two slept on a couch.
Bob Donovan said it would send a strong message that co-sleeping deaths are not accidents, but are caused by neglect and-or abuse. Milwaukee had 10 co-sleeping deaths last year and the first death of 2013 occurred on Jan. 7th. Authorities said the mother had vodka and pain medication the night before and she did not remember taking the child from his father to be fed around 1:30 a.m. A few hours later, the father saw the child dead on the couch with his mother.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Kennedy expects the District Attorney's office to review the baby’s death but charges cannot be considered until toxicology test results on the infant are known in February or March.
No one in Milwaukee has been prosecuted for a sleep-related death since 2009. Rose Prescott was sentenced to two years in prison for being drunk while letting a six-day-old girl sleep with her on a couch. Prescott was convicted of fatal child neglect.
Teen killed after milk-tanker collision
REEDSVILLE -- A 16-year-old Manitowoc boy was killed, and a 47-year-old Chilton man had non-life-threatening injuries when a car and a milk tanker-truck collided.
The crash occurred just before 3:30 p.m., Monday at a rural intersection near Reedsville. Authorities said the car was going west on San Road when it drove through a stop-sign and collided with the southbound milk truck on CTH J.
The truck driver was taken to a Neenah hospital. The victims’ names were not immediately released.
The State Patrol was reconstructing the accident as part of an investigation.
-- Damon Ryan, WOMT, Manitowoc
Four collared after Edgerton home invasion
LAKE DELTON -- Four people have been arrested in Lake Delton, after they allegedly invaded a home near Edgerton and stole 30 guns, cash, and a pick-up truck.
Rock County authorities said two men entered the home late Friday night, held a man and a woman at gunpoint, and demanded that a safe be opened. The amount of cash taken was not disclosed. The homeowner’s truck was found abandoned in Janesville on Saturday.
Yesterday, two men and two men – all in their 20’s – were arrested. Authorities said they were in a stolen car that was spotted in the Wisconsin Dells area.
Police said four people ran out of the moving vehicle as it was about to come to a stop. Two were arrested immediately, and it took an hour-and-a-half to find the other two.
Meanwhile, Rock County officers said they were working with investigators in Walworth County to determine if the suspects were involved in burglaries in that county recently.
Superior police seek man claiming to be 'Officer Darg'
SUPERIOR -- Police in Superior are looking for a man who impersonated an officer and obtained a woman’s personal information by stopping her for a traffic violation.
According to police, the man stopped the woman’s vehicle around 1 a.m. Monday and asked for her license, registration and proof of insurance.
He went back to his vehicle, which had blue-and-red flashing lights, and then told the woman that her insurance was not up-to-date. She was free to leave at that point and she called 9-1-1 a short time later to ask about her traffic stop.
Officials did not have a record of it and they have no officer with the name he provided, “Officer Darg.”
He was wearing a Superior Police baseball cap with dress pants and a T-shirt with the label “SPD.”
He was in his mid-30’s, and the woman said she did not see a firearm and or a police badge on him.