Wisconsin roundup: Walker budget plan roll-out includes stop in New Richmond; Menomonie murder suspect extradited; 10 more state news stories
MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker will make another quick tour of Wisconsin Thursday and Friday to promote the two year, $76 billion state budget he proposed Wednesday.
He's starting in Milwaukee with a speech at the annual Governor's Conference on Economic Development -- and he'll then head to technical colleges in Appleton, Wausau, and La Crosse where he wants to freeze tech school tuition for the next two years. Stops include one in New Richmond, though details on when or where that visit will be weren't immediately released by the governor's office.
On transportation, Walker's budget would scrap an expansion of Interstate 94 in Milwaukee, while moving forward with other delayed projects that include I-94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois line, Highway 15 in the Appleton area, and Highway 18/151 at Madison. Democrats say the GOP governor's large increase in school funding does not erase all the cuts he made in past budgets, saying he's trying to look good to his potential voters for 2018. Walker again vowed to veto any tax or fee hike for highways -- but he did allow for higher admission and camping fees at state parks.
Suspect in UW-Stout student's death completes extradition
MENOMONIE — A man accused of killing a UW-Stout student from Saudi Arabia is scheduled to make his first Wisconsin court appearance Thursday afternoon.
Twenty-seven-year-old Cullen Osburn of Minneapolis is charged with felony murder and aggravated battery in the death of 24-year-old Hussain Alnahdi on Oct. 30, 2016, as the bars were closing during a Halloween celebration in downtown Menomonie. Officials say the two were arguing when Alnahdi was punched twice -- and he might have his struck his head on a building as he was falling.
Osburn was arrested near Minneapolis, and he fought extradition until he finally waived it last week. He arrived in Menomonie Wednesday from a Minneapolis jail, and he's due to have a bond hearing in Dunn County Circuit Court.
Sudden warmth to hit Wisconsin
By tomorrow afternoon, it could be 40 degrees warmer than it was Thursday morning in parts of Wisconsin.
The National Weather Service says a high pressure system will push much warmer air into the state Friday with, with a high of 43 in River Falls – which straddles the St. Croix-Pierce county line – after bottoming out Thursday morning at zero. In Eau Claire, it was one below zero at 7 a.m., with a high of 41 expected Friday. T
he Weather Service says there's a chance of light snow Thursday night in advance of the warm air -- and cloudy skies Friday will keep the warm air from vanishing. In the meantime, folks are shivering with wind chills as low as 25 below in Antigo as of 7 a.m.
Walker budget includes DNR reorganization
MADISON — The state Department of Natural Resources would be reorganized as part of Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget.
It would reduce the number of divisions within the agency, and move some responsibilities to other departments and private outfits, similar to what DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp recently proposed. It would not split the agency into separate divisions for environmental and sporting matters, as suggested by Assembly Republican Adam Jarchow of Balsam Lake.
Private outfits would do some of the legwork for reviewing environmental permit requests, but officials say the agency will still have the final say on those. Walker's budget also calls for a feasibility study on having the agriculture department act on permits for larger dairy farms instead of the DNR -- which was criticized in a state audit last year for not having enough oversight of those farms.
Wisconsin senators vote with parties on Sessions
WASHINGTON — Wisconsin's two United States senators have voted with their parties on the confirmation of fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions to be the nation's new attorney general.
Republican Ron Johnson voted yes and Democrat Tammy Baldwin voted no Wednesday, as part of a 52-47 overall vote in which Sessions' Alabama colleague Joe Manchin was the only one to jump ship from his party and go with the Republicans. The final vote came after 30 hours of debate in which Connecticut Democrat Elizabeth Warren was forced to sit in silence for impugning Sessions. He planned to resign from his Senate post late Wednesday night so he could be sworn in Thursday morning as the new head of the U.S. Justice Department.
Walker budget cuts school mandates but forces Act 10 compliance
MADISON — The proposed state budget would eliminate a number of mandates for Wisconsin public schools -- but it would force the Madison district to comply with Act 10, or give up $16 million in new state aid.
Gov. Scott Walker's budget would make public schools limit their employee health insurance contributions to 88 percent of premiums, and it would apply to all schools instead of just those using a state plan. The Wisconsin State Journal says Madison appears to be the only one of the state's 424 districts affected -- and school officials say they need to review the proposals before responding.
The Walker budget would also end mandates that include minimum hours for class time, five year renewals for teacher licenses, and having school boards meet once a month. It also ends the eight-year-old state revenue cap exemption for school energy projects -- after districts used it to exceed their revenue limits by 327-million dollars last year alone.
Lawmaker tries again to criminalize lying on license applications
MADISON — A Republican state lawmaker is trying again to make it a crime to lie on an application for a state professional license.
Assembly Republican Scott Allen of Waukesha has reintroduced his bill from two years ago, which passed the Assembly but did not get a vote in the Senate. Allen sprung into action after we learned that Francis Deisler was given a state license as a social worker after being convicted of raping three females and robbing a bank in the 1970s.
The state bans lying to obtain state licenses, but there's no punishment for doing so -- and Allen's bill would make lying a criminal misdemeanor with fines of up to $10,000 and nine months in jail. Legal Action of Wisconsin opposes the bill, saying it's too broad -- and it would force all of the law's alleged violators to travel to Madison where charges would be prosecuted.
Son accused of interfering with police probe of parents' deaths
EAU CLAIRE — A 22-year-old man is free on a signature bond after he was arrested for allegedly interfering with police at a home in Eau Claire where his parents were found dead.
Joseph Lantz had a bond hearing Wednesday as prosecutors have yet to file charges because a police investigation continues into the deaths of Dean and Karie Lantz. Their son was booked on possible counts of disorderly conduct and obstructing police. Prosecutors say Lantz drove around two traffic barricades with his truck, and was tackled by officers before he could enter his parents' house.
WQOW-TV says police are still looking at possible threats against the couple, and there may have been a loaded gun where the bodies were found Monday. Joseph Lantz is due back in court next Thursday, when charges could be filed.
GOP lawmakers promise thorough review of Walker spending plans
MADISON — Republican state lawmakers promise a thorough review of the spending plans from their party's governor.
Scott Walker gave them a two year state budget proposal Wednesday with almost $600 million in tax and fee cuts that include a sales tax holiday at back to school time, and millions in income tax and property tax cuts. Senate finance chair Alberta Darling says some of her GOP colleagues believe Walker's 5-percent reduction for instate UW tuition is "unsustainable" -- and she promises that the Joint Finance Committee will "dig in" and see how much of Walker's spending plans are "responsible," as the budget also adds millions in areas he cut previously like public schools.
Democrats say the budget is based on financial projections that are too rosy -- and one report says it would create a shortfall of as much as $735 million just months after the 2018 election for which Walker is considering running for a third term.
State Senate votes to end labor agreements for local public projects
MADISON — Wisconsin senators have approved a controversial bill to prohibit local governments from making contractors follow union labor agreements for public building projects.
The Senate voted 19-13 Wednesday to send the measure to the Assembly, as all Democrats voted no. The bill's sponsor, Wauwatosa Republican Leah Vukmir, says local officials can still use the so called "PLA" agreements -- but Democrats say local leaders may not get the best value for their work. The bill's supporters have said it would give non-union contractors a better chance to bid for public work, but opponents have said it would reduce the workers' wages in the end.
State safety agency makes quick reversal on fire sprinkler cutbacks
MADISON — Wisconsin's safety agency abruptly changed course Wednesday and decided not to end a requirement that fire sprinklers be installed in new apartment buildings.
Deputy Secretary Eric Esser announced the reversal two hours after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first posted a news story about the change on its website. The original story said fire sprinklers would no longer be required for apartment structures of three to 20 units, and there would not be an expansion of required circuit interrupters in new housing.
Both changes were suggested by a study panel the agency formed, but department officials had rejected both changes. By midday, Esser said the circuit interrupter expansion has not had a final decision yet.
Wisconsin Senate passes marijuana-extract bill
MADISON — The state Senate has overwhelmingly approved a measure that would make it legal to use a marijuana extract to treat seizures.
Television station WBAY reports that the bill legalizes the possession of cannabidiol oil with a doctor’s certification. The chamber on Wednesday adopted the bill on a 31-1 vote. Republican Senator Duey Stroebel was the only senator to vote against it. Parents of children who suffer from seizures say cannabidiol oil, which doesn’t produce a high, can ease symptoms.
Democratic Sen. Chris Larson argued the bill doesn’t go far enough, pointing out that importing the oil into Wisconsin would remain illegal. He tried to amend the bill to allow production of the oil in the state but Republicans refused to revise the measure. The bill now goes to the Assembly.