Wisconsin roundup: Minn. man pleads not guilty in death of UW-Stout student; state budget briefings begin; 8 more state news stories
MENOMONIE — The Minnesota man accused in the beating death of a UW-Stout student from Saudi Arabia has pleaded not guilty.
Twenty-seven-year-old Cullen Osburn of Minneapolis is facing felony murder and aggravated battery charges in the death of 24-year-old Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, who died from a brain injury last October following an altercation in downtown Menomonie.
Osburn appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court Monday. Alnahdi came to UW-Stout from Saudi Arabia to study English as a second language. A preliminary hearing is set for April 20.
State budget briefings begin
MADISON — We're expected to learn more this week about Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget.
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee will begin three days of briefings Tuesday, in which agency leaders will spell out their spending and policy plans for the next two years. GOP Senate finance Chairwoman Alberta Darling has promised a thorough review of the budget Gov. Scott Walker proposed in early February — and among other things, the governor wants add millions of dollars in areas he previously cut, like state aid to public schools.
Darling says there's at least some concern that Walker's proposed 5 percent UW tuition cut is not sustainable — and he has also proposed $600 million in tax and fee cuts, along with a controversial plan not raise fees for new highways. The GOP finance chairs have also raised concerns about Walker's budget plan to have the state provide its own health insurance for state employees, instead of letting 17 private HMOs do that.
Trump to review Obama limits on state power plant emissions
WASHINGTON — The White House says an executive order will be issued Tuesday to review an Obama policy that would have cut Wisconsin's power plant emissions by 41 percent.
Officials say President Donald Trump also plans to rescind other measures aimed at reducing the effects of climate change, to fit into his plans to increase domestic production of fossil fuels and have America create more of its own energy. Wisconsin was among 27 states that filed suit against the emission limits — which the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily struck down while a legal review continues.
State agencies were working on ways to cut coal fired power plant emissions until 13 months ago, when Gov. Scott Walker halted that work. Walker has said Wisconsin was one of the hardest hit states in the Obama plan, due to the state's abundance of coal plants — while some environmentalists say it's irresponsible for Trump to move away from efforts to fight climate change.
State panel seeks to abolish work permits for teens
MADISON — A Wisconsin panel has endorsed a bill to end the requirement that 16-and-17-year-olds get state permits and parental approval to get jobs.
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 Monday to advance the measure. Assembly Republican Amy Loudenbeck of Clinton says it would help teens with absent parents support themselves — while Milwaukee Senate Democrat Lena Taylor says it would remove a major protection for young people.
The finance panel also voted 12-4 against a plan to help buy 10 acres to preserve a natural area in Dane County — and it voted unanimously in favor of spending $11 million more each year to help underserved areas get high speed Internet service.
Wisconsin photojournalist detained in Russia
MOSCOW — A photojournalist who graduated from UW-Madison says he was surprised to be detained while covering some of the large anti-government protests in Moscow.
Alec Luhn said he spent more than five hours in police custody for holding an "unsanctioned rally," but he was let go without being charged. Luhn, who's from Stoughton, graduated from Madison in 2010 and is now a photographer for The Guardian newspaper of Britain.
There were reports of 1,000 arrests during the demonstrations in the streets of Moscow, and Luhn wrote that the "treatment of peaceful protesters was shocking." Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 15 days in jail Monday for organizing the protests and resisting police orders — and he was fined $350.
Trial set for alleged United Way diaper thief
OSHKOSH — An Appleton man is scheduled to go on trial May 23 after he pleaded not guilty to helping steal 1,700 cases of diapers from a United Way warehouse.
Forty-two-year-old Jason Havel pleaded not guilty Monday to a Winnebago County charge of felony theft. Prosecutors say Havel and 52-year-old John Forbes of Neenah were apparently planning to sell the diapers they allegedly stole at a facility in Fox Crossing — diapers that were supposed to go to the needy in the Fox Valley. Forbes is scheduled to enter a plea to his felony theft charge on May 15.
Walker to ask Trump to allow drug tests for Badger Care recipients
MADISON — If Gov. Scott Walker has his way, childless adults would have to pass drug tests to receive Badger Care, the state's major Medicaid program.
The Republican Walker plans to ask the federal government to let the state limit Medicaid to 48 months for able-bodied adults up to age 49 — charge as much as $10 per month to single adults below the poverty line making at least $2,500 per year — and give breaks on premiums to those who don't engage in risky behaviors like smoking. Walker plans to release his full package in mid April, take public comments for one month, and then send a final request to Washington.
The governor told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it would encourage more people to get jobs. But Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families called the premiums "punitive" and says they'd be hard to collect.
Finance panel endorses 7 more drug abuse bills
MADISON — Seven more bills aimed at fighting opioid and heroin abuse in Wisconsin have been endorsed by the state Legislature's finance committee.
All seven measures were among 11 included in a special session on the topic. The panel voted 16-0 in favor of the bills — some of which would pay for up to three regional opioid treatment programs. They would also create a new charter school for recovering addicts, give counties $2 million per year to treat drug and alcohol offenders, hire more state Justice agents for drug trafficking cases, and give mental health training to schools and teachers. Lawmakers have passed numerous measures in recent years to address abuses of heroin and opioids.
Incumbent Evers has big money edge in superintendent race
MADISON — Wisconsin voters will decide one week from Tuesday whether to keep state school Superintendent Tony Evers on the job for another four years.
The two term incumbent has raised more than twice as much campaign money than his challenger Lowell Holtz since early February. The Evers camp says it has raised $218,000 from Feb. 7 through March 20 while Holtz — a former school superintendent at Beloit and Whitnall — raised $87,000.
Evers has $75,000 on hand, and Holtz $30,000. The superintendent's post is officially nonpartisan, but Evers has received financial support from a number of local Democrats, while Holtz has received similar support from Republicans.
Oshkosh teen accused of making threat against elementary school
OSHKOSH — Oshkosh Police say a 14-year-old boy was taken into custody following the investigation into a threat against Webster Stanley Elementary School.
Television station WBAY reports that investigators say the 14-year-old sent a "private electronic message" that contained a threat to the school. The recipient of the message contacted police. Officers arrested the Oshkosh boy on Saturday. Police say that there is no current threat to the school or public safety. The teen was placed in a hospital on a 72-hour mental evaluation.