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Air boat once called 'pork' rescues fishermen

The Bush administration once called it an example of pork barrel spending. But an air rescue boat bought with federal funds in 2002 saved the lives of two ice fishermen near Ashland last weekend.

Mike Popko and Skip Wick were among up to 75 people fishing on thick ice at Saxon Harbor when the ice started to break. The 80-year-old Wick and 61-year-old Popko, both of Saxon, held on for dear life as they got trapped on individual ice floes that rolled and crashed in waves as high as 12 feet.

They were trapped for two hours before the Ashland Fire Department's fan-powered "Ice Angel" air boat saved them.

Former Congressman Dave Obey took on the Bush administration in seeking federal funds for the rescue boat. When the money was approved, Obey called it a triumph for public safety.

Ashland Fire Captain Chris Bulovsky said it's a big deal for his area. He said Obey took it on as a pet project and, "God bless him. It has worked out pretty well."

Bill giving governor more control advances

A bill to give Gov. Scott Walker a big say over bureaucratic rules has passed in a legislative committee.

The Assembly's judiciary panel voted 5-3 Thursday to send Walker's regulatory reform package to the full house.

Administrative rules are designed to carry out the laws passed by the Legislature.

Walker contends that many rules strayed too far from their original intent, and Wisconsin's business climate has suffered because of it.

Under the new bill, Walker would have to approve all administrative rules before they can go to the Legislature for a final review.

Supporters say the measure creates more accountability. Opponents accuse Walker of a power grab.

The regulatory reform bill now goes to the full Assembly.