Tornado, 80 mph winds, rake SW Wisconsin overnight; groups seek further delay on Voter ID; more West Nile suspected; more briefsWisconsin News
The line of storms that essentially missed Pierce and St. Croix counties delivered a tornado and 80 mph winds in southwestern Wisconsin overnight. Also, three groups fighting Wisconsin's voter ID law are now lobbying the Supreme Court to delay its review until after the November elections. Read on for more state news.
A tornado touched down last night in far southwest Wisconsin, as severe thunderstorms rumbled through the southern part of the state. Grant County authorities said the twister landed near Patch Grove around 7:40 p-m. There were no immediate reports of damage. Numerous trees and power lines fell in much of the southwest quarter of Wisconsin. Eighty-mile-an-hour winds were reported at Red Mound in Vernon County. Some parts of the region had golf-ball-sized hail. Over 11,000 Alliant Energy customers in southern Wisconsin lost their power last night – but by 6 a.m., Wednesday the number dropped to less than 1,000.
In southeast Wisconsin, almost 6,000 We Energies’ customers were without power during the night due to heavy storms. That included around 2,800 customers in Cudahy, just south of Milwaukee. Their electricity was restored late last night. Forecasters expected more thunderstorms Wednesday. They’ll mainly be in the eastern half of Wisconsin. Some could be severe, as a cold front collides with a moist air mass. Highs Wednesday were expected in the 70’s and 80’s. Once the rain clears out tonight, much cooler and drier weather is predicted statewide. Most of Wisconsin might not get to 70 degrees on Friday and Saturday.
Report: Wisconsin has fourth largest school-aid decrease in nation
MADISON -- A new report says most states are giving less aid to public schools than before the Great Recession began. The Center on Budget Policy & Priorities said each Wisconsin youngster started the fall term Tuesday with $911 less in state aid than in the fall of 2007. That’s the fourth-largest decrease in the nation, trailing only Alabama, California, and Idaho.
But Wisconsin is not among 26 states reducing their aid-per-student from a year ago. The Badger State had a slight increase of $3 per youngster. The state covers just under two-thirds of all public school costs.
Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers’ Alliance says local school districts can tax as much as they want, if they can get voters to go along with referendums for state revenue cap exemptions. Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans reduced the revenue cap by 5.5 percent in the current state budget.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said it was necessary to help the state get rid of its budget deficit without raising taxes, cutting services, or having large public employee layoffs.
But Dan Rossmiller of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards called it a “one-year austerity program” that cannot be maintained. His group will push for higher revenue caps in the next state budget – along with more flexibility to cover rising technology and energy costs, and the effects of the state’s newly-required teacher evaluations.
Groups who successfully lobbied to block voter ID rule, now focus on Supreme Court
MADISON -- Three groups that convinced judges to throw out Wisconsin’s voter I-D requirement have asked the Supreme Court not to take over the cases and act on them before the November elections.
The League of Women Voters, the NAACP, and the Hispanic group Voces de la Frontera have asked the justices to reject the attorney general’s effort to reinstate the photo ID law for November.
J.B. Van Hollen says the two circuit judges who threw out the law rejected a constitutional measure that most Wisconsinites support to stop voter fraud. Van Hollen’s agency had asked appellate courts in Madison and Waukesha to overturn the rulings from a pair of Dane County circuit judges but appellate courts have indicated that they won’t have a decision before the November elections.
Van Hollen says the delays quote, “thwart the will of the people.” A legal filing from the League of Women Voters said the Supreme Court had a chance to review the case in April – and the only thing that has changed is the political climate.
The NAACP filing said it would be wrong to restore the voter ID mandate in a “precipitous” fashion, and it would quote, “produce confusion and chaos at the polls statewide.”
Both judges who threw out the .-D requirement said it discourages the poor, elderly, and college students from voting.
West Nile Virus suspected in 7 illnesses
State health officials say seven probable human cases of the West Nile Virus have cropped up between the Madison and Milwaukee areas. Four of those cases were in Milwaukee County, two in Waukesha County, and the other in Dane County.
Wisconsin still has only one confirmed human case of West Nile, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. That was in Dodge County, where the affected patient has recovered after being hospitalized. Officials say the probable cases are in the process of being reviewed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Also, 26 dead birds have been confirmed to have West Nile – but Wisconsin is still getting off easy compared to neighboring Minnesota and Illinois, plus other states in the nation’s mid-section.
The Dallas area reported hundreds of cases earlier this summer. West Nile cases generally peak in August and September in the Upper Midwest.
State officials say about 80 percent of those infected do not get sick and less than one-percent get seriously ill.
DOT seek waiver to avoid Milwaukee station remodel
MILWAUKEE -- State transportation officials say they’ll ask the federal government for a waiver, so it won’t have to spend millions of dollars to remodel Milwaukee’s downtown train station.
Federal officials have pressured the state for several years to rebuild the concourse at the state-owned train station, to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Now, Republican Governor Scott Walker is banking on voters to elect Mitt Romney as president, with the hopes of eliminating the construction mandate.
Former Gov. Jim Doyle was able to get $20 million federal dollars for the project but Walker rejected the money, when he turned down another $800 million to build a new Amtrak line between Milwaukee and Madison.
At first, the Walker administration had designed a less expensive remodeling, to cost as little as $15 million, but last fall, the Federal Railroad Administration adopted more stringent guidelines to help the disabled board trains – and they apply to the Milwaukee project because construction did not begin by last February.
Milwaukee Congresswoman takes stage at DNC
CHARLOTTE -- Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore told her fellow Democrats that she and other women in the House will “fight violence against all Americans” to move the country forward.
Moore spoke at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday evening, sharing the stage with two dozen other female House members and candidates. She called herself a mother and grandmother who made a promise to fight violence at home.
"No victim of domestic violence or bullying – man or woman – should feel unprotected in America.” Moore also slammed efforts by Janesville House Republican and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan to ban federal funds for abortions with the exception, “forcible rape.” The provision was eventually removed.
But Moore said Republicans “even tried to change the definition of rape.” Women’s issues have taken a higher profile after House Republican Todd Akin of Missouri claimed that women’s bodies can prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” First Lady Michelle Obama was Tuesday's featured speaker. Also Tuesday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the Democratic convention had a larger place for mayors than the Republicans did a week ago. Barrett attended a meeting of the U-S Conference of Mayors, where House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi touted Democrats as the answer to cities’ problems.
On Wednesday evening, delegates are expected to nominate President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for their second four-year terms.
DOJ wants to keep $20,000 seized in sports betting
MADISON -- The state wants to keep almost $20,000 that the Justice Department seized from four people suspected of running sports-betting operations over the last decade.
No criminal charges were ever filed but the Justice Department is asking a Dane County judge to declare the money as contraband. If that happens, it will be given to the State School Fund.
Two of the cases are from 2005, and the others are from 2007.
Between $3,800 and $6,800 were seized from each of the four suspects. The Justice Department’s Criminal Investigation unit is currently holding the money.
Suspect at center of school drug ring now free on bond
ANTIGO -- A man accused of supplying illegal drugs sold to teachers in Antigo and Merrill is free on a $5,000 cash bond.
John Hunter, 34, Antigo, made his first appearance in Langlade County Circuit Court Tuesday. He’s charged with 26 counts of manufacturing-and-selling cocaine, and 24 counts of delivering marijuana. All 50 charges are felonies, and Hunter is due back in court Oct. 22nd when the status of his case will be reviewed.
Authorities allege that Hunter ran an operation which sold drugs in Wausau and Bass Lake as well as Antigo – where he allegedly supplied marijuana to former assistant football coach Scot Peterson. Peterson then sold it to fellow school teachers and friends, and he was sentenced to six months in jail earlier this year.
Hunter’s lawyer told a judge that his client has cooperated with officers and that should be taken into consideration. Fifteen people have now been charged in the Antigo and Merrill school drug ring, which authorities uncovered last fall. Most were teachers accused of using pot.
Prosecutors said former Antigo elementary principal and high school football coach John Lund helped coordinate the school part of the operation. He’s scheduled to go on trial Jan.15th.
Langlade County Sheriff Bill Greening says officers have completed their probe into the marijuana ring. They’re now looking to see where and how cocaine was sold. The sheriff said Hunter’s arrest was the initial step in that process, and more arrests are expected.
Illinois man in court for Door County homicides
An Illinois man is due in court Wednesday, after he was charged with killing a woman and her unborn child at a resort in Door County in mid-August.
Brian Cooper, 35, was charged Tuesday with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of third-degree sexual assault. All three are felonies.
Authorities said Cooper brought 21-year-old Alisha Bromfield to a wedding, in the hopes of sparking his own romance – but she was not interested, and prosecutors quoted Cooper as saying he “didn’t want to go home single.” Officials said Cooper choked and sexually assaulted Bromfield in a room at the Sandy Bay Beach Resort in Nasewaupee and he later tried to kill himself before calling 9-1-1 to report the murder.
Acquaintances said Bromfield was several months into her pregnancy – and Cooper was not the father.