Photo ID requirement unlikely for November elections; study says state's casino market is saturated, plus more briefsWisconsin News
Voters probably won't be required to bring along a photo ID to their polling place Nov. 6th. Also, the state's Secretary of Corrections is resigning due to health reasons and several former V.A. officials have been awarded six- and seven-figure settlements in a discrimination lawsuit, plus stories about a Baldwin-Thompson debate tonight and a study that says more casinos wouldn't net any more revenue for the state or Native American tribes.
MADISON -- Wisconsin voters will probably not have to show their photo ID’s at the polls on Nov. 6th. That’s what attorneys on both sides of the issue are saying, after the State Supreme Court refused Thursday to immediately consider bringing back the ID mandate for the presidential contest.
Two judges in Madison struck it down earlier this year, saying it discourages minorities, the poor, the elderly, and college students from voting, but Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen disagreed and he challenged both rulings before a pair of appellate courts.
A few weeks ago, Van Hollen asked the Supreme Court to take over both cases, so he could try to get the law back in place for November, but justices said Thursday that the request was premature, because initial appellate briefs had not been filed in one of the cases. Van Hollen conceded that the photo ID mandate will not be in place in November but he still has a last-second opportunity to try again in mid-October.
Attorney Rich Saks, who represents two groups that challenged the law, says it’s almost certain that ID’s won’t be required in November and he called the Supreme Court’s delay a “terrific victory for voter rights.”
Van Hollen says he’ll continue to fight to have the law upheld, because he still believes it’s constitutional. Republicans approved it last year, but it’s only been used once – and that was in the local primaries in February.
Corrections leader resigning due to health issues
MADISON -- The head of Wisconsin’s prison system is leaving. State Corrections Secretary Gary Hamblin said Thursday that he’ll resign on Oct. 26th to attend to health concerns involving him and his wife. Hamblin said he had prostate cancer surgery 12 years ago, but the condition has returned and his wife Susan has been getting treatments for a blood cancer.
Hamblin said it’s not easy to leave public service but “It’s time to think about my family.”
Hamblin, a former Dane County sheriff, was part of Gov. Scott Walker’s original cabinet in January of last year.
He’s the second cabinet secretary to announce his resignation this month. Paul Jadin, head of the state’s Economic Development Corporation, said he would leave Nov. 1st to become the new head of a regional economic group in the Madison area.
Baldwin, Thompson meet in debate tonight
MILWAUKEE -- The two major candidates for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat will debate each other for the first time tonight.
Republican Tommy Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin will appear in a statewide radio and TV forum sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation. It starts at 8 p.m. and will originate from Milwaukee.
Thompson hopes the debate will help him restore his presence before the voters something the former governor lost because he had to raise money after a hard-fought GOP primary in August.
The most recent Marquette poll showed Thompson trailing Baldwin by nine points, after he led by that much in August.
Karl Rove’s political action committee is helping Thompson’s profile with $1.9 million for new ads which attack Baldwin, the Madison House Democrat who’s been advertising heavily herself since the primary.
Friday night's debate is the first of three among the major Senate hopefuls. The others will be held next month.
Study: Wisconsin's gambling market saturated
A new study shows that Wisconsin’s Indian casino market is saturated, and new gambling houses would just take money away from the current ones without helping the state’s economy.
The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute found that there’s an overall flat demand for casino gambling, at a time when the federal government is considering plans for new off-reservation casinos at Kenosha and Beloit.
The study’s author, UW Green Bay professor Daniel Alesch, says new gaming halls will only result in more competition in the forms of higher prizes and smaller profits – and some casinos could end up closing.
The report was released Thursday, the same day that state auditors said the profits from Wisconsin’s 25 casinos rose 4.3 percent last year, to almost $567 million. The tribes are required to give some of their profits to the state and those payments totaled $52 million last year, up from $50.75 million the year before.
Total revenues were down at the casinos. The state said they brought in almost $1.2 billion last year, a drop of over 2.5 percent.
Alesch argues that any new casino would sap revenues from another gaming house and the state government’s total take would probably not increase, either. But Menominee tribal chairman Craig Corn says it still makes sense for his group to open a casino at Kenosha because if it doesn’t, gamblers from that area would play in nearby Illinois.
The Potawatomi tribe disagrees. It has argued for years that a new Kenosha casino would take $150 million a year from the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee.
Former V.A. leader, two others win settlements from discrimination claims
MADISON -- A jury awarded $1.8 million dollars this week to a former state veterans’ affairs official who said he was reassigned because he supported a discrimination claim by a colleague.
Gary Wistrom signed an affidavit which confirmed that former Veterans’ Secretary Ken Black told a meeting in 2010 that he wanted to get rid of “old white men” from the agency. After those comments, Black fired Randall Nitschke as the commandant of the State Veterans’ Home at Union Grove. And a few days later, Black reassigned Wistrom from Union Grove to a job 110 miles away in Madison with no explanation.
Wistrom said he was forced to retire because his daily commute from Union Grove was painful due to his disabilities. He said Black – an African-American – targeted him because he was 60 years old and white, and because he supported Nitschke.
Black resigned in April of last year, after denying that he used age-and-race in making his personnel decisions. The state Justice Department defended Black, and said it was disappointed in the verdict.
Attorney Peter Fox said he was proud to represent Wistrom, who’s a 30-year Air Force veteran. Fox said Wistrom received the due process that the country provides, and that he fought so hard to protect while in the military.
The Justice Department also said Nitschke was awarded $180,000 to settle his state and federal discrimination claims and former National Guard spokesman Tim Donovan was awarded $282,000 after he claimed he was passed over for a job in Black’s department because he was white.
'Aporkalypse'? Farm Bureau downplays pork shortage predictions
For many, breakfast or burgers are nothing without bacon and despite some dire predictions of a bacon shortage, the Farm Bureau says there’s nothing to fear.
The National Pig Association of Britain sounded the alarm this week about a worldwide bacon shortage. Comedian Stephan Colbert called it “Aporkalypse.”
But economist John Anderson of the American Farm Bureau Federation is not concerned about a pork shortage even though he expects supplies to decrease slightly going into next year. The USDA expects America’s pork supplies to drop by 1.3 percent in the next year, with consumer prices for things like bacon and other meats to rise about 4 percent.
Anderson says that’s not much more than what you could expect in a normal year.
Death toll from domestic violence falls
MADISON -- The death toll from domestic violence has gone down in Wisconsin.
The state’s Coalition Against Domestic Violence said 37 homicides and three suicides were attributed to domestic violence last year. That’s down from 51 homicides and seven suicides the previous year – and 52 murders and 15 suicides in 2009. That year marked a 10-year high for domestic violence deaths.
Shannon Barry of Dane County’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Services was hard-pressed to explain the large decrease last year. She hopes it means that victims are getting help at an earlier stage after the abuse begins. The state coalition plans a silent march around the State Capitol on Monday. A ceremony will then take place, where the names of last year’s victims will be read.
Deer in Waukesha, Dane, and Sauk counties test positive for EHD
MADISON -- A number of dead deer in Waukesha, Dane, and Sauk counties have tested positive for a disease that’s made a bigger than normal presence in the Midwest.
The Wisconsin DNR said Thursday that samples from the animals were found to have epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.
Residents have been reporting small clusters of dead deer in parts of southern Wisconsin in recent weeks and EHD was confirmed earlier this month in Rock and Columbia counties. Officials say test results are still pending from dead deer found in Marquette, Jefferson, and Iowa counties – as well as some more deer from Columbia County. Those results are expected in the next couple of weeks.
EHD is transmitted by midges when they bite. Officials say it causes internal bleeding in deer, but it does not affect humans. The disease has spread into southern Wisconsin after being confirmed in over a dozen other states this year – including Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana.
The outbreaks are expected to end once the first hard frost comes.
Wisconsin’s EHD cases are the first since 2002, when 14 deer died from the disease in Iowa County.
Official apologizes for not disclosing federal complaints involving WEDC
MADISON -- A top aide to Gov. Scott Walker apologized Thursday for not being more open about federal complaints involving the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch told the agency’s board members in a conference call that he should have told them about the federal concerns earlier. He said it was a mistake to assume that it was premature to say anything.
It was reported earlier this week that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wrote a scathing letter to the state in August. It said the economic development agency spent almost $10 million dollars in federal funds without proper authority – it transferred $8.5 million in federal money within its accounts without approval – and it failed to check the economic conditions of two companies that were given federal aid.
The administration department’s chief lawyer, Greg Murray, said the state is not at risk of losing the federal money but said some challenges had to be resolved.
One board member – Paul Radspinner – said he should have learned about the matter from department administrators instead of from the news media.
He wrote Walker and said he might resign if the communication doesn’t improve. Radspinner said Thursday that Walker called him and thanked him for his comments.
Regal-Beloit says it will cut up to 85 jobs at its plant in Springfield, Missouri
BELOIT -- A Beloit company says it will lay off 80-to-85 employees at a plant it owns in Springfield, Mo.
The Regal-Beloit plant makes components for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems. Officials say most of the products at the Springfield plant are in demand during Missouri’s hot summer – and the firm hopes to bring back employees next spring when the demand should pick up again.
Regal-Beloit is shutting down the plant’s second-and-third shifts. Most of the layoffs involve full-time workers.
Portage County couple accused of stealing Social Security checks from mother
A Portage County couple is due in court this afternoon on charges that they cashed Social Security checks belonging to the woman’s mother for up to three decades. Delores Disher, 69, and Ronald Disher, 71, will find out if they’ll be ordered to stand trial in a state court on forgery and fraud-related charges.
Ronald Disher is also charged with reckless endangerment, battery by a prisoner, and disorderly conduct for allegedly attacking a sheriff’s deputy who searched his home near Almond earlier this month.
Delores Disher is the daughter of Marie Jost, who continued to get Social Security checks after she was apparently missing for 30 years. Prosecutors say there’s no evidence she’s still alive but authorities say the Dishers and Marie’s son Charles Jost kept cashing Marie’s government checks.
The three were arrested on Sept. 5th. Charles Jost – who’s 66 – was ordered this week to undergo a mental exam to see if he’s mentally competent to stand trial and help with his defense.