News 4/16/2010

Former Governor Won’t Run for Senate

4/16/10 – Tommy Thompson will not run for U-S Senator Russ Feingold’s seat this fall. He announced his decision to reporters just before he spoke at a Tea Party rally at the State Capitol in Madison early this afternoon. The 68-year-old Thompson said his family didn’t want him to run. Several polls indicated that Thompson would beat the Democrat Feingold head-to-head. After the news of Thompson’s decision had been announced Feingold issued a statement that read in part, “I’m disappointed that Secretary Thompson decided not to get in the ring. I’m sure there will now be talk about other candidates getting in this race, but it’s my hope that the election can now be focused where it should be – on the issues important to the people of Wisconsin…” Other G-O-P Senate hopefuls expressed sighs of relief, after speculation yesterday indicated that Thompson would not take the plunge. Madison developer Terrence Wall said he hoped Thompson would endorse him. His campaign has the most money on hand of any Republican hopeful. Most of it came from his pocket – and it’s only about a quarter of what Feingold had in his war-chest at the end of March.

BDUSD & BDEA Come to Tentative Agreement

4/16/10 – The Beaver Dam School Board and the teachers union have reached a tentative contract agreement for the next two years. Negotiations between the two parties took longer than normal due to the uncertain nature of the economy and the state’s current fiscal crisis. Officials say a key portion of the agreement allows the two bodies to continuing to working together to better not only the development of the teachers but also their role in virtual and online academic programming. The district expects the new deal to be ratified early next month.

Stebbins Enters into Plea Agreement

4/16/10 – A Westby man charged with sending sexually-explicit pictures to the cell phone of a 14-year-old Lomira boy entered into a deferred prosecution agreement yesterday. Kelvin Stebbins waived his right to a preliminary hearing and entered a no contest plea to the felony charge of Exposing A Child To Harmful Materials. According to the criminal complaint, the mother of the child is in a custody battle with Stebbins and she reported the pictures to her brother, a Dodge County Sheriffs Deputy. The 39-year-old Stebbins told investigators that he and his former wife often exchanged text messages of a similar nature. Stebbins says she told him that her cell phone was broken and she would be in possession of the 14-year-olds phone. She says he made up that story. If Stebbins complies with all of the terms in the agreement he will not face further penalties.

Diedrich Sentenced

4/16/10 – A Cascade man charged with burglarizing the Bottom’s Up Tavern in Mayville was sentenced to two years in prison yesterday. 23-year-old Tyler Diedrich pleaded no contest to a felony charge of being a party to a burglary. He had another charge dismissed but read into the record. Diedrich and another man, 27-year-old Charles Sramek, allegedly broke into the tavern in March of 2009 and stole about $1000 in cash. Sramek is also charged but authorities have been unable to locate him since the incident. Diedrich was also ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.

Winter Utility Bills Down 20% from ‘09

4/16/10 – The winter heating season ended on a warmer than normal note in March. That’s according to numbers recently released by Alliant Energy, the parent company of Wisconsin Power and Light. They say the average customer’s bill was nearly 21-percent less last month compared to March of 2009. That resulted in a saving of 24-dollars. For the overall winter heating season, which runs from October 1st to March 31st, the average customer saw their bill drop 20-percent compared to 2009, a difference of nearly 170-dollars. WPL serves much of northern Dodge County as well as parts of Columbia, Green Lake, and Fond du Lac Counties.

Raw Milk Sales Move Closer to Reality

4/16/10 – The selling of raw milk in Wisconsin is one step closer to being legal. The state Senate approved the measure 25-to-8 yesterday. It now goes to the Assembly, where a vote is expected next week. Supporters say raw milk offers numerous health benefits, including an improved immune system – and consumers should have the freedom to drink it if they choose. But opponents said un-pasteurized milk has the potential to carry bacteria such as E-coli. Beloit Democrat Judy Robson said we don’t appreciate public health until we don’t have it. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau told senators the entire dairy industry would be tarnished if just one person gets sick from drinking raw milk. But Assembly Democrat Chris Danou of Trempealeau says there’s widespread support for the bill in both rural and urban areas. The product could only be sold from people’s farms – and it can only be advertised there as well. Governor Jim Doyle said he could approve the measure if the circumstances were right.

Crabb: National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

4/16/10 – Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of Madison says the National Day of Prayer is un-constitutional, because it violates the First Amendment’s ban on laws establishing religion. Crabb ruled yesterday in favor of Madison’s Freedom-from-Religion-Foundation, which filed suit against the White House to end the president’s annual proclamation. Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor called the decision courageous. She said it invades Americans’ freedom of conscience when the president tells them to pray. The Justice Department says it will review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal it. Jordan Sekulow, an attorney for a legal group started by evangelist Pat Robertson, is confident Crabb’s decision will be overturned. He says it does reflect the mainstream of judicial thinking throughout the country. Crabb says her decision will not be enforced until all appeals are exhausted. So the White House said it would declare the National Day of Prayer for May sixth. The day had its origins in 1952, when the Reverend Billy Graham called for such an event. Congress passed a law in 1988 setting the first Thursday of May as a National Day of Prayer. Former President George W. Bush held activities on that day. President Obama ended those events, but he still issued the declaration and encouraged Americans to pray on their own.

Bankruptcy Filings Rise in 1st Quarter

4/16/10 – The recession might be over, but Wisconsin’s economic troubles drag on. We got another stark reminder of that yesterday, when federal court records showed that bankruptcy filings rose by 20-percent from January through March. Just over 61-hundred bankruptcy petitions were filed in the past three months – up 51-hundred in the same period a year ago. Most were Chapter-Seven filings, which wipe out consumer debt like credit cards and doctor-bills. The recent filings even topped those from the first quarter in 2005 – when folks were scrambling to declare bankruptcy before Congress made it tougher to do so.

State Unemployment Rate at 8.8%

4/16/10 – Wisconsin lost 22-hundred jobs last month on a seasonally-adjusted basis. And that drove the adjusted unemployment rate up one-tenth-of-a-point from February to eight-point-eight percent. But the news was not all bad. The state added about 25-hundred factory jobs last month on both an adjusted and actual basis. And without the adjustment, the state had a net gain of 49-hundred jobs during March. Also, the state’s jobless rate is almost a full point lower than the national adjusted rate of nine-point-seven percent. Local and county jobless figures will come out later in the month.