April 20, 2014

More Wisconsinites hitting rock bottom.

Another sign of the economic blues, bankruptcies are way up in Wisconsin. Bankruptcy petitions are up nearly 40 percent in Wisconsin this year, as the economic downturn finds more people overwhelmed with mortgage payments and credit card debt. Dane County bankruptcy attorney Michael Lambert says there are some tragic cases. Lambert recalls one elderly man, who had "a ton of debt," as a partcularly sad case. "They had these collection peope calling him, and he'd get so nervous that when they called him, he'd faint. I filed for him just to get the creditors off his back." Lambert says many elderly people are running up big credit card bills just to pay for food or medicine. Some younger people, he says, have three jobs, and they're still going under.

Rodgers signs long term deal with Packers

Aaron Rodgers The Green Bay Packers have signed QB Aaron Rodgers to a long-term contract extension through the 2014 season.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson said, "As we talked about in the past, we try to be proactive in our discussions with our current players and we felt like this was an appropriate time to try to come to an agreement with Aaron."  "We feel like this is good for the organization and the players, and we will continue this approach as we move forward."

Rodgers was the Packers' first-round draft pick in 2005.  He has started all seven games for the Packers this season and has thrown for 1,668 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 98.8 passer rating.

Details of the new contract were not released.

Dems denounce AG's polling place plans

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's plan to post state Department of Justice employees at polling places around Wisconsin is drawing fire from Democrats.

"There is no role for the attorney general in this," Governor Jim Doyle said Friday. "There is a whole system of poll watchers and of how we assure there is a good election, and I have no idea what the attorney general thinks he is going to do on top of that, when he says he is going to send special agents into polling places."

Van Hollen's DOJ will send some 50 Division of Criminal Investigation agents and Assistant Attorneys General to polling places in communities across the state. While not providing specific locations, Van Hollen spokesman Bill Cosh said those polls will be in Milwaukee, Madison, Beloit/Janesville, Racine/Kenosha, Waukesha, Superior, Green Bay, Eau Claire, Appleton/Fox Valley, La Crosse, Hudson and Wausau/Stevens Point.

A joint statement was issued Thursday by Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte and DOJ Division of Legal Services Administrator Kevin Potter, who serve as Coordinators of Van Hollen's Elections Task Force."The Attorney General and Department of Justice have express authority to enforce the state's election laws, including those laws that govern what happens on election day," the statement reads. "Locating Department of Justice staff around the state will ensure that we are available to assist local District Attorneys and law enforcement in the event they have questions or request assistance on election related issues."

Doyle took issue with those assertions. "There is no authority to do that," the governor told WIBA. "It is completely outside the election laws. He has not consulted with the elections officials in any way about this."

Also stepping into the fray Friday, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who sent a letter to Van Hollen asking him to reconsider his decision. "If, however, you decide to proceed with these plans, I ask that you provide detailed information about how Department of Justice employees will be deployed, including the locations to which they will be deployed, how those locations were chosen, and a detailed description or copies of the instructions these employees will be given," Feingold wrote."In order to try to ensure that legitimate voters are not discouraged or intimidated by your actions, I also encourage you to ensure that criminal law enforcement personnel are not deployed at polling stations. It is widely acknowledged that the presence of criminal law enforcement personnel at polling stations may discourage and intimidate legitimate voters – even where the intent may be to facilitate voter access."

Van Hollen's office has pointed out that former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager similarly sent DOJ personnel to polling places on Election Day, 2004. "I don't know whether that was right or not," said Doyle. "I was attorney general for 12 years, and I never did it. My understanding is that Attorney General Lautenschlager did it in consultation with the elections officials."

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Joe Wineke on Friday issued a second press release critical of Van Hollen's plans. "Van Hollen is pulling these agents away from their real jobs to investigate fabricated stories about widespread voter fraud," said the DPW release. " There is no widespread voter fraud in Wisconsin, as Republican U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic has already confirmed following a thorough investigation."

AUDIO: Gov. Jim Doyle (:60 MP3)

Agreement could expand health care in WI

The Doyle administration has reached an agreement with the federal governmemnt, on plans to expand health care access in Wisconsin.

It's the next big step, for BadgerCare Plus . Under the proposal, those who are uninsured and who do not have children under their care may now have access to primary and preventive care. The five-year federal waiver proposal builds upon Wisconsin's existing BadgerCare Plus program.

"Today we cleared one of the final hurdles on the way toward my goal of providing access to health insurance for 98 percent of Wisconsin residents," Governor Jim Doyle said. "However, the significant downturn in the national economy, and its effect on the state's fiscal situation, will challenge our ability to quickly extend this program."

Doyle thanked U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, along with the rest of the Wisconsin delegation, for their bipartisan work to encourage the federal government to support this new health care plan that will benefit some of the state's hardest working residents.

"The bipartisan commitment between Madison and Washington on this issue has been remarkable," said Ryan . "BadgerCare Plus epitomizes Wisconsin's proud tradition of reforming our social safety nets though innovation and empowerment."

"It's no secret that along with other financial worries, Wisconsinites face skyrocketing health care costs." said Baldwin ."In this difficult economic climate, many are forced to delay health care until it is critically necessary and even more costly. With this approval, our state's innovative health care system takes another step forward, ensuring that many more Wisconsinites have access to basic health care services."

The state and federal government are currently working to finalize the waiver. Once the plan is finalized, the state will use federal funding that previously supported uncompensated care to provide health insurance coverage to low-income adults.

"Because of this waiver, an estimated 81,000 adults in the state will finally have access to the health care they need," said Feingold . "This approach to lowering the number of uninsured in the state without increasing costs demonstrates once again that Wisconsin is a leader in creating innovative solutions to some of our country's most complex health care challenges."

Income-eligible adults, from age 19 through 64 who do not have children or do not have dependent children under age 19 living with them, may be able to enroll in the BadgerCare Plus Core Plan, which will cover basic health care services, including primary and preventive care as well as generic drugs. Every adult who applies to the program will have to complete an online health needs assessment before the application can be submitted for approval, and all members must receive a comprehensive physical exam within the first year of being enrolled in the program. 

Obama spending "in the red"

A new report by the Wisconsin Advertising Project states Democrat Barack Obama is hitting Republican John McCain on his home turf. Obama has outspent McCain 3-to-1 during the week of Oct 21-28. That's not including the Democrat's infomercial this week. Nearly 75% of that is being used in traditionally Republican states, according to Jacob Neiheisel Deputy Director of the Advertising Project. He says it's got the Arizona Republican trying to keep up in the red states by focusing most of his spending there.

Neiheisel says Obama has trumped McCain in Wisconsin, spending a million dollars compared to the GOP nominee's $200,000 in the state.

In fact, several markets in Wisconsin were among the top areas in the US where the Illinois Democrat spent the most.

AUDIO: Brian Moon reports (MP3 :58)