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April 27, 2015

Walker not feeling pressure to announce presidential plans

Gov. Scott Walker addresses an NRA convention in Tennessee.

Gov. Scott Walker addresses an NRA convention in Tennessee.

Despite several Republicans announcing they are running for president in 2016, Governor Scott Walker says his attention remains on other priorities.

Even though several Republicans have already made their plans public, Walker says he’s not feeling any pressure to push up his decision. During a stop in Appleton this week, Walker said “I’m focused on the state budget. I won’t make any decision until after the budget is complete.”
That may not happen until the end of June.

While he’s not an announced candidate, the governor hs continued to travel the country to speak with conservatives. He said he’s been getting good feedback on his message during those trips and has found that “certainly people want leaders who both fight and win for hard-working taxpayers.”

The governor is on the road again this weekend, with several stops planned in Iowa.

Madison man pleads not guilty to trying to join terrorist group

Joshua R. Van Haften

Joshua R. Van Haften

A Madison man accused of trying to join the Islamic State has entered a not guilty plea.

Appearing in a US District Court in Madison Friday morning, 34-year-old Joshua Van Haften plead not guilty to a charge of attempting to provide material aid to the enemy. Prosecutors allege Van Haften traveled to the Middle East in an attempt to join the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, also known and ISIS or ISIL.

Van Haften was arrested earlier this month after he returned to the United States from Turkey, following a failed attempt to join the group in Syria. U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil asked that he be kept in custody while awaiting trial.

Van Haften faces up to 15 years in federal prison if convicted. He’s due back in court May 27.

Assembly Republicans promise action on Badger Exam bill

File photo

File photo

Republican leaders in the state Assembly say they plan to take up legislation by the middle of next month that will keep the results of a controversial state exam from being used against teachers and schools.

Efforts are already underway to replace the Badger Exam with a new test by next year, although many schools are still having students take it this spring. State Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) is the sponsor of a bill that would keep the results from being used in report cards and teacher effectiveness evaluations.

The Sturgeon Bay Republican said at a Capitol news conference Thursday that the results would still be posted online, which would allow schools and parents to review them. Kitchens said he hopes schools can still get some value out of this spring’s exams “as a good practice run” for using an online-based exam.

The bill is similar to one the state Senate already approved. Republican leaders say they hope to pass it out of committee and bring it to the floor by mid-May.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) also said they are exploring potential legal action against the company that designed the test, since they question whether it will be able to deliver on everything it was contracted to provide.

Wisconsin DNR tells 57 employees their jobs are at risk

The state Department of Natural Resources has sent out letters to 57 employees who could lose their jobs if proposed cuts remain in the state budget.

DNR spokesman Bill Cosh said the letters are an initial step and that the agency is only at the beginning of the layoff process. As a result, he said it is too early to know how many staff may actually be impacted.

Cosh noted that being placed “at risk” does make a number of benefits and job training opportunities available to those who were sent notices.

Any cuts to DNR staff are not expected to be finalized until after work on the state budget wraps up later this summer.

Avian influenza found in Chippewa County

Photo: Wisconsin DNR

Photo: Wisconsin DNR

State Agriculture officials have confirmed another outbreak of avian influenza in Wisconsin.

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says the H5 avian influenza has been detected in an 87,000 bird turkey flock in Chippewa County. It marks the fourth time the strain of the virus, which is lethal to domestic poultry, has been found in Wisconsin.

The property has been placed under quarantine and the birds will be destroyed. State ag officials say the strain of the virus is of low risk to public health. Birds from infected operations will not enter the food supply.

Since it was first discovered in a commercial chicken flock in Jefferson County on April 13th, 310,000 birds have been impacted by the virus. More than a million turkeys and chickens nationwide have been destroyed because of the virus since January.