April 16, 2014

Conservation Congress voters back trolling, ban on deer baiting

The results of the spring Conservation Congress hearings are in, following the annual hearings that were held Monday night in all 72 counties across the state.

State Department of Natural Resources liaison Kari Lee-Zimmermann says more than 7,000 people took part in the voting on a wide range of fishing and hunting-related issues. Those that gained a majority of support included banning deer baiting and feeding 10 days before the November gun hunt and allowing motor trolling on lakes statewide. Issues rejected by voters included a tundra swan hunting season and legalizing the harvest of white and albino deer.

Lee-Zimmermann says it’s an opportunity for the state and the public to get a “better feel” about the support that’s out there for these possible changes in the future.

All of the votes are advisory. Outside of a proposed rule-change on trolling, all of the other issues included on the ballot would require legislative action.

Walker launches re-election bid (AUDIO)

Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

Citing the creation of over 100,000 new jobs in the state since he took office, the nearly $2 billion in tax cuts passed by the Legislature, and a UW tuition freeze, Governor Scott Walker began making his case this morning for another four years as governor.

Walker officially announced his re-election bid during a rally in Dane this morning at a manufacturing plant. The Republican touted the progress made to “turn around” the state during his first term in office, saying “over the last few years we’ve had to make some tough decisions…but the good news is they’ve paid off.” Walker says he’s not done yet, and he wants his second term to focus on efforts to “reduce the dependency on government and increase the dependency on hard work and personal pride.”

AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker

Walker faces a challenge from Democrat Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and executive at the Trek Bicycle company. In statement from her campaign, Burke said “Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin is falling behind. In job creation, we are 35th in the country and second to last among Midwestern states. Worse still, we are one of the worst in the country in new business starts.”

Walker pledged during his 2010 campaign that he would help the state create 250,000 jobs during his first term. It’s a promise Walker is expected to fall short on fulfilling and one Democrats are likely to hit him on along the campaign trail. Walker did not mention the pledge Tuesday while kicking off his re-election effort.

Walker was joined by Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who also announced she is seeking another term.

Kramer makes court appearance

Bill Kramer

Bill Kramer

State Representative Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) is free on a signature bond, after making his first court appearance on two felony charges of second-degree sexual assault.

His attorney reiterated to reporters that the 49-year-old Kramer will plead innocent to the charges, which stem from a 2011 incident where he’s accused of groping a woman’s breasts following a Republican fundraiser in Muskego. Kramer told police he kissed the woman goodnight, but denied groping her. He’s expected to enter his not guilty plea at a preliminary hearing on May 15th.

The sexual assault allegations surfaced earlier this year after Kramer came under fire in the Legislature for two incidents that allegedly took place during a GOP fundraiser in Washington D.C. Kramer, who is the former majority leader in the state Assembly, was accused of groping a woman during the event and sexually harassing another.

Republicans stripped Kramer of his leadership role following the Washington incident and have called for him to resign, which his attorney has said he has no plans to do before his term expires next January. Kramer is not seeking reelection this fall to the seat he’s held for nearly eight years.

Protecting yourself from ‘Heartbleed’

An exploit in a popular piece of online software should have many people thinking about changing their passwords. It’s known as ‘Heartbleed‘ and it’s essentially a back-door in a popular software encryption program that can be used to view encrypted data on computer servers, such as user names and passwords.

Many companies have moved quickly to patch the code since the problem was discovered earlier this week, but there are likely several services out there that might be slow to respond. Nick Davis, an Information Security Architect with the UW-Madison, says that could sensitive data at risk, if businesses have failed to patch the bug.

So far, there’s no evidence the security hole has been exploited, but Davis says it’s a good reminder for people to change their online passwords. He says people should doing that anyway every month or so, even if there’s currently no threat out there.

Davis also suggests getting in the habit of logging in to online accounts at least once a day to check for any unusual activity. While banks and other financial institutions have improved their methods of watching for online identity theft, spotting a problem quickly can make a big difference in minimizing the damage.

UW System President responds to longer tuition freeze

The president of the University of Wisconsin System says he wants to work with the governor and Legislature to create the best budget possible for the university. That’s how Ray Cross responded today, after Governor Scott Walker said he wanted to freeze UW tuition through the summer of 2017.

Walker said he was concerned about a surplus in the UW System that’s projected to be over a billion dollars by the end of the school year. Walker and GOP lawmakers imposed the first tuition freeze a year ago, after being blindsided by reports of large university cash reserves while tuition kept going up 5.5 percent.

While Cross on Friday agreed with Walker’s sentiment, he also signaled there could be some reservations about the plan. In a statement, Cross said “Holding college costs down helps Wisconsin students and families.” However, he also noted that “UW tuition is already lower than many peer colleges and universities.”

Cross said “We intend to thoughtfully and judiciously manage and explain our resources. We will continue to work with the Governor and the Legislature to meet our shared goal of delivering value to the state of Wisconsin.”

The governor said he would include another two-year tuition freeze in his next state budget in early 2015, if he’s reelected this fall. GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he expects his colleagues to consider the tuition freeze while working to assure a quality university system. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald also supported a continued freeze, as did both chairs of the Legislature’s finance panel.