November 28, 2014

Invasive algae found in southeastern Wisconsin lake

(Photo: U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center)

(Photo: U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center)

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has confirmed a new invasive algae called starry stonewort has been found in a lake in Waukesha County. The DNR says routine monitoring turned up the European algae in Little Muskego Lake. 

The algae was found for the first time in the Great Lakes area 31 years ago. 

The DNR is working with local officials to come up with a response to the discovery.  Using a plant harvester might contain the invasive algae to that section of the lake, while education and monitoring efforts will be used to try to keep it from spreading.

State Tourism Department launches annual ‘Big Bundle Up’ campaign

(Photo: WI Dept of Tourism)

(Photo: WI Dept of Tourism)

The state Tourism Department is urging Wisconsin residents to help those in need bundle up this winter.

The agency is once again launching its annual Big Bundle Up’ campaign. The effort seeks to collect coats, hats, and other warm clothing at drop-off sites around Wisconsin.

Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett says just about any new or gently used items are welcome. Local officials will determine where those donations go, allowing support to stay within the area where it was donated.

This is the fourth year for the campaign, and Klett says she’s always happy to see so many generous donations. More than 32,000 items were collected in the first three years of the campaign.

You can find a full list of drop-off sites on the Department of Tourism’s website.

Assembly Speaker names Republican members of Wisconsin budget committee

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (File photo: WRN)

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (File photo: WRN)

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has named the six Republican who will serve on the Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee next session. Among them will be three new faces and three who served on the panel last session.

Marinette Republican state Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) will take on another session as co-chair of the panel charged with crafting the state budget lawmakers will vote on, while Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) will serve as the Assembly vice-chair. Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) was also reappointed to the committee.

New faces on the committee will include Republican Representatives Michael Schraa of Oshkosh, Amy Loudenbeck of Clinton, and Mary Czaja of Irma.

Speaker Vos is the first legislative leader to announce his choices to serve on JFC next session. Senate Republicans will share control of the panel and will name their own six members. Democrats will have four seats overall, with two coming from each chamber.

Many Wisconsin public school unions vote to recertify

WRN File photo

WRN File photo

State officials have released the unofficial results of recertification votes held by school district employee unions.

Votes were held statewide this month for 305 unions representing public school teachers, support staff, and custodial workers. According to results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, all but about 20 of the units met the requirement for 51 percent of the eligible members to vote in favor of recertification. Unions that failed to recertify can continue to exist, but are no longer recognized by districts and can’t negotiate wage increases tied to inflation.

The state’s largest teacher’s union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, says 97 percent of its member units seeking to recertify were successful in doing so. However, almost half of its groups decided to not even hold votes this year.

The annual votes are required under Act 10, Governor Scott Walker’s signature law that drastically change the collective bargaining powers of unions. The results will be sent to each unit, which will have about eight days to file any challenges.

Latest John Doe email release details coordination

Gov. Scott Walker (WRN file photo)

Gov. Scott Walker (WRN file photo)

Another round of documents from a now ended John Doe investigation in Milwaukee County continues to show how staff in the county executive’s office worked with Governor Scott Walker’s 2010 campaign.

The county on Tuesday released 70,000 pages of emails and other records seized during the probe, which looked into allegations of illegal campaign work being done on county time and embezzlement. The investigation resulted in six convictions.

The latest round shows a continued pattern of Walker’s office staff when he was Milwaukee County Executive working with his campaign to coordinate issues such as the release of information to the public and responses to media requests, including allegations of sexual abuse at a country-run mental health complex. Many of the conversations were conducted using private email accounts while workers were at their taxpayer-funded jobs.

Milwaukee County has been releasing the documents in chunks as they finish reviewing them and removing any sensitive personal information that might be included.