October 31, 2014

DNR focuses on education over enforcement

Devil's Lake State Park (File Photo: Jackie Johnson)

Devil’s Lake State Park (File Photo: Jackie Johnson)

The head of law enforcement for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says a recent drop in citations should not be a seen as a sign the agency is any less-committed to enforcing the state’s environmental laws. Rather, Chief Conservation Warden Todd Schaller says it should be viewed as just one piece of a three-pronged approach aimed at getting the public to “follow the rules” and respect Wisconsin’s natural resources.

An analysis done by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation found a 28 percent drop in citations issued by the DNR between 2011 and 2013, after Governor Scott Walker took office. Schaller says those numbers went down though because the agency has been focusing more on community involvement and education to stress the importance of conservation.

AUDIO: Chief Warden Todd Schaller (:30)

Schaller says “we have discretion and our ultimate goal is compliance, so I think each case is handled based on the circumstances and the situation.” He notes that wardens would be quick to act on the law enforcement end if someone was putting state resources at risk, but adds that working to educate the public about state rules and regulations is sometimes more effective than writing a ticket.

Dane County judge orders release of training videos

A Dane County judge says the state Department of Justice must release two training videos that feature the Republican candidate for attorney general, Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, even though the agency argues that making them public could put public safety at risk and violate the privacy of crime victims.

The two videos are of training sessions Schimel performed for fellow prosecutors. The state Democratic Party sought their release, along with video of three other sessions, based on claims that they may include objectionable statements made by Schimel. The DOJ says videos of the other sessions does not exist or could not be located.

After reviewing the two tapes, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess said he found nothing offensive on them and ordered them to be released by Friday afternoon, unless the state appeals. If the DOJ does challenge the decision, another hearing is expected on Monday…the day before Schimel faces Democratic candidate for attorney general Susan Happ in a hotly contested election race for attorney general.

Happ, Schimel cite experience in final attorney general debate

Democrat Susan Happ and Republican Brad Schimel meet on stage in their final debate. (Photo: WRN)

Democrat Susan Happ and Republican Brad Schimel meet on stage in their final debate. (Photo: WRN)

The two candidates for Wisconsin attorney general focused on their experience as county prosecutors, as they met Wednesday night in their third and final debate of the campaign. Appearing at the State Bar of Wisconsin offices in Madison, Republican Brad Schimel and Democrat Susan Happ said they want to make public safety a priority, if elected.

Schimel said his work as the district attorney in Waukesha County has prepared him for the issues facing the Department of Justice. Citing a history of establishing task forces, running training sessions for prosecutors statewide, and operating a large law enforcement operation in his role as D.A., Schimel said “I’m ready to go statewide, and I’ve got a footprint that demonstrates I can do it already.”

Happ, the D.A. in Jefferson County, pointed to her own experience as a prosecutor and running her own law office as more than preparing her to take on the role of heading the Department of Justice.

Schimel and Happ are running to replace outgoing Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who decided not to seek a third term in office. Both candidates have been the targets of attack, from their opponent and outside groups. Happ was critical of Schimel during Wednesday’s debate for mischaracterizing her record. “I think the tone and tenor of the campaign has gotten awry,” Happ said.

One area where both candidates do find common ground is on the challenge the next attorney general will face in continuing to battle a growing heroin epidemic in the state. Schimel pointed to his experience fighting the problem through drug courts and task forces, remarking that “I have met with dozens of parents who’ve buried their children…and I’m tired of it. And because of that, I got out in front of this years ago.”

Happ said many smaller counties need more resources to battle the problem, pointing to her own efforts in Jefferson County. “When we don’t have the experience or the staff necessarily to provide services to law enforcement or to bring information to our citizens, sometimes we can struggle.”

Schimel and Happ face each other in next Tuesday’s election. The most recent Marquette University Law School poll shows Schimel leading 43-39 percent among likely voters, although 14 percent of voters are still undecided in the race.

State coordinates with hospitals to treat potential Ebola cases

(Image: CDC)

(Image: CDC)

State health officials have determined where any patients who contract the Ebola virus will be sent and has set up transfer plans to get them there.

There have been no diagnosed cases of Ebola in the state and, while State Health Officer Karen McKeown maintains that the risk of anyone contracting the virus in Wisconsin remains extremely low, health care providers have been preparing for the possibility of it happening. Through drills and educational efforts, she says those health partners have been working to make sure they are able to quickly identify and start the treatment of any patients who come through their doors.

McKeown says the state has also identified four hospitals that are best equipped to handle any cases of Ebola; the UW and American Family Children’s Hospitals in Madison, along with Froedtert and Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee have agreed to treat any possible cases in the state. She says those facilities have demonstrated preparedness, and “have the ability to treat a patient with confirmed Ebola throughout the entire course of the disease without interrupting their normal patient care activities.”

GAB says teen not eligible to vote day before 18th birthday

The state Government Accountability Board says a Grafton teenager, whose 18th birthday is on November 5th, will not be able to vote in the election next week.

While Zachary Ziolkowski’s birthday is the day after the election, his father argued he actually turns 18 on November 4th and should be allowed to vote. Based on a common law interpretation in one of the high school student’s textbooks, Tim Ziolkowski said “since one is in existence on the day of his birth, he is in fact on the anniversary of his birth of the age of one year plus a day.”

Members of the GAB disagreed though, and rejected a request for an opinion stating the teen should be able to vote next Tuesday. Agency director Kevin Kennedy said the Statewide Voter Registration System has always based eligibility on a person’s actual date of birth, noting that none of the state’s municipal clerks would be able to even register him to vote before his actually birthday.

Zachary told the board he wants to be able to vote so his opinion can be heard, and because everyone else is allowed to do it when they turn 18. The GAB says he will have to wait until the next election that comes after his 18th birthday.