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April 21, 2015

Ongoing drought ignites State of Emergency in Wisconsin

Abnormally dry weather conditions, high winds, and low humidity are causing an increased likelihood of wildfires throughout the state. As a result, Governor Walker has issued an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency.

Tod Pritchard is with Wisconsin Emergency Management. He says the declaration proactively gets the paperwork done … just in case. “It’s really planning for the worst and hoping for the best. It’s a classic example of that.”

The risk of significant large fires is expected to extend at least through the end of May. While some individuals might see wet yards after a rainfall, Pritchard says that’s not enough to drown the drought. “A shower here or a shower there certainly helps a little bit, but it’s not going to make up for the deficit.”

Pritchard says it’s important to use common sense, for example, fulling extinguishing campfires, avoiding throwing cigarettes out car windows, and taking caution when burning debris.

In addition to calling the Wisconsin National Guard to assist in wildfire prevention and suppression, Governor Walker has asked all state agencies to be ready to help in potential wildfire response and recovery efforts.

To ensure prompt response to any threat, the DNR is currently monitoring weather conditions and fire behavior, and fire departments and fire suppression resources are on high-alert.

Wisconsin National Guard to help with Avian flu

The National Guard is being called upon to help with the Avian Flu outbreak. Governor Scott Walker signed the order.

Avian influenza virus has been detected in three Wisconsin poultry flocks, affecting tens of thousands of chickens and turkeys, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

State Veterinarian Paul McGraw announced a ban late Friday to prohibit moving poultry to shows, exhibitions, and swap meets in Jefferson, Barron, and Juneau counties. There is no threat to humans. The state veterinarian, through DATCP, requested up to 14 Guard personnel be made available for immediate assistance.

Assistance from the Wisconsin National Guard is necessary because federal resources are thin, due to avian influenza virus outbreaks in other states, particularly in the Midwest.

Walker’s approval rating falls, top choice for GOP president nod

Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rating has gone down since last fall.

Among registered voters in Wisconsin, 56 percent of those surveyed in the latest Marquette University Law School poll say they disapprove of how Walker is handling his job as governor, with 41 percent saying they approve. “That’s a significant drop from in October just before the election — 49 approved 47 disapproved,” explains poll director Charles Franklin. “So, approval has come down eight points, disapproval has gone up nine points over that period.”

Franklin points out the potential presidential candidate enjoyed higher approval ratings after his gubernatorial election, but before the budget announcement and the ramp up to his presidential bid. “What happened in January looks sort of like a typical honeymoon after a reelection. Now we have two polls post-budget, post-presidential, both showing a significant decline.”

Walker downplays poll results via phone from Europe.

Walker leads among GOP hopefuls in the 2016 presidential race 

Among Republican-leaning Wisconsin voters, Governor Walker is the top choice for the GOP presidential nomination with 40 percent support, according to the latest Marquette poll. “Not surprising for a home state governor, Walker leads all of the other Republican candidates by 30 or more points,” explains Franklin.

Among Democratic-leaning Wisconsin voters, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads the pack with 58 percent. In a possible presidential matchup, Franklin says Clinton is ahead of Walker in Wisconsin, 52 to 40 percent.

Voters were asked whether any governor can campaign for president and still be able to handle his or her duties as governor. “Most folks say ‘no, really can’t.'”

Specifically, 67 percent say that can’t happen; 29 percent say a governor can do both. Overall, 34 percent of registered voters say they would like to see Walker run for president while 62 percent would rather he not run.

Johnson trails Feingold in U.S. Senate race

In a possible 2016 U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson trails former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, according to Franklin. “Feingold has a significant lead, 54 to 38 for Johnson. This is the first time we’ve asked a horse race match-up between the two.”

Johnson unseated Feingold in the 2010 election. Feingold hasn’t announced any attempt to get his old job back, but Franklin says the numbers show Feingold has not been forgotten.

Bucks arena not favored by those surveyed

The poll shows strong opposition to borrowing $150 million for a new downtown Milwaukee Bucks arena. Governor Walker had suggested $220 million in bonding, but Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos think something along the lines of $150 million in financing is more likely. Seventy-nine percent of Wisconsin voters oppose that much money for the sports facility, with 17 percent supporting the proposal. “People don’t like that,” Franklin says.

Poll results show support for the arena is a little higher in the counties surrounding Milwaukee, but only 9 percent of the rest of the state supports borrowing for an arena, with 88 percent opposed. Support for the arena in the Milwaukee media market is at 29 percent, with 67 percent opposing.

This poll was taken April 7-10, interviewing 803 registered Wisconsin voters, by both land-line and cell phone. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Red Flag Warning, extreme fire danger in most of Wisconsin

redflag_480x640Officials with the National Weather Service and Wisconsin DNR issue a Red Flag Warning in much of Wisconsin.

Dry conditions are causing a very high to extreme fire danger in 39 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has set burning restrictions in those areas and is suspending burning permits until conditions improve. A Red Flag Warning is issued when a variety of weather factors come together to create especially dangerous wildland fire conditions.

Officials are asking everyone in the Badger State to use extreme caution during these unusually dangerous conditions. Campfires, outdoor grills, smoking, chain saws, off-road vehicles or other small engines have the potential to throw a spark and ignite a dangerous and destructive fire.

In conjunction with the Wis. Department of Natural Resources, the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for today until 8 p.m. for the following counties: Green Lake, Dane, Barron, Polk, St. Croix, Dunn, Chippewa, Pepin, Pierce, Taylor, Rusk, Marathon, Portage, Waushara, Waupaca, Marquette, Columbia, Sauk, Adams, Juneau, Wood, Jackson, Monroe, Vernon, Richland, Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette, La Crosse, Trempealeau, Buffalo, Burnett, Washburn, Douglas, Sawyer, Clark, Eau Claire and Bayfield.

Forecasters say humidities will be as low as 10-percent today, with winds gusting to 30-miles-an-hour with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. The next real chance for rain is on Sunday.

JFC starts voting on budget

Wisconsin 2015-17 Budget

Wisconsin 2015-17 Budget

The Legislature’s budget writing committee takes its first votes Wednesday on Governor Scott Walker’s proposed state budget.

After having had public hearings and agency briefings, it’s time for the Joint Finance Committee to start voting on Wisconsin’s two-year budget.

John Nygren (R-Marinette) is co-chair of the powerful panel. “The governor’s budget deals with hundreds of thousands of issues; I believe over 1,700 pages, documents, some of them big, some of them small.”

The committee will consider the most controversial budget items last, including the governor’s billion dollar borrowing package for highway construction and his $300 million funding cut for the University of Wisconsin System.

Among the first items on the docket is whether to continue winnowing down the Secretary of State’s limited powers and to eliminate the State Treasurer’s office. Lawmakers will also talk about what policy items they want to take out of the budget.

JFC will hold between 10-and-14 executive hearings, Nygren says, before finishing up by Memorial Day.

The final committee package will then go to the Legislature where some final changes could be made.