November 25, 2014

Wisconsin Bad River tribe joins land buyback program

Wisconsin’s Bad River Indian tribe will be part of a new federal effort to return reservation lands to tribal ownership.

Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor said Thursday that 21 Indian communities in 12 states — including the Bad River tribe near Ashland — would join the federal land buy back program by 2017. That will increase the number of locations in the program to 42.

The government is spending $1.9 billion to restore land to tribal interests. It’s part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class action lawsuit in 2009 by the late Elouise Cobell of Montana. The suit claimed that the Interior Department mismanaged trust funds which the government held for hundreds of thousands of Indian property owners.

The Dawes Act of 1887 split Indian lands into individual allotments which multiple heirs inherited with each passing generation. As a result, some reservations have parcels owned by up thousands of Indians — making it all but impossible to develop the properties. The buy back program consolidates ownership of the affected parcels under tribal governments.


Senator Ron Johnson says president ‘picking a fight’ on immigration (AUDIO)

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

A U.S. Senator from Wisconsin is accusing President Obama of using an “executive fiat” to tackle immigration reform, and warns the move could result in a strained working relationship with Republicans for the coming session of Congress.

The President on Thursday night announced an executive order that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, while shifting the focus to deporting criminals who illegally cross the border. Republican Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) says there are serious questions about whether he has the legal authority to even take those actions. “He said as much over the past two years that he did not have the power to act in the manner he is,” argues Johnson.

AUDIO: Sen. Ron Johnson on immigration executive order (:35)

Johnson says it’s unfortunate that Obama has chosen to start off his relationship with the new Republican majority by “picking a fight,” which he believes will only make it difficult for the GOP to work with the White House on a legislative solution. Johnson says “I really do think there can be some pretty broad agreement on how we treat those individuals who are here, many through no fault of their own, but you have to do it in the right order.”

Johnson says the first priority needs to be securing the nation’s borders, which he hopes to address next year when he takes over as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

U.S. Senate confirms Pamela Pepper as U.S. district judge for Eastern District of Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators are both pleased by the appointment of Judge Pamela Pepper as U.S. Federal District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Pepper, of Milwaukee, was confirmed Thursday by the Senate to replace Charles Clevert.

The 50-year-old Pepper was appointed by President Obama in May, one of three candidates recommended by a state selection panel headed by Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin. She was a federal prosecutor and a private defense lawyer before becoming a federal bankruptcy judge in 2005. She’ll soon leave her post as Milwaukee’s chief bankruptcy judge.

Johnson said Pepper’s intellectual curiosity and adherence to the rule of law would serve the people of Wisconsin’s eastern district well. Baldwin said Pepper will be an “outstanding judge.” She was among 20 judicial nominees that Democrats were trying to confirm before the current session ends next month. Had she not been approved by then, Pepper would have had to go through the complete confirmation process again.

‘Almost incomprehensible’ – Kenosha man charged in 11 month-old child’s death

Russell Rose (Photo: Kenosha Police)

Russell Rose (Photo: Kenosha Police)

Bond has been set at a million dollars for a Kenosha man accused of the violent murder of his 11 month-old daughter on Tuesday. The accused, 34 year-old Russell Rose, allegedly told police that he killed the child to “rid her of the evil inside her” and to “destroy what he created.”

At Rose’s initial appearance Thursday, Court Commissioner Jon Mason called the shear brutality of the crime almost incomprehensible. “The descriptions of the injuries suffered by the child . . . presents an overwhelming case of brutality and cruelness by this defendant, if these allegations are true,” Mason said.

Rose is accused of slamming his daughter, Serenity, to the ground several times during an altercation with the child’s mother, as well as choking and punching the woman and kicking her down a flight of stairs. After a neighbor confronted him, Rose is accused of setting a fire in his apartment. He suffered burns in the fire. Lampy remains hospitalized.

“It never ceases to amaze me, in my years of doing this business, mans inhumanity to man,” said Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf. “The whole community is suffering with the family.”


DOA projects Wisconsin revenues to fall short of spending requests

Budget requests from Wisconsin government agencies exceed expected state revenues in the next two-year budget cycle. Those numbers will be a starting point for Republican Governor Scott Walker and GOP legislators as they begin the task of putting together a state budget – one they hope will include a tax cut.

According to agency requests and revenue estimates released Thursday by the state Department of Administration, the “ask” is $2.2 billion more than what will be taken in through state taxes for 2015-2017.

But DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos make it clear – state agencies will not get everything they want. Huebsch called that a “flawed assumption” and Vos said the requests reflect a “wish list . . . that’s not going to happen.”

The co-chairs of the state’s budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance, State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), also released a statement. “These numbers are an exercise based on agencies wish lists which will not find their way into the Governor’s budget,” it read in part. “For example, (Department of Public Instruction Superintendent) Tony Evers $700 million dollar increase despite the fact that our most expensive districts are among our lowest performers.”

Huebsch, in a letter to Walker and state lawmakers, stated that general purpose revenues are expected to increase by $392 million in the first year of the budget cycle, and $618 million in the second year, for a total take of $1.4 billion.