July 29, 2014

Ryan offers plan to fight poverty

U.S Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

U.S Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Despite spending $800 billion a year at the federal level to help the nation’s poor, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) says the U.S. faces the highest poverty rate in a generation. The House Budget Committee chairman outlined a series of proposals Thursday during a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington he says are aimed at improving the situation.

Part of Ryan’s plan would consolidate 11 national programs into a single funding stream, allowing states to test different ways of providing aid to those in need. He says the opportunity grant pilot program would allow states to voluntarily try out new methods for delivering the social safety net, which could then be tested and evaluated for broader implementation. The move is designed to allow those in poverty to visit just a single office to receive multiple critical services, rather than having to visit multiple agencies and deal with layers of red tape.

The Congressman’s plan, titled “Expanding Opportunity in America,” also calls for federal lawmakers to adopt a series of proposals offered by members on both sides of the political spectrum. Those include doubling the size of the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults, along with implementing reforms to the education system and in how the nation sets guidelines for rehabilitating non-violent criminal offenders.

Ryan says he hopes the proposals, developed with the help of stakeholders across the country, will help spark a national discussion about poverty and the fact that the nation “can do better” to address the problem.

Home found for Sheboygan alligator

WIDNR

WIDNR

Still no word on how an alligator ended up in Sheboygan. Michael Clutter is a Department of Natural Resources Warden who found a placement for the four-foot long reptile after the animal was captured by sheriff’s deputies last Sunday, after a motorist spotted it near the Sheboygan River.

Small Scale Reptile Rescue is a Milwaukee area organization that works with shelters and animal control agencies to assist in the rehabilitation and finding suitable homes for abandoned and seized reptiles. The organization sends alligators to alligator farms but will not allow the general public to receive them. The organization transported the animal to the Chicago Herpetological Society this past Tuesday evening.

Clutter said media attention may help generate some leads, but so far they don’t know who had the gator or whether it escaped or was deliberately released. He speculates that it just became too much, for whoever had it. “They get too big and people don’t know what to do with them. So they cut them loose and they become everybody’s problem,” he said.

Anyone with information on the alligator should contact the DNR Tip Line – 1-800-TIP-WDNR. State law regulates the introduction, stocking and release of wild animals, and violators can face a forfeiture of $539 for the release of a wild animal.

Clutter said the gator would likely be a goner eventually: the reptiles can’t survive anywhere temperatures routinely get below freezing for extended periods.

State criticized over decision on contraceptive mandate

Representative Chris Taylor (File photo: WRN)

Representative Chris Taylor (File photo: WRN)

Advocates for access to birth control say Governor Scott Walker’s administration is improperly using a U.S. Supreme Court ruling as an excuse to not enforce aspects of a state law.

The state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance said this week it would stop enforcing portions of a 2009 state law that requires prescription drug plans to cover contraceptives, in the event an employer raises a religious objection. OCI claims it has no choice in the decision because of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in a case filed by Hobby Lobby, which argued the mandate to cover contraceptives included in the Affordable Care Act infringed on the company’s religious freedoms. The nation’s high court agreed that closely-held companies could not be forced to violate their religious beliefs by paying for the coverage.

State Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) argues the ruling in the Hobby Lobby case has no effect on Wisconsin’s law though. The Madison Democrat, a former official with Planned Parenthood, says “Hobby Lobby concerned the interpretation of federal law. It does not impact our state laws.” She says multiple legal experts have looked at the issue as well and have come to the same conclusion.

Taylor claims Governor Scott Walker is simply using the Hobby Lobby decision as an excuse to continue chipping away at the reproductive rights of women. “He had no authority to unilaterally decide that this administration is not going to enforce a law passed democratically through the Legislature.”

Taylor notes that the move comes after previous efforts by Walker to repeal the contraception requirement have failed in the Legislature.

UPDATE: This story was edited after publication to clarify the specific circumstances of OCI enforcement of the contraception mandate.

Ozanne campaign spending report missing details

Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne

Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne

A candidate for Wisconsin’s top law enforcement post failed to explain almost one-third of his campaign’s expenses for the first half of the year, as required by law.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne is one of three Democrats running in a primary for attorney general on August 12. In a report filed with the state this week, he did not list how $33,000 of the $97,000 his campaign spent between January and June was used. The reports list a number of checks with no recipient, as well as a number of electronic withdrawals that don’t include a reason. One of the withdrawals was made from a New Orleans ATM in May.

A campaign official says they just ran out of time and plan to revise the report to add more details.

Ozanne is running against Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ and State Representative Jon Richards of Milwaukee in the Democratic primary. He has only raised about a third as much as each of his Democratic opponents, and his finance report shows he only had about $3,400 on hand at the end of June.

WIBA

Wausau man sentenced for sexual assault, racketeering, and fraud

Jay Fischer appears in court. (Photo: WSAU)

Jay Fischer appears in court. (Photo: WSAU)

A former Wausau businessman has been sent to prison after being convicted of numerous felonies, including sexual assault of two children, racketeering, and fraud. 54-year-old Jay Fischer was already facing the racketeering and fraud charges for illegal mortgage lending practices when he was then accused of fondling his stepdaughter.

In court Wednesday, prosecutors were seeking the maximum possible sentence for all charges, while the defense argued Fischer should be put on probation under a withheld sentence. Judge Greg Huber looked at the severity of the crimes and did not buy the defense’s argument for probation. “Years later, after you already admitted to Old Republic that you had basically stolen this money, you went ahead and created more victims, so I think that this gravity of the offense requires that there be prison, here.”

Fischer was sentenced to a combination of prison time and extended supervision, with many of the sentences to be served consecutively. Overall, Fischer will be incarcerated for a total of 11 years followed by another 18 years of extended supervision. Fischer gets credit for 552 days already served in the Marathon County Jail.

Judge Huber said he doesn’t often see cases with long-term actions and the effects on victims like this one.  “The crimes you committed were serious crimes. The sexual assaults against your stepdaughter and your daughter, the taking of $1.2 million through various manners of business puts it in a, (pause) It’s a figure that we don’t normally see in court.”

About a dozen observers were in the courtroom as Fischer was sentenced, including his now ex-wife, who was emotional while reminded of the crimes against the children, and had to be assisted from the gallery for a short time.

Judge Huber commented about how Fischer’s actions harmed the child victims.  “The fact that she was made to appear to be the liar, making this up, the fact that she had to live through her own private hell knowing no one who loved her believed her because of your actions and your influence, and that persisted for quite a while until recently when people finally believed her.”

Fischer used to own Valley Title, and handled thousands of mortgage financing and refinancing transactions. He was also the owner of Krazy J’s Campground near Marion in Waupaca County.

WSAU