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May 25, 2015

Nitschke gets new charges for cooking new batch of meth

Richard Nitschke

Richard Nitschke

A Rhinelander man with a famous last name has more charges added to his court file after he allegedly violated the terms of his bond. Richard Nitschke, 49, had a bond hearing Monday for making and distributing methamphetamine during April. While out on bond earlier this month, Nitschke and his girlfriend Andrea Healey allegedly were caught cooking up a new batch of the illegal drug.

District Attorney Michael Schiek said officers responding to a warrant allege he engaged in a new production after another session where he was arrested.  “So it’s a new and distinct incident, separate from what happened between April 1 and April 30 that’s alleged in the other complaint. It’s new activity judge and is certainly grounds for new bail jumpings and new charges.”

On Monday, Judge Patrick O’Melia set a $10,000 cash bond on Nitschke for the April offenses. Since authorties allege Nitschke and Healey manufactured another batch after an earlier warrant was served, he was charged with two more counts and given another $5,000 cash bond by Judge O’Melia.

Nitschke is the son of Green Bay Packers legend Ray Nitschke.

by Ken Krall, WXPR

Tomah 30 day reform plan ‘good start’

Tomah VA

Tomah VA

The recently announced 30-day plan to reform procedures at the Tomah VA Medical Center is getting some criticism and some praise from Washington lawmakers.

Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) likes what he sees in the plan, saying it’s a very good start.  “I think it’s very helpful. It’s an important step in the right direction as far as reforming the practice at Tomah VA. There’s going to be a lot more outreach and engagement, not just with staff there, but with the community, the veterans, the family members themselves.”

The Wisconsin Democrat told WSAU the Tomah 30-day plan is just the beginning, and hopes to see this become an example for improving care at other facilities.  “This is an opportunity for us to establish a model of care that’s not only going to enhance the care that our veterans receive at Tomah, but could become a model of the type of care that our veterans need nationwide, and quite frankly, healthcare system wide.”

U.S. Republican Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) is critical of the Tomah 30-day plan, saying it’s not enough. Johnson says there are employees at Tomah that are not being held accountable, and they need to be fired. Johnson is also critical of the VA’s Inspector General for a lack of transparency. Johnson chairs the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and believes these officials should be doing a better job of getting information to them. He also believes the new 30 day plan doesn’t address key issues like helping veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, and it doesn’t fully outline how they intend to manage opiate prescriptions.

Larry Lee, WSAU

Champion to head Wisconsin DOJ crime labs

Champion (DOJ photo)

Champion (DOJ photo)

Attorney General Brad Schimel has announced that former deputy director Jana Champion will serve as director of the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory. The 28 year Wisconsin Department of Justice veteran’s promotion puts her charge of day-to-day operations at the three DOJ operated crime labs in Madison, Milwaukee and Wausau.

Champion began her work at the crime lab in 1987 as a controlled substance analyst, following service with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Chicago, according a press release from Schimel. In 2006, she was appointed director of the Milwaukee lab, and became Deputy Director of the Crime Laboratory Bureau in 2012.

She has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Mount Mary University.

Civics test requirement added to state budget

U.S. Constitution

U.S. Constitution

It appears more likely Wisconsin high school students will have to pass the civics part of the U.S. citizenship test before they can graduate.

The Joint Finance Committee put the requirement into the state budget early Wednesday morning. Freshman Assembly Republican James Edming of Glen Flora recently proposed a separate bill to make students pass the civics test.

“Some of the questions include, ‘How many justices are on the supreme court? What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? Who vetoes a bill?'” Edming said, “These may appear to be relatively simple questions for many, but for many young Americans they are not.”

At a recent public hearing in Madison, Edming cited a study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “It found that only 36 percent of adults could name all three branches of the government and other 35 percent could not name any.”

The GOP-controlled finance panel decided to make the requirement part of the budget along with thousands of other items, which makes it easier to pass than a separate bill.

Educators oppose the measure.

Supporters say it would encourage more young adults to get involved with government.

Under the budget measure, students would have to answer 60 of the 100 questions correctly in order to graduate.

Public school students would have to pass the test, as well as those in charter and voucher schools. Students can take the test as many times as necessary.

Wisconsin budget panel approves K-12 education package

File photo

File photo

Wisconsin’s K-12 public schools would see about $200 million more in state funding and the private school voucher program would be broadly expanded, under a sweeping package of changes approved by the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

The 29-page proposal, released just hours before the committee voted on the changes late Tuesday night, would increase funding for public schools by about $70 million in the 2016-17 school year, while keeping about $127 million in funding for schools in place that Governor Scott Walker had proposed cutting. It would amount to a $250 per pupil funding increase over the course of the biennium.

The measure would also lift the statewide enrollment cap on the private school voucher program, currently set at 1,000 students, while also creating a voucher program for special needs students. It sets up a funding system for vouchers similar to what’s used for the open enrollment program, where taxpayer funding would follow students. A Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo released last week found the change would cost public school districts about $48 million during the next biennium.

Democrats on the budget panel heaped criticism on the package. State Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said it give crumbs to public schools, while making it like “Christmas morning” for private schools.

State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) said the plan would not amount to “Armageddon” for public schools, but “we’re on that road.”

Republicans defended their package. JFC co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) said the GOP is focused on making reforms, and noted that Republicans have worked to put a half billion dollars back in to public education over the past four years.

Other highlights of the plan:

  • Allows the Milwaukee county executive to takeover up to five failing public schools over the next two years, converting them to independent charter or voucher schools.
  • Requires high school students to pass an exam similar to the civics portion of the U.S. Citizenship test to graduate, by getting at least 60 out of 100 questions correct.
  • Requires teachers and administrators in private voucher schools to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Public schools would have to allow students living in their district who attend a private, charter or virtual school, or are homeschooled, to participate in extracurricular activities and sports teams. Students could be charged to join.
  • Creates a five star rating system for public schools, replacing the letter grade system proposed by Governor Walker. Currently, the DPI rates schools as either meeting, failing or exceeding expectations.

The full legislature and governor still have to approve the education package, which will be part of the overall budget package lawmakers are expected to vote on next month.