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Assembly bill creates electronic database for pharmacists selling drug used in methamphetamine manufacturingSubmitted: 06/22/2017

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RHINELANDER - After nearly 40 years as a pharmacist, Tom Welke has been robbed, threatened at gunpoint, and had his pharmacy burgled.

"It just kind of goes along with the job, in a way," Welke said in Rhinelander's Apothecary Pharmacy on Thursday afternoon.

One of the main reasons lately for those crimes tends to be people trying to get their hands illegally on pseudoephedrine pills, which they can use to make meth.


"Most everyone that comes to purchase it here has a legitimate reason for purchasing it," Welke said.

Even so, in order to buy the decongestant pills pharmacists must record the buyer's name, address, and identification in a paper log book. Police can come look at the book, but it requires them to take the time to come by.

"The log system does not work that accurately for that," Welke said.

Enter the Wisconsin Assembly to try and fix the issue. Wednesday, lawmakers voted 96 to 1 to pass Assembly Bill 306.  Lake Geneva Republican Tyler August was the one dissenting vote.  

The bill would require pharmacists to enter that information into the National Precursor Log Exchange, an electronic database which instantly throws up a red flag if someone shouldn't or can't buy the drug.  The system would have an override function a pharmacist can use in emergencies.  The system would not apply to people buying the drug with a valid prescription.

"No different than a credit card machine that's real-time money," Welke said.  "You know, it's not going to let it go through if there's nothing home."

Wisconsin law limits the amount of pseudoephedrine a person can buy to 7.5 grams in a 30-day period. Federal law further limits the total to just 3.5 grams per day.

"A database that would give us instant access would be awesome," Tomahawk Police Chief Al Elvins said.

Elvins knows how big of a problem pseduo's byproduct -- methamphetamine -- can be. Elvins says meth and marijuana are the two most common drug arrests in his city. The TPD collects thousands of used needles every year, many from meth addicts.

"When meth came, it made crack-cocaine look like candy," Elvins said.

Elvins thinks the electronic database is a good step in the right direction, but not perfect. He still worries about straw purchases, where criminals send others to buy pseudoephedrine for them.

"They'd send their 18-year-old kid in to buy 10 boxes, they'd send their wife in, their mom in, their neighbor, their neighbor's neighbor's friend," Elvins said. "The criminals are one step ahead. We still have to use due process. We still have to go under the guidelines of the constitution to catch these people. We'll do it. We'll do several hours of investigation, days, weeks, months, whatever it takes to ensure we are, in effect, doing the right thing."

Welke agrees with Elvin's concerns. The pharmacist thinks the database would take a while to build up a list of all the potential illegal buyers. But it's time and energy Welke sees as well-spent.

"Our main objective is to protect people's health. No matter what," Welke said.

Assembly Bill 306 still needs approval from the Senate and Governor Walker.


Story By: Lane Kimble

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 LOCAL NEWS

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CONOVER - June 22 makes it the 14th day of rainfall for us this month, and it's not been very convenient.

People all over northcentral Wisconsin have had to deal with storm damage or flooding in some way.

Pioneer Lake in Conover has had a particularly tough time with flooding not only because of the rain, but also because of a dam upstream.

"We've got 20 piers here, and they're floating away, they're underwater," said Maple View Resort and Campground Owner Tony Osiecki. "I've never seen it like this in fifty years."

Osiecki blames the deluge of rain we've gotten in the past few weeks for the flooding in his resort. But he and many others on the lake also blame a dam upstream.

It's located on the southwest side of South Twin Lake in Phelps. It's owned by Wausau-based Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company, and it's meant to maintain the levels of the Twin Lakes. Peter Hansen, the company's Vice President of Operation, admits they are releasing a lot of water--because they are federally required to.

"We are releasing an amount of water that is more than the 500-year rain event," Hansen said. "That means the rain that we've had, according to our calculations, is only supposed to happen every 500 years...We're doing everything within our federal license to lower the water level on Twin."

Downstream of the dam is the Twin River, which flows into Pioneer Lake. Hansen says the company is not responsible for what happens downstream.

That leaves some people frustrated

"[People] have been calling wanting to know what we're doing about the water and what they've got to do to fix it," said Pioneer Lake Association President Terry Wright. "If it's affecting us we have to have somebody we can call to change it."

In the meantime, Osiecki deals with the flooding.

"Move everything back a bit and try to get someone to close the dam and compromise," Osiecki said.

Hansen says the company has been able to cut back on the water release in the past few days, but with more rain in the forecast, that might change. He says Pioneer Lake does not have a controlled structure to help with the lake's water levels.


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LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Thursday, volunteers faced mosquitos, ticks and rain to conserve 96 acres of land.

The Marshall Wildlife Conservation Center in Lac du Flambeau hosted a volunteer work day to dismantle a deteriorating pier and platform on a new conservation land donation.

Northwoods Land Trust Executive Director Bryan Pierce says the land has a creek and pond with many swans and beavers.

"We're going to be installing a brand new pier, so it will be a real nice wildlife observation area for people to look at the water, the swans and cranes," said Pierce.

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CRANDON - UPDATE 5:10 p.m. Thursday

Forest County Medical Examiner Larry Mathein was still at work in Fond du Lac as of 5 p.m. Thursday night, trying to determine a preliminary cause of death for 25-year-old Savanna Larson.

We had expected that autopsy to be complete by the afternoon.

Mathein's report will establish a preliminary cause of death for Larson. That report may guide any potential charges against the three people taken to jail in the case.

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RHINELANDER - Bill Makris taught P.E. at Rhinelander High School for 30 years. But he's since shifted his time to teaching summer camps.

"These are kids that want to be here," said Makris.

The camps aren't your typical workshops or outdoor activities.

"Strength training, speed development, agility," said Makris.

He helps younger kids concentrate on attainable athletic goals.

"I do like running track and cross country so I want to increase my speed ability," said Rhinelander 8th grader, Sage Flory.

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 REGIONAL NEWS

GREEN BAY, WI - Firefighters had to rescue a man after his minivan became wedged in a drawbridge in downtown Green Bay.

Officials say the van got stuck between one of the opening spans and the fixed roadway on the Walnut Street Bridge early Thursday.

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CHICAGO - A three-judge federal appeals panel has affirmed that a Wisconsin inmate featured in the Netflix series "Making a Murderer" was coerced into confessing and should be released from prison.

Brendan Dassey was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 in photographer Teresa Halbach's death two years earlier. Dassey told detectives he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill Halbach in the Avery family's Manitowoc County salvage yard.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Four Republican senators say they are not ready to vote for the GOP health care bill, putting the measure in jeopardy.

The four are Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. They say in a statement that they are open to negotiation before the full Senate considers the measure.

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MADISON - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is urging Republican senators to reject a Medicaid expansion he turned down but that most states accepted under the health care law passed by former President Barack Obama.

Walker said in a statement Wednesday that there are "no excuses" for Republicans in Congress not to repeal the law and not allow the Medicaid expansion to grow.

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