RHINELANDER - Thirty three days ago, 20 children and six adults were shot at an elementary school in Connecticut. Today, President Obama gives us the strictest gun control proposals since the 1960s.
The President signed 23 executive actions that will take effect immediately. And he asked Congress to act on a few measures that are sure to cause some division.
Five of the executive actions related to universal background checks, and the kind of information that will be available for them. One order called for emergency preparation in schools. Another was a commitment to better mental health care.
But the President said these orders are not a substitute for action by Congress.
"I'm calling on Congress to pass some very specific proposals right away. First, it's time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun," says President Obama.
Oneida County Republican chairman Andy Laduha told us today he strongly supports universal background checks
That's not surprising since a recent Republican poll shows 80% of gun owners- and 74% of NRA members support this measure.
The executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort was on Vice-President Biden's task force. She says having better background checks was the number one recommendation her group made.
"These proposals, particularly the background checks on all gun sales have really strong support from gun owners, which is obviously very heartening. Because it's very good to know that it's both non-gun owners and gun owners as well who are supportive of solutions to gun violence," says Jeri Bonavia.
Bonavia says given the amount of support the universal background checks proposal has, she doesn't think it'll have a problem passing through Congress.
But another measure the President asked them to consider will prove more difficult.
"Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons and a ten round limit for magazines," says President Obama.
Critics of limiting magazines to ten rounds say they could do as much damage with multiple magazines, as someone with a high capacity one.
But Bonavia says the time in-between reloading could be crucial.
"In that regard if you're adding seconds, or a minute, it turns out that has probably been quite lifesaving in these situations that have already occurred," says Bonavia.
Oneida County Republican Chairman Andy Laduha says he doesn't think banning the weapons or magazines gets to the root of the problem. He says the people who shouldn't own them are still able to get their hands on them-- hat's why he supports the universal background checks.
The NRA released a statement today saying:
"Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation.
Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy."
MADISON - A Wisconsin Rapids woman will spend three years on probation for threatening to kill a federal administrative law judge.
51-year-old Norma Prince was sentenced Thursday. Prince pleaded guilty in December.
Prosecutors say the incident happened Jan. 31, 2013, when Prince appeared at a Social Security disability benefits hearing in Wausau.
Administrative Law Judge Thomas Sanzi was presiding over the hearing by teleconference from Madison. Prosecutors say Prince became upset and threatened to shoot Sanzi and cut off his head. The hearing was halted and Prince was escorted from the courtroom.
Prince's husband told a federal agent that his wife had bought two .22-caliber rifles about a month before the disability hearing.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman said Prince's mental health issues can be controlled through medication and supervision.
ACROSS THE NORTHWOODS - Senate and House Representatives hope a wildfire disaster bill will help the U.S. Forest Service battle forest fires and still have funding to do its job.
The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2013, SB 1875, would treat extreme forest fires like a natural disaster. That would trigger access to separate pool of funding that would help some lawmakers believe would substantially help the Forest Service.
President Obama included the reforms in his proposed 2015 budget released earlier this week. The reforms would change how the government pays to fight wildfires.
Since 2002, The Forest Service has spent nearly $3 billions dollars of its funding to fight forest fires.
According to the department, Congress paid back the majority of that money, but that still delayed services from the department because payments were done after the fact.
That meant the Forest Service had to pull money away from programs like timber management and fire prevention programs to pay for fire suppression.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin-(D) Wisc. believes that is hurting the department and ultimately businesses and workers that rely on timber harvests in the national forests.
"Because we have had so much severe wildfires, it has left the rest of the forest service with insufficient resources to do their job," Baldwin said.
The Forest Service says funding is one of their key obstacles to increasing timber harvests.
The Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest(CNNF) stretches across parts of Northern Wisconsin. The forest's land management plan allows more than 130 million board feet of timber to be harvested every year, but only half of that allowable level has been harvested each of the past few years.
Baldwin believes the proposal would give the department more resources to improve harvest and land management.
"That will in my mind, in my mind if we are successful in seeing this through," Baldwin said. "We'll safeguard the funding that is really supposed to be used for other purposes to maintain healthy forests in the United States."
That will allow the Forest Service to use resources for the purpose they were intended for.
Baldwin hopes the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act gives leaders at the CNNF the resources to harvest levels closer to the allowable levels.
"The idea here is to that when we have an extreme wildfire event that they will be treated as the natural disasters that they are," Baldwin said. "And that a separate stream of funding will be used."
According to a American Forest Foundation report, the proposal would creates a budget cap adjustment for a 30% portion of wildfire disaster funding for USFS and DOI. They compare the structure to what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses for other natural disaster response.
Most of the senators and representatives that are sponsoring the legislation come from states impacted by wildfires and the timber industry.
"We'll be leading this effort and we're just hopeful that we'll be able to see some progress," Baldwin said.
The proposal is in committee in both the House and Senate. Baldwin says she’s confident they’ll see progress with it this year. Rep. Reid Ribble-(R) Wisc. is a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill.
RHINELANDER - Your water and sewer bill could soon be on the rise if you live in Rhinelander.
Unlike other Northern Wisconsin cities, the water utility rates haven't changed since 2008.
The public works director says the cold winter only played a small role in the proposed increase.
Rising expenses and upgrades are the main reasons they hope to soon raise utility costs.
"Sewer rates are going up 13 percent in the city largely due to the expenses the utility has experienced because of the upgrades that have taken place and our best efforts to deliver the utility at a low expense," said Public Works Director Tim Kingman.
ROTHSCHILD - Wisconsin farms play a key role in our economy, but today's farm owners aren't getting any younger.
One apprentice program hopes to change that.
The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program is building and preparing the next generation of farmers. It gives young farmers hands-on training and a path to a career in dairy farming.
"There's a lot of farms that are going to be transitioned and transferred in the next decade or so, and what we really need is somebody to be able to take these farms over," says program director Joe Tomandl. "We don't have that training program in place, and that's what the dairy grazing apprenticeship is about."
A recent government census of American agriculture found the average age of a farmer is 58 years old. Leaders believe the apprentice program has already seen success with new farmers over the past few years.
"We have a number of new producers just in the last four years in Marathon and Lincoln counties now running their own dairy farms using managed grazing techniques," says Paul Daigle of the Marathon County Conservation, Planning, & Zoning Department. "It's still a struggle no matter what, but it offers a profitable way to get into farming today."
Cattle farmers met at the 20th Annual Winter Grazing Conference today in Rothschild.
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