Proposed bill may put seat belts on school busesSubmitted: 09/19/2013
Story By Ryan Michaels

RHINELANDER - We make sure our kids wear seat belts in the car. So why don't they wear them on the school bus?

Democratic State Senator Tim Cullen, Janesville, wants to change that.

His bill would put three point seat belts on all new school buses. According to Wisconsin Radio Network, Senator Cullen(D) said, "I am amazed that we let those kids roll down the road at 55 miles an hour with no seat belt."

Rhinelander School District Superintendent Kelli Jacobi thinks school bus safety is a priority.

But she says in certain situations, seat belts make the bus less safe. "I'm not opposed to them. I see some very positive things, but what about those scary accidents, the roll overs, the fires. There's no way you could get kids off a bus quickly enough if you have to remove seat belts."

Jacobi says there are other safety measures already in place for some types of accidents. Buses are now installing high seat backs. Those help minimize injuries in front and back collisions.

If the bill passes, many school districts would have to pay for the seat belts. In the Rhinelander School District, Bowen's Bus Service provides the student transportation and did not offer an opinion on the seat belt bill.

But Jacobi says the bus service would have to pay for the seat belts. Which in turn would likely lead to higher service charges, and therefore more tax payer money in the end.

School districts would be able to apply for grants to help with about fifty percent of the cost of the school bus seat belts. But that still averages out to roughly four thousand dollars per bus.

She says there are about ten student deaths from school bus accidents every year. Most injuries involving school buses happen as students are loading and unloading the bus.

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MINOCQUA - By the time most of us finish breakfast, we already start planning what to eat for lunch.

For some kids all around the world, that next meal sometimes never comes.

The Food for Kidz Minocqua committee will lend a helping hand to change that Saturday morning.

Lakeland Union High School's common area will transform into a full-blown assembly line.

Food for Kidz volunteers will pour and pack ingredients into plastic bags.

The goal is 175,000 packed meals.

Food for Kidz needs more volunteers by tomorrow to meet that goal.

"If you haven't experienced this, come out and try it and you'll go away with just a great feeling," said Food for Kidz co-chair John Breiten.

Kids and adults of all ages are welcome to walk in to volunteer.

The food packages will be shipped off to anywhere from Honduras to Mozambique.

Some special meals will be set aside and sent to local communities in the Northwoods.

"It's just a great, fun community event. I think the kids especially take something away that they are giving beyond themselves," said Food for Kidz sponsor and Lakeland Union High School Spanish teacher Karen Roerich.

Walk-in volunteers are welcome to attend either packing shift tomorrow morning.

The first shift is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The second shift is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

If you can't make it out to Lakeland Union High School Saturday, donations are always welcome.

Call John Breiten at 715-686-7570 for more info.

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WAUSAU - Scott Walker faced a tough crowd at times in Iowa during his failed presidential bid. Now, an undercover video released this week may show those protesters were planted on purpose.

The Journal Sentinel reported the videos show activist Scott Foval bragging about disrupting a Walker rally in Iowa. Those videos were released by conservative activist James O'Keefe.

Foval talks about bringing people out of state into Wisconsin, but doesn't give a reason why.

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WAUSAU - People often leave unused prescriptions in their cabinets at home. But Wisconsin's Attorney General hopes you turn those prescriptions in Saturday to help solve a growing problem.

October 22 is Wisconsin's Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Attorney General Brad Schimel said more people die from accidental drug overdoses in Wisconsin than from car crashes.

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RICE LAKE - The Merrill football team doesn't feel it got the respect it deserved when WIAA playoff brackets came out last weekend. The Bluejays shared a Great Northern Conference championship.

But they were pinned to a number 8 seed, the lowest in the bracket, and travel to face top-seeded Rice Lake in a Division 3 Level 1 game Friday night.

Recent history doesn't favor Merrill in the playoffs. It has lost six straight playoff openers, dating to 2009.

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RHINELANDER - A simple grooming process many people take for granted helps keeps John honest with himself.

"You can't think too far ahead, at least that's the situation I find myself in," John said.

Convicted of drunk driving seven times, John -- who Newswatch 12 is only identifying by his first name -- faced a harsh reality when he ended up in prison after three arrests in just 13 months.

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MILWAUKEE - Wisconsin's utility regulator is planning to spend more money on energy projects in rural areas, including a plan to help underwrite the use of systems that convert cattle manure into electricity.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the systems known as manure digesters also help farms manage waste, which has become an increasingly controversial issue in Wisconsin as the size of dairy farms grows.

Wisconsin Public Service Commission officials say they're considering spending $10 million to $20 million on manure digester technology.

The commission also voted Thursday to authorize at least $7.7 million in funding for rebates for solar, wind and geothermal projects around the state that would keep a rebate program in place for energy consumers.

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RHINELANDER - When people think first responders, cops, firefighters and EMTs usually come to mind. 

But the true first responder is often the person they'll never meet.

It's Nicole Lea's job to be at her best when you're at your worst.

"There's no other reason your calling us to say, 'Hey, hope you're having a great day.' It is their worst day when they're calling us," said Lea.

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