Joint Finance Committee approves mining legislation, Democrats expect court dates in the futureSubmitted: 02/25/2013

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor

MADISON - Lawmakers took another step toward making it easier to mine in Wisconsin.

The state's Joint Finance Committee passed the new Republican mining bill on a 12 to 4 vote Monday afternoon. The bill now moves to both the full state Senate and Assembly.

The GOP's bill is mainly designed to make it easier for a mining company to open a large mine. It would be on the border of Ashland and Iron Counties.

Democrats think the bill's language doesn't do enough to protect the environment.

But Ashland Representative Janet Bewley thinks the progress can be slowed in the courts.

"There are so many things in the bill that are ambiguous that will end up in court," Rep. Janet Bewley said. "I don't want to say I'm grateful to (Republicans) for writing such a sloppy bill, but the bill is written in such a form that there are many opportunities for it to end up in court."

Republicans don't think they're rushing anything. Hazelhurst Senator Tom Tiffany points to numerous changes from the first bill to this version.

He hopes it doesn't end up in the courts.

"We passed 11 amendments out of our Senate committee about two weeks ago," Sen. Tiffany said. "We've really, thoroughly vetted this bill. Will there be lawsuits, as Representative Bewley hopes? Perhaps, because some people will sue over anything in modern society. But this is really a good bill that protects the environment, while giving certainty to an applicant."

The mining bill will likely pass because Republicans control both the Senate and Assembly. Senator Tiffany thinks the Senate will take up the bill Wednesday.

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APPLETON - The U.S. Marshals Service says a convicted sex offender who was wanted for violating the terms of his release has been arrested in Appleton.

The agency says 63-year-old L.C. Streeter, of Milwaukee, was previously convicted of four separate sexual assaults from 1976 to 1985. Wisconsin committed him as a sexually violent person in 1996, and he remained in treatment until his release in 2013 under intensive supervision.

The service said in a statement that he cut off his GPS and electronic monitoring bracelets and fled supervision on Monday, resulting in a warrant for his arrest. Federal marshals and Appleton police arrested him without incident in Appleton on Friday.

Kevin Carr, the U.S. marshal for eastern Wisconsin, says Streeter was "an absolute danger to the community based upon his past convictions."

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MAUSTON - Authorities are investigating the death of a person who was found unresponsive in Decorah Lake early Friday.

Kyle Lynch, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden for Juneau County, says he was called to the scene to assist in a boat search about 1:30 a.m. He also says the Mauston Fire Department recovered the body, which was found in the water.

The Mauston Police Department says attempts were made to rescue the individual, but the Juneau County Coroner's Office pronounced the individual dead at the scene. Police have provided few other details, and the victim's name has not been released.

Mauston is about 70 miles northwest of Madison.

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MOUNT HOREB - A southern Wisconsin school district has cancelled plans for elementary school students to read a children's book about a transgender girl after a group threatened to sue.

The Capital Times reports (http://bit.ly/1TadnaG ) that the Mount Horeb Area School District released a statement saying it won't proceed with its planned reading of "I Am Jazz."

Parents were told last week that Mount Horeb Primary Center students would read the book because one student identifies as a girl but was born with male anatomy.

A Florida-based group, the Liberty Counsel, threatened to sue, saying concerned parents had reached out and that reading the book would violate parental rights.

The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Liberty Counsel as a hate group that advocates for "anti-LGBT discrimination, under the guise of religious liberty."

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WAUSAU - This has been Wisconsin's deadliest gun-deer season in the past five years, with two shooting fatalities already recorded.

Daily Herald Media reports (http://wdhne.ws/1HvNth3 ) that the two fatalities brought to an end a three-year series of seasons that had been free of firearm deaths. Four other hunters also have been wounded.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, hunters violated some of the fundamental rules of gun safety in all the incidents.

A man was killed last Sunday in Columbia County when he was shot while passing a loaded rifle to a companion in a tree stand. Wearing mittens, she grabbed the gun near the trigger and it went off. On Monday, a hunter in Waushara County was killed by a stray bullet.

The nine-day season runs through Sunday.

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TOMAH - The Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center says it has adopted another plan to improve patient care.

The La Crosse Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1QMsDMZ) that Friday's release of the "100-day plan" comes almost 11 months after media reports that veterans at the center were prescribed excessive doses of opioid pain-killers and that employees who spoke out faced retaliation from top officials.

The plan, which follows a 30-day plan announced in May, outlines steps for improving access to care, employee engagement and restoring trust.

Among other things, it calls for recruitment of psychiatric staff, employee forums and listening sessions, and opening an employee wellness center.

Several Tomah VA officials including former Director Mario Desanctis and former Chief of Staff David Houlihan have been fired since the problems emerged early this year.

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TOMAHAWK - Here in Northern Wisconsin, you can find Christmas trees just about anywhere you look.

Other parts of the country aren't so lucky.

That's why a forestry and real estate consulting company in Tomahawk sends the perfect pines, spruces, and firs to those who really need them.

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THREE LAKES - In many communities, it doesn't feel like the holidays without first lighting a tree. In Three Lakes Friday, that meant more than 3,000 lights on a 95-foot tree.

The tree-lighting ceremony was a part of the 21st Festival of Lights. You could also find Santa and Mrs. Claus among the crowd.

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