North Central Wisconsin lawmakers respond after controversial special legislative sessionSubmitted: 12/06/2018
Rose McBride
Rose McBride

North Central Wisconsin lawmakers respond after controversial special legislative session
WISCONSIN - People protested in Madison outside the Capitol, in the hallways, and in the chambers of the Senate this week.

They were hoping to convince the legislature to vote against bills that would limit the power of the incoming Democratic administration.

"I don't believe for one second Republicans would have voted to take away power from themselves," said Rep. Katrina Shankland, (D) Stevens Point.

Republicans claimed these bills have actually been on the table for a while, but Rep. Shankland says that isn't the case.

"I asked the Legislative Reference Bureau when these bills were drafted, and they were drafted two weeks after the election when Republicans lost every single statewide office," said Rep. Shankland. 

Rep. Shankland said the bills increase GOP power and go against what the people of Wisconsin want because they elected Democrats to state offices.

"It is clear to me that they are being sore losers. If they really cared about limiting the executive branch and limiting the Attorney General then they would have done it within the eight years of total power that they had in state government," said Rep. Shankland. 

Republicans don't disagree they wanted to put restrictions on the governor's office, but say the negative attention surrounding the session wasn't warranted.

"I think once you get under the headlines you see some really god stuff in this bill," said Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R) Minocqua. 

Sen. Tiffany says one of those good things is giving the legislature power to pick the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which Gov.-Elect Tony Evers has made clear he doesn't like.

"I think about right here in Rhinelander, Print Pack would probably be in Georgia if it wasn't for WEDC," said Sen. Tiffany.

Rhinelander Republican Representative Rob Swearingen says by limiting the power of the governor, the playing field is more even between both branches of government.

"If one branch has power over the other with a stroke of the pen, that doesn't say very much about co-equals so what we did was level the playing field back out," said Rep. Swearingen. 

Both Sen. Tiffany and Rep. Swearingen say despite voting to take away some power, they are looking forward to working with Governor-Elect Evers in his coming term.

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STEVENS POINT - Emergency calls for help with "poison gas" brought police, firefighters, and paramedics out to a homeless shelter in Stevens Point early Sunday morning.  Crews quickly determined there was no danger.

According to our partners at the Point/Plover Metro Wire, police were called to the Salvation Army Hope Center on Briggs Street -- just west of UW-Stevens Point -- around 6:20 a.m.  People at the shelter were already evacuating the building.

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BOULDER JUNCTION - Despite rain and cold temperatures Saturday, about 250 people braved the weather for the 5th annual White Deer Triathlon.

The race started with a 3 kilometer paddle across Boulder lake, followed by a 22 kilometer bike, and finally a 6 kilometer run from Camp Manitowish to the Boulder Junction Community Center.

Race organizer Theresa Smith said the race this year was very different from year's past.

"They said it's been the most challenging that they've done, if they've done all five years of the White Deer Triathlon," said Smith. "So we're very proud of everyone that's finished."

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RHINELANDER - A flight over the Northwoods brings views of lakes, tree canopies, and small communities. The list of people who have traveled across the Northwoods skies is short, but you could in as little as six months. The Rhinelander Flying Service offers classes to aspiring pilots from all over the Northwoods.

Valerie Dalka is just a few weeks away from being able to fly a plane solo. She says flying is the easy part, landing is where she needs some work.

"Right when you're landing you have to do this thing called a flare and you have to pull back really hard on the controls," said Dalka. "And it's really hard to just continue pulling back that far."

She's been taking lessons at the Rhinelander Flying Service for years. 

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MADISON - Wisconsin's Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he doesn't know whether he will seek a third term, but if it was up to his wife he would retire.

Johnson spoke with reporters Saturday during a break in the Wisconsin Republican Party convention. Johnson promised in the 2016 election that it would be his last, but after Republican Gov. Scott Walker lost in 2018 Johnson has backed off the pledge.

Johnson says he's not ruling out anything in 2022, including a run for governor. But Johnson says his focus now is on the 2020 presidential race. Johnson is the only Republican in statewide office in Wisconsin.

Walker has also talked about running again in 2022. As for the possibility they would both be running for office that year, Johnson says "anything's possible."

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MADISON - Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he doesn't support banning abortions as early as six or eight weeks into a pregnancy, and would prefer that states have the power to determine whether abortion should be legal.

Johnson commented on abortion during a news conference with reporters during the Wisconsin Republican convention on Saturday.

Johnson says he supports a national law banning abortions after 21 weeks. Wisconsin has a 20-week ban. Johnson says he would also prefer that states get to decide whether abortion should be legal, rather than relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized it.

Conservatives have been pushing strict anti-abortion state laws in Alabama, Missouri and elsewhere to force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.

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MADISON - A three-judge panel of federal judges has temporarily blocked a decision forcing Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to be questioned by attorneys representing Democratic voters in a federal redistricting lawsuit.

Vos has appealed the lower court's decision to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Journal Sentinel reports that judges wrote in a brief order Friday that they were suspending the requirement that Vos testify and turn over documents until they further study the case. Vos had been scheduled to testify on May 29.

Vos argues he can't be deposed due to legislative privilege, which protects lawmakers from being sued.

The lawsuit by Democratic voters challenges the election maps Vos and other Republican lawmakers drew in 2011 that have helped the GOP keep large majorities in recent years.

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MADISON - More Wisconsin grocers are asking municipalities for liquor license extensions so they can take alcohol purchased online out to customers' vehicles.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that Walmart and Pick 'n Save first started offering curbside pickup of beer, wine and spirits in the Milwaukee and Fox Valley areas in 2017. Other stores quickly followed, but the practice has been met with criticism that it could allow minors to buy alcohol or make liquor access easier in a state that's known to overindulge.

Neenah Alderwoman Marge Bates says curbside pickup could worsen binge drinking in the Fox Valley. The city has been asked to amend retail liquor licenses to allow for curbside pickup of alcohol, though it hasn't happened yet.

Wisconsin Grocers Association President Brandon Scholz predicts online grocery sales will grow rapidly.

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