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'Best budget... probably in decades': Attorney General Kaul applauds new state budget's focus on criminal justice during Rhinelander visitSubmitted: 07/25/2019
Story By Lane Kimble

'Best budget... probably in decades': Attorney General Kaul applauds new state budget's focus on criminal justice during Rhinelander visit
RHINELANDER - Wisconsin will add more than 60 assistant district attorneys and nearly double the hourly pay of public defenders from $40 an hour to $70.

Attorney General Josh Kaul told Newswatch 12 during a stop in Rhinelander on Thursday he considers those changes some of the best ones made in a state budget in decades, if not ever.

Forest and Langlade Counties will directly benefit.  Each will add an assistant prosecutor.  It's the largest increase in such jobs in Wisconsin since 2007.


Kaul thinks those steps will help lead to more of a focus on prosecuting sex crimes after he and former Attorney General Brad Schimel pushed to clear a backlog of untested rape kits.

"There's still a lot more work to be done on that front, but it's a notable change and approach and I think it's going to make our criminal justice system fairer and more efficient as a result," Kaul said.

Kaul says the new budget also puts more money into state crime labs and adds a DOJ prosecutor specifically focused on those cases. Still, he said Wisconsin and local communities need to provide more resources to help sex assault victims.

Kaul also updated Newswatch 12 on the state's fight to stop the opioid crisis.

Treating opioid addictions in places such as the Northwoods could benefit from looking at a wheel, Kaul explained. He wants the state to look into taking a "hub and spoke" model approach..

Kaul says counties could create local addiction treatment centers, while the state helps provide "hubs" in larger cities where longer-term care is needed.

But who pays for it? Kaul says suing drug manufacturers, as Wisconsin has, could generate a lot more money. Wisconsin sued Purdue Pharma and the company's former president in state court last month. Kaul says the company misled people by "overstating" the benefits and downplaying the harm opioid prescriptions can produce.

"To the extent that there's been false and deceptive conduct that's led to it, that money should be coming back to the communities that it's impacting," Kaul said.

Kaul considers the opioid and growing meth epidemics the largest public safety issue the entire country faces.

He says education -- and fewer prescriptions-- are also keys to limiting addictions.

Kaul was in the Northwoods Thursday to meet with a group of police chiefs from north-central Wisconsin. He says their main focus was on emergency detention centers, which are used when people are brought in for their own and other peoples' safety during a mental health crisis.

The attorney general says there is only one state facility for such intake and it's in Winnebago County.

"People in law enforcement are making very long drives just to get to Winnebago County and then there's the intake process that happens, there may be subsequent hearings, so it's a lot of time that officers aren't able to spend working in their communities," Kaul said.

Kaul sees parallels between addressing mental health issues and drug addictions. He hopes state and local governments focusing more on local mental health will allow police to crack down on violent offenders and large-scale drug dealers.

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MADISON - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced Sunday he wants state lawmakers to pass a package of bills aimed at curbing youth vaping and educating the public about vaping's potential dangers.

The bills Evers, a Democrat, is requesting would ban vaping and vapor products on K-12 campuses and expand the definition of public health emergencies. Another bill would fund a public health campaign to address youth vaping in the state and a fourth proposal would expand the enforcement capacity of the Departments of Revenue and Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to prevent vaping products from being sold to minors.

The governor's office outlined his proposals in a press release Sunday.

"As a parent, grandparent, and lifelong educator, I am deeply concerned about the health and well-being of our kids," Evers said in a statement. "Vaping is a serious public health epidemic and it is time to take action."

The governor's office said vaping products pose serious health risks to young users because the nicotine contained in e-cigarettes can harm parts of the brain that control attention and learning.

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RHINELANDER - High school and middle school cross country skiers spent the weekend competing in Rhinelander for the annual Ascension Northwoods Nordic Hodag Challenge.

The two-day event attracted teams from more than 10 different schools across Wisconsin, and some schools from Michigan.

Head Coach for Rhinelander Nordic Charil Reis said her team spent a lot of time hitting the trails thanks to the generosity of mother nature. 

"We've been blessed with a lot of snow this year, so we haven't had to do a lot of indoor type of practice," said Reis.

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RHINELANDER - The League of Women Voters of the Northwoods held a session on how to vote in Wisconsin at ArtStart earlier this evening.

They highlighted the voting process including what forms of ID are required.

Co-chair of the group, Debra Durchslag said she was happy after Sunday's turnout.

"I was very pleased to see a new group of interested Oneida county residents who are very much interested to register unregistered voters," said Durchslag

The League is a non-partisan organization devoted to educating the public about local and national politics.

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IRON COUNTY - One person died in a snowmobiling incident in Iron County early Sunday morning. The victim was identified as a 47-year-old female.

According to a press release by the Iron County Sheriff's Department, dispatch received a call at 1:52 a.m. reporting a snowmobile crashed on Trail 17 just outside Hurley and the operator was unresponsive.

First responders arrived at 2:04 a.m. and began taking life saving measures. The driver was then transported by rescue sled to Beacon ambulance and then to Aspirus GVH in Ironwood, MI.

After continued life-saving measures, the 47-year-old female was pronounced dead at Aspirus Hospital.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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EAGLE RIVER - Professional snowmobilers took to the racetrack in Eagle River this weekend. However, they weren't the only ones riding on some top-of-the line sleds.

Arctic Cat was at the derby offering demo rides on their 2021 models. People got a chance to try out the different machines, and put money down on a model of their choice.

Sales director Joe Klosterman said it's important for people to try before they buy.

"We do it to give an experience to the consumer," said Klosterman. "You wouldn't buy a car without driving it. We've also got a new model this year that I think is going to bring a lot of new people into the industry." 

Demo workers took guests out on a 10-mile loop to experience some of the best trails in the Northwoods. Those trails featured curbs, some fresh powder, and lots of bumps to test the machines' suspension.

Klosterman said Arctic Cat sold lots of sleds over the weekend thanks to the promotion.

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OSHKOSH, WIS. (AP) - A Wisconsin teenager who was shot and wounded when he stabbed a school resource officer has been ordered to stand trial.

Grant Fuhrman, 17, is charged as an adult with attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the Dec. 3 attack at Oshkosh West High School.

Fuhrman is accused of stabbing Mike Wissink multiple times with a barbecue fork. Court documents say the officer was unable to reach his stun gun so he shot Fuhrman twice. Neither was seriously injured.

The school was evacuated and classes were cancelled for two days.

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SUPERIOR - State regulators have approved plans for a $700 million power plant on the shores of Lake Superior despite conservationists' concerns that the facility will harm the environment.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the state Public Service Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to approve a permit for the Nemadji Trail Energy Center in Superior. The plant will be jointly owned by La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative and Duluth, Minnesota-based Minnesota Power. Plans call for the plant to use natural gas to produce 625 megawatts' worth of power.

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