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Top Stories August 1, 2014

Supreme Court Makes Three Major Decisions


8/01/14 - Republicans 2, Democrats 1.  That's the score after three major decisions Thursday from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Republicans got their victories when the court upheld the Act-10 bargaining restrictions for local and state public employee unions, and the photo I-D requirement for voting.  Democrats scored a victory when the justices upheld the four-year-old domestic partner registry.  It gives same-sex couples about 40-percent of the legal benefits that married couples have.  However, the jury's still out on the voter I-D and domestic partner laws.  The federal courts must still uphold the I-D law before it can take effect again.  And the fate of the domestic partner registry hinges on what the federal courts do with the state's ban on gay marriage.  If the Wisconsin ban is thrown out for good, the registry is no longer needed.  Meanwhile, the state justices did have the final word on Act-10.  It was the last of several lawsuits to be settled concerning Governor Scott Walker's signature legislation from 2011.  The Republican Walker said the court's ruling was a victory for taxpayers, saying the law has saved them over three-billion dollars.  The Walker campaign also chided his Democratic opponent Mary Burke, for taking advantage of a lull in the enforcement of Act-10 to help approve new union contracts through 2016 in her role on the Madison School Board.  Burke's campaign said she supports collective bargaining, but the main issues in the race are still jobs and the economy.


Officials Uphold Domestic Partner Registry


8/01/14 - All seven Wisconsin Supreme Court justices upheld the state's domestic partner registry.  It gives about 23-hundred same-sex couples legal benefits that include hospital visitations and inheritance rights.  Wisconsin Family Action sued the state, saying the registry violates the 2006 state constitutional amendment against gay marriages and civil unions.  Justice Patrick Crooks said the amendment's framers allowed legislation that provides a set of rights and benefits to same-sex couples -- and it's wrong to assume the amendment precludes something like that.  Democrats approved the registry in 2008, and it took effect a year later while the conservative Family Action group kept pushing to strike it down.  Republicans, including Governor Scott Walker, took the group's side when they took over state government in 2011.  That left the group Fair Wisconsin to defend the registry.  It might not be needed in the coming months, however -- depending on how the federal courts rule on the question of throwing out the gay marriage ban altogether. Public attitudes have changed on the issue.  Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsin voters approved the amendment in 2006, but a new Marquette poll said only 37-percent favored keeping it.


Supreme Court Supports Collective Bargaining  


8/01/14 - Collective bargaining for public employees is a benefit, not a fundamental right.  So said the Wisconsin Supreme Court, when it upheld the Act-10 public union bargaining limits in their entirety.  Justice Michael Gableman, writing for the 5-to-2 majority, said collective bargaining is a "creation of legislative grace" and not a "constitutional obligation."  He called it a benefit that the governor and Legislature can extend as they see fit.  Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley were the only dissenters.  Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, who helped push through Act-10 during massive protests at the State Capitol in 2011, said he hoped the court's decision would finally lay the battle over Act-10 to rest.  He said the people and the courts have spoken, and in his words, "Act-10 is here to stay."  However, Walker's main Democratic challenger Mary Burke re-affirmed her support for collective bargaining today.  She had recently endorsed the return of bargaining, while continuing to make employees pay more for their health care and pensions.  The latest Marquette poll showed Walker and Burke in a dead heat, despite the fact that half of voters don't know enough about Burke to have an opinion about her.


Petri Expresses Opinion About Lawsuit


8/01/14 - Congressman Tom Petri of Fond du Lac says a lawsuit Congress approved against the president over his alleged abuse of power concerning the Affordable Care Act is more likely to succeed than impeachment. Petri voted in favor of the lawsuit. He says impeachment talk is something both parties may be using to raise campaign funding and the president’s actions don’t rise to the level for impeachment. He says the lawsuit was another option that is also a gamble. He says if the court agrees to hear the lawsuit it will be precedent setting. Petri also referred to Senator Ron Johnson’s lawsuit over Obamacare, which saw a number of members of Congress sign on as friends of the court.


Former Milwaukee Man Proceeds To Trial


8/01/14 - A former Milwaukee man will proceed to trial on felony charges related to a pregnant teenager. Patrick Berry of Montgomery, Alabama waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday. The charge of Sexual Assault of a Child Under the Age of 16, carries a maximum 40 year prison sentence, if he is convicted. Prosecutors say the 36-year-old was staying with a “friend-of-a-friend” in Watertown in the summer of 2011 when he reportedly had consensual relations with a 15-year-old. Berry spoke with investigators by phone two years ago and reportedly admitted to the offense saying he would “do the right thing” by providing money and returning to Wisconsin when the victim reaches legal age for marriage. Court amends bond to $10-thousand dollars with conditions. Arraignment is scheduled for August 6.


Hustisford Man Enters Not Guilty Plea


8/01/14 - A Hustisford man entered a not guilty plea at arraignment Wednesday to charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl. Eric Bricco is charged with one dozen felony charges of Second Degree Assault and Bail Jumping. The 22-year-old was already on probation for having a different relationship with a 14-year-old girl when he was arrested in April. According to the terms of a November 2012 deferred prosecution agreement, Bricco would have avoided a felony record and two-years in prison if he stayed out of trouble until November of this year. Officials say the victim reported to Waukesha officers that she had sexual contact with Bricco on more than one occasion. When police questioned Bricco, he estimated the two had sex six to 10 times. Bricco will return to a Dodge County court room in November.


New Alert Program For Missing Adults


8/01/14 - For about a decade, statewide Amber Alerts have helped authorities track down missing-and-abducted children.  A similar service begins Friday to help find missing older adults who are at-risk.  The Silver Alert program will use the state's Crime Alert Network to send messages to Wisconsin radio and T-V stations.  The idea is to quickly get out information that can help find mainly those with dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.  The state Legislature unanimously approved the new Silver Alert system, and Governor Scott Walker did the same in April.  About 30 states have similar networks in place.


Fall River Enforces Bike Safety 


8/01/14 - Summertime Bike Rodeos introduce kids to bike safety. However, rodeos are not as effective in teaching kids as everyday enforcement of basic safety rules.  This summer's Fall River Bike Rodeo had an enthusiastic group of kids in attendance. However, when second grade teacher Kate Russell saw kids leaving the event she was disappointed at the number of kids not wearing helmets as they rode away. Russell has worked with Police Departments and Bike Rodeos over the past four years. She says the young bikers need to learn basic bike safety from their parents, teachers and the community. The Village Police Department is looking forward to working more closely with the school in planning next summer's Rodeo.


Yesterday's Headlines
    - Clothes For Kids Holds Open House
    - John Doe Probe Investigation
    - Three Major Rulings By Supreme Court

For those stories and more click here.

For older stories visit our news archive here.