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Category: State news

Bice: Rebecca Kleefisch was a critic of recall elections when she was the target. Now she champions the Mequon school board recall

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said it’s not uncommon for political party leaders to change their views on recall elections.

In 2012, Burden said, conservatives in Wisconsin fought the recall drive by arguing that Walker and Kleefisch had not been in office long enough to be removed and that recall elections were “merely a policy debate about labor unions and not over malfeasance in office.”

Now, he said, conservatives and Republicans can claim they are being consistent by arguing that school board members are violating state law with their public health mandates, such as masks, vaccines and online learning.

“So it is about wrongdoing in office and not just a dispute about local education policy,” Burden said.


‘Now we’re waiting’: Evacuees at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy face health care issues, confusion over restarting their lives

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Erin Barbato, the director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, said that the immigration status of evacuees isn’t tied to remaining at the base, but once they leave, a clock starts on their resettlement benefits, which are only available for eight months after leaving the base.

“Many people are confusing the resettlement process with the immigration process. So, when people are applying for humanitarian parole or for their Special Immigrant Visa or even for asylum, that does not need to be completed on the base,” she said. “The issue is people have now been waiting for a long time at these bases and they don’t want to remain there any longer, but many of them need a resettlement plan in order to get their life started in the United States.”

Fall armyworm population wreaking havoc on Wisconsin crops


Noted: This year in Wisconsin, a fall armyworm population is present unlike anything most entomologists have ever seen. The pests are doing damage to alfalfa, winter wheat and other cover crops around the state. Bryan Jensen, UW-Extension Pest Management Specialist, shares that this warmer fall weather has helped to create a perfect storm for fall armyworms to thrive. Fall armyworms are different from the normal armyworms seen during late spring. The good news, according to Jensen, is they will most definitely not over-winter here in Wisconsin: they are a warm weather species, and will not survive the winter

Why Wisconsin’s Covid Breakthrough Numbers Show the Power of Vaccination

PBS Wisconsin

Quoted: Adjusting disease rates for age is a common practice in epidemiology. The practice is crucial for understanding the impacts that a disease like COVID-19 has on a large and varied population.

“We adjust for factors like age because we identify factors like age as being confounders,” said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Delta ‘opened the door’: Rural deaths from COVID-19 now higher than in urban areas

Wisconsin Public Radio

Noted: COVID-19 vaccination rates tend to be lower in rural communities, and the same goes for rural areas in Wisconsin. The difference between the most and least vaccinated counties in Wisconsin is as much as 40 percent said Dr. Jonathan Temte, an associate dean with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health who studies vaccine and immunization policy.


Attorney General Josh Kaul blasts GOP-backed election investigation, outlines legal concerns

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Mike Wagner, professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the conflict between Vos, Gableman and Brandtjen is typical of recent dynamics within the Republican Party and shows a “crash to be as close to President Trump as possible.”

Former President Donald Trump has continued to push false claims of election fraud across the country in the year following the election.

“It’s really striking to see elected officials and appointed officials engaged in a back-and-forth about who can be more skeptical about an election that was clearly shown repeatedly to be extraordinarily fair and very well conducted,” Wagner said.

A look back at the 2011 gerrymander and what it tells us about the redistricting fight to come

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Every decade, states have to draw new maps after the census to rebalance the population in each district. For more than 50 years, the courts had the final say in Wisconsin because Democrats and Republicans split control of state government.

Not in 2011, when the GOP controlled both the legislative and executive branches.

“That’s when we got these really gerrymandered districts,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor David Canon.

Canon believes federal courts may revisit the issue after the science becomes more established.

“If the state courts can get some consensus on a measure or a couple of measures that show a partisan gerrymander, then maybe 10 years from now, this comes up again, and federal courts will say, ‘The states did this pretty well, and we do have accepted measures,’” Canon said.

Vehicle emissions in Wisconsin declined temporarily during COVID-19 shutdowns

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Power plant and industry emissions didn’t see a steep drop or any decline during stay-at-home orders. The findings are consistent with what one would expect to see from people traveling less during the pandemic, said Tracey Holloway, professor with the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“They did not see that much of a change in pollution from power plants and some industries, and that also is consistent because we’re still using electricity,” said Holloway. “We’re still running our air conditioners and the kind of things that drive a lot of demand for electricity were still happening.”

Evers announces $4.5M in state tax credits for new, automated cheese plant

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Steve Deller, professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he thinks the new technology makes the plant a worthwhile investment for state tax credits and will hopefully help the state’s dairy industry move into the future.

“This is a pretty good shot in the arm for the Wisconsin dairy industry,” Deller said. “Any time we see new investment like this is a positive sign because a lot of the growth in the dairy industry has really not been occurring in Wisconsin.”

360: Voters, lawmakers weigh in on GOP investigations into 2020 Wisconsin presidential election


Quoted: UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden is the director of a non-partisan elections research center. He’s been following the election investigations closely.

“It’s really unclear what’s happening in each investigation because these things are mostly not being done in a public way,” Burden said.

Burden believes it’s unlikely that the probes will uncover anything problematic or new due to a lack of evidence to support claims of fraud.

“The motivation for what they’re doing is sort of hard to figure out,” he said. “It may be that they’re looking for reasons or justification to make some changes to state law. It might also be a way just to keep this issue on the front burner going into the next election cycle just to keep their voters energized.”

Rebecca Kleefisch won’t mandate vaccines or masks but has yet to release plan to navigate COVID-19 as governor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Patrick Remington, a former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program, said leaning on the Wisconsin Emergency Response Plan is important to coordinate different entities but ideally, state officials would adopt an additional statewide plan that focuses on preventing and controlling the spread of the virus to combat the outbreak.

“That’s appropriate in the middle of an emergency, you need to have command and control and have top-down response. … It’s only part of the approach. You need to have a prevention and control plan that accompanies an emergency response plan,” Remington said.

Nurses turning to traveling jobs to make more money, while local hospitals have to recruit


A recent survey by the Wisconsin Center for Nursing and the School of Nursing at UW Madison shows an impending nursing shortage.

Anywhere from 10-20,000 nurses plan to retire in the next 10 years, and that could cause a crisis for the state. Right now many healthcare companies are finding it hard to staff nurses, so many are offering bonuses and high salaries to professionals from out of town.

Federal Financial Aid Applications From High School Students Drop Significantly During Pandemic

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Heidi Johnson is the advising and training manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Office of Student Financial Aid and president of the statewide Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. She told WPR the coronavirus pandemic and the year of online classes it brought to the state meant in-person meetings about FAFSA applications between students and high school counselors were halted.

As a result, Johnson said it wasn’t as easy for counselors to offer “friendly nudges” to encourage students to fill out the applications when mulling whether to attend college.

“So, I think certainly the timing of it, especially for that particular senior class, played a part,” said Johnson. “And just the fact that things stayed virtual, I think much longer than any of us planned for in the beginning.”

Wisconsin Cranberry Research Station Offers New Opportunities To ‘Move The Industry Forward’

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Amaya Atucha, fruit crop specialist for UW-Madison, said she and other researchers are grateful to the cranberry growers that let them host projects on their marshes. She said worrying about the crops was a common issue that held back progress.

“When we want to study things related to an invasive insect or a disease in which you really have to let that disease take over your marsh or your production bed, you’re not going to do that in a grower’s commercial marsh, because the grower makes their living out of the fruit,” Atucha said.

Attorney general candidate admits removing old podcasts; missing episodes feature Trump critics

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Four episodes of a podcast hosted by Ryan Owens — some of them featuring critics of former President Donald Trump — have disappeared from the internet as the Republican candidate for attorney general ramps up his campaign.

Owens on Wednesday offered evolving accounts regarding the removal of the episodes of the University of Wisconsin-Madison podcast.

Personal Income Levels Slump In Wisconsin As Government Aid Fades

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: “I was surprised at the level of the drop,” said Steve Deller, a UW-Madison professor of applied economics. “I would have thought that the second quarter of this year, we would have seen modest growth.”

Deller noted there was “modest growth” in terms of earnings from work, but that was offset by a drop off in “transfer receipts,” a category of income encompassing earnings from non-work sources.

Republicans say they want few redistricting changes, but a decade ago they moved millions of voters into new districts

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: For instance, lawmakers needed to make virtually no changes to the 60th Assembly District in Ozaukee County because it was underpopulated by just 10 people. Republican legislators instead decided to move about 17,600 people out of the district and about 18,000 people into the district. The shift moved 719 times as many people as what was needed, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Ken Mayer noted in court testimony at the time.

Mayer described similar changes to districts on Milwaukee’s south side. One district was underpopulated by about 2,800 people, but Republican lawmakers moved about 23,000 people out of the district and about 25,600 into it.

Wisconsin Assembly takes up bill on curbing how race and racism is taught in classrooms

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “Teachers do not deliberately set out to make students feel bad about themselves. The problem this bill seems to identify, that Wisconsin’s teachers intentionally or otherwise want to make students feel bad, is simply not real,” said Jeremy Stoddard, a University of Wisconsin-Madison curriculum and instruction professor, at an August hearing in the state Capitol.

“What I fear is that if it becomes law, it will have a chilling effect inhibiting teachers from teaching a full account of history,” he said then.

UW educators voice support for critical race theory as new bill seeks to ban it

Capital Times

In a Wednesday informational hearing for the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, legislators listened to UW System faculty and administrators share their perspectives on the issue. Frank King Jr., a UW-Platteville ethnic studies professor and executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion; Javier Tapia, a professor of educational policy and community studies at UW-Milwaukee; and John Zumbrunnen, UW-Madison’s vice provost for teaching and learning, gave remarks.

Vibrant fall colors expected for much of Wisconsin. Here’s when to expect leaves to change.

Green Bay Press-Gazette

Quoted: Purples and reds, however, are caused by anthocyanin, pigments that are more dependent on ideal fall weather. They serve a greater purpose than just looking pretty.

“Researchers here at UW-Madison back in 2003 discovered that these anthocyanins actually act as natural sunscreen for leaves,” said David Stevens, curator of the University of Wisconsin-Madison arboretum. “What they’re doing is protecting sugars that are still in the leaf from harmful effects of the sun once that chlorophyll is gone.”

The Difficulty of Defining ‘Fairness’ in Wisconsin’s Redistricting Process

PBS Wisconsin

Quoted: Jordan Ellenberg is a math professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When it comes to what constitutes a fair map, Ellenberg said many Wisconsinites might be asking the wrong questions.

“The very word ‘fair,’ there’s some question of philosophy and some question of ethics and some question of law,” Ellenberg said. “There is not really a good answer to what is fair, so then you may say, ‘Well, what are we even doing?’ Like, why am I here talking about it? Because there is a good answer to what is unfair. That’s a different question.”

Despite guidance from health officials, Ron Johnson says vaccinating people during a pandemic ‘could be dangerous’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Patrick Remington, a former epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program, said the opposite is true.

“This has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated, worsened by people taking risks, such as gathering together indoors, without masks,” Remington said. “The vaccine has been very effective in preventing serious illness, and death. The fact that the delta variant is so much more contagious, means that we cannot rely on the vaccine alone, but need to reduce the risks of getting infected and infecting others.”

Republicans advance bill banning critical race theory in schools

Wisconsin State Journal

During an informational hearing Wednesday on critical race theory by the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, lawmakers spoke with members of the University of Wisconsin System, along with Chris Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and director of the conservative think tank’s critical race theory initiative, and Max Eden, research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Workers reinstall Wisconsin statues downed in 2020 protest


The reinstallations come as a task force works to erect a statue of Vel Phillips on the Capitol grounds. Phillips was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, the first female judge in Milwaukee County and the first Black judge in Wisconsin. She died in 2018.

Gableman talking to conspiracy theorist Shiva Ayyadurai as he reviews Wisconsin’s election

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Barry Burden, the director of the Election Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Ayyadurai’s claim can’t be taken seriously.

“His statements about Massachusetts seem completely implausible,” Burden said. “These sort of artificial multipliers and things that he latches onto seem completely detached from reality.”

How Wisconsin is ruled by a shadow governor


Then-Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, picked Vos to serve as a student representative on the University of Wisconsin’s board of trustees. Vos was also college roommates with Reince Priebus, who later became chair of the Republican National Committee and Trump’s first White House chief of staff. Priebus didn’t respond to inquiries about Vos.

Bice: Republican AG candidate criticized for speaking favorably last year of Gov. Evers’ pandemic response

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It’s the third rail of Republican politics in Wisconsin right now.

Do not praise anything that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has done, especially his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But there was Ryan Owens, a Republican candidate for attorney general, doing just that last year in a podcast produced by the University of Wisconsin-Madison political science department.

“We have to keep our eye on this,” Owens told the “1050 Bascom” podcast on April 6, 2020.

“The governor, to his credit, was ahead of the game when it came to the ‘safer at home’ order,” Owens said of the Evers administration’s March 2020 measure closing schools and nonessential businesses due to COVID-19. “We can quibble around the edges about the treatment of religion and things like that with it, but he was well ahead of a lot of states when he issued that order, to his credit.”

Report: COVID-19 Pandemic Driving Wisconsin’s Alcohol Sales

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: National studies show people have been consuming more alcohol, especially women with young children, during the pandemic, said Julia Sherman, coordinator for the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. She said other research has found that people who increased alcohol consumption to cope with natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, didn’t slow their drinking afterward.

“And that is the big question,” said Sherman. “Will the drinking subside as this crisis fades? As we are able to get back to normal or the new normal? Will we all go back to the previous level of alcohol consumption? And based on this other reporting, it’s not as likely as we might hope.”

‘It’s a waste of time’: A pair of Republicans take aim at partisan election reviews in Wisconsin

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Barry Burden, director of the Election Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said at Wednesday’s news conference that the partisan efforts would hurt the public perception of a well-run election.

“They are decreasing confidence in the election system, rather than increasing it, regardless of what they find,” Burden said. “The fact that questions and suspicions and allegations are being launched and there are multiple tracks of reviews happening simultaneously all coming in at different times with different conclusions is likely to undermine the trust that people have in the system.”

Listen Live The Ideas Network Program Schedule Program Notes NPR News & Music Network Program Schedule Music Playlists All Classical Network Program Schedule Music Playlists WPR CORONAVIRUS IN WISCONSIN A red “Now Hiring!” sign located in a grassy field near a county road instructs potential applicants to apply outside. A sign is posted outside of Klondike Cheese Factory on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, in Monroe, Wis. Angela Major/WPR Evers: End Of Pandemic Unemployment Will Not Solve Worker Shortage

Wisconsin Public Radio

For months employers, politicians and economists have squared off over what role additional federal unemployment benefits had in contributing to a worker shortage in Wisconsin.

Now that an extra $300 a week in pandemic jobless benefits has ended, the question many have is whether — and when — people will return to the workforce.

“They will, but at a very small margin. Particularly for low wage jobs,” predicts economist Steven Deller from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Report: For working Wisconsin, ‘new normal’ must mean big changes

Wisconsin Examiner

More jobs, but not a full recovery. Better wages, but fewer unions — and, as a consequence, weaker protections for workers. And gaping inequalities by race and ethnicity.

That’s the picture painted in the 2021 edition of the State of Working Wisconsin, an annual assessment that COWS, a University of Wisconsin research and policy center, has been producing for more than two decades.

COWS Associate Director Laura Dresser acknowledges a widespread urge to get “back to normal” under those conditions.

“But ‘normal’ for low-wage workers has long been unsustainable, leaving too many families struggling to get by,” she writes. “Adding jobs is important, but ensuring strong job quality and supports for low-wage workers is equally important.”

Smith: Milwaukee River assessment highlights value of fish diversity

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: Identifying fish in Wisconsin is easier than ever thanks to an app that can be dowloaded to smartphones.

The app includes color photographs and information on 174 fish species. It was developed by the University of Wisconsin Center for Limnology, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

Prehn corresponded with Republican leadership about decision not to step down from Natural Resources Board, emails show

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The embattled chairman of the Natural Resources Board sought and received counsel from aides to Republican state Senate leadership on his decision to not vacate his seat at the end of his six-year term in May, emails show — contrary to claims he hadn’t.

Frederick Prehn solicited advice from and shared information with several people since May, according to documents obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including Madison lobbyist Scott Meyer, U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, and former University of Wisconsin Regent Gerald Whitburn.

Here’s why mosquitos are so bad right now — and why you don’t have to worry too much about West Nile virus

Green Bay Press-Gazette

“We typically don’t have significant disease concerns with them,” said PJ Liesch, a University of Wisconsin entomologist. “These floodwater mosquitoes can be a nuisance, and they can lead to lots of bites and things like that, but in many cases they aren’t carrying diseases like West Nile virus.”

Wisconsin Pediatricians, State Superintendent Plead For Universal Masks In Schools As Cases Continue Rapid Rise

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: “This is an appeal, really, to school administrators and other officials in schools, and most importantly to parents and anyone whose decision-making about masks in schools,” said Dr. Ellen Wald, a University of Wisconsin-Madison pediatrician who was one of nearly 500 doctors to sign the open letter from UW Health released Wednesday. “We think this is such an important intervention.”

Wald emphasized that masking everyone in schools has universal support among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and other health agencies.