State

Wisconsin Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), left, speaks during a news conference with Wisconsin Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), right, before a meeting of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.(Photo: AP)

MADISON – Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee will meet in private next week with top officials from Gov. Scott Walker’s administration — prompting criticism from excluded Democrats who say the meetings should be held in public.

“The problem of private meetings is we don’t know why they’re being held or what’s being discussed,” said Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), a member of the budget committee.

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), the co-chairwoman of the Joint Finance Committee, said the gatherings would include less than a majority of the committee and so would not violate the state’s open meetings law.

The planned meetings with members of the Republican governor’s administration came to light during Sunshine Week, which emphasizes the importance of government transparency.

Wisconsin’s prison population is on the rise, prompting politicians from both parties to look for ways to save money.(Photo: Department of Corrections)

MADISON – Wisconsin’s prison population is on the rise, prompting politicians from both parties to look for ways to save money.

Gov. Scott Walker is banking on the inmate population growing more slowly than earlier anticipated. If his assumption is wrong, the state will have to scramble to come up with an extra $22.7 million next year.

To control the expected influx of inmates, lawmakers are looking at expanding drug and alcohol treatment programs.

“This is what we need, thinking outside of the box,” said Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), the chairman of the Assembly Corrections Committee.

Schraa said he wants to create a new alcohol treatment program and open a geriatric inmate facility to house the increasing prison population. And Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) said he wants to convert the state’s troubled juvenile prison, Lincoln Hills School for Boys, to a drug and alcohol treatment facility for adult inmates.

A lawsuit was filed this week over a Wisconsin law that bars the sale of Kerrygold butter and other brands that haven't been graded by the state or federal government.(Photo: Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

MADISON – Wisconsinites are demanding their Irish butter this St. Patrick’s Day.

A specialty grocery store and frustrated consumers, backed by a conservative legal group, sued the state this week over a law that bars the sale of Kerrygold butter and other European brands.

Wisconsin bars the sale of Irish butter from grass-fed cows — a product widely used in the Bulletproof Diet — because it does not bear a label that grades its quality. Wisconsin law requires butter to be marked as “Grade A” or another grade as determined by the state or federal government.

Every other state allows the sale of Kerrygold and other ungraded butter brands.

“Wisconsin businesses and consumers are more than capable of determining whether butter is sufficiently creamy, properly salted, or too crumbly,” attorney Rick Esenberg wrote in the lawsuit.

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Ben Erickson paints portraits of professional athletes like Aaron Rodgers and then asks the athletes to sign the artwork. Duke Behnke/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Ben Erickson, a Neenah High School and St. Norbert College graduate, paints portraits of famous NBA, NFL and MLB athletes at his studio in Whitefish Bay. A majority of Erickson's portraits have been autographed by the athletes.(Photo: Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

WHITEFISH BAY - Neenah native Ben Erickson has found a way to stand out among the throngs of fans seeking autographs of professional athletes.

As collectors gather outside hotels and sporting venues in hopes that superstars like Aaron Rodgers or Steph Curry will sign their glossy photographs or trading cards, Erickson holds up 16-by-20-inch portraits of the athletes that he's painted himself.

"I'm sure it gets boring signing the same photo hundreds of times," Erickson told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

Hansen(Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

In an attack on Republicans that raises questions about the fairness of Wisconsin's elections, state Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) says:

Wisconsin is "the most -- if not Number 1, Number 2 -- gerrymandered state in the country" for state legislative boundaries.

PolitiFact Wisconsin looks to see where Wisconsin ranks in terms of drawing boundaries that favor one political party over another.