Monday, December 11th

State

Land at the Flambeau mine was later reclaimed. The site rests along the Flambeau River in Rusk County.(Photo: Rio Tinto Kennecott)

MADISON - Gov. Scott Walker will sign a measure Monday clearing the way for mining copper and gold in Wisconsin, handing a win to business groups over the proposal's environmental opponents.

In signing Assembly Bill 499, the Republican governor will repeal a nearly two-decade old state law that has essentially barred companies from extracting minerals besides iron because of pollution concerns. 

The legislation passed the Senate and Assembly last month without a single Democratic vote and with opposition from a handful of Republicans.

Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), the bill's lead Senate sponsor, said last month that it wouldn't change the state's environmental rules for mining and wouldn't stop local governments from prohibiting mining in their area.

"We are retaining Wisconsin's high environmental standards," Tiffany said. 

The legislation could usher in a new era of mineral mining in Wisconsin, which is home to deposits of copper, zinc, gold and silver.

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Tony Evers, state superintendent of public instruction.(Photo: Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)Buy Photo

MADISON - Republicans said state schools superintendent Tony Evers yanked one teacher's license for looking at pornography at work but not another's, renewing debate about whether Evers had consistently applied the law. 

Evers' handling of these cases has become the go-to criticism for Republicans as Evers campaigns in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Scott Walker. 

In a previously undisclosed case from 2008, the Department of Public Instruction and Evers as its then-No. 2 official revoked the license of Kent A. Tollakson, a teacher in Amery, for looking at pornography on his work computer, including when students were in the classroom. 

Republicans said this latest case shows Evers in 2014 could have and should have revoked the license of science teacher Andrew Harris for using his work computer without students present to look at emails with images of naked women.

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Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel.(Photo: Michael Sears, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)Buy Photo

MADISON - The state cannot enforce a 7-year-old rule that fire sprinklers be put in new apartment buildings with three to 20 units, state Attorney General Brad Schimel wrote in an opinion Friday. 

In the opinion, the GOP attorney general said that the Department of Safety and Professional Services rule goes beyond the agency's authority under state law. 

The issue has been controversial because fire officials contend that the regulation is one of the best ways to save lives.

"There is little question that the (opinion) will have a substantial impact on other rules and regulations involving the construction of new buildings and the state's building code, in general," Schimel wrote. "However ... the analysis below is unavoidable."

The development comes six months after Gov. Scott Walker's administration looked at rolling back the requirement, reversed itself and left it in place, and then did stop enforcing it out while waiting for Schimel to determine whether the rule was lawful.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel.(Photo: Associated Press)

MADISON - The John Doe judge overseeing possible contempt proceedings of nine state officials is withdrawing from the case after the Journal Sentinel reported he had posted comments about the case on Twitter. 

Jefferson County Circuit Judge William Hue made the posts before he was assigned the case in the spring, according to a source with the court system. 

It will fall to Chief Justice Patience Roggensack to appoint a new judge. 

Friday's development came as former government lawyer Shane Falk said he had asked legal regulators to review what he called false allegations from the attorney general that he mishandled John Doe evidence. 

Attorney General Brad Schimel filed a report in court this week seeking contempt proceedings against Falk and eight other officials for mishandling millions of pages of records they gathered in an investigation that was supposed to be kept secret. In addition, Schimel said the Office of Lawyer Regulation should consider professional sanctions against Falk.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel.(Photo: Associated Press)

MADISON - Former government lawyer Shane Falk said Friday he had asked legal regulators to review what he called false allegations from attorney general that he mishandled evidence in a political investigation. 

Attorney General Brad Schimel filed a report in court this week seeking contempt proceedings against Falk and eight other officials for mishandling millions of pages of records they gathered in a John Doe investigation that was supposed to be kept secret. In addition, Schimel said the Office of Lawyer Regulation should consider professional sanctions against Falk. 

Falk said Schimel's allegations that he violated a court order were wrong but reported them to the Office of Lawyer Regulation so the claims can be addressed.

"Of course, it is not true, but with how he cherry picked emails in his report, it doesn't seem that way," Falk said by email. 

Falk, who worked for the state Government Accountability Board until 2014, said he did not leak secret evidence and did not know why some of the material was labeled "opposition research.