- Associated Press - Thursday, May 15, 2014
Court: Wis. campaign finance laws went too far

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday declared major portions of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law unconstitutional in a decision that experts said would have little immediate effect but would make it clear that the rules must be rewritten.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that objected to rules governing so-called issue advocacy, in which groups express political opinions but don’t advocate for or against specific candidates. The lawsuit, however, also challenged a host of other rules governing how outside groups spend during elections.

The strongly-worded decision from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Wisconsin regulators had overstepped their bounds in banning spending by corporations, setting limits on how much they could raise for affiliated political committees and establishing burdensome rules for groups that merely mentioned candidates’ names in ads.

“Like other campaign-finance systems, Wisconsin’s is labyrinthian and difficult to decipher without a background in this area of the law,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote for the court.

Part of the problem, she said, was that state law had not kept up with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions limiting the government’s power to regulate political speech. She went on to detail its flaws.

James Bopp, an Indiana attorney representing Wisconsin Right to Life, compared the law after Wednesday’s decision to “the Titanic after hitting the iceberg.”

“There have been so many holes blown into this campaign finance law that I don’t know what you could do other than have the Legislature rewrite the whole thing,” Bopp said.

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Farming groups launch tractor safety campaign

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A coalition of agricultural groups has launched a campaign to encourage parents to keep children off tractors after numerous youngsters were killed or severely injured in accidents in the past year.

Public service announcements, posters and other materials distributed by the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network warn parents to “keep kids away from tractors” because “it’s easier to bury a tradition than a child.”

The campaign follows a fierce fight two years ago over proposed child labor law changes that ended when the U.S. Labor Department backed off a plan to require paid farm workers to be 16 to use tractors and other power equipment. Few argue with the campaign’s goal of keeping children safe, but it takes aim at long-standing practices in rural communities, where many parents grew up riding and driving tractors.

Marsha Salzwedel, an agricultural youth safety specialist with the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety in Marshfield, said the latest effort is not meant to deter children from working on farms.

“We think it’s beneficial for kids to work in ag,” said Salzwedel, whose center is a leading partner in the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network. “What we’re saying is that if you have a child working anywhere, you need to assess them and make sure they have a job they are capable of handling.”

Two children younger than 16 were killed by tractors while working in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their deaths follow 25 from 2003 through 2011. Data for 2013 are not yet available.

Safety advocates believe those numbers underestimate the problem, however, because most accidents do not involve children who are being paid to work. A 14-year-old Ohio girl was killed and four relatives, including a baby and a toddler, were injured last month when a tractor flipped on its side. All five had been riding in the cab. Days earlier, a 5-year-old Pennsylvania boy fell off a tractor he was riding with his father, was run over and died.

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1st wild whooping crane of season hatches

NECEDAH, Wis. (AP) - The first whooping crane of the season has hatched at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin.

The chick was born May 8 from the first nest of the year and was named W1-14, according to refuge. The W stands for a wild chick, 1 for the first hatch of the year and 14 for year.

But the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1hKXq7q) reports the chick faces long odds that it will survive until it can fly.

Problems occur during the 80 days after the chicks hatch. That’s when they must try to survive while growing enough feathers and becoming strong enough to fly.

Brad Strobel, the wildlife biologist for the refuge, says chicks often succumb to poor weather and are easy prey for predators before they are ready to fly.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsjhttp://www.madison.com/wsj

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Ginseng thief convicted, must pay nearly $4,000

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A judge has ordered a western Wisconsin man to pay nearly $4,000 in fines and restitution for illegally harvesting ginseng.

Trempealeau County prosecutors charged Timothy Kampa of Independence in February with 32 counts of harvesting the plant out-of-season and failing to get permission to harvest on private land.

Kampa, 43, pleaded no contest to eight counts in a deal with prosecutors on April 25. Judge John Damon ordered him to pay $2,748 in fines and pay $1,000 in restitution to landowners who lost their ginseng to him. He also must forfeit 14 pounds of ginseng worth about $10,000 that Department of Natural Resources wardens seized from him.

DNR Warden Chris Shea said in a statement released Wednesday that Kampa started harvesting ginseng in July and August prior to the start of the state ginseng season on Sept. 1. He would dress in camouflage and park his car at rest areas and cemeteries where the vehicle would raise no suspicion and head off into the woods.

“Kampa just harvested where and when he wanted,” Shea said in the statement.

Kampa’s attorney, Thomas Bilski, said he thinks the DNR is “nuts.”

Kampa has been gathering ginseng since he was a little boy, Bilski said, and still operates under what Bilski called the old ways, when people out in the woods didn’t worry about property boundaries.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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