- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014
Proposed cuts pack big impact for Wisconsin city

WASHINGTON (AP) - To see the impact of strategic military decisions on local communities, look no further than Marinette, Wis.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s vision for leaner, more versatile military targeted the littoral combat ship, the marquee product of the city’s biggest employer. And that could mean lost jobs in Marinette, a city of roughly 11,000.

“It’s been hanging out there,” Marinette Mayor Denise Ruleau said. “I think the community is aware that we have two 10-ship contracts. That it will supply them with five years’ worth of work.”

But Hagel’s proposal to cancel 20 of a planned 52 ship orders raises questions about the five years after that. Marinette has a relatively diverse economic base, but its biggest employer is Marinette Marine, which builds the littoral combat ships with defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

About 2,000 jobs in Marinette are directly linked with the littoral combat ship program. The current projected overall cost to the Navy for the littoral combat ship program is roughly $34 billion.

Ann Hartnell, the executive director of the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry, said dozens of other businesses across Wisconsin and the region, like parts suppliers, also would be affected by the cuts.

“I’m not going to worry until the cuts are final and I think that’s kind of the attitude of everyone I know,” Hartnell said. “We know it may be coming.”


NY, Conn. up heat help in food stamp cut end-run

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut and New York have found a way around federal budget cuts that played a central role in the massive farm bill passed this month: bump up home heating assistance a few million bucks in return for preserving more than a half-billion dollars in food stamp benefits.

The moves by Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo - with the possibility that more governors could follow - cheer social service advocates who say the deep recession and weak economic recovery have pounded low-income workers and the unemployed who rely on heating assistance and food stamps.

The $100 billion per year farm bill cut $800 million annually in the food stamp program by ending some state practices that give recipients minimal heating assistance - as low as $1 per person - to trigger higher food stamp benefits. Compromise legislation requires states to give recipients at least $20 in heating assistance before a higher food stamp benefit could kick in.

Connecticut and New York have both moved to bump up heating assistance in order to preserve the food stamp benefits, a decision backed by advocates and panned by critics who say it’s just a way to circumvent the point of the bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 7.

“The extra money being spent is an artificial boost of an amount that a household is receiving, but they’re doing so though a scheme, basically,” said Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

As much as 95 percent of food stamp funding is from Washington and “states don’t have a concern about increased food stamp costs,” she said.

“We need to be sure that money spent goes to those most in need rather than states using a loophole to boost money they’re receiving,” Sheffield said.


Report: State delayed child porn investigations

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Court records show that in at least two cases, the Wisconsin Department of Justice took years to act on detailed and credible tips about online child pornography.

As a result, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday, (https://bit.ly/MGl1N6https://bit.ly/MGl1N6 ), a 19-year-old Milwaukee man with a history of sexual assault arrests has been accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy in a high school locker room. And a Pewaukee man who worked as a juvenile drug-and-alcohol counselor got a light sentence that didn’t require registering as a sex offender.

Both cases had been referred to the state by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It receives hundreds of thousands of tips about child sexual exploitation each year, but passes on only those found to be credible to state and local law enforcement agencies, said John Shehan, executive director of its exploited children division.

Two special agents with the department’s Division of Criminal Investigation were reassigned after the newspaper asked about the cases.

Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said the cases “reflect some level of staff negligence.” She said officials did not know how many other tips, if any, have sat for years without being pursued. But she said the “unacceptable failure” in the two cases did not reflect the work of the department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force as a whole.

In one of the cases, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s office received a tip from the center in 2011 alleging that Robert Turk, the Pewaukee man, had distributed nearly 200 images of child pornography via Facebook.

Waiting too long to investigate carries a risk that the evidence will disappear or won’t be allowed in court. Because of that, prosecutors reached a plea agreement with Turk in January, allowing the 37-year-old to plead guilty to three lesser charges instead of the original five felony child pornography counts. He’s serving three years of probation with nine months of work release and doesn’t have to register as a sex offender.


Report: Paroles of inmates plummet under Walker

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The number of inmates being granted release from prison by the Wisconsin Parole Commission has plummeted under Gov. Scott Walker, according to a report published Sunday.

The commission has severely curtailed parole for more than 2,800 inmates who committed crimes before the state’s “truth-in-sentencing” law took effect in 2000, the Wisconsin State Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1jKxg7uhttps://bit.ly/1jKxg7u ).

Many of those prisoners got lengthy sentences under previous laws that allowed for the possibility of early release, as little as one-fourth to no more than two-thirds of their sentences. But only a small percentage of those inmates now get paroled, and the proportion dropped sharply after the Republican governor took office in 2011.

Under Walker’s administration, 6 percent of parole requests were granted in 2013 and 5.3 percent in 2012. That compares with 14.5 percent in 2009 and 13 percent in 2010, the final year of the administration of Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle.

The State Journal obtained the figures under the state’s open records law.

Walker authored the “truth-in-sentencing” law when he was in the state Assembly. Under the law, a judge hands down a specific sentence that includes some incarceration and some time on supervision. There is no parole for people committing crimes after Jan. 1, 2000.

But thousands of state prisoners remain in the system under “old law” sentences, including 2,887 currently eligible for parole.

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