State News: Republicans Bypass Evers’ Special Session on Gun Laws

Wisconsin Republicans began and ended a Nov. 7  “special session” on gun laws without any debate or votes, despite a call from Gov. Tony Evers to act on plans to expand background checks and instate a “red flag” law in the state. 

Evers called the special session on gun measures last month after several weeks of pushing GOP lawmakers, who control both the state Assembly and Senate, to move forward with the gun bills. 

Under the first bill backed by the governor, background checks would be expanded to private gun sales in Wisconsin, including sales at gun shows. The second bill would instate a “red flag” law that would allow law-enforcement officers to temporarily revoke gun-ownership rights if individuals are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. 

Republicans have argued that the bills violate Second Amendment and due-process rights. They also declined to advance their own gun-related bills during the special session. 

Both the Assembly and Senate convened and immediately adjourned the special session without debating the bills or any others related to gun policy.

Record Year for Endangered Piping Plover

Due to habitat loss or degradation, nest disturbance and predation, piping plovers have been considered either threatened or endangered. Recent recovery efforts are trying to turn around the perilously endangered status of the Great Lakes population. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service photo.

An endangered shorebird is having a record year in Wisconsin. Federal, state and tribal partners working on the recovery of piping plover saw a record number of chicks take flight.

“One of our most successful years ever, [when] we had a total of 10 pairs in the state that produced 26 young,” said Sumner Matteson, an avian ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Piping plover were first listed as endangered across the Great Lakes in 1986 after suitable shoreline habitat for the bird had declined. The shorebirds prefer to nest on sandy dunes and cobblestone beaches. There were just 16 pairs at the time of the listing.

This year, officials recorded 71 nesting pairs across the Great Lakes, said Reena Bowman, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The number is up slightly from the 67 pairs discovered last year. However, Bowman said numbers are down from a record 76 pairs recorded in 2017, adding that high lake levels reduced the amount of habitat across the lakes.

Milwaukee Approves Tiny-Home Village for Veterans

The James A. Peterson Veteran Village in Racine opened in 2017 with 15 tiny homes and a community center. Milwaukee’s tiny-home community for veterans will be modeled after Racine’s village. Photo courtesy of Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin.

The city of Milwaukee is one step closer to creating a village of tiny homes for veterans who are experiencing homelessness. On Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signed off on the approved sale and project so that construction can begin in the spring. The Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Alder Chantia Lewis are leading the effort. 

The Milwaukee Common Council approved the tiny-homes initiative Nov. 5. Forty-eight homes and a community center will be built just west of N. 60th Street and south of W. Green Tree Road on the city’s northwest side and will be modeled after a similar project in Racine.

Each home will be approximately 240 square feet – slightly larger than the homes in Racine – and include a half bathroom. The community center, at 10,000 square feet, will house showers, additional restrooms, a kitchen and a common area. The goal is to give veterans personal space while providing a common area where they can gather to socialize.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reported that as of January 2018, there were 332 veterans experiencing homelessness in Wisconsin.

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