State News: School Safety, Wolves, China Tariffs

Walker Signs $100 Million School Safety Bill

Gov. Scott Walker signed a $100-million school safety measure Monday that allows schools to apply for grants to make their buildings more secure following recent school shootings. State lawmakers passed the measure last week.

Walker visited Kaukauna’s Victor Haen Elementary School on Monday morning, where he held the bill-signing event.

“We’re making sure that any threat to our schools is one that can be addressed by these grants,” he said, adding that “the grants can be used both for physical changes to improve the infrastructure to address safety issues as well as things like school safety officers.”

Walker pushed the legislation in the wake of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead last month.

A new Office of Student Safety will administer the grant program under the state Department of Justice. The main position in that office has yet to be filled, but schools can begin submitting grant applications.


Business Skeptical of China Tariffs

One western Wisconsin manufacturer has raised concerns over the Trump administration’s plans to impose higher tariffs on Chinese steel. The company  OEM Fabricators – doesn’t think increasing tariffs will help stabilize steel prices, which have skyrocketed in the last six months.

OEM Fabricators is a custom metal fabrication company based in Woodville, Wis. The company has had trouble giving customers accurate quotes for their projects because many steel-makers have only been guaranteeing prices for 24 hours. The price of steel has been very volatile – it was $600 per ton last fall and shot up to OEM spends about $20 million a year on steel, most of which comes from plants in Canada or the United States. Tyler said his company believes in the free market and adding a 25 percent tax to steel from China would likely affect the world steel Ali Abootalebi, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire political science professor who studies international trade, said tariffs create uncertainty in markets around the world. “Tariffs are unfair barriers,” Abootalebi said. “They simply distort prices and they are not good tools for trade.”

Bid To Remove Wolves from List Falls Flat

An effort to remove the Great Lakes gray wolf from the federal endangered species list failed last week when Congress approved an omnibus spending bill.

Late last year language to remove protections for the animal in Wisconsin and the rest of the Western Great Lakes region was included in the House Interior and Environment appropriations bill. But in the flurry to get a spending plan passed before a Friday deadline, the rider was pulled from the final bill that was signed by President Donald Trump Friday afternoon.

The news was hailed by conservation groups who oppose removing wolves from list, which would allow wolf hunts to resume in Wisconsin. Melissa Smith, the Great Lakes representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, called removal of the delisting language from the omnibus bill a victory.

“The public deserves standalone bills to hear a good debate on things and not with riders,” said Smith. “Wolves and budgets don’t really make sense. So, we’re really pleased that those riders were struck.”


District Attorney, Prison Funding Likely Dead

A proposal to pay for more district attorneys in Wisconsin and set aside funding for a new prison appears to be dead in the state Legislature.

Under the proposal, the state would budget $4 million to hire about 53 new prosecutors in 40 counties across the state. Eligible counties would be those that are operating with less than 79 percent of the state’s recommended staffing level. Dane and Milwaukee counties would not qualify because they exceed that benchmark.

District attorneys across Wisconsin have been pushing for years to address what they call a critical shortage of assistant DAs.

Some opponents to the bill said it should have also included funding for public defenders.

The plan would have also borrowed $350 million for a new state prison, a measure that a number of groups protested in Madison earlier this month.


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