Wisconsin appeals court limits local regulations for wind turbines
Madison (AP) — A Wisconsin appeals court is limiting the restrictions that local municipalities can place on the installation of wind turbines.
According to the District 2 Court of Appeals, state law promotes alternative energy sources such as wind energy and discourages local policies that arbitrarily limit them.
According to the court, localities can restrict wind energy systems only when necessary to protect public health or where the regulations do not affect a system’s cost or efficiency.
The ruling strikes down a Calumet County ordinance that set minimum height, noise and setback requirements for wind turbines.
Localities cannot adopt uniform restrictions and must consider each project on a case-by-case basis, according to the ruling.
Gov. Jim Doyle announces improvement grants for 25 dairy operations
Madison (AP) — Twenty-five Wisconsin dairy manufacturers have been awarded $700,000 in tax credits for making improvements to their facilities.
Gov. Jim Doyle said the projects cost $51 million and will generate 237 jobs.
Under the tax credit program, recipients can earn up to 10 percent of expenses a year for dairy manufacturing modernization or expansion including building construction, upgrades to utilities, new equipment and computer software.
Recipients included Saputo Cheese USA Inc. in Alto, Lake Country Dairy in Turtle Lake, Gibbsville Cheese Co. in Lima and Cedar Valley Cheese in Fredonia.
Supreme Court: Wisconsin cannot shield the names of union workers
Madison (AP) — State agencies cannot withhold the names of union workers under the open records law, according to a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling.
The court ruled 6-1 that union contracts prohibiting agencies from releasing information that identifies workers do not trump the state’s open records law.
Justice Patience Roggensack said allowing such exemptions for union workers “would have the potential to eviscerate the Public Records Law through private agreements.”
The court is upholding a judge’s order that records related to employees who lost their driving privileges and who work for the Department of Natural Resources be released.
Employees can still try to convince judges their names should not be released if those people believe the harm would outweigh the public’s interest.
Legislative committee considers bill for lawmakers’ secret successors
Madison (AP) — A legislative committee is set to consider a bill that would let state lawmakers create secret lists of emergency successors.
The measure calls for every legislator to secretly make a list of three to seven people who could be a successor. Lawmakers would have to make the list every two years. It would not be subject to Wisconsin’s open records law.
If an enemy attack results in more than nine vacancies in the Senate or more than 25 openings in the Assembly, the presiding officer in each house would appoint the successors to the open seats.
The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Homeland Security is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday.
Federal Reserve predicts unemployment will top 10 percent this year
Washington (AP) — The Federal Reserve expects the economy this year will sink at a slower pace than predicted, but unemployment will top 10 percent, according to a forecast released Wednesday.
The Fed now predicts the economy will shrink between 1 and 1.5 percent this year, an improvement from its old forecast issued in May. At that time, the Fed projected the economy would contract between 1.3 and 2 percent.
Against that backdrop, the Fed’s forecast for unemployment this year worsened. The central bank predicted the jobless rate could rise as high as 10.1 percent, compared with the previous forecast of 9.6 percent.
The nation’s unemployment rate climbed to 9.5 percent in June, a 26-year high.
Industrial activity logs smaller-than-expected dip, signals economic boost
Washington (AP) — Industrial companies cut back production yet again in June but not nearly as deeply as they have been, another sign the recession is easing its grip.
The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities fell 0.4 percent last month as the recession crimped demand for a wide range of manufactured goods, including cars, machinery and household appliances.
The decline, however, was not as bad as May. Industrial activity posted a revised 1.2 percent drop then, which turned out to be slightly worse than first reported.
The contraction in industrial activity in June was less than the 0.6 percent decline that economists were projecting, although it marked the eighth month in a row of production cuts.
Given crimped customer appetites, industrial companies idled more of their plants and equipment in June. The overall operating rate fell to 68, a record low dating to 1967. The previous low of 68.2 was in May.
Federal Trade Commission, 23 states act to stop sham loan consultants
Los Angeles (AP) — Prosecutors nationwide filed 189 legal actions Wednesday against loan modification consultants accused of bilking homeowners who are desperate to make their mortgage payments more affordable.
The lawsuits and cease-and-desist orders announced by Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz and California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown were part of a nationwide sweep conducted by the federal agency and 23 states of alleged sham consultants.
Brown said the lawsuits the attorney general’s office filed in Orange and Los Angeles counties include allegations against five companies and their subsidiaries and staff members. In all, 21 individuals and 14 companies were named.
The lawsuits seek millions of dollars in civil penalties, restitution for victims and a permanent injunction to keep the companies and the defendants from offering mortgage-relief services, Brown said.
One defendant, Irvine-based U.S. Homeowners Assistance, is accused of collecting up to $3,500 each from dozens of borrowers in danger of losing their homes.
Another company, Orange-based U.S. Foreclosure Relief Corp., collected more than $4.4 million from borrowers during a nine-month period but failed in most instances to provide any services and avoided responding to consumers’ inquiries, the officials said.