Wisconsin VA secretary calls King a 'gem'


MADISON, Wis. (AP) --Wisconsin Veterans Affairs Secretary Dan Zimmerman says the embattled King veterans home is a "gem" and has been unfairly maligned.

Zimmerman testified Wednesday before the Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. He clashed with Democratic state Rep. Katrina Shankland, saying that "morale is not low at King." He says the staff has been unfairly criticized and they are passionate about addressing issues at the home.

Shankland says heard "some of the worst stories I've ever heard" from workers at King. She says their mental health is on the line as they are forced to work overtime on low pay.

Zimmerman promises that his top priority is increasing staffing at King and reducing forced overtime.

Around 700 residents receive care at King, which provides them with nursing, counseling and social activities. The facility has been plagued by allegations of mismanagement.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrats on the Legislature's budget committee are ripping Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel for spending $10,000 to create coins emblazoned with "Kicking Ass Every Day."

Schimel appeared Wednesday before the Joint Finance Committee to answer questions about the Department of Justice's budget. Sen. Jon Erpenbach asked him if he thought it was a good idea to spend the money on the coins.

Schimel says the coins are given as gifts to boost employee morale. He says he wanted a catchy phrase and DOJ workers go above and beyond in their work. He says most of the feedback he's gotten on the coins has been positive.

He did say he didn't know the coins cost $10,000, however, and he's putting what he called higher levels of approval before such expenditures are made. He didn't elaborate.

Sen. Lena Taylor implored Schimel to lead and she doesn't need $10,000 in coins.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) --A Democrat on the Legislature's budget committee is taking Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to task, accusing him of being soft on polluters and wasting taxpayer dollars challenging federal laws.

Schimel appeared Wednesday before the Joint Finance Committee to answer questions about the Department of Justice's budget. Rep. Katrina Shankland criticized him for working with polluters rather than levying stiff forfeitures and issuing a legal opinion that state regulators lack the authority to consider high-capacity wells' cumulative impacts on state waters.

She also chastised him for challenging federal laws, including Obama's health care changes as his rules on immigration and transgender bathroom use.

Schimel countered that he has leveraged concessions from polluters that will make the state cleaner, concessions he couldn't have gotten if he'd just slapped them with fines and his federal challenges were all approved by either Gov. Scott Walker or the Legislature.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) --Attorney General Brad Schimel is telling the Legislature's budget committee that the state Department of Justice is sending 200 untested sexual assault kits to a lab per month.

Schimel appeared before the Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday to answer questions about DOJ operations and how Gov. Scott Walker's 2017-19 budget would affect the agency.

More than 6,000 sexual assault evidence kits were sitting untested on Wisconsin shelves in 2014 for a variety of reasons. Prosecutors may have decided a case was too weak to justify testing or victims refused to cooperate. A USA Today Network investigation in 2015 found at least 70,000 untested kits nationwide.

Law enforcement officials see the kits as an avenue toward developing DNA profiles.

DOJ has sent in 450 kits for testing so far and is sending in batches of 200 per month. He says the receiving lab is one of only two in the country that perform such testing.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Legislature's budget-writing committee is tackling roads funding, tax cuts and Medicaid on the second of three days of state agency briefings.

The Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday was also to hear from Attorney General Brad Schimel and the new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Roads funding is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in Walker's budget this year, as some Republicans are pushing for tax and fee increases to be considered while Walker wants to borrow more and delay some highway projects.

Walker's budget would cut income and property taxes and institute a sales-tax holiday for two days in August for back-to-school supplies.

The committee was also slated to discuss Walker's plan to require parents receiving food stamps to get a job or be enrolled in job training.