Regional briefs: Conservation league tallies wins, losses

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PROUD TO BE: About a million people packed Chicago streets on June 29 for the first Gay Pride Parade since Illinois legalized gay marriage. The celebration included LGBT military veterans marching with a massive U.S. flag. — Photo: AP/Nam Y. Huh

Conservation league tallies wins, losses

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters recently released its Conservation Scorecard for 2013–14. About 50 percent of the pro-conservation bills supported by group were signed into law.

Of the biggest defensive measures, conservation interests were successful 75 percent of the time, according to a news release from the league.

“More than anything, this year’s Conservation Scorecard tells the story of the power of individuals to successfully protect their air, land, and water. It’s their efforts that prevented the terrible groundwater bill and both frac sand mining bills from ever seeing the light of day,” said Anne Sayers, program director for Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

The organization said highlights from the session included bills to improve water quality and prevent toxins like lead and prescription drugs from contaminating drinking water, all of which passed with strong bipartisan support. The biggest attack on natural resources was passage of the open-pit mining bill, which exempted iron mines from having to meet most environmental laws. The measure passed despite huge citizen opposition.

George Lucas to build museum in Chicago

Star Wars creator George Lucas plans to locate his future museum of art and movie memorabilia in Chicago, which beat out Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities vying to host the attraction. 

“I am humbled to be joining such an extraordinary museum community and to be creating the museum in a city that has a long tradition of embracing the arts,” Lucas said in a statement.

Lucasfilm’s visual effects division is based in San Francisco, and Marin County is the headquarters for Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound. But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered Lucas a lakefront location close to other attractions, including the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History. Meanwhile, San Francisco rejected Lucas’ first choice of a location near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Chicago also had a leg up because Lucas’ wife Mellody Hobson is from the city, which closed down Promontory Point along the Lake Michigan shore so the couple could host a star-studded party there after their California wedding.

Wisconsin congressional candidate says same-sex marriage leads to incest

Wisconsin Republican congressional candidate Karen Mueller warned voters that incest would become legal if a federal appeals court upholds the June 6 ruling that found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Mueller is a far-right Eau Claire attorney whose practice focuses on cases opposing abortion and defending people “discriminated against and harassed in the workplace, the school, college and/or the public square because of their faith.” She’s one of three Republicans vying to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, who supports equality.

In a candidate forum, Mueller said a ruling for marriage equality might set a precedent that any two people can marry, the Tomah Journal reported. The paper quoted Mueller as saying: “We’ve got, for instance, two sisters, and these two sisters want to get married. They love each other. They are committed to each other. They want to spend the rest of their life together. …We can just do away with that state law (banning incest) the same way we did away with sodomy law.”

In other regional news …

• Alex Walker, the college-age son of Gov. Scott Walker, acted as a witness at the same-sex wedding of first lady Tonette Walker’s cousin. Records show Shelli Marquardt and Cathy Priem married at the Waukesha County Courthouse on June 9, and Alex Walker, 19, signed the marriage certificate as one of two adult witnesses. 

• A Wisconsin coalition of elected officials, organizations and families continued to urge an end to the immigration arrests at courthouses and other public facilities. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D–Milwaukee, and Milwaukee-based Voces de la Frontera have been at the forefront of the push.

• U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, urged Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers to support full compliance with the U.S. Justice Department’s examination into potentially discriminatory practices in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. Pocan wrote, “Allegations made by families, Disability Rights Wisconsin, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin assert that private schools participating in the voucher program have instituted policies which create barriers for students with disabilities and intentionally block them from school admission. Additionally, concerns have been raised that some students with disabilities have been expelled or forced to leave voucher-funded schools as a result of school policies that do not accommodate their needs.”

• Law enforcement officials reported that at least 80 people were shot and nine of them died during Fourth of July weekend in Chicago.

• The worst case of alleged voter fraud in Wisconsin’s history turns out to have been committed by a staunch Republican. Thirteen counts were filed against Robert Monroe, a 50-year-old health executive. Each count carries a penalty of up to $10,000 in forfeitures and three-and-a-half years in prison. Monroe is accused of voting a dozen times in 2011 and 2012, including seven times in the recalls of Scott Walker and his GOP ally Alberta Darling.

• Cook County, Illinois, prosecutors recently secured guilty pleas from current or former gang members arrested for human trafficking. The arrests were the result of a 2011 wiretap investigation targeting people who forced young women and children into prostitution.

• Minnesota’s law banning the use of e-cigarettes in government facilities, schools, day care centers, hospitals and clinics went into effect on July 1. Minnesota also now prohibits minors from using tanning beds with ultraviolet lights.

• The Grosse Pointe Library Board in Gross Pointe, Michigan, unanimously voted to stack the Metro Times alternative newspaper out of sight after complaints that advertisements promoted human trafficking. Metro Times editor-in-chief Valerie Vande Panne said the library board’s decision is hypocritical, because books with risqué passages, profanity and hate speech sit openly on library shelves. She said complaints about sex trafficking should be taken to police, not to librarians or city council members.

— L.N. and L.W.