Tag Archives: new year

Wisconsin state park fees to go up

It’s going to cost more to get into Wisconsin state parks in the new year.

State budget provisions raising park admission and trail fees go into effect on Jan. 1. Wisconsin residents will have to pay $28 for an annual park pass, up from $25, and $8 for daily admission, up from $7. Annual trail passes will increase from $10 to $25 and daily trail passes will go from $4 to $5. 

Other laws that go into effect on Jan. 1 include:

• provisions creating a sales tax exemption on construction materials for government buildings.

• allowing researchers access to data on Milwaukee’s voucher school program participants.

• transferring oversight of community-based juvenile justice programs from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Children and Families.

Factors shaping the 2016 presidential race

Key factors as the 2016 presidential race begins to take shape:

DEMOCRATS’ ELECTORAL COLLEGE BASELINE: Democrats have won the same group of states worth 242 electoral votes for every election since 1992. A Democratic nominee who holds those states and adds Florida (29 electoral votes) wins, no matter what the rest of the map looks like. But it’s worth noting that Democrats haven’t won three consecutive elections since Harry Truman claimed the party’s fifth straight in 1948.

SAME OLD SWING STATES: Barack Obama’s easy wins came because he twice won an additional seven states. Besides Florida, the list includes Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire. Democrats insist that North Carolina and Georgia can be competitive, as well.

ON DEMOGRAPHICS, MARGINS MATTER: The outcome won’t just turn on how a single group – whether its women, Hispanics, white men or millennials – splits between two major candidates. It will turn on how several groups split and how many of them vote in the first place. For example, the Democratic nominee could replicate Obama’s share of the black vote from 2012. But if fewer black voters go to the polls, the nominee could still lose a state like Florida.

GOP AND WHITES: Republican Mitt Romney won white voters in 2012 by as large a margin as any Republican since President Ronald Reagan’s re-election romp in 1984. But it wasn’t enough, as whites cast just more than 7 out of 10 total ballots, compared with almost 9 out of 10 as late as 1992. Republicans say Romney didn’t hit the ceiling with whites. They point to his struggle to connect with working-class voters and Obama’s struggle among whites, particularly those without a college degree. That latter group is critical to GOP hopes in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire.

DEMS NON-WHITE ADVANTAGE: Republicans aren’t banking on winning Asians, Hispanics or African-Americans. But they believe they can cut into the overwhelming margins Obama compiled in 2008 and 2012. The non-white vote could tip Florida, and it could close the gap in Colorado and Virginia. Republicans acknowledge that the tone of the immigration debate on Capitol Hill and in the GOP presidential primaries will play a strong role in shaping the Latino vote in particular.

MILLENNIALS AND ECONOMY: Democratic pollsters say the millennial generation, which will account for nearly all 2016 voters under age 35, remains decidedly liberal on social and economic policy. But Republicans see an opening with widespread economic insecurity across the group.

CANDIDATES STILL MATTER: For all the chatter, players on both sides admit that nominees shape the race. So a Democrat like Hillary Rodham Clinton could reclaim white baby boomers who never voted for Obama, while a Republican like Jeb Bush could attract Latino support that Romney never could.

Times Square Poll: Feeling good about 2015

Americans are closing out 2014 on an optimistic note, according to a new Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll. Nearly half predict that 2015 will be a better year for them than 2014 was, while only 1 in 10 think it will be worse. There’s room for improvement: Americans give the year gone by a resounding “meh.”

What Americans thought of 2014:

GAINS AT HOME, SLIPS ABROAD

On a personal level, about a third (34 percent) think 2014 was better than 2013, while 15 percent say 2014 was worse and half see little difference. Slightly fewer feel their year was a step down from the previous one than said so in 2013, when an AP-Times Square poll found 20 percent thought 2013 was worse than 2012.

Americans are slightly more likely than they were a year ago to believe that the current year was better than the last for the United States- 30 percent say so this year, while 25 percent said so in 2013. On the other hand, Americans are more likely than in the 2013 poll to say this year was worse than last for the world as a whole, with 38 percent saying so now after 30 percent said so a year ago.

THREE STORIES SHARE TOP SPOT

Americans are divided on the most important news event of 2014, with the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, protests over the killings of black men including Michael Brown and Eric Garner by police officers, and the Ebola outbreak each named by about 1 in 10 Americans. In a separate Associated Press survey of news directors and editors, the killings of unarmed men by police stand out more clearly as the top story, with 22 of 85 respondents choosing it as the top news, about twice as many as the Islamic State or Ebola stories.

Among the public, Democrats are most likely to name the unrest over Brown and Garner’s deaths as most important (14 percent), while Republicans are most likely to list the rise of the Islamic State (16 percent). Non-whites are more apt to cite the protests around Brown and Garner’s deaths than whites (14 percent among non-whites, 8 percent among whites). The poll was conducted before the shooting deaths of two New York City police officers by a man who threatened retaliation for the police killings of unarmed black men.

Asked separately to rate the importance of 10 key stories, majorities call the expansion of the Islamic State militant group, the Ebola outbreak and the U.S. midterm elections extremely or very important stories. Nearly half rate immigration as that important, while 43 percent say so of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner stories. Only a third think the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the situation between Russia and Ukraine, or the rising number of states with legal same-sex marriage were deeply important stories.

THE YEAR IN POP CULTURE

Few Americans rate this year’s crop of pop culture events as memorable, with one big exception: The death of Robin Williams, and the ensuing discussion of mental health issues. About two-thirds call that a memorable event.

Slightly more say it was more memorable (39 percent) than forgettable (34 percent) that CVS stopped selling cigarettes, and they’re divided equally on whether the ubiquitous ice bucket challenge was memorable (37 percent) or forgettable (37 percent). Thirty percent say the pitching performance of Mo’ne Davis, the first female pitcher to win a Little League World Series game, was memorable, while 41 percent say it was forgettable. Women are more likely than men to see Davis’s performance as memorable, 33 percent of women say so versus 26 percent of men.

Another sports first: Michael Sam becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, is rated forgettable by about half.

Events rating as forgettable by a majority of Americans include the leak of hacked celebrity photos on Reddit, Ellen DeGeneres’s selfie at the Oscars, Taylor Swift going pop, and the marriages of George and Amal Clooney and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR

About half of Americans plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home this year, while 2 in 10 say they’ll do so at a friend or family member’s home. Fewer than 1 in 10 plan to celebrate at a bar, restaurant or organized event, while about a quarter don’t plan to celebrate at all.

Six in 10 Americans plan to watch the televised New Year’s Eve events in Times Square, including two-thirds of women and over half of men.

Online

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com 

Brawny bearded brewers bare nearly all for charity

A group of brawny, bearded brewers from the Sheboygan, Wisconsin, area has posed mostly nude for a calendar that is raising money for charity.

The 2015 Brew Men Calendar features 11 brewing professionals from 3 Sheeps Brewing, 8th Street Ale Haus and Plymouth Brewing Co. Proceeds from the calendar, which can be bought online or at various bars, grocers and liquor stores in Wisconsin and northern Illinois, will be donated to the Movember Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on men’s health issues, including prostate and testicular cancer.

Unsurprisingly, the idea came about when they were enjoying a few beers. After Kurt Jensen, owner of 8th Street Ale Haus, began talking to some of his brewing buddies about doing charity work, the group of beer-lovers eventually came up with something similar to a swimsuit calendar.

Grant Pauly, founder of 3 Sheeps, said he hopes the calendars will raise awareness and stimulate conversations about men’s health, he told Sheboygan Press Media.

“I was down in Chicago when someone who saw the group photo on our Facebook page came up to me and we ended up having a 20 minute conversation,” he said.

The photos were shot in early October by a professional photographer who doubles as a beer enthusiast. Each month of the calendar depicts a different step of the brewing process.

Jensen said convincing the guys to take off their clothes for a good cause was easier than he expected, and Pauly agreed.

“Putting the calendar together, that was pretty easy,” said Pauly. “We have the most difficult part ahead; getting the word out.”

The calendar marks the first fundraising effort of Brewers Against Bad Things, a group that Pauly and Jensen recently founded to raise money for charitable causes.

Go For the Food: Fried crab in San Fran Chinatown

Crab and San Francisco go together like sour and dough, and you can find it here in just about every incarnation from basic cracked and steamed to meticulously plated in the mode of haute cuisine.

But if you like your crustaceans on the crispy side, you may want to check out the city’s Chinatown, the district that almost wasn’t. The original community was razed by the great earthquake and fire of 1906, and city leaders planned to relocate residents away from the valuable land next to the Financial District.

Except that far-seeing businessman Look Tin Eli and a group of like-minded entrepreneurs came up with the financing and the vision to do better. He helped create a theatrically decorated neighborhood that would serve as a tourist attraction as well as provide a place to live, hence the many pagoda-style roofs and splashes of bright red and gold.

If you are lucky enough to be in San Francisco for Chinese New Year, the 15-day festival that begins Jan. 31, a stroll around Chinatown before or after a meal will show you the neighborhood in its frenetic, bustling glory.

But for those crispy crabs, you’ll want to head to the R&G Lounge. There’s nothing fancy about the R&G, which presents a modest facade to the world at its three-level Kearny St. location. Step inside and you’ll find traditional rib-sticking fare, such as oyster clay pot and minced sea food in lettuce cups.

If you’re in the mood for a libation, you might try the lychee martinis along with the house specialty of geoduck sashimi. (Geoducks, pronounced gooey-ducks, are the huge clams with gnarled necks that look like a pint-sized elephant’s trunk.) The restaurant’s “Special Beef” is also popular here. Don’t ask for the recipe; it’s a secret.

But the star attraction is the salt and pepper crab, a whole Dungeness crab cleaned and partially jointed, dipped in batter, deep-fried and lightly seasoned. This is not cheap _ on a recent visit the market price was $40 — but there’s a lot to go around; two people could split one for a meal with rice, or for four as an appetizer.

Artistically arranged on a white plate with the glistening shell (filled with the crab butter) arranged on top, this is a dish to admire for a few seconds before getting to work with fingers, forks and nut cracker.

Waiters keep your glass filled with piping hot tea, but you may want to accompany this with a beer, a lager like the Chinese brand Tsingtao would make sense. Service is brisk but pleasant and the decor is plain but clean. Go downstairs if you want to see the fish tank filled with future dinners gloomily eying their fate.

Warning: Salt and pepper crab not recommended for a first date.

If You Go…

R&G LOUNGE: 631 Kearny St., San Francisco, 415-982-7877, http://rnglounge.com 

New year, new laws in the states

As 2013 begins, many states are enacting new laws dealing with gay rights, child safety, abortion, immigration and other perennial concerns.

Some other topics states are dealing with in new laws:

ANIMAL WELFARE

Pennsylvania will prohibit use of carbon monoxide chambers to destroy animals at shelters and will make it easier for shelters to get drugs for a more humane method. Activists say animals are often old, young, sick or hurt and not good candidates for gas chamber euthanasia. Some provisions are about to take effect, while others will be in place later in 2013.

AUTISM

Alaska becomes the 31st state to require insurance coverage for autism, with a law mandating coverage for the diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children and young adults. Illinois, which previously approved autism insurance coverage, now also will require insurance companies to cover medical services related to autism.

BRAKE PADS

Washington state is requiring manufacturers of brake pads to phase out the use of copper and other heavy metals as a way to prevent the metal from polluting waters and harming salmon. When brakes wear down, they release copper shavings onto roads that eventually wash into rivers. The first phase of the law takes effect Jan. 1, when manufacturers of friction brakes will be required to report the concentrations of heavy metals in their products.

EYEDROPS

New Mexico will allow more frequent refills of prescription eye drops, such as those used by glaucoma patients. Under the law, insurance companies could not deny coverage for a refill requested by a patient within a certain amount of time – for instance, within 23 days for someone with a prescription for a 30 day supply of the eye drops. Supporters of the measure say some patients find it difficult to control how many drops they put onto their eye, causing individuals to prematurely run out of medication before an insurer will pay for a refill.

PARTY BUSES

California will start to hold party bus operators to the same standards as limousine drivers, making them legally responsible for drinking by underage passengers. The law is named for Brett Studebaker, a 19-year-old from San Mateo who died in 2010 after drinking on a party bus and crashing his own vehicle while driving home later.

ONLINE PRIVACY

California and Illinois are both making it illegal for employers to demand access to employees’ social media accounts. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law in August at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where several students lamented that online snooping by bosses has caused some to lose out on jobs and forced others to temporarily deactivate their profiles. In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown said the legislation will protect residents from “unwarranted invasions.”

UNEMPLOYMENT

To raise money for its unemployment insurance fund, Georgia will start charging employers for the unemployment insurance tax on the first $9,500 in taxable wages earned by workers, an increase over the previous $8,500. The new law stretches forward the suspension of another unemployment insurance tax, though it allows the labor commissioner to impose it to help repay money borrowed from the federal government or if fund balances dip below $1 billion.

Hawaii civil union website activated Jan. 1

The online process for applying for a civil union in Hawaii was activated at midnight on New Year’s Day.

The law allowing same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into a civil union with the same state rights and responsibilities as traditional marriage goes went effect Sunday, according to AP.

Couples are now submitting applications, paying fees and receiving civil union certificates online.

The Hawaii Department of Health’s newly created website to apply for a civil union is https://civilunion.ehawaii.gov.

Applications for marriage can also be made online at https://marriage.ehawaii.gov.

Four couples gathered at an East Oahu home to be the first in the state to enter into civil unions soon after the stroke of midnight Sunday.

Source: AP

New year brings new laws in states

California students will be the first in the country to receive mandatory lessons about the contributions of gays and lesbians under state laws arriving with the new year.

The law adds gays and lesbians and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions must be taught in history lessons in public schools. The law also bans teaching materials that reflect poorly on gays or particular religions.

Opponents have filed five potential initiatives to repeal the requirement outright or let parents remove their children while gays’ contributions are being taught.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire a new law taking effect with the new year requires that girls seeking abortions first tell their parents or a judge.

Many new laws for 2012 reflect the nation’s concerns over immigration, the cost of government and the concerns with protecting and benefiting young people.

A glance at the changes that arrived today:

Alabama, with the country’s toughest immigration law, is enacting a key provision requiring all employers who do business with any government entity to use a federal system known as E-Verify to check that all new employees are in the country legally.

Georgia is putting a similar law into effect requiring any business with 500 or more employees to use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of new hires. The requirement is being phased in, with all employers with more than 10 employees to be included by July 2013.

Supporters said they wanted to deter undocumented immigrants from coming to Georgia by making it tougher for them to work. Critics said that changes to immigration law should come at the federal level and that portions of the law already in effect are already hurting Georgia.

Tennessee will also require businesses to ensure employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S. but exempts employers with five or fewer workers and allows them to keep a copy of the new hire’s driver’s license instead of using E-Verify.

A South Carolina law would allow officials to yank the operating licenses of businesses that don’t check new hires’ legal status through E-verify. A federal judge last week blocked parts of the law that would have required police to check the immigration status of criminal suspects or people stopped for traffic violations they think might be in the country illegally, and that would have made it a crime for them to transport or house themselves.

California also is addressing immigration with a bill that allows students who entered the country illegally to receive private financial aid at public colleges.

Many laws aim to protect young people. In Colorado, coaches will be required to bench players as young as 11 when they’re believed to have suffered a head injury. The young athletes will also need medical clearance to return to play. At least a dozen other states have enacted similar laws with the support of the National Football League.

People 18 and under in Illinois will have to wear seat belts while riding in taxis for school-related purposes, and Illinois school boards can now suspend or expel students who make explicit threats on websites against other students or school employees.

Florida will take control of lunch and other school food programs from the federal government, allowing the state to put more Florida-grown fresh fruit and vegetables on school menus.

Regarding abortion, New Hampshire’s law requires girls seeking abortions to tell their parents or a judge first was reinstated by conservative Republicans over a gubernatorial veto. The state enacted a similar law eight years ago, but it was never enforced following a series of lawsuits.

In Arkansas, facilities that perform 10 or more nonsurgical abortions a month must be licensed by the state health department and be subject to inspections by the department.

Nevada’s 3-month old ban on texting while driving will get tougher, with tickets replacing the warnings that police have issued since the ban took effect Oct. 1.

In Pennsylvania, police are preparing to enforce that state’s recently enacted ban on texting, scheduled to take effect by spring. 

In Ohio, a measure that creates one primary in March, instead of two that would have cost the state an extra $15 million, goes into effect later in January.

Ohio is also one of eight states with automatic increases in the minimum wage taking effect Jan. 1. The others, with increases between 28 and 37 cents, are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Source: AP