News from the home cities and states of the Big Ten universities:
WISCONSIN: Governor recall would cost millions
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A recall election to oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker from office would cost at least $9 million, according to data state election officials released Friday.
The state Government Accountability Board asked local election clerks around the state to estimate the costs of a possible statewide recall election based on elections in November 2010 and April 2011. All 72 county clerks reported back with a total estimate of $2.35 million. About 92 percent of the state's municipal clerks responded with a total estimate of $5.82 million. The GAB estimated its costs at $841,349.
The board estimated its costs at about $652,700 in November. Since then, though, the board has secured additional office space to process recall petition signatures and a Waukesha County judge has ordered the board to actively scour the signatures for fraud, a task the board has left to political parties in the past. The judge's decision alone means $100,000 in additional software and technical support costs, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy noted in a memo.
Walker triggered a firestorm last year when he introduced a bill that stripped most public workers of almost all their collective bargaining rights. Walker said he needed to make the move to help close the state's $3.6 billion deficit. Democrats saw it as a blatant attack on unions, one of their key constituencies.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the measure and Walker signed it into law in March despite weeks of around-the-clock protests at the state Capitol. Now Democrats and their allies want payback.
Last summer they forced nine GOP state senators into recall elections, defeating two of them. Now they've launched efforts to recall the governor, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four more Republican state senators. The group pushing to recall Walker announced last month they had collected 507,000 of the 540,208 signatures they need by Jan. 17 to force an election.
GAB Director Kevin Kennedy cautioned that Friday's numbers are estimates and election costs can vary. Republicans still pounced on the numbers, saying the state can't afford recall after recall.
Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, co-chairman of the Legislature's powerful finance committee, asked for the statewide data from the GAB. He pointed out the estimates cover only one statewide general election and don't include a primary. If one statewide election costs $9 million, it stands to reason that a primary would push the price tag to $18 million, Vos said.
A Kleefisch recall — which, like a Walker recall, could include both a statewide primary and general election — would drive those costs even higher.
Election officials in the four Republican senators' districts would incur additional costs. Last summer's Senate recalls cost $2 million, according to GAB data.
"People cannot say this is somehow worth the cost to have these frivolous recalls," Vos said. "It's a shame we've come to this. People around the state will have to make choices about what to cut to have these elections. Somebody's going to pay for this and it's going to be taxpayers."
State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate portrayed the recall costs as the "best down payment" people can make for Wisconsin's future.
"We simply can't afford to have Scott Walker as governor of Wisconsin one day longer than we have to," Tate said.
---- PENN STATE: Alumni group seeks new PSU trustees over Paterno
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A group of Penn State alumni unhappy over the November firing of football coach Joe Paterno are organizing an effort to elect new members to the university's Board of Trustees.
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship announced Friday that it was seeking candidates in the spring election for three seats on the board that are reserved for alumni.
Group spokesman Maribeth Roman Schmidt says members believe the board mishandled the firing of Paterno and ouster of president Graham Spanier in the wake of the arrest of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child sex-abuse charges.
Alumni trustee David Jones says he's not running for a sixth three-year term. Other open alumni seats are those of teacher Anne Riley and Dr. David Joyner, now serving as the school's interim athletic director.
IOWA: Iowa City to reconsider red light cameras
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa City Council is preparing to explore a proposal to install red light cameras at certain intersections in the city.
The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports (http://icp-c.com/A0gwmU  ) the council discussed the topic last year but delayed action until a new council was seated after Jan. 1. On Thursday, Police Chief Sam Hargadine offered a new proposal he says addresses new technology that makes the cameras less about catching violators and more about preventing crashes.
Hargadine says the technology can predict when a vehicle will run through a red light and prevent opposing signals from turning green. That, he says, could reduce crashes and save lives.
Hargadine says the technology should silence some critics who say the cameras are about making money for the city.
----NEBRASKA: Lawmaker: Unwanted kiss should be sex crime
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — An unsolicited kiss on the mouth could lead to jail time in Nebraska under a new bill circulating in the Legislature.
Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery introduced a measure (LB797) Thursday that would add unwanted mouth-to-mouth kissing to a list of sexual activity recognized under the law.
Nebraska law already defines sexual contact as intentional touching of intimate or sexual areas. The bill was introduced in response to a registered sex offender who approached a young woman while she was mowing her lawn and kissed her without consent. Her family later learned that Nebraska has no law to address such situations, and the man was charged with disturbing the peace.
INDIANA: Protesters clear belongings from Bloomington park
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Some Occupy Wall Street protesters have vacated a Bloomington park and removed their personal belongings.
The Herald-Times reports (http://bit.ly/whmrdK  ) only a few tents remained Thursday afternoon in Peoples Park two hours after a noon deadline for the protesters to clear their belongings from the park. It says about two dozen people continued to gather and pack belongings.
Protesters had camped there since October. The city had allowed the protesters and several homeless people to stay overnight in tents at the park, cook over a propane stove and set up military-style canvas tents. However, city officials posted an eviction notice Wednesday night requiring all personal belongings to be removed by midday Thursday.
The deadline passed without incident.
IOWA: Iowa City releases plan to hire more teachers
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa City school district will hire more teachers to reduce class size in some of its elementary schools.
The school district plans to hire about eight teachers by Jan. 17, with the positions distributed among seven of its 19 elementary schools, the Iowa City Press-Citizen (http://icp-c.com/A49Dx2 ) reported.
The district finalized the plans this week to spend $175,000 on the extra teachers,
The new teachers will be hired as long-term substitutes, said Superintendent Steve Murley. The new positions will be filled by certified teachers, but the long-term substitute contract will give the district more freedom in addressing their needs in the future.
"It will allow us the opportunity to give us the greatest flexibility as we plan for staffing next year," Murley said.
Officials said it also will cost less and allow the district to hire more teachers. The additional teachers will lower class size from 25 to 18 students for kindergarten through second grade and from 33 to 25 students in third through sixth grades.
Murley said that the district has a rigorous hiring process for new teachers that takes much longer than it does to fill a long-term substitute position.
"If we want teachers in front of kids by Jan. 17, the long-term substitute teacher hiring process is most effective for us, to get staff in front of students as quickly as possible," Murley said.
Murley said the district will readdress the staffing needs when it receives classroom projections for next year.
"It's not unlikely that some of these people could be converted to full-time contracts between now and the end of the school year," Murley said. "And if not then, then by the start of the next school year," Murley said.
The Iowa City school district is one of the fastest growing in the state but ran into the class-size problem this year.
The Gazette in Cedar Rapids (http://bit.ly/AeJ8zE  ) reported the district's enrollment increased by 442 students, which was more than expected. In Iowa, school districts receive state funding based on the previous year's enrollment. The state also didn't provide any increase in what is known as allowable growth, which is new per-pupil state funding.