WisconsinWeekly: Wetlands destruction, property tax increases, bad doctors, lax gun laws, poor dental care

Investigative reporting about WI reveals hidden impacts of environmental, medical, tax and gun laws and lack of affordable dental care

Of note: This week we highlight some strong investigative reporting about Wisconsin by news outlets here and elsewhere. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Steve Verburg reported on the alarm of former Department of Natural Resources experts to a proposal to let one company destroy valuable wetlands. Jonathan Anderson, reporting for the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, found that large tax breaks for manufacturers are translating into big property tax increases for others in some Wisconsin communities. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s John Fauber, with help from MedPage Today, found 500 doctors disciplined for malpractice in one state moved to another state to practice — with sometimes tragic consequences.

The Chicago Tribune traces a gun used to kill a Chicago police commander to a Cross Plains gun shop. “The gun’s trail was facilitated by looser Wisconsin regulations that allow private sales with no background checks and a controversial online gun marketplace that critics say makes it easy for felons to acquire weapons illegally,” the newspaper found. That finding reinforces a 2016 report by the Center on the lack of comprehensive background checks in Wisconsin. And Wisconsin Public Radio’s Shamane Mills, in a three-part series, finds poor Wisconsin residents often cannot get affordable dental care.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Andy is the executive director and Dee is the managing editor.

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Politicized Wisconsin DNR erasing rare wetlands, retirees say

Wisconsin State Journal — Feb. 28, 2018

Retired Wisconsin state Department of Natural Resources experts are raising alarms about “unusually bold signs of political influence” that could allow businesses to destroy rare and vulnerable wetlands. The warnings came during a judicial hearing in which conservation groups are challenging a DNR permit that allows Meteor Timber, a Georgia-based land company, to fill and build on 16 acres of wetlands in Monroe County.

As manufacturers get tax reductions, Wisconsin homeowners pay more

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — Feb. 22, 2018

Manawa’s roughly 1,300 residents experienced a property tax hike. For one resident, taxes on his home increased nearly 14 percent. A key reason resident’s taxes went up: Property taxes on the largest employer in town, Sturm Foods, went down. Sturm Foods was able to reduce the assessed value of its facilities by nearly $10 million last year, and it is not the only company to do so. Manufacturers in Wisconsin have erased at least $150 million in taxable value on their plants over the last five years.

Prescription for secrecy: Is your doctor banned from practicing in other states? State licensing systems keep patients in the dark

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — Feb. 28, 2018

An investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today has found at least 500 physicians who have been publicly disciplined, chastised or barred from practicing by one state medical board have been allowed to practice elsewhere with a clean license. Patients are kept in the dark due to an antiquated system “shrouded in secrecy.”

Tracking the “Baby Glock” that killed Cmdr. Bauer: A Wisconsin shop, a gun club and a shadowy sale on the internet

Chicago Tribune — March 1, 2018

The handgun used to kill Chicago police Commander Paul Bauer began its path in December 2011 in south-central Wisconsin. After the Parkland, Florida shooting, much of the national attention has been on the sale of assault weapons. But the journey of the handgun used to kill Bauer raises questions about a more common and troubling part of the gun pipeline in the United States: the everyday transactions of smaller guns that fuel so much of the violence in cities like Chicago. Earlier from WCIJ: Strong public support, pleas from grieving family fail to move Wisconsin on gun background checks

Dentists: Slights in funding, respect at the root of Wisconsin’s dental care disparity

Wisconsin Public Radio — Feb. 28, 2018

Some Wisconsin dentists say state officials neglect their sector of care, and inadequate state funding makes it harder for their patients to get treatment. Previously, some dentists were granted higher Medicaid rates in a four-county pilot program that started in October 2016. Even then, for low-income patients, finding a dentist who accepts Medicaid is just the first hurdle.

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