MON AM News: WisBiz Green: State lawmakers join others nationwide responding to PFAS; WRA let down by Supreme Court ruling in shoreland zoning case

— PFAS. Those four letters have been in the news in Wisconsin and elsewhere a lot in recent weeks.

First, they stand for polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of widespread man-made chemicals that have been flagged as a major contaminant in sources of water across the country.

Here’s a summary of just some of the stories in Wisconsin:

** Homeowners Offered Bottled Water After Elevated PFAS Levels Found Near La Crosse Airport – Wisconsin Public Radio

** Peshtigo Residents Reach $17.5M Class Action Settlement With Tyco Over PFAS Contamination – Wisconsin Public Radio

** First ever PFAS fish consumption advisory issued for Lake Superior smelt – Duluth News Tribune

** Sewer District launches website dedicated to PFAS education, information –

Those are stories just since the WisBiz Green Facebook site was launched at the start of 2021 in partnership with

You can go around the country and find concerns about PFAS being shared in many other states.

Possible solutions for those concerns might have been suppressed, it has been reported, by the Trump administration. The Hill ran a story: “White House intervened to weaken EPA guidance on ‘forever chemicals’.”

Despite the Trump administration stance, state officials such as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and others have called for tougher regulations on PFAS.

Wisconsin politicians are responding. Gov. Tony Evers announced his administration will take legal action against companies responsible for PFAS contamination in Wisconsin. This is following recommendations in the state’s PFAS Action Plan developed after a nearly year- long public process by the PFAS Coordinating Council. Evers is seeking an outside law firm to represent the state.

Read the full story in the right-hand column at 

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— The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor late last week of authorizing towns to develop their own lot size requirements in shoreland areas.

The ruling comes about three months after hearing oral arguments between the Town of Newbold, located just north of Rhinelander, and lot owner Michael Anderson. Anderson petitioned to subdivide his property meeting county shoreland frontage requirements of a minimum of 100 feet. He was denied by the Town of Newbold because the two resulting lots would not meet the town’s minimum 225-foot requirement.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association argued the Supreme Court’s decision ignores state shoreland zoning standards. It said the ruling could make it difficult for waterfront property owners to develop their property at reasonable densities while still complying with regulations designed to protect water quality and natural scenic beauty. 

WRA warned the decision could result in a decrease in development densities in shoreland areas, reducing property values of vacant waterfront land and lessening available waterfront inventory to purchase.

“Allowing towns to regulate development density in shoreland areas through their platting authority is in direct conflict with the efforts made by the legislature to take towns out of the shoreland development regulatory business,” said WRA Executive Vice President Tom Larson. “In fact, such a ruling by the court opens the floodgates to towns trying to regulate development densities in shoreland areas through their own minimum lot size requirements.”

See the Supreme Court review: 

— Unemployment rates increased in all Wisconsin metro areas, counties and most of the state’s largest cities in December, according to the Department of Workforce Development.

Preliminary December 2020 unemployment rates increased in all of Wisconsin’s 12 metro areas over the month and over the year. These are Appleton, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Janesville-Beloit, La Crosse-Onalaska, Madison, Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Oshkosh-Neenah, Racine, Sheboygan and Wausau. 

“Most of what we’re seeing is normal seasonality in that upwards rate movement, which we see every November to December as weather cools,” said DWD economist Scott Hodek.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate rose in December to 5.5 percent from 5.3 percent in November.

Hodek added the leisure and hospitality industries have greater economic importance and job concentration in rural counties than urban because many rural counties rely more on tourism than urban areas with more diverse economies. December unemployment rates increased in all 72 counties over the month and over the year.

“Bayfield’s rate for example went from 7.5% to 8.9% from November 2020 to December 2020, showing the impact on counties that rely more on tourism,” he said.

— The unemployment rates declined or stayed the same in three of Wisconsin’s 34 largest cities over December — in the Milwaukee area’s Greenfield, Menomonee Falls and Wauwatosa. 

“It is a common seasonal movement for these areas for the unemployment rate to drop or stay the same from November to December,” Hodek said, noting that the Milwaukee metropolitan area in general typically doesn’t lose many jobs from November to December because of its diverse economy. Seasonal changes from November to December are typically jobs lost to colder weather and jobs gained to holiday retail hiring.

“Generally speaking, the three municipalities … are heavy shopping areas, and it wouldn’t be surprising for seasonal retail hiring there to more than balance out cold weather job losses,” he said. 

— Madison-based GrocerKey, an eCommerce company providing white-label technology to grocery retailers, has closed on a $2.4 million equity round totaling 18 private investors. 

GrocerKey’s technology allows grocers to customize online offerings, enable home delivery and offer mobile self-checkout. The company works with independent and regional grocery partners, including Kowalski’s Markets, Piggly Wiggly Midwest and Woodman’s Markets. It will use the money to enhance its platform and add strategic support for its growing client base.

“As we continue to live life in a global pandemic, grocery retailers are looking for ways to retain

customers and compete in an industry disrupted by rapidly changing shopping habits,” explained GrocerKey CEO Jeremy Neren. “GrocerKey is uniquely positioned to help brick and

mortar grocery retailers not only build and scale eCommerce profitably, but also to pivot in an

uncertain landscape to meet shifting demands.”

In 2020, the pandemic-influenced rapid adoption of online grocery shopping propelled GrocerKey’s success. The company experienced an 85 percent increase in sales for its second quarter when compared to the same period in 2019.

— Gov. Tony Evers suggests the emergency order and mask mandate legislative Republicans are trying to end remain in effect unless a court says otherwise.

“This issue is about saving lives,’’ Evers said Friday at a health briefing. “If Republicans are going to use the issue of improper order that frankly hasn’t been decided by any court … we will continue to talk about the importance of doing it.”

Added Evers: “Our order is still in place. The Assembly does not have to kick it down the road. That’s what I’m hoping for. We’ll see what happens.”

GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos put off Thursday’s vote to give lawmakers additional time to understand the fiscal impact of the move. The vote cleared the Senate on Tuesday. But since then, GOP lawmakers have realized overturning it would jeopardize tens of millions of dollars of enhanced federal funds for food stamps.

Wisconsin qualified for the enhanced benefits after Evers declared the first COVID-19 public health emergency in March, meaning families could collect the extra money in April and May. But after that initial declaration expired and lawmakers didn’t extend it, the state was ineligible for the benefit in June.

Read the full story at 

— Roughly 26 percent of corrections workers have contracted COVID-19 since early March. 

According to the Department of Corrections, Wisconsin has seen a fairly drastic drop in cases among both staff and incarcerated individuals over the past two months. On Nov. 23, Corrections listed 312 active staff cases and 2,294 active cases among prisoners. 

As of Friday, 57 cases were active among staff and 133 cases were active among prisoners.  

See the dashboard: 

— Wisconsin surpassed the half-million mark of people receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

The state has administered about 537,000 doses of COVID-19 shots. Over 101,000 people have completed the two-dose vaccine series. More than 19 percent of Wisconsinites ages 65 and older have been vaccinated. The group accounts for about 700,000 people of the roughly 5.8 million who live in the state. 

Other groups currently eligible for a vaccine are firefighters, police officers, health care workers, and staff and residents in long-term care facilities. 

— A centralized vaccine program to connect eligible people to vaccinators is set to launch soon, according to Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. 

She said the department is working with Microsoft to program the software, add questions, add scheduling parameters and customize it for Wisconsin residents. The pilot launch is set for Feb. 15 in 10 communities. DHS will widely disseminate the statewide software the following week after it works out any kinks with the system. 

DHS is setting up a website for people to find clinics and use the software to register for a vaccine. The platform is similar to COVID Connect, the state’s software for community testing sites. It has the same process of logging in, registering with demographic information and answering eligibility questions. If eligible for the vaccine, users can schedule an appointment. If ineligible, users can be put on a waitlist to be notified of when they can get a shot. Users will get a code to show at the appointment. 

“One of the challenges we have is we have vaccinators across the state ready to put up these type of community clinics, and right now we just don’t have enough vaccine, and so many of them will be working much fewer days or shorter hours … because the vaccine supply is limited,” Willems Van Dijk said. “It’s really vaccine supply that is our limiting factor right now, but the good news is we will have this system and we have vaccinators in place for the days when the supply increases.”

— Wisconsin reports 1,007 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths coming into today.

The new cases lowered the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases to 1,349 from 1,365 which Willems Van Dijk said is “still far, far too high.” Those figures were last seen in mid-September. 

The death toll reads 5,896 while 542,415 Wisconsinites have had a confirmed case. Over 19,000 of those cases are active.

The seven-day average for daily deaths is 29. The high was 61 on Dec. 7 and the most recent low was 25 on Jan. 4. The counties reporting the most coronavirus deaths are Milwaukee (1,136), Waukesha (446), Racine (299), Kenosha (270) and Dane (251).

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates. 

— The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance recovered nearly $4 million for Wisconsinites through its complaint process last year. 

In 2020, the consumer affairs department closed 3,611 consumer complaints. These complaints range from concerns about fraud to issues with receiving payment for covered services. 

— More than 1 million Wisconsinites have downloaded the WI Exposure Notification from the Google Play Store or enabled it on their iPhones.

The smartphone app, launched Dec. 23, uses Bluetooth technology to exchange anonymous signals with other phones that are near it for at least 15 minutes. If somebody who has the app tests positive for COVID-19, they can then send an alert using the app to those other phones. The app complements the state’s efforts in contact tracing. 

DHS does not have data on how many people have been told they’re a close contact. However, more than 30,000 positive test codes have been issued. Some of those codes have been “claimed,” meaning the app user who tested positive for COVID-19 has chosen to notify their contacts through WI Exposure Notification, DHS spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt explained.

The codes go to people that test positive, and then when they enter the code, those that may have come into close contact with them over the last 14 days are alerted. 

The app, which was free for states via Apple and Google, has built-in safeguards for user privacy. The keys exchanged with other smartphones are not linked to an identity or phone number, and it changes every 10-20 minutes. The app does not collect or store physical location or personal information, and that data is not shared with DHS, Google, Apple or other app users.

<i>For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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# Wisconsin Farmers Union explores meat processing shortage 

# Milwaukee’s Vaccination Efforts Slowed By Dated Infrastructure, A Lack Of Funding

# Air Wisconsin Airlines lays off 140 employees



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<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

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