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Wisconsin roundup: Baldwin leads U.S. Senate money race — by far; more state news stories

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, shown here during a 2016 visit to Hudson with Senate colleague Amy Klobuchar, is leading the fundraising race as her 2018 re-election bid nears. File photo

MADISON — U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin has raised another $2.4 million for her re-election bid next year, while her two GOP challengers are just getting started.

Baldwin's campaign says it has $5.3 million on hand, after raising more than $7 million in the first nine months of the year. State Senate Republican Leah Vukmir of Brookfield said she was glad to raise $250,000 in just her first three official weeks in the race in September. Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson raised $400,000 this year, while not being in the race for all of the most recent three month period.

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Job cuts expected when UW’s 2-year, 4-year schools merge

MADISON — There will be job cuts in the proposed mergers of the UW-System’s two year and four year schools.

The statewide office that manages the 13 two-year colleges and the University Extension service would be eliminated, and UW president Ray Cross says redundant administrative posts would be gone once the colleges become branches of the four year schools in their regions — and employees and students of the smaller schools would officially join their four year partners. Officials say they won't know the total job impact until after the merger starts being administered next July, pending approval by the Board of Regents next month.

None of the 26 UW campuses would close. Cross tells the Wisconsin State Journal his goal is to "leverage resources to avoid closures" and respond to the demographics of a rapidly aging state population and its resulting declines in enrollments — especially at the colleges, which have seen a 32 percent loss in students since 2010.

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Assembly panel to vote on riot definition, crackdowns

MADISON — A state Assembly panel was scheduled to vote at the lunch hour on Republican bills to legally define riots, and make it easier for police to control them.

The Judiciary Committee was considering three measures from Marshfield Rep. John Spiros and Racine Sen. Van Wanggaard — bills that respond to Milwaukee's Sherman Park riots 14 months ago. The measures would define a riot as involving three or more people who threaten or constitute a danger for injuries or property damage.

It would be a felony to carry weapons during a riot and participate in violence, and blocking streets during a riot would be a misdemeanor. The lawmakers say it's in the name of safety, but opponents accuse the GOP of possibly snuffing out peaceful dissent with language that's too vague.

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Homeowners worried about losing land to Foxconn

MOUNT PLEASANT — Dozens of homeowners in Racine County are worried about losing their land to Foxconn.

About 100 concerned residents showed up Wednesday night at the first of three informational meetings about the new high-tech screen plant — and what it will mean to nearby residents. The village of Mount Pleasant expects to use its eminent domain powers to take home sites and smaller lots for the Foxconn project, and the law requires the village to pay fair market values.

But one woman noted that large farms are getting four times their market values, and she wanted to know if homeowners would get the same deal as some landowners have gotten offers of up to $50,000 an acre. Village negotiator Peter Miesbauer couldn't answer the woman — but he said both sides could have their own appraisals to try and seek final payments.

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Walker: Addiction ‘knows no boundaries’

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker says the "drug addiction crisis knows no boundaries."

That's what he tweeted Wednesday after news reports surfaced that the daughter of state Assembly finance chair John Nygren and her fiance were arrested for providing the drugs that killed an unidentified victim. Also, a search warrant obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal said former state Democratic Party official Jason Sidener's home in Fitchburg was searched after a 30-year-old woman died from an overdose.

According to the report, Sidener told police he found that the woman was breathing "weird" when he woke up Sept. 12 — and he took her to a hospital. The Republican Walker tweeted, "Prayers for all in the fight," and Nygren called his daughter's arrest a reminder of how "fragile the road to recovery is."

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National manufacturing leader touts tax plan in Wis.

MILWAUKEE — The head of the nation's largest manufacturing trade group says the federal tax code needs an overhaul, and he believes we'll get it by the end of the year.

Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers was in Milwaukee Wednesday for a panel discussion on President Donald Trump's proposal. It would slash corporate tax rates, create larger standard deductions, and simplify the tax brackets.

Timmons told reporters it's been 30 years since the tax code was revamped, and other countries have taken away America's competitive advantage by slashing taxes. Trump told a rally in Pennsylvania Wednesday that the typical household would get a $4,000 tax cut that would be spread across eight years.

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Judge throws out 7 DNR permits for high-capacity wells

MADISON — The state DNR says it's reviewing a judge's decision that canceled seven water permits for high capacity wells.

Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey Rihn ruled Wednesday that the DNR failed to consider the wells' impact on neighboring water resources. The agency used to do that before Attorney General Brad Schimel said it did not have the authority to do so, because of a 2011 Republican law that barred the DNR from putting conditions on people that are not included in state laws or agency rules approved by lawmakers.

But the judge cited the state's Public Trust Doctrine that gives the DNR the authority to protect waters — and she cited a State Supreme Court ruling that required the agency to study the effect on Lake Beulah before East Troy could install a new village well close by. The environmental group Clean Wisconsin hailed the dismissal of the water permits, saying water is an "infinite" resource that needs to be managed.

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Expert: Campus mergers show UW can’t do all it would like

A national education leader says the proposed mergers of the two and four year UW-System campuses shows that the system "can't do everything they would like."

Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Wednesday's proposal from UW-System President Ray Cross shows that Wisconsin will not have as "robust a system of higher education as it has in the past." Cross says big enrollment declines are why he wants the two year colleges to become branches of the four year UW schools in their regions.

Cross also cited the need for a "more seamless" structure to make it easier for students to transfer to the bigger schools after two years at a college — although they would have not have to transfer to the local schools in their clusters. The Board of Regents will act on the plan next month, which would be the UW's first major overhaul since it merged with the old Wisconsin State University system in 1971.

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Nygren’s daughter jailed in drug death

GREEN BAY — Sheriff's deputies in Green Bay plan to say more Thursday about the arrest of a state lawmaker's daughter for a recent drug death.

Republican Assembly finance Co-chair John Nygren of Marinette cited his daughter Cassandra's previous heroin problems in convincing lawmakers to approve close to two dozen bills in recent years to fight heroin and opioid addiction. Now, 28-year-old Cassandra Nygren of Green Bay and 33-year-old Shawn Gray, reportedly her fiance, face possible charges for supplying the drugs that killed an undisclosed victim.

Nygren is booked on possible counts of reckless homicide, delivering heroin, child neglect, and maintaining a drug trafficking place. She spent two years in prison for possessing illegal drugs in 2010 and was convicted again in 2015 for drug possession — and Gray has several drug convictions from the Appleton area.

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Manure spill could affect popular trout stream

LA FARGE — A popular trout stream in southwest Wisconsin could feel long-term effects from a recent manure spill.

The DNR says more than 1,100 fish died last week in Otter Creek from a spill at the Wild Rose Dairy farm near La Farge — a community about 40 miles east of La Crosse. Brook and brown trout were among the fish killed. A DNR official says there's normally a high demand for biological oxygen when manure spills into area waters.

Lower oxygen levels kill the fish quickly, and ammonia in the manure could also be a culprit. The cause of the spill is still being investigated.

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Firefighters march against cuts to public safety in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE — Firefighters are blasting Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's proposed cuts to public safety.

Dozens marched through the downtown area Tuesday chanting "Save Lives, No Cuts." Under Barrett's proposal, more than one hundred police officer and firefighter positions would be eliminated and six fire stations would be closed.

Comedian Gaffigan to help open new Bucks arena

MILWAUKEE — The new Milwaukee Bucks arena has made its first announcement of a concert for the $524 million facility.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan will perform there Sept. 22, 2018. Raj Saha, the general manager of the arena, says it's a great booking since Gaffigan is from the Chicago area and his wife Jeannie is from Milwaukee. Saha says another act will be the first performer at the Bucks arena, and he'll announce it by the end of this year or the first part of 2018. In the meantime, the arena is looking for a full time talent recruiter for the facility.

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