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GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Committee to debate not punishing drinkers if they seek help for their intoxicated friends

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A Wisconsin Senate committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday on a bill that would not punish underage drinkers if they seek help for their intoxicated friends. The bill ran into opposition at an earlier Assembly hearing, when police officials expressed concerns about restrictions on their enforcement efforts. The bill's supporters say underage campus drinkers are refusing to tell police about sexual assaults and other crimes they see, so they don't get in trouble themselves. The Madison campus grants immunity, and Senate Democrat Fred Risser of Madison wants the other 25 U-W campuses around the state to have the same policy. Schools would not be able to suspend a student who seeks help for a friend -- and the bill would automatically throw out any related citations that police hand out. Lawmakers from both parties have gotten behind the measure. Supporters say almost 200 campuses around the country have some form of protections for students who seek help.

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As people start filing their income tax returns, the I-R-S says thousands of Wisconsinites are missing out on a major tax break. Spokesman Christopher Miller said about 77-thousand Badger State residents qualified for the Earned Income credit a year ago, and didn't claim it. He said about one-of-every-five eligible Wisconsinites let Washington keep an average of 21-hundred dollars. About 385-thousand state residents did claim the Earned Income credit -- and they got a total of 813-million dollars. Both the federal and state governments offer the credit, which encourages lower-income people to work. Miller said farmers, self-employed people, and other workers can make up to 51-thousand dollars -- and he encourages people to take the extra time and see if they qualify. Miller says the credit is refundable -- which means that people can still get the money even if they owe nothing in federal taxes. Three years ago, Governor Scott Walker and his fellow legislative Republicans reduced the state's Earned Income Tax Credit by a total of 56-million dollars over two years. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau called that a tax increase, but Republican leaders disagreed at the time. One said it meant that most low-income people were getting less "free money" than before.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has joined her party's lawmakers in pushing for a graduated increase in Wisconsin's minimum wage. Burke told Mike Gousha on the "Up Front" T-V show yesterday that she's been talking to business owners throughout the state who support a higher minimum. She also said states which raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum have seen quote, "absolutely no impact on unemployment rates." That's not what Governor Scott Walker says. The Republican Walker recently told Wisconsin grocers the Democrats' proposed minimum wage hike would be a quote, "job killer." He said employers would end up hiring fewer young employees -- or give smaller raises to their veterans. A recent Marquette poll showed that 62-percent of Wisconsin voters favored a hike in the minimum wage. Minority Democrats are getting behind an immediate increase in the 7.25-an-hour minimum wage to 8.20. It would rise a year later to 9.15, then to 10.10-an-hour in two years. Majority Republicans have shown no interest in the legislation. State G-O-P director Joe Fadness said Burke was quote, "feeling pressure by her left-wing base" in backing the Democrats' legislative proposal.

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House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan says Barack Obama is running a quote, "increasingly lawless presidency." On A-B-C's "This Week" yesterday, the Janesville Republican accused the Democrat Obama of being unconstitutional with his use of executive orders. Host George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton White House official, noted that Obama's orders were far less than recent presidents of both parties. Ryan said he's not upset about the number of orders, but rather their scope. He mentioned Obama's delay of some major requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Ryan said it's up to Congress, not the White House, to change those things. Stephanopoulos asked Ryan if he wants Obama impeached. Ryan said no -- and the courts will settle some major points of disagreement. Ryan said he was most upset about Obama's declaration in his State-of-the-Union that quote, "If Congress doesn't give me what I want, I'm going to do it myself." In Ryan's words, "That is not the way our constitution works."

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Former Governor Jim Doyle, his campaign fund, and his wife Jessica have given a total of 12-thousand-500 dollars to Democrat Mary Burke, as she runs for Doyle's old job against Scott Walker. Newly-filed campaign reports show that Doyle and his wife each gave five-thousand dollars to Burke soon after she entered the race last October -- and Doyle's campaign fund kicked in another 25-hundred. Burke was Doyle's commerce secretary for part of his tenure. The new reports show that Burke raised one-point-eight million dollars since October -- including 400-thousand of her own money. Republican Governor Walker raised five-point-one million from last July-through-December.  

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A Wisconsin law passed 30 years ago to hold law enforcement accountable when prisoners die has apparently never been used. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel checked online court records which date back 20 years. The paper said nobody in the state was charged in that time with violating laws on prisoners' treatment -- even though a number of deaths in Milwaukee County were not fully investigated. Kent Lovern, the deputy district attorney in Milwaukee, said he could not remember any such charges since the law took effect in the 1980's. The Journal Sentinel said there were 18 deaths in law enforcement custody in Milwaukee County from 2008-through-2012. Two-thirds of them were ruled as suicides or natural causes. Critics said authorities should be asking if such deaths are preventable. The Journal Sentinel profiled the death of Myron Weston, a state detention facility custodian who tried six times to commit suicide -- and succeeded the seventh time. A state official said jailors may not have known Weston's background. That's because the federal "HIPPA" (hip-puh) patient disclosure law prohibits many state corrections' workers from knowing an inmate's medical history.

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Wisconsin's Capital City might try to reduce its population of pit bulls. City committees in Madison will soon be asked to consider making all pit bulls five-months-and-older to be spayed or neutered. Show dogs and service dogs would be exempt, and the ordinance would only be enforced when somebody complains about a pit bull. Madison Alderman John Strasser tells the Wisconsin State Journal that the city's animal service officers are being stressed by an over-population of pit bulls -- and the Dane County Humane County is also feeling the pressure. Over half of all dogs euthanized from 2010-through-'12 at the Humane Society were pit bulls. If approved, the ordinance could take effect as early as next month.

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