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Morning State News Briefs: Gov. Walker names three persons to Board of Regents

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MADISON - Governor Scott Walker says he hopes to add oversight and transparency to the University of Wisconsin system, by naming a former state auditor to the UW Board of Regents.

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Janice Mueller was one of three people named yesterday to the university's policy-setting body. She and former Republican Lieutenant Governor Margaret Farrow were each named to seven-year terms. UW-Platteville student Joshua Inglett from Portage was named to a two-year term as one of two student Regents. He'll replace Katherine Pointer of Madison, while Mueller and Farrow replace Jeffrey Bartell and Regents' president Brent Smith. Mueller was the state auditor from 1998 until she retired two years ago. Walker hopes Mueller can foster more openness involving the UW, after the revelation in April that the campuses were sitting on $650-million dollars in reserves. Farrow was the state's lieutenant governor under Scott McCallum in 2001-and-'02. She has also been in the state Assembly and Senate. Inglett is studying in engineering physics at Platteville. Their appointments require Senate confirmation.

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A Waukesha man will spend almost 11 years in prison, for providing the heroin that killed two people six months apart. Kevin Cobus, who turns 29 tomorrow, must also spend eight years under extended supervision when he's no longer behind bars. A jury convicted him in early April on two counts of reckless homicide. 24-year-old Jamie Hansen of Muskego died of a heroin overdose in July of 2011, and 26-year-old Cody Riggs of Delafield died from a similar overdose in January of last year. Cobus told authorities that he drove the two victims to a dealer in Milwaukee so they could get the heroin. In exchange, he was given part of the drugs for his own use. Cobus was ordered to pay almost $14,000 in restitution as part of a 12-year sentence that was shortened by 455 days to include the time he spent in jail during his court case.

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A Milwaukee woman has died, two days after being hit by a vehicle while walking in an Interstate construction zone west of Kenosha. The State Patrol said yesterday that 24-year-old Loretta Pollock was taken off life-support on Sunday. She was struck around three a-m Friday, while walking in the southbound lanes of Interstate-94 near Kenosha County Trunk "N."

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The Wisconsin State Senate is scheduled to vote today on a bill to increase weekly jobless benefits, while making it easier to recover money that was overpaid to recipients. The bill would increase the weekly payments by one-to-seven dollars, while letting officials check private bank accounts for evidence of overpayments. Banks that do business with the state government would have to disclose information about the accounts held by those who owe money to the unemployment fund. Those measures are expected to bring in eight-million dollars a year, to help pay a half-billion dollars back to the federal government for helping the state provide jobless benefits during the recession. The Senate bill would also toughen the standards for those applying for benefits after they rejected job offers. They would not be eligible for benefits until they find a job and make six times their weekly benefit rates. That's up from the current four times. The Legislature's finance panel has already endorsed other controversial changes in the unemployment system, as part of the proposed state budget. They include making the unemployed look for four jobs a week instead of two. Ten exceptions in which employees can quit and still get benefits would be eliminated. Also, the budget requires taxpayers to chip in $26-million to help pay the federal government back.

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In his 34 years in office, Secretary-of-State Douglas La Follette has seen numerous politicians chip away at his responsibilities. Now, as he seeks re-election in 17 months, the state's only Democratic constitutional office-holder is fighting back. La Follette tells the Wisconsin Radio Network that the Badger State is the only one that requires new companies to find government agencies other than the Secretary-of-State to seek approvals for such things as forming new corporations. He says it goes against Wisconsin's claim that it's "Open for Business," the slogan set by Governor Scott Walker. La Follette is especially critical of a 1995 decision to put many of his former duties under a newly-created Department of Financial Institutions - an initiative approved by another Republican governor, Tommy Thompson. In the years that followed, La Follette says people have been confused when asking about things like trademarks, notaries public, and other business rules. He said he made a recent pitch to Walker about tossing partisan politics aside and bringing those jobs back. Today, the Secretary of State's only duties are to maintain the official acts of the governor and Legislature, affix the state seal to gubernatorial actions, and serve on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. Republican Rohn Bishop says he'll run against La Follette next year with the goal of eliminating the Secretary-of-State's office eventually - a move that requires a constitutional change. Republican State Treasurer Kurt Schuller ran on the same premise three years ago. He'll leave after next year without achieving his goal.

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A plea hearing has been set for a La Crosse man charged in a drunk driving death in central Wisconsin. 22-year-old Tyler Deal has pleaded innocent to a half-dozen criminal charges, but reports say a plea deal is in the works. His hearing is set for July 19th. Marathon County authorities said Deal hit a utility pole on County Trunk "V" south of Spencer in February of last year. A passenger, 22-year-old Paige Delo, was killed. The driver's charges include homicide by intoxicated and negligent driving, possession of marijuana, and homicide by the use of a controlled substance. Deal is currently free on bond.

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The federal government is giving $1.5 million dollars to a Milwaukee program which helps prisoners get a fresh start after they've served their time. The Labor Department has announced the grant for Milwaukee's Center for Self-Sufficiency. The non-profit group provides training and employment services for women and young people who are coming out of prison. The center also works with school-and-community groups on programs that help make families stronger. It helps former inmates deal with the aftermath of substance abuse and other trauma in their past.

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Wisconsin's two U.S. senators went different ways, when the chamber approved a five-year farm policy package costing a half-trillion-dollars. Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison joined a 66-27 majority which passed a new Farm Bill late yesterday. Republican Ron Johnson of Oshkosh voted no, saying the large amount of food stamps in the package was too much to stomach. The Senate package cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $400-million a year, or a half-percent. The Republican-controlled House is about to consider a much larger cut of around two-billion per year - while making it harder for some people to get food stamps. The food aid was added to the Farm Bill several decades ago, to help round up support from urban lawmakers for various farm subsidies. That support has gone sour since the Great Recession, when millions more Americans went on food stamps. Johnson says food stamps should be debated on their own. As for the other Farm Bill programs, he said a positive risk management effort was off-set by negatives that include a dairy supply management package. Both the Senate and the House versions would overhaul federal dairy policy by creating a new insurance program for producers, while dropping other dairy subsidies and price supports. A market stabilization program could order cuts in production when high supplies drive down prices. The dairy package got little debate in the Senate - but the House could be another story. GOP Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says the stabilization program is "Soviet-style," and he vows to push for an amendment.

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A Milwaukee Catholic high school teacher will ask a judge to drop two sexual assault charges against her. The attorney for 28-year-old Megan Garland told a judge yesterday that the victims' statements to police were not enough to prosecute the instructor. The district attorney's office says the evidence points to a teacher who was taking advantage of her students. A hearing on the dismissal request is set for June 24th in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Garland has been suspended as a science teacher at Milwaukee Messmer High School, for allegedly having sex with a pair of teen boys. An adult witness reportedly saw Garland having sex with a 14-year-old Messmer student in the parking lot of another school.

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The Wisconsin DNR has a new deer-and-elk researcher. Dan Storm was recently promoted to replace the departed Jared Duquette. The DNR says Storm will work on mortality studies for bucks-and-fawns, and the nutritional content of deer killed by vehicles. He'll also be a consultant to DNR managers on a host of issues that involve deer-and-elk. Storm joined the department last year as a researcher.

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