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State Political and Government News: Dalai Lama to speak before state legislature

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MADISON - The Dalai Lama plans to speak to Wisconsin legislators today. A 45-minute address is scheduled in the state Assembly chamber around three this afternoon. If you don't have the Wisconsin Eye channel on your cable system, you can see the Dalai Lama's address online at the Wisconsin Eye Web site.

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The speech is part of a four-day visit to the Madison area for the spiritual leader of Tibet. He's also scheduled to meet privately with Governor Scott Walker. The Dalai Lama will also speak at a series of public programs in Madison today and tomorrow. On Thursday, he'll meet with Tibetan college students from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois. The 77-year-old Dalai Lama had a routine checkup on Sunday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Wisconsin state senators will decide today whether the Milwaukee County Board should go on a diet. The state Assembly passed a measure last week that would reduce the Board's authority, increase the county executive's power, and call for a binding referendum on cutting supervisors' salaries by about half. Former Milwaukee County Board member and now Assemblyman Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) proposed the measure soon after he joined the Assembly in January. His Republican colleagues supported his bill, saying the Board should not be micro-managing county government so much. Democrats say the bill is a slap to local control, and other counties could end up feeling the Legislature's wrath in the future.

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The state Assembly is scheduled to vote today on restoring mandatory prison time for the biggest drunk driving offenders. Judges would have to impose sentences of at least three years for seventh, eighth, and ninth-time OWI offenders. A minimum four-year sentence would be required those convicted 10 times or more. Also, 30-day jail terms would be imposed for drivers causing injuries with blood alcohol levels from point-zero-four to point-zero-eight. Mequon Republican Jim Ott authored the bill, after an appeals court gave judges the option of sending repeat drunk drivers to prison. Also today, the Assembly plans to vote on a bill to let bars and liquor stores sue those under 21 who try to buy beer-and-booze using fake ID's. Underage drinkers, or the parents or guardians of minors, would face penalties of up to a-thousand dollars in small claims court. De Pere Republican Andre Jacque said he patterned the bill after a similar law in Alaska.

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The Wisconsin State Assembly is scheduled to vote today on a bill that would keep state laws in place while they're being appealed in the courts. Last year, three Dane County circuit judges struck down the photo ID law for voting and parts of the 2011 union bargaining limits. They remained struck down while the state appealed the judge's rulings. And that angered Republicans who saw their voter ID law in place for only one election in the past two years. They proposed a bill which allows attorneys to hold up the temporary blocking of state laws by filing appeals within 10 days. If the state Assembly passes the measure, it would go to the state Senate. Also, the Assembly is set to vote today on a bill that bars employees of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation from negotiating contracts they have a financial stake in. Greenfield Republican Assemblyman Jeff Stone proposed the ban, after a critical audit turned up a number of procedural problems in the state's job creation agency. The Assembly also plans a vote to a bill to let landlords dispose of property that evicted tenants leave behind - and tenants would no longer have to be notified first.

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Wisconsin would be one of the toughest states in the nation to keep unemployment benefits, under a budget measure endorsed yesterday. Majority Republicans on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 to make those who receive state benefits look for new jobs four times a week instead of the current two. Only Florida and the Carolinas require that many searches. Governor Scott Walker's proposal would also require more than four weekly searches in certain cases. Senate Republican Luther Olsen of Ripon calls it an "honest attempt to motivate people, if they're not motivated enough to look for a job." He denied that the goal is cut off benefits to those without work, as Democrats claimed. The measure would reduce some of the $856-million the state planned to spend on unemployment benefits this year. It would also cut into the billion-dollars the state must repay the federal government, after Washington helped keep the benefits going during the Great Recession. All four Democrats on the finance panel voted against the job search requirement. Assembly Democrat Cory Mason of Racine said it would be foolish to assume that people are on unemployment because they're not looking for jobs.

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