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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Judge won't delay trial of Milwaukee teen who died in parking garage

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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Judge won't delay trial of Milwaukee teen who died in parking garage
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

MILWAUKEE - A judge in Milwaukee has said no to a defense request to delay a trial in the death of a teenager at a downtown parking garage. 

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A month-long civil trial began yesterday, to determine who's at fault for a freak accident in 2010 in which a decorative concrete panel fell from the second floor of the O'Donnell Park ramp.  Yesterday, Advance Cast Stone asked to delay the trial, saying it just recently contacted witnesses who saw a tow-truck at a ramp exit two weeks before the collapse. The firm said it needs time to get sworn statements from two tow-truck drivers.  Circuit Judge Christopher Foley said it would probably would not help the defense, even if one of the drivers admitted hitting the ramp.  The judge also said the company had more than two years to prepare its case, and delaying it now would hurt the plaintiffs.  The families of Jared Kellner, Eric Wosinski, and Eric's mother are suing Advance Cast Stone, which installed the fallen panel -- and Milwaukee County, which owns the parking ramp.  Kellner died in the mishap.  The two Wosinskis were hurt.  

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Wisconsin's governor and lieutenant governor led the way, as school students in Wisconsin Rapids toured local manufacturers yesterday.  It was called the "Heavy Metal Bus Tour," aimed at encouraging youngsters to consider manufacturing careers -- and get the high-tech skills needed for lots of jobs which now sit vacant.  Eighth, ninth, and 10th graders joined Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, business leaders, and officials of Mid-State Technical College on the tour.  Walker told the youngsters they can have decent-paying careers, even with less than a four-year college degree.  He said the average pay in manufacturing is now $52,000 a year, 25-percent more than other labor sectors in Wisconsin.  Walker said the current state budget has funding to encourage youngsters as early as sixth grade to start thinking about manufacturing careers -- and the classes they'll have to take to prepare.  The Wisconsin Rapids tour included stop at Domtar Paper, Corenso North America, Mariani Packing, and ECC Corrosion.

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Governor Scott Walker says "tough but prudent decisions" are why the state government had a surplus of $759-million when the last budget expired June 30th.  Officials said yesterday that the surplus was $89-million more than what was expected when the Republican Walker prepared his new budget last winter.  The governor said he promised to be a good steward of the taxpayers' money, and the new report shows quote, "we're on the right track."  GOP leaders vaguely mentioned the higher surplus a week ago, when they announced a $100-million property tax cut over the next two years.  The Senate is scheduled to vote on it today.  Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson said his party would most likely support the tax cut.  Still, he took the opportunity to blame the higher surplus on quote, "historic cuts to education spending for Wisconsin children."  He was referring to the $800-million in state school aid that was cut in 2011 -- two-thirds of which schools later got back due to the union bargaining limits and higher payments for employee pensions and health care.  Also, the state added $153-million to its "rainy day fund," creating a total of $278-million for emergencies.  That's still lower than other states.  It's enough to keep the state going for about a week.

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The Mexican government has been asked to give Wisconsin its own consulate office.  Governor Scott Walker said Wisconsin has a growing number of Mexican nationals -- and many have to wait two months or more to get required documents from Mexico.  Wisconsin is currently served by a mobile consulate office, plus a permanent facility in Chicago that also serves Illinois and Indiana.  Walker asked for a separate Wisconsin consulate in a letter to Mexico's president, Enrique Pena Nieto -- and Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., Eduardo Medina Mora.  Walker told them that Wisconsin has had a "tremendous relationship" with Mexico over the years.  He said Mexico is Wisconsin's second-largest trading partner, and Hispanic-owned businesses have grown by almost eight-percent a year in the Badger State.  Walker said a new consulate would continue the economic growth pattern.  As of last year, Hispanics made up around six-percent of the state's population.

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Wisconsin schools would find it much easier to keep their Indian nicknames and mascots, under a bill up for a vote in the state Assembly today.  The Republican bill would weaken a 2009 Democratic law in which the state takes complaints about Indian names, decides if they discriminate, and can order school boards to change the names or face heavy fines.  The bill's supporters say it would force Indians to prove they've been discriminated against.  Opponents say the state would tolerate more discrimination.  The GOP bill would make Indians prove they've been hurt by their school nicknames, instead of school boards having to prove otherwise.  Also, one person would no longer be able to file a complaint.  The bill requires petitions with signatures totaling at least 10-percent of a school's population.  The Administration Department would handle the complaints instead of the Department of Public Instruction, after a judge ruled that the DPI's process was biased against the schools.  The bill also nullifies the DPI's previous orders to change Indian names -- including Mukwonago, which refuses to abide by the state's order to drop its "Indians" name.

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Wisconsin state senators are scheduled to give final legislative approval today to a bill that allows "crowd-funding" -- letting businesses sell stock online.  The Assembly okayed the measure last week on a voice vote.  The bill relaxes some state laws on stock purchases, to let investors make online donations to firms needing capital.   Companies could raise up to a million-dollars on Web sites like Kick-starter -- or two-million if they're willing to be audited and let investors see the results.  Donors would not get direct returns, but they could get things like free products that a funded company sells.  Supporters say it would let new businesses get donated capital in place of more traditional financing like grants, loans, and venture capital -- all of which can still be hard to get in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

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Wisconsin doctors could give patients less information about alternative treatments, under a bill that's up for a vote in the state Senate today.  The state Assembly passed the measure in May.  It would nullify a State Supreme Court decision from 2012 which ordered doctors to tell patients about all alternative treatments which might benefit them -- even if they're not related to their diagnoses.  Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon authored the bill after Thomas Jandre won two-million dollars in court.  Jandre has Bell's Palsy, and his jury agreed that his doctor failed to tell him about an ultrasound that could have warded off a stroke he suffered.  Ott says his bill still requires what a reasonable doctor would tell a patient.  Opposing Democrats say the bill goes too far in changing Wisconsin's informed consent rules.

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The Wisconsin State Senate is scheduled to vote today on a bill giving veterans priority over other students when they sign up for UW and technical college classes.   Supporters say it would improve veterans' chances of graduating before their federal GI benefits expire -- thus saving the state money.  State benefits kick in after federal benefits expire, and UW officials say the federal benefits often run out for one-or-two semesters before veterans graduate.  UW Oshkosh already includes veterans in its early registration program.   

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A bill to let Wisconsin taverns and liquor stores sue underage customers or their parents will be up for final legislative approval tomorrow.  The Senate will be asked to ratify a measure passed unanimously by the Assembly in May.  The Republican measure would let liquor license owners file civil suits against customers under 21 -- and if the customers are under-18, their parents or guardians would have to pay the owners up to a-thousand dollars.  The bill's supporters say it blames underage drinkers for breaking the law, and not the people who serve them.  The bill does not change any other underage drinking laws -- including the one that lets underage people drink in bars with their parents, or spouses who are at least 21.

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UW-Milwaukee professor Mordecai Lee says it's a shame that Wisconsin will lose so much institutional memory in state government after next year.  Democrats Tim Cullen of Janesville and Bob Jauch of Poplar will take home a combined 48 years of Senate experience, once they step down after next fall's elections.  Lee, a former Democratic Assembly member from Milwaukee, tells the Associated Press it's important to have lawmakers with years of first-hand knowledge of how the Capitol works.  On the other hand, Lee says there's a benefit to getting fresh faces with new ideas and energy.  Cullen has had two stints in the Senate, back to 1975.  His latest tenure will only run for four years, after saying he's become disillusioned with the unwillingness by majority Republicans to compromise on major issues.  Moderate State Senate Republican Dale Schultz -- a 30-plus-year legislative veteran -- is also contemplating retirement.  That's after second-term Assembly Republican Howard Marklein of Spring Green said he would run in a primary for Schultz's seat next August.  Wisconsin is assured of having at least one new constitutional officer after next year.  Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said he'll step down after eight years in office.

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It appears that Kenosha Democrat Rob Zerban will try for a second time to unseat U.S. House Republican Paul Ryan next year.  The former Kenosha County board member has set up an exploratory committee which is planning what it calls an "announcement rally" for October 26th.  Coordinator Al Benninghoff would not be more specific.  Zerban got 43-percent of the vote against Ryan last year -- and he actually won in Ryan's home county of Rock.  Ryan spent most of his time away from his district during the 2012 campaign, when he was Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate.  Meanwhile, Amar Kaleka -- son of the Oak Creek Sikh Temple president who was murdered last year -- says he'll also run for Ryan's seat as a Democrat.  If both Kaleka and Zerban run, they'd square off in a Democratic primary next August.  Kaleka told the Associated Press today that he'll file the necessary paperwork on Wednesday to start an exploratory committee.  The 35-year-old Kaleka says he wants to bring transparency and accountability to Washington.  He said Americans are tired of career politicians who care more about keeping their power than about serving the people.  Kaleka blames Ryan, the House budget chairman, for the federal government shutdown.  Kaleka's father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, founded the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.  Gunman Wade Michael Page killed Kaleka and five other worshippers are the temple in August of 2012.  Amar Kaleka said he used to think about running for public office a couple decades from now, when he was in his 50's or 60's -- but he decided to do it sooner, after his father's murder.  Ryan is in his eighth term in the House, and he's regarded by many observers as a potential Republican president candidate in 2016.  He was Mitt Romney's vice presidential choice a year ago.  

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Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel has entered the race for Wisconsin attorney general. He made his official announcement today, saying his top priority will be fighting heroin. Schimel, a Republican, is the first to enter the race after incumbent J.B. Van Hollen announced he would not seek re-election last week. 

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The State Supreme Court said today it would consider a civil lawsuit filed against a railroad in a dramatic 2009 rescue when a train hit a mini-van in Elm Grove.  A circuit court had ruled that a civil suit was not allowed by federal railroad laws, but a state appeals court reversed that decision in March.  Former Elm Grove officer John Krahn saved Monica Ensley-Partenfelder, after she drove her mini-van onto railroad tracks in heavy traffic, just before Elm Grove's Memorial Day Parade was about to begin in '09.  Krahn and her husband Scott Partenfelder were seriously injured as they were saving the couple's two-year-old son, just as the 94-car train hit the van and threw it for a short distance.  Monica and the child escaped unharmed.  The Partenfelders and Krahn both sued the railroad, seeking damages.   The railroad argued that the appellate court ruling allowed local governments to control train speeds when traffic might be near railroad tracks -- even at relatively mundane times.  The Elm Grove parade was abruptly canceled after the crash. 

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 The city of Kenosha has acquired the land where Chrysler used to build cars and engines.  Last night, the City Council voted to accept a title for 109 acres.  The plant ran for decades until it shut down for good three years ago.  Now, the city and state will spend around $30-million to clean up the site.  Mayor Keith Bosman says there are no exact plans for the property right now.  He expects it to be a business park in the future.  Officials say it could take 5-to-7 years to clean up the old Chrysler property.  Most of the buildings are gone, but City Administrator Frank Pacetti says there are still tons of concrete and other things to be removed.  

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A central Wisconsin woman has pleaded innocent to resisting an officer, after her two pit bulls attacked a Wood County sheriff's deputy.  48-year-old Cora Fuller of Pittsville was arraigned yesterday on her misdemeanor charge.  She's due back in court November 15th.  The deputy tried stopping Fuller in late September for not wearing a seat-belt, and she drove home.  According to prosecutors, the deputy convinced Fuller to come out of the house -- and he smelled alcohol and asked if she was drinking.  She tried going back in when the officer allegedly grabbed her.  During the tussle, she managed to open her door and two pit bulls came out and bit the deputy.  He shot both, and one was later euthanized.  In court yesterday, Fuller's attorney said she would file a damage claim for what he called an unwarranted entry onto her property, and the shootings of her dogs.  Circuit Judge Todd Wolf called that a civil allegation which has nothing to do with the criminal case against Fuller.

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Saying they're "fed up" about an increase in shootings, a group of pastors in Milwaukee has asked the city to start a gun buy-back program.  Those with unwanted weapons could turn them in, and get 100-dollar gift card for a handgun and 200 for an assault weapon.  The pastors held a news conference about the idea yesterday, after meeting with city officials about it recently.  The pastors have asked the city to budget 50-thousand dollars next year for a one-time buy-back, in which those returning guns could stay anonymous.  A spokesman for Mayor Tom Barrett says the mayor and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn both favor a buyback -- but they'd have to figure out where the money would come from.

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A teenager has pleaded innocent to organizing the failed robbery of a 96-year-old woman and her corner grocery store in Marshfield.  17-year-old Cordell Ellingson of Arpin was ordered yesterday to stand trial in Wood County Circuit Court.  He then entered his plea to an adult felony charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  A police detective testified that Ellingson drew up a plan to rob Wolf's Grocery in mid-July, and encouraged a 13-year-old boy to pull it off.  Ellingson was living with the younger boy's family at the time.  Investigators said the 13-year-old wore a mask as he demanded money from store owner Marge Wolf at knifepoint.  She offered him Tootsie Rolls instead.  The incident made national news.  The boy is facing juvenile court action.  The judge and attorneys in the Ellingson case will have a pre-trial conference November 22nd.  A trial date could be set at that time.

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Two suspended Milwaukee police officers are due in court today, on charges that they failed to stop other officers from illegally strip-searching drug suspects.  Jeffrey Dollhopf and Brian Kozelek are scheduled to go on trial next week on charges of misconduct in office, and charges related to illegal strip searches.  Today's hearing deals with pre-trial matters.  Both defendants have asked that their charges be dropped.  They say the allegations are too vague to give a proper defense.  Officer Jacob Knight was recently sentenced to 20 days in jail in a similar case.  Former officer Michael Vagnini was given 26 months in prison for leading the strip searches, and entering suspects' body cavities to look for evidence.

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An eight-year-old La Crosse elementary student caused quite a scare yesterday morning, by taking a toy gun onto a school bus.  A parent called North Woods International School after hearing that a youngster boarded a bus with two BB guns.  The parent then approached the bus driver, who confiscated a single toy gun and removed the child.  School officials didn't know that -- so they notified parents, and called the school district's bus company.  A company employee called police and told the bus driver to stop.  Police said the driver had the toy gun ready for the officers when they arrived.  La Crosse School Superintendent Randy Nelson said the incident showed that its internal reporting systems worked.  When the bus got to the school, officials and counselors met with the youngsters to explain what happened and answered questions.  

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Repair work has begun on the crippled Leo Frigo Bridge in Green Bay. Wisconsin Department of Transportation Communications Manager Kim Rudat says the bridge will remain close and the work is to stabilize the bridge. Over the next few weeks, the department will determine final repair work and how long the I-43 Bridge will remain closed. Two towers will be built on Pier 22, providing the much-needed stabilization of the bridge. Those are scheduled for completion in November. Rudat says they will also take the time to examine other piers on the bridge. Repair updates on the bridge can be found on the department’s website at DOT (www.dot.wi.gov).

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 Milwaukee Police are asking the public for help to locate a missing woman. The family of 27-year-old Kelly Dwyer reporter her missing over the weekend, she also failed to show for work. Police say Dwyer went out to the bars on Thursday night, then stayed at a friend’s house… she was last seen Friday morning.

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A motorcyclist killed over the weekend was a goaltender for the Onalaska High School boys' hockey team almost a decade ago.  The biker was identified today as 27-year-old Kris Raifsnider of Onalaska -- one of at least seven people killed on Wisconsin highways over the weekend.  Authorities said Raifsnider was heading east on La Crosse County Trunk "Z" when something distracted him and he drove toward the center line.  Raifsnider then hit his brakes hard, causing him to skid into the other lane where he collided with an oncoming vehicle.  That driver, an 18-year-old woman, suffered minor injuries but was not hospitalized.  Raifsnider was wearing a helmet at the time.  He was taken to a hospital where he died.  Raifsnider graduated from Onalaska High in 2004. 

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Milwaukee Police have identified three homicide victims, all killed in separate incidents.  19-year-old Larry Gallien was murdered Saturday on Milwaukee's north side.  20-year-old Joseph Malicki was killed Saturday on the south side.  And 84-year-old Robert L. Johnson died last Thursday on a north side street.  Police say they've identified a suspect in Gallien's murder.  There are no suspects yet for the other two.

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Waukesha submitted a revised request today to let the city tap into Lake Michigan for its drinking water.  The city is just outside the lake's natural basin.  Therefore, Waukesha needs approval from Wisconsin and all seven other Great Lakes states to tap in.  The city has arranged with Oak Creek to provide the water, as long as Waukesha returns what it uses in the form of treated wastewater.  In its new application, the city told the DNR it would need 10.1-million gallons of water per day by the middle of the century -- less than its previous estimate of 10-point-nine million gallons.  Right now, the city is digging deep to get nearby well water.  It contains excessive radium, which the city is ordered to remove by 2018 under a court order.  Waukesha officials say both the Great Lakes and the nearby Root River would benefit, if the city no longer had to pull up deep groundwater.  The city says it will restore the natural order of the region's underground water flows -- and by dumping its wastewater in the Root River, it would spare Lake Michigan of any water quality issues, thus improving prospects for recreational activities like fishing.  City officials plan to hold four public meetings next month on their revised request.

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A trust fund that covers pre-paid funerals throughout Wisconsin has paid for about 1,400 burials since the fund went into receivership just over a year ago.  The Wisconsin Funeral Trust reverted to a court-ordered receiver, after it was found to have a shortfall of $20-million.  Since then, the shortfall has grown to around 25-million, as the result of high-risk investments that went sour.  More than 10,000 Wisconsinites invested in the statewide fund through their local funeral homes, so their funeral expenses would already be covered when they're needed.  A new report filed in Dane County Circuit court said the trust has paid out almost six-million dollars for funeral expenses, and around $900,000 for legal fees.

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Boy Scout officials in central Wisconsin say they hope it's not another decade before they can hold another regional jamboree.  The Samoset Council held its first jamboree in over a decade this past weekend in Marshfield.  About two-thousand scouts and their families attended.  The event featured a number of activities at the city's fairgrounds -- ranging from jousting to a zip-line to a monkey bridge to tomahawk throwing to a fireworks show.  Parents spent 19 months planning for the event, and they were blessed with dry-and-mild weather.  The Samoset Council is based in Schofield, near Wausau.  It makes up six scouting districts which include most of central and northern Wisconsin.  Council events' committee chairman Bryan Call says he hopes the jamboree can take place every three years from now on.

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