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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Milwaukee County voters support cuts in supervisors pay and benefits

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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Milwaukee County voters support cuts in supervisors pay and benefits
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

MILWAUKEE - Over seven of every 10 voters in Milwaukee County have given a dramatic pay-and-benefit cut to their County Board members.  

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Supporters said the idea was to make board part-time instead of full-time.  In a referendum yesterday, 71-percent said yes to cutting supervisors' salaries in half, eliminating health insurance, and stopping credits toward their pensions.  It was a binding vote, and the changes will take effect after the 2016 Milwaukee County Board elections.  Two years ago, voters in a dozen Milwaukee suburbs strongly agreed that their County Board members should be part-time.  County Executive Chris Abele said he was happy that voters made their voices heard, and he looks forward to continue working with the County Board.  Supervisor Willie Johnson said the vote was the climax of a decade of efforts to assure a conservative agenda.  Members now make almost $51,000 a year.  That'll get cut to $24,000.  The board chair will get $36,000 dollars a year, down from the current $71,000.

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A mayor who refused to greet President Obama when he came to town in January lost his re-election bid yesterday.  First-term Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima was overwhelmingly defeated by challenger Shawn Reilly, 62-38 percent.  The opponent criticized Scrima for management problems and not taking part in city budget decisions.  The mayor accused Reilly of campaigning only on "negativity and sarcasm."  On January 30th, Scrima refused to attend an event at GE Medical Systems in Waukesha where Obama spoke and Governor Scott Walker was in attendance.  The mayor called the two "political extremists" who were not willing to compromise on major issues. The mayoral contest was among almost four-thousand municipal, county board, and school board elections throughout Wisconsin yesterday.  

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It appears that Wisconsin school voters were generally in a giving mood yesterday.  A check of state government and media Web sites shows that 26-of-38 bonding and revenue cap referendums were approved around the Badger State.  The two largest bonding projects in Wisconsin were approved.  Fifty-three percent of Kettle Moraine school voters said yes to nearly $50-million dollars of technology, security, and maintenance projects.  Sauk-Prairie had the second-largest bonding proposal.  Fifty-nine percent of voters approved $35-million for a new elementary school and various renovations to other schools and a community center.  In Green Bay, 70-percent of voters said yes to $20-million for major projects at six elementary-and-middle school buildings.  In Sheboygan Falls, voters said no for a third time to a new middle school -- plus an auditorium.  Those would have cost over $30-million.  In La Crosse, voters continued previous revenue cap exemptions with another $21-million in additional taxes over five years.  A four-year excess of Stoughton's revenue cap was easily approved.  Some margins were razor-thin.  In Rubicon, $450,000 in additional school taxes were rejected by just two votes 222-220.  

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Had he won yesterday, LeRoy Kelsey would have not have been able to serve as the next mayor of Tomah.  But he got 38-percent of the vote anyway.  Shannon Hough was newly-elected to the post, 806-504.  Hough called it an honor, and said she would get to work on improving Tomah's economy.  The 67-year-old Kelsey is due in Monroe County Circuit Court on April 21st, after he was charged last month with two counts of false swearing.  Prosecutors said he should have listed a previous felony conviction on his nomination papers, and didn't.  He was convicted of taking seven-thousand dollars in 1990 from the Sparta American Legion post.  Authorities quoted Kelsey as saying he assumed the felony charge was dropped to a misdemeanor after he paid his penalty -- and he thought he didn't have to report it.  He dropped his campaign when he learned otherwise.

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Wisconsin farmers could drive heavier equipment on the state's roadways, under a bill the state Senate approved yesterday.  The upper house endorsed changes made by the state Assembly two weeks ago, and then sent the measure to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.  Among other things, the bill would increase the gross weight limit for farm equipment to 92,000 pounds, and no more than 23-thousand pounds per axle.  The bill lets farmers seek permission to exceed the axle limits if necessary for tillage, planting, and harvesting equipment.  Towns and counties could local measures to issue no-fee permits on approved routes for those three types of major field operating equipment. 

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Wisconsin state senators did not reject any major bills on the final day of their regular two-year session.  They sent dozens of measures to Governor Scott Walker on votes that were unanimous or close to it.  They included legalizing a marijuana oil extract to relieve repeated child seizure disorders -- requiring police to use outside agencies to investigate deaths by the actions of officers -- requiring insurance coverage or low co-payments for chemotherapy drugs -- having police take DNA samples of arrested suspects only in cases of violent crimes -- letting the UW perform classified national security research -- and granting immunity for farmers in deaths at agricultural tourism events.  The state Senate also passed a couple of bills on close votes that mostly followed party lines.  On a 19-14 vote, the Senate decided to let doctors apologize or give sympathy to patients and their relatives for medical mistakes, without having it used against them in malpractice suits.  The Senate also voted 18-15 to pass a Republican measure allowing more jail inmates to be strip-searched by officers.  Senators also voted unanimously for two more bills aimed at fighting heroin abuse.  One calls for more treatment centers for addicts, and the other would speed up sanctions against probation violators so they can get faster drug treatment.

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Four retiring Wisconsin senators with almost a century of combined experience pleaded for more compromise after making their final regular session votes yesterday.  Democrats Tim Cullen of Janesville, Bob Jauch of Poplar, and John Lehman of Racine gave their goodbye speeches to their colleagues yesterday.  So did Richland Center Republican Dale Schultz.  Lehman is running for lieutenant governor.  The other three are retiring.  All four said they enjoyed their service.  Cullen joked that he would take fees from lawmakers not to be mentioned in the book he's writing.  Jauch said his best moments were when lawmakers worked together, and he hopes the Senate will one day return to being quote, "a place where moderation is the mainstream."  Jauch and Schultz leave after 32 years in the Legislature.  Cullen has served 16 years, and Lehman 14. 

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The state has ordered a shut-down of an indoor roller coaster at a Wisconsin Dells resort, after a rider fell and suffered a brain injury.  The state Department of Safety and Professional Services issued four code violations against the "Opa" ride at Mount Olympus. Officials said 63-year-old Anthony Theisen fell 17-feet onto a concrete floor, when a defective lap-bar opened on the ride March sixth.  The resort said the state's finding about the lap-bar was not consistent with the company's own investigation.  But Mount Olympus did say it was shutting down the ride.  Thiesen's attorney, Todd Korb, tells WISC-TV in Madison that the long-term effects of the victim's brain injury are not known.  He said Thiesen came out of a coma two days ago.  

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A coalition hopes to increase the numbers of people getting immunized in northern Wisconsin.  The Northwoods Immunization Coalition was formed nine years ago, to get a handle on the numbers of people not getting protected from major preventable diseases.  Laurel Dreger of the Vilas County Health Department says the group focuses on two-year-olds, teens, pregnant women, and the general adults in several Northwoods counties.  She said immunization levels have dropped in some places -- and they've had small outbreaks of illnesses that were once considered eradicated in the U.S..  Dreger says some people don't get their kids vaccinated these days -- and it creates pockets of measles, whopping cough, chicken pox, and the mumps.  Last December, the United Health Foundation said childhood immunizations did increase throughout Wisconsin over the past year.  Over 75-percent of 19-to-35-month-olds received their shots -- about four-and-a-half percent more than the year before.  However, teen immunizations fell statewide from 70-percent to 67.

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A suburban Milwaukee police chief was almost hit by a B-B from a pellet gun.  Prosecutors are trying to decide whether to file charges against a 58-year-old male suspect.  According to a search warrant affidavit, Cudahy Police Chief Thomas Poellot was walking to his car outside the police station on March 24th when he heard a quote, "whooshing" sound.  He took cover after hearing it a second time, and officers swarmed the area.  Authorities said they learned the next day that a no-parking sign appeared to be shot -- and when officers searched a nearby house, they found a pellet gun along with a rifle, two shotguns, and two handguns. 

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A mother in Milwaukee is accused of trying to kill her two sons by giving them large doses of a drug that treats schizophrenia.  A criminal complaint was filed yesterday against 26-year-old Fallon Thomas.  Online court records do not list an initial court date for Thomas, who's charged with two counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.  The overdose attempt allegedly took place March 26th.  Prosecutors said Thomas gave 15 prescription pills to each of her boys, ages 4-and-8.  Officials said she then called 9-1-1 and said she was quote, "sending her children up to God."  Paramedics responded, and rushed both kids to a hospital.  Their conditions have not been disclosed.

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An Appleton area company will keep building practice bombs for the Army.  According to a contract notice from the Pentagon, Tower Industries of Greenville has received a new order to build 500-pound practice bombs.  Tower has received similar contracts in the past.  The new deal is worth $6.6 million dollars.  The contracting agency for the project is the Army's arsenal at Rock Island, Illinois.

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The U.S. House Budget Committee is expected today to endorse a new GOP spending alternative by its Wisconsin chairman. Congressman Paul Ryan of Janesville, Chairman of the Budget Committee, came out with a plan yesterday to slash federal spending by $5.1 trillion dollars over the next decade.  But it might have rough sledding in the full House next week, because it continues a bipartisan agreement to increase agency operating budgets through 2015.  That was part of the deal which ended last October's government shutdown, but many conservatives said they couldn't stomach the higher spending.  Also, Ryan's package avoids cuts to senior citizen programs in the short-term.  It would convert Medicare into a voucher program for future retirees, to cut costs in the long run.  The Ryan budget also includes other cuts passed previously by the GOP House, but rejected by the Democratic Senate and White House -- thus making it more likely to be used as campaign material this fall than in actual policy.  Ryan's budget include cuts in Medicaid, food stamps, Pell college grants, and farm subsidies.  It would also end Saturday mail delivery, and reduce the federal workforce.  La Crosse House Democrat Ron Kind said the Pell grant cuts would drive students further into debt.  Ryan says the nation cannot keep spending money it doesn't have. Kind called the GOP budget a bad April Fool's joke.

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Attorneys will make opening arguments today in a trial that decides whether a man arrested in Madison will get the death penalty for killing a woman, and threatening to kill the president.  43-year-old James McVay pleaded guilty but insane to a South Dakota murder charge in the 2011 stabbing death of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein.  Authorities said he stole her, and was arrested while driving in Madison.  That's where he told police and a TV reporter that he was on his way to Washington, where he planned to assassinate President Obama while he plays golf.  Ten men and five women will hear the case.  Twelve of the jurors will then decide whether McVay should get death by lethal injection, or a life prison term.

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