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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Poll shows governor's race now tied

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Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

The Wisconsin governor's race has become a dead heat -- even though half of those polled still don't know what to think of Democrat Mary Burke.  

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The latest Marquette University Law School poll released today shows that 46-percent of 805 registered voters back Walker, and another 46-percent support Burke, the former Trek Bicycle executive and Doyle commerce secretary.  Walker had a seven-point lead over Burke among registered voters in the last Marquette poll in March.  He could still have a statistical advantage, since the new poll has a three-and-a-half percent margin of error either way.  Fifty-one percent of those polled said they have not heard enough about Burke, or don't know if they have a favorable opinion of her.  That's down from 59-percent in March and 70-percent in January, showing that more voters are indeed getting to know her.  Only five-percent didn't know what to think of the Republican Walker.  With just over five months before Election Day, the partisans are well in line.  Ninety-four percent of Republican voters back Walker, while 88 percent of Democrats back Burke.  Independents favor Walker 49-40.  The Marquette poll also shows that Walker has a 49-percent job approval rating, up from 47-percent in March.  Fifty-two percent say Wisconsin is heading in the right direction.  And no matter what party people align with, there's a strong distrust of government.  Eighty-two percent said government is run by "a few big interests looking out for themselves."  Ninety-percent say government wastes too much tax money.

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A Minnesota technology firm plans to lay off about 100 workers by the end of July -- and six-of-every-ten of those people work in Eau Claire.  Hutchinson Technology makes disk-drive components.  The firm previously announced an effort to save two-and-a-half million dollars for each three-month period by consolidating operations and moving jobs to its plant in Thailand.  Hutchinson C-E-O Rick Penn said new opportunities have been identified for reducing costs.  The firm now says it can save about four-million dollars per quarter by the end of its current fiscal year.  Penn assured stockholders that Hutchinson's financial performance will improve as the product demand increases, and the benefits of its lower costs are realized.  ____________________

Wisconsin's largest electric utility will pay $50,000 to settle state allegations that its natural gas plant in Kenosha County broke air pollution rules.  The state Justice Department said We Energies made a major modification to its Paris Generating Station near Union Grove, and it was supposed to determine the project's impact on air pollution.  We Energies replaced blades on two of the plant's turbines -- which the Justice Department and the DNR said were major modifications, although the utility had disagreed.  Officials said the smokestack was tested two years ago, and its nitrogen oxide emissions exceeded state limits.  Now, the Justice Department says the plant is in compliance with pollution rules.

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Madison and La Crosse are in the running to become Outside Magazine's "Best Town to Live In."  Sixty-three communities were chosen to square off in a tournament-style competition.  In the first round, 79-percent of about 14,000 voters picked Madison over Fargo North Dakota.  Fifty-two percent of 11,000 people chose La Crosse over Rapid City, South Dakota.  Each round of voting lasts five days.  The tournament is currently in Round 2, which goes through Saturday.  Madison is competing against Houghton, Michigan.  La Crosse is up against Grand Rapids, Michigan.  If Madison wins this week, the Capital City will face either Cincinnati or Minneapolis in the Sweet-16 round.  If La Crosse wins, they'll go up against either Duluth or Athens Ohio.  The winning city will be unveiled on June 15th.  To vote, or to see the "Best Towns" bracket, go to OutsideOnline.com. (The full Web address is:  http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/north-america/united-state...)

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Twelve universities -- including Wisconsin -- will help a federal task force find ways to reduce farmland pollution in the Mississippi River.  The federal EPA says state governments already work with universities on local water quality research that affects agriculture.  Until now, however, there has not been a process to share the ideas and studies cooked up by the 12 schools in the new task force effort.  Today, the EPA announced that its Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Watershed Task Force will work the UW plus 11 other state schools.  They're expected to offer new expertise in creating strategies to reduce farm run-off.  The other universities are Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa State, Purdue, Ohio State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi State, and Louisiana State.

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A Milwaukee man is free on bond, after he allegedly fled a pursuing officer by driving his motorcycle at 120-miles-an-hour in an Interstate construction zone.  22-year-old Bubby Thongchamleunsouk is due back in Racine County Circuit Court a week from tomorrow, to see if he'll be ordered to stand trial on a felony count of fleeing.  He was also given seven traffic tickets for an incident last Friday.  Officers reportedly kept losing sight of the man during a chase where I-94 is being reconstructed -- and he was later stopped on Highway 11 after an officer drew a service weapon.  The defendant told officers he was driving to his cousin's house, and he claimed he didn't know he was being chased.  He can either pay the seven traffic fines or appear in court on them June 26th.  They include reckless endangerment and speeding in work zones, and driving with a suspended license.________________________

Governor Scott Walker has re-named a new state law in honor of a seven-year-old girl who died before she could benefit from it.  Today, Gov. Walker issued a proclamation in which the approval of a marijuana-based oil for treating childhood seizures is named "Lydia's Law."  Lydia Schaefer of Burlington died on Mother's Day from her long-time seizure disorders.  Her parents took her case public in January, hoping to legalize some kind of help for their young girl.  The new law approves of use of cannabidiol to treat cases in which some kids get dozens of seizures each day.  After Lydia died, the family's state senator -- Democrat Bob Wirch of Kenosha -- said he would push to have the measure re-named in her honor.  The governor did that, and he named April 19th as Lydia Schaeffer Day.  That was her birthday.  Also, her mother planned to start a foundation to help families afford cannabidiol, and meet doctors who are willing to prescribe it.  At least some are doing so.  The Schaefers recently said the demand is so high, they could not obtain the by-product until this fall._____________________________

A Marine veteran has been ordered to spend 11 years in a secure mental health unit, for killing his girlfriend while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  29-year-old Coleman Dybul of Adams struck a plea deal in which he was found innocent-by-insanity to second-degree reckless homicide.  Two marijuana-related charges were dropped.  Authorities said Dybul was sleeping when 27-year-old Toni Voss startled him -- and he responded by grabbing a loaded gun next to his bed, and shooting her.  Investigators said Dybul was addicted for alcohol and other drugs, as well as his stress illness.  He apologized to the victim's family during his sentencing yesterday.__________________________

The special license plates that helped Wisconsin celebrate its 150th anniversary in 1998 are becoming a rarity on the highways.  The state DOT said today it has replaced about half of the Sesquicentennial plates plus others that have red letters and numbers.  The state is following a recommendation from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to have black license numbers on white backgrounds.  The DOT's Mitchell Warren says the combination is the safest.  Also, he says the oldest Sesquicentennial plates are now 17 years old -- much older than national standards suggest.  The state began taking those plates off the road last August.  By the time the project is completed next year, about 160-thousand Sesquicentennial plates will have been replaced, along with 135,000 other red-lettered plates.  Motorists are being told to wait for a DOT notice before having anything replaced or renewed.____________________________

Wisconsin seniors are much healthier than a year ago, compared to others around the country.  The United Health Foundation ranks Wisconsin the 10th-healthiest among those 65-and-older.  That's up from 19th a year ago.  Neighboring Minnesota held onto its No. 1 spot in a report which labeled itself as a "call to action" for seniors and their communities.  Falls are a major cause of death among America's older population -- and the Health Foundation said only 15-percent of Wisconsin seniors admitted falling in the past 12 months. That's much less than the national rate of 27-percent.  The Badger State also has the third-highest percentage of health providers who are dedicated to seniors -- the third-highest rate for dental visits by senior citizens -- and the fifth-lowest rate of senior smokers. On the other hand, Wisconsin seniors are second-worst in problem drinking -- and the fourth-worst for obesity.  In general, United Health said there were improvements nationally in nursing home care and end-of-life care -- plus gains in exercise among seniors, and fewer avoidable hospitalizations.  _____________________________

The state office building which houses the Departments of Workforce Development and Children-and-Families will be shut down for at least eight weeks.  That's after a smoky fire last Friday at the General Executive Facility about a block from the State Capitol on East Washington Avenue in Madison.  Officials say an inspection continues into the building's mechanical and structural systems -- and there's still clean-up work to do.  Madison fire investigators said the blaze was caused by an electrical problem.  It's been ruled an accident.  About a-thousand people normally work in the facility.   They're now working from their homes or other locations.  Online services by both affected agencies are working as normal. ____________________________

A man convicted of killing two Wisconsin Rapids women while speeding and driving drunk will spend seven years in prison.  23-year-old Tim Saavedra of Rudolph must also spend five years under extended supervision once he's no longer behind bars.  He was sentenced yesterday in Portage County Circuit Court, where he struck a plea deal that convicted him of two counts of homicide by drunk driving, and one count of O-W-I injury.  Five other charges were dropped.  Authorities said Saavedra was driving his pick-up truck at 94-miles-an-hour when it hit a cluster of trees near Rudolph last July.  Two of his passengers -- Stephanie Eberhardt and Melissa Peterson-Suzda, both 21 -- were killed.  A 21-year-old Rudolph man was seriously injured.  The driver's blood alcohol level was point-14 shortly after the crash.

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