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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State Assembly takes up Common Core standards

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Bills relating to the state's common core standards for education are being considered at the Capitol.

One measure, from Republican Assmeblyman Dean Knudson of Hudson, would require more public input on the drafting of any new standards. Assembly Education Committee members say that was lacking in the process which led up to implementation of current standards. Sheila Briggs with the state Department of Education says the agency is willing to work on getting more input - but it's a challenge to get parents involved. The bill is opposed by DPI and is one of three developed by critics of the standards, following a series of public hearings held late last year. State Assemblyman Fred Clark, a Democrat from Baraboo, says if DPI is guilty of anything, it’s not knowing there would be a campaign to establish Common Core conspiracy theory. 

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As Wisconsin lawmakers begin to tackle the growing problem of heroin, more people are being exposed to it in different ways.  Brookfield East teacher Chris Guthrie said he never knew that high school students were exposed to heroin until one of his students died from it.  19-year-old Luke Pulsifer of Elm Grove died from an overdose last June.  The "Elm Grove Now" Web site said Guthrie helped start a community task force to raise people's awareness of heroin -- and what they can do to fight the problem.  The group's first event will be a resource fair a week from tonight.  It will be feature presentations from a host of state-and-local officials.  Pulsifer's parents will speak, and there will be a question-and-answer session.  Yesterday, the state Assembly passed four bills aimed at addressing heroin.  In supporting the legislation, Attorney General J-B Van Hollen said law enforcement cannot solve the problem alone -- and it will take everyday people to get involved.  Laura Pulsifer said she used to think that heroin was limited to quote, "the loser under the bridge in Milwaukee."  Now, she realizes it's the face of her son.  In 2012, more people died from heroin abuse in Waukesha County than from traffic accidents.  Thirteen of the county's 21 deaths were people in their 20's.

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Three people killed in an apparent snow-related crash in northern Wisconsin were identified this morning as Jeremy Ritchie of Minocqua, Justine Ringberg of Bayfield, and Raquel Nunez of New York City.  All three were 22 years old.  Oneida County authorities said Ringberg and Nunez were in a car that lost control, and slid into the path of Ritchie's oncoming propane tanker truck.   The two collided head-on.   Nobody else was in either vehicle.  The crash happened while it was snowing early yesterday afternoon on Highway 51 in the town of Cassian.  The mishap remains under investigation.  

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The number of calls to a statewide helpline for compulsive gamblers was down last year by around 500. Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Rose Gruber says the 24-7 helpline is very significant. By the time the call is made, the impact of the gambling addiction has typically been felt by the gambler's family, friends, co-workers and his or her employer. She adds that gamblers can be suicidal and those close to them may be upset. Gruber says they want to hear from many concerned friends and family members who see a problem and are seeking information. The helpline is 1-800-GAMBLE-5.

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Oak Creek Police say an internet post led to vandalism and theft. According to police, a black male, possibly 19-years-old, responded to the victim’s Craigslist post about an Xbox gaming system for sale on January 7. The suspect put a $20 down payment towards the system, but came back and wanted to take the system with him. When the victim disagreed, police say the suspect grabbed the Xbox and fled. Shortly after the incident, the victim heard a window break and the suspect allegedly yelling “it’s gonna be a cold night”. Police say the victim provided numbers to them and are looking for the suspect. Total value of the theft and damage to the window is estimated at $550. 

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A plea deal could soon be in the works for a Manitowoc man accused of starting a road-rage chase that ended with a fatal hit-and-run crash.  22-year-old Shawn Lischka pleaded innocent today to felony charges of negligent homicide, fatal hit-and-run, and three counts of reckless endangerment.  Online court records indicate that a settlement conference is set for February 27th -- and if a plea deal emerges, it would be considered in court on April first.  19-year-old Eric Neuman of Two Rivers was killed in the road rage incident, which occurred last November 19th.  Officials said Neuman and three other males went to a factory in Manitowoc, apparently to settle a score with Lischka. Police said a fight did not break out at the plant, but Lischka left to chase the four in Neuman's pick-up. Police said Lischka sideswiped the truck and kept going. The truck hit a guard-rail and stopped. A 16-year-old boy suffered minor injuries.  Two others in the truck were not hurt.

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Police in suburban Milwaukee released video and other records today about the death of 16-year-old Corey Stingley, resulting from an incident at a store in West Allis.  The documents came out after Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm decided not to file charges in the case.  Stingley was restrained by three customers after he allegedly tried to steal alcohol from VJ's Food Mart.  He died two weeks later. Chisholm said a long John Doe investigation took place -- and there was not enough evidence to show that the customers created a risk of great bodily harm to Stingley.  The teen's father wanted the three customers charged in the death, and community groups have rallied around the victim's family.  They plan a news conference late this afternoon.  The video showed a store clerk confronting Stingley about the alleged shoplifting.  Most of the scuffle occurred outside of camera range.

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A classroom-and-office building at Marquette University was evacuated for about 25 minutes this afternoon.  According to We Energies, a crew was working when it struck a natural gas service line near Johnston Hall -- the communications' college on the Milwaukee campus.  The evacuation took place around 12:20.  Students were let back in at 12:45.  The flow of gas to the service was temporarily cut, pending repairs.  

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Governor Scott Walker said today that Wisconsin's projected tax collections for the current budget period will be quote, "much higher than expected."  And he wants to use the extra money to cut both property taxes and income taxes.  Walker told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he would outline his plans a week from tonight, when he delivers his annual "State-of-the-State" address to the Legislature.  Walker refused to say how much the revenue projections had grown.  Those numbers are due out later this month.  The Journal-Sentinel says the figure could be close to an extra one-billion dollars by the middle of 2015.  In any case, Walker said his proposed tax cuts would be much bigger than the $100-million property tax cut that he and lawmakers approved last fall.  And unlike the last cut, he said workers would see the income tax reductions in their paychecks.  The move comes as Walker and most majority Republican lawmakers gear up for re-election this fall.  The governor said part of the surplus would go into the state's rainy day fund for government emergencies.

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court says it will not consider firing a Middleton-Cross Plains teacher for looking at pornographic e-mails at work.  The justices said they would not hear the school district's appeal of an arbitrator's ruling which gave Andrew Harris his job back, and reduced suspensions for two other teachers.  Their union filed a grievance in 2009 on behalf of seven school employees suspected of viewing or sharing sexually-explicit jokes, images, and videos.  Harris, a middle school science teacher, lost his job while the others got reprimands or suspensions.  School officials said the content Harris downloaded was more inappropriate than what the others called up.  WISC-TV in Madison said the school district was disappointed in the court's refusal to take the case -- but it will accept the arbitrator's decision and bring back Harris, either to his former job or a "substantially-equivalent" post.

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A therapist has pleaded innocent, after he allegedly abused a three-year-old autistic boy during a home therapy session in Racine County.  27-year-old Stephen Jacobs of Wauwatosa waived a preliminary hearing, and he was arraigned on a lesser felony abuse charge that was filed yesterday.  According to prosecutors, Jacobs was reading to the three-year-old at his home near Waterford on December 14th.  The boy started crying, and authorities said Jacobs head-butted, elbowed, and kicked the youngster.  The boy's mother reportedly set up a camera that recorded the session -- and officials said he started crying before Jacobs shook him.  The defense lawyer said he was happy that Jacobs' charge was reduced, but could not comment any further.  A pre-trial conference in the case is set for February 21st.  

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Wisconsinites can enjoy a Christmas sleigh ride without having to dodge bullets from deer hunters.  The DNR said today it will not hold a special holiday hunt in about the middle-third of the state.  That's from Highway 64 southward to where a holiday hunt already exists in the southern zone where chronic wasting disease is being fought.  The DNR had proposed opening up the southern two thirds of Wisconsin to a deer hunt from Christmas Eve to the Sunday after New Year's.  But folks who attended 35 recent public hearings said they'd like to go snow-shoeing and cross country skiing without worrying about getting shot.  Snowmobilers feared that trails would be closed to prevent liability for shooting incidents.  As a result, DNR staffers will ask the Natural Resources Board to allow the holiday deer in about the southern-third of state from December 24th through January fourth.  Also, a four-day antlerless deer hunt would be scrapped in northern Wisconsin.  Hunters and lawmakers expressed concerns about more does being shot when the doe-population in the north is already low.

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Don't put those shovels away just yet.  The National Weather Service says a new band of snow will move into Wisconsin tonight -- and it's supposed to stay around through tomorrow and perhaps into Friday.  A low pressure system is approaching from North Dakota.  Forecasters say it could bring one to one-and-a-half inches of new snow tonight in parts of west central Wisconsin.  Freezing drizzle is possible in central areas, along with light snow statewide.  The Weather Service did not have any advisories or watches out as of mid-morning.  Highs today are projected to be in the teens, with relatively steady temps tonight.  Warmer highs in the 20's-and-30's are predicted for tomorrow, before the mercury drops below normal again on Friday and Saturday.  Meanwhile, the Weather Service now says Four Corners in La Crosse County picked up the most snow from yesterday's storm -- 10-point-three inches.  Green Bay TV stations said parts of the northeast Wisconsin had 11 inches.  Stevens Point had 10.  Wausau set a new record for the date for liquid precipitation, with 54-hundredths-of-an-inch.  That translated to almost eight-inches of snow there.

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A former Ladysmith man will spend 15 years in prison for strangling another man in an argument over money, and burying his body in a rural area.  46-year-old Larry Fernandez struck a plea deal with Eau Claire County prosecutors.  He pleaded no contest yesterday to a reduced charge of second-degree reckless homicide.  A charge of hiding a corpse was dropped, along with several other counts of making threats and battery to a prisoner.  Prosecutors said Fernandez strangled Frederick "Brian" Harvey at the victim's mobile home in Eau Claire in 2012, and he later buried Harvey's body on rural land near Bruce in Rusk County.  Harvey's family reported him missing.  They believed Fernandez was involved due to the convict's violent past -- and because he gave the family wrong information.

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