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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Waukesha County to consider regional sales tax for new Milwaukee arena

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WAUKESHA - Waukesha County is latest to consider saying "no" to a regional sales tax for a new Milwaukee sports and entertainment arena to replace the Bradley Center.  

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The County Board's executive committee is scheduled to make a recommendation on Monday, and the full board could take it up December 17th.  Supervisor Jennifer Grant drew up the measure.  She said there's no fiscal evidence to show that a new arena is needed, or how much it might cost.  A Milwaukee area task force is just about to start looking into those types of questions.  The task force will hold its first meeting Friday to look at funding not only a new arena, but a host of other attractions that make Milwaukee the state's biggest tourist draw.  Racine and Ozaukee counties have already come out against a regional sales tax, like the one from the mid-1990's that built the Miller Park baseball stadium.  That tax is due to expire between 2016-and-2020 -- and like the other opponents, Waukesha County could come out against extending the Miller Park tax for the new arena.  

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Wisconsin is going through the type of cold wave you'd expect in January or February.  It was still not above zero at noon at Siren in the northwest part of the state.  Lunchtime readings were generally in the single digits in the north, and the teens in the south. Kenosha was the warm spot at noon with 17 degrees.  Wind-chill factors varied throughout the state, from a few degrees above zero to around 15-below.  It's got homeless shelters around the state gearing up for more business.  Wausau canceled its holiday parade tonight.  That city expects an overnight low of four-below.  Northern Wisconsin could get down to 10-below tonight.  Milwaukee and much of the far south will get down to around 10-above.  A slight warming trend is expected on Sunday, when moderate snow is expected before things get cold again on Monday night.  

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Prosecutors say they'll probably file more sex-related charges against former Milwaukee charter school official Ronnie Johnson.  The 46-year-old Brown Deer man is charged with 14 counts of child sex assault and nine related counts, for allegedly molesting young boys over a 20-year period.  Now, Milwaukee County prosecutor Sara Beth Lewis says more victims have come forward, and the district attorney's office has obtained a lot of fresh evidence in the case.  Because of that, Johnson's trial has been delayed until April 21st.  Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner will consider pre-trial requests on January 14th.  Johnson is a former principal at Milwaukee's Young Leaders Academy.  At the time of his arrest, he was an official for a charter school management group based in Pennsylvania.  The Universal Companies fired Johnson soon after he was arrested.

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Four more UW campuses are getting involved in the university's new flexible option program -- which lets working adults apply their life experiences toward college credits.  The program begins next month.  Just over 225 people have applied for flexible option courses at UW Milwaukee and the two-year colleges.  Today, UW officials told the Board of Regents that some other four-year campuses are coming on board -- but those starting dates are not certain.  Madison, Stevens Point, and Parkside are working on certificate programs in fields like sales, drug abuse counseling, and geo-spatial technology.  Stout is working on a flex program for project management -- but the school is still deciding if it will be at the undergraduate or post-graduate levels.  The goal of the flex program is to help adults finish college programs they started years ago when life got in their way.  Officials also hope it will create a big increase in Wisconsinites with college degrees.  Right now, only 26-percent of state residents have degrees, two-percent below the national average.  The Milwaukee program offers courses in business, health care, and information technology.  The two-year colleges offer associate degree programs in arts and sciences.

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UW System president Kevin Reilly reported to the Board of Regents for one final time, before stepping down at the end of December. During his speech, he eluded to the new challenges the system will face in the future – including “the rapid morphing teaching and learning paradigm” and the outdated financial model. He added that the University of Wisconsin continues to be “one grand engine of that march” and if regents did their jobs well, Wisconsin and the nation will continue to progress. The 64-year-old was president of the System for over nine years, he is stepping down to become an adviser for the American Council on Education.

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A state appeals court said Dodge County was wrong for not letting a county employee challenge her firing.  Heidi Burden was let go in 2012 because she was convicted of drunk driving.  She had spent seven years as a county benefit specialist for the elderly.  The state's Act-10 union bargaining limits require pubic employers to have a grievance procedure for workers who are terminated.  Dodge County's policy allows grievances for some terminations, but not for reasons that include layoffs, retirements, medical conditions, and quote, "lack of qualifications."  Fourth District Appellate Judge JoAnn Kloppenburg ruled that Burden's case does not fall under the allowable exceptions for having grievance hearings.  Still, Kloppenburg said the ruling applies only to the Dodge County case, since grievance hearings would not be practical or necessary for every type of public employee departure statewide.

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The death of a man who was left paralyzed after he was beaten in Milwaukee 10 months ago has just been ruled a homicide.  Authorities said 58-year-old Edward Wyatt was found beaten on a snow-covered street last February fourth.  He suffered head cuts, hypothermia, and other conditions that made him a quadriplegic.  Later, Wyatt was taken to a long-term care facility in Wausau where he died in late April.  On Tuesday of this week, the Milwaukee County medical examiner found that Wyatt died from head-and-neck blunt force injuries caused by the attack.  As a result of this week's ruling, Milwaukee Police are conducting a homicide investigation of the matter.

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A new bill in the state Legislature would ban the use of cellphones while in a construction zone. The proposal calls for a 20-40 dollar fine for a first time offense and up to 100-dollars for a second violation. State Senator Jerry Petrowski, a Republican from Marathon, drafted the proposal and is seeking co-sponsors. He says the bill will protect road workers and crack down on distracted drivers in the state. Current state laws already prohibit texting while driving and bans probationary license holders from cellphone use while driving. 

  
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