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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Both political parties tried to spin Thursday's job report

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Both parties tried to make political hay from yesterday's federal report showing that Wisconsin had the 34th-lowest rate of job growth in the year ending in March. The ranking was based on the percentage of each state's growth. Wisconsin jobs grew by one-point-one percent, for a total of 24-thousand-plus. Republican Governor Scott Walker had a rosier view, noting Wisconsin had the 22nd largest increase in actual jobs. Wisconsin is 20th in population -- so the actual job numbers appear that the state is not lagging too far behind, as Walker faces re-election in 14 months. Minority Democrats tried to make the figures sound as grim as possible. Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca said the Badger State had the 37th-slowest job growth when the time period examined was stretched to two years instead of one. He also cited projections that Wisconsin would fall to 45th in future growth. What neither side mentioned, though, is why the state is ranked where it is. Sue Marks of the Brookfield recruiting firm of Pinstripe Incorporated says there's no easy answer. She tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Wisconsin commercializes patents at a slow pace -- it has a proportionately small service sector -- and other states moved faster to create incentive packages for employers to invest. Marks also says the state's polarized politics do nothing to help. In her words, "It's hard to get all the right constituencies in one room to tackle important issues like this."

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State engineers are just starting to find out why a concrete support pier sank two-feet, causing a dip in the pavement on the high-rise Leo Frigo bridge in Green Bay. Kim Rudat of the D-O-T said the sagging on the Interstate-43 bridge apparently developed over a few hours on Wednesday morning. The pier settled unevenly, as one side dropped by 22 inches and the other by 27 inches. D-O-T structures design chief Bill Dreher said the dip stretches across the width of the four-lane bridge, but does not appear to be affecting other areas. Meanwhile, engineers are measuring the pier every few hours to make sure it's not dropping any more. Once it's stable, Dreher says crews will dig into the piers and see what's happening. Officials say the bridge will be closed for months, and possibly a year until everything can be fixed. It's not part of the normal path for fans going to Packer games. Travels going north on I-43 to northern Wisconsin are urged to take the Highway 172 freeway just south of Green Bay, before heading north on Highways 41 and 141.

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Farmers and small businesses in 22 states are getting the latest round of U-S-D-A energy conservation funds. A Wisconsin farm is getting 32-thousand dollars to help pay for a wind turbine and solar energy unit. Five other rural operations in the Badger State are getting grants for solar energy systems ranging from five-thousand to 20-thousand dollars. The money comes from the U-S-D-A's Rural Energy for America program, or REAP. The grants cover up to 25-percent of project costs, and eligible farmers can get loan guarantees to finance the rest. Agriculture officials say the assistance helps President Obama achieve the climate action plan he announced in June to quote, "reduce carbon pollution and better prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change."

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A state panel has said no to letting Wisconsinites keep live deer as pets -- but the animals no longer have to be killed if they're caught being captive. The Natural Resources Board partially rejected a proposal this week that was meant to avoid a repeat of an incident earlier this year in Kenosha. D-N-R personnel seized a baby fawn named "Giggles" from an animal rehab center, and euthanized the deer. A national backlash resulted, and Governor Scott Walker told the D-N-R not to let it happen again. The agency's solution was to let people keep deer as pets if they pay a fee and report their animals to the state. However, the Natural Resources Board re-affirmed that it's illegal to capture wild animals -- and letting people keep deer as pets essentially commercializes the state's roaming deer herd. The board did, however, let D-N-R personnel return captive deer to the wild. The agency said deer could still be euthanized if they create health problems. 

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Wisconsin motorists will again face a high-risk of colliding with deer this fall. Car-deer crashes are a problem throughout the year -- but it gets worse in October and November during the deer mating season. Almost 19-thousand vehicles struck deer in the Badger State last year. Dane County had the most with 851 crashes, followed by Shawano County with 800 and Waukesha with 710. Deer were involved in more than half of all traffic crashes last year in Taylor, Green Lake, and Shawano counties. The D-O-T's David Pabst says drivers must slow down whenever they see deer close to the roadways. If a driver cannot avoid striking a deer, Pabst says it's safer to hit the brakes and hit the animal, instead of swerving to miss it -- thus avoid a rollover crash or striking something else. 

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Two comedians from the T-V show "Whose Line Is It Anyway" put on an hour-long improvisational show for sixth graders in Stevens Point yesterday. Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood showed off their creativity -- and they urged the young people to do the same. The long-running T-V show features actors who are given a subject or situation, and they make up funny skits about them. The students provided the subjects during yesterday's performance. Mochrie said kids should not be afraid of being creative, and never feel it's immature after they get to be 10 or so. He told them quote, "You can go on forever and make a nice career out of it." Sherwood said the show has made folks much more aware of improvisational theatre -- and it shows kids how to quote, "get out of their shell and think more creatively." Mochrie and Sherwood will teach a class today at U-W Stevens Point, and then put on a show for the public tonight at the Theater-at-1800 at Sentry Insurance in Point.  

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A state lawmaker is quacking mad, after the state Justice Department told a community in his district that its charity duck race is illegal gambling. Assembly Republican Andre Jacque of De Pere wants to fix that. He's asking colleagues to co-sign a bill to legalize plastic duck races -- which non-profit groups use as fund-raising raffles. Jacque said the village of Mishicot was recently warned by the Justice Department that its ducks were a vehicle for illegal gambling. He said his bill would create an exception to allow duck races -- similar to what neighboring Minnesota and Michigan do. The bill would legalize races like the "Lucky Ducky Derby" in Menomonee Falls, and the "Ducktona-500" in Sheboygan Falls.

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte has been with the Herald since 2006. He covers County government and anything else that happens in Pierce County on a daily basis.
(715) 273-4334
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