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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Report says Walker administration wants to streamline the hiring process for civil service employees

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There's a report that the Walker administration is in the early stages of streamlining the hiring process for civil service employees in state government.  That's the nearly 110-year-old system which assures that qualified people work in most state jobs, without regard to political connections.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it was told multiple times by administration officials that they're not looking to change the civil service system -- but the newspaper said it obtained records of early talks toward that end.  Four top officials told the paper they don't intend to change the basic civil service concept of hiring people on merit instead of political favors. But Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said the state needs to respond more quickly to fill a growing number of posts vacated by an older workforce with impending retirements.  Some critics are skeptical, especially after the G-O-P's Act-10 law virtually eliminated most public union bargaining.  Marty Beil, head of the state's largest employees union, said he wondered why the civil service talks are so quiet -- and why the administration is not working with Employment Relations agency which handles the program.  Beil says the talks appear more "politically-motivated than functionally-motivated."  The Journal Sentinel says other states are changing their civil service systems like Arizona, Tennessee, and Colorado.  

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For the second day in a row, heavy thunderstorms caused flooding and widespread damage in southern Wisconsin.  Madison's downtown and east side had two-and-a-half inches of rain in 30 minutes late yesterday afternoon.  A number of places in the Madison area had street flooding.  We Energies said 114-thousand electric customers in southeast Wisconsin lost their power -- the most for a single incident since 2005.  Almost 17-thousand of them were still out as of three this morning, mostly between Waukesha and West Allis.  In southwest Wisconsin, a funnel cloud was spotted near Livingston in Grant County late yesterday afternoon.  It didn't touch down.  Nearby Lancaster had winds up to 78-miles-an-hour.  The National Weather Service also said a pole-shed was blown up to 300 yards into a farm field at Rewey in Iowa County.  Numerous trees, power lines -- and in some cases, utility poles -- were blown down across the southern part of the Badger State.  Meanwhile, the Weather Service has now confirmed two tornadoes from Sunday night -- an E-F-Two twister north of Dodgeville, and an E-F-One tornado in rural Dane County.  Trees and buildings were damaged in both cases, and no injuries were reported.  More rain and possible thunderstorms are in today's forecast throughout Wisconsin.

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Several businesses were destroyed in a building that caught fire overnight in Sturgeon Bay.  Fire-fighters were called the Harbor Place Shoppes just after midnight.  The Steel Bridge Cafe and the Ranly Maritime Gallery were among the shops that were damaged.  There were no reports of injuries.  Red Cross personnel were on hand to help emergency crews.  A nearby bridge on Michigan Street was closed -- but it was expected to re-open yet this morning.

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The Regal-Beloit Corporation is getting bigger.  The company said this morning it acquired Benshaw Incorporated of Pittsburgh for 50-million dollars.  Benshaw makes custom voltage drives for manufacturing equipment.  Regal-Beloit C-E-O Mark Gliebe said Benshaw is an "excellent fit" for Beloit's custom electronic drive business.  The Curtiss-Wright Corporation of North Carolina is selling Benshaw, after owning it since 2007.  Regal-Beloit makes a host of electric motors, mechanical-and-motion controls, and other industrial power generating products.

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About 36-thousand electric customers just north and west of Milwaukee were without power at daybreak.  That was after another round of heavy storms.  We Energies reported new outages during the night.  About 114-thousand We Energies customers in southeast Wisconsin lost their electricity yesterday.  Almost 30 power poles were damaged in what the utility said was its worst outage in the last ten years.  Wisconsin Power-and-Light had 15-hundred customers out, down from a high of ten-thousand.  Rapid rains of up to two-and-a-half inches and winds up to 78-miles-an-hour toppled trees throughout the southern part of the Badger State.  Pardeeville -- which had an inch-and-a-half of rain in 20 minutes on Sunday -- got another half-inch late last night.  Governor Scott Walker toured storm damage in La Crosse yesterday -- but that city doesn't get much, compared to what parts of southwest and northwest Wisconsin got over the past few days.  W-E-A-U T-V of Eau Claire said the Colfax school had a million-dollars of damage from a tornado on Friday.  A pair of tornadoes were confirmed near Dodgeville and in rural Dane County on Sunday.  And a funnel cloud was spotted late yesterday in Grant County, but it didn't touch down.

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State and local officials along the Great Lakes are upset about a federal proposal to reduce the threshold for warning people about contaminated beach water.  The E-P-A told states a couple years ago to update their standards for protecting swimmers from fecal E-coli contamination on coastal beaches.  Now, the E-P-A wants states to warn swimmers about possible contamination once fecal bacteria reaches lower levels than in the past -- and if it's not enough, states could lose federal funding to test the waters for things like E-coli.  Michigan officials say Great Lakes states will probably forfeit their federal testing money this year, because their legislatures would not have time to change their laws to meet the new reporting requirements.  A public comment period for the measure ended in late May.  The E-P-A's Betsy Southerland says a final decision will be made by the end of July.  Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council said Wisconsin had the eighth-worst beaches among 30 coastal states.  It said 14-percent of the Badger State's water samples failed to meet new E-P-A standards for safe swimming waters.

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All four prizes of a million-dollars each have been claimed in the Wisconsin Lottery's first 30-dollar instant scratch game.  Joel Jarvis of Wautoma turned in his winning Instant Millions' ticket yesterday.  The game started in February with the four top prizes.  The others were claimed in Milwaukee, Ripon, and Black Earth.  Jarvis bought his winning ticket at the Family Fil convenience store in Wautoma, which will get a 20-thousand dollar commission.  Meanwhile, a new 30-dollar scratch game called Super Millions began last Friday.  It, too, offers top prizes of a million-dollars.

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