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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Wisconsin uncertain how they would be affected by President Obama's new order to reduce greenhouse gases

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It’s uncertain how much Wisconsin would be affected by President Obama’s new order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. The president has told the E-P-A to come up with a draft rule by next June first, and a final rule in mid-2015. Wisconsin utilities have spent millions in recent years to reduce other chemicals that cause respiratory illnesses – but none of those units can stop the release of carbon dioxide. Nathan Conrad of the state Public Service Commission – which regulates Wisconsin utilities – said the Obama order is quote, “heavy on hyperbole but light on specifics.” He says the fine print will be vital to the Badger State, which produces 60-percent of its energy with coal-fired generation. Keith Reopelle of Clean Wisconsin expects utilities to convert its coal-fired power plants to natural gas – just like We Energies has done at some of its facilities. Brian Manthey of We Energies says his utility will ask the E-P-A to credit the utility for the moves they’ve already made to reduce carbon emissions. He says it all depends on what the E-P-A ends up proposing. Meanwhile, the head of a national group that represents the state’s rural electric cooperatives is criticizing the new directive. Jo Ann Emerson says rural America will be “disproportionately penalized” because of its heavy reliance on coal. She calls it a “regressive new climate tax on America’s most economically-vulnerable citizens.”

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We’ll get a new indication today of how Wisconsin compares to other states in creating jobs. The U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to release its quarterly report of national employment trends through the end of last December. The previous report ranked Wisconsin 44th among the 50 states in the percentage increase of jobs during the year ending last September. WKOW TV in Madison says Wisconsin is among 18 states that releases its quarterly job data early – and of those, the Badger State ranks sixth from the bottom with a job growth of one-point-two percent for all of last year. Minority Democrats say it’s proof that Governor Scott Walker’s policies are not working. Republicans downplay the low ranking, pointing instead to a state jobless rate that’s lower than the nation’s. The quarterly report reflects a nearly complete survey of U-S employers, and the Walker administration says it’s the most accurate reflection of the state’s employment trends. According to the data submitted for today’s report, Wisconsin gained over 32-thousand private sector jobs during 2012 – and over 62-thousand halfway through the governor’s term. The Republican Walker promised to create a quarter-million jobs when he ran for governor in 2010. 

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Governor Scott Walker will sign a bill today to forgive state income taxes for military troops killed in combat. The governor will hold a ceremony in Mayville, the home of a fallen troop’s father who suggested the measure. 24-year-old Army Lieutenant David Johnson was killed last year in Afghanistan. His father Andrew said he was shocked that the state would not forgive his son’s income taxes, after the federal government forgave what David owed the I-R-S. Andrew Johnson asked his representatives to propose the tax forgiveness – and on May 14th, it was approved unanimously in both the Assembly and the Senate. The new law will forgive state income taxes for the year in which a soldier or Marine dies, plus the year before. About 150 Wisconsin troops have died in combat since the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001. 

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A 12-year-old Rice Lake boy is okay after he thought he was returning to his grandmother’s car at a park to take a nap – and it was actually somebody else’s vehicle. The Leader-Telegram said the grandmother dropped off the boy at the Babe Ruth baseball fields in Eau Claire on Monday night, and then looked for a place to park. After a while, the grandmother thought the boy went missing – so she called police and a number of people searched for the youngster. As it turned out, he went to a bathroom as soon as he was dropped off. He then said he was really tired, so he fell asleep in the back seat of what he thought what his grandmother’s auto. The actual owner found the youngster in her vehicle two hours later after she watched a baseball game. Grandmother and grandson were soon re-united.

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Over six-thousand electric customers were without power this morning in northeast Wisconsin. The Public Service utility said about three-fourths of those outages were in the Green Bay area. All of Wisconsin’s other major utilities report only a handful of outages after the latest rounds of heavy rains and thunderstorms. More storms are predicted statewide today and tonight, as a moist-and-stagnant air mass continues to linger across Wisconsin. The National Weather Service did not have any storm watches or warnings out for this morning, but forecasters said more severe weather is possible later today. 

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An Antigo woman is free on a signature bond after being charged in Oneida County with food stamp fraud. Prosecutors said 33-year-old Nicole Young made false representations to get 22-thousand dollars more in Food-Share benefits than she had coming. Authorities said she was living in Hazelhurst when the fraud took place from 2008 through last year. Officials said Young would try to hire an attorney, and her initial court appearance was adjourned until July 22nd.

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Forty-six Wisconsin legislators from both parties are calling on the state’s federal lawmakers to pass an immigration reform bill. The U-S Senate is expected to vote as early as today on an historic measure that offers a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11-million undocumented immigrants. It would also spend billions-of-dollars to secure the U-S-Mexican border. At a State Capitol news conference yesterday, Assembly Republican Jeff Stone of Greendale joined Milwaukee Democrat JoCasta Zamarripa in releasing a letter signed by more than a-third of all state legislators. Zamarripa said the “time is now” for immigration reform, and it would strengthen the U-S economy. Wausau Assembly Democrat Mandy Wright says the measure would help Wisconsin agriculture maintain a stable workforce. She said agri-businesses would be hit hard without a good immigration and guest-worker policy. In Washington, each of three procedural Senate votes attracted at least two-thirds support yesterday. Two such votes are set for today before the package can get final action. If passed, it would go to the House – where it prospects are much less certain. Many majority House Republicans oppose the pathway to citizenship that’s in the Senate bill. And many would rather see a piecemeal approach than the Senate’s sweeping reforms.

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A freeway in northwest Wisconsin is open again, after a mudslide shut part of it down for several hours late yesterday. Heavy rains caused the mudslide on the southbound lanes of Highway 53 at the Eau Claire-Chippewa County line. Authorities said at least 30 truckloads of soil were removed, and both lanes were re-opened around nine last night. Officials said several other roads in the Eau Claire area were closed due to street flooding around that time. To the west, the National Weather Service said River Falls had just over three-inches of rain in one hour – plus small hail that lasted for five minutes straight. Parts of north central Wisconsin also had heavy rains and floods last night. A National Weather Service meteorologist said yesterday it would be a lot drier over the next week. However, the latest statewide forecast says more thunderstorms are likely statewide today and possibly tonight – and the same pattern is expected for tomorrow.

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