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WISCONSIN STATE NEWS BRIEFS: Kevin Reilly announces his departure as UW System President

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Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

MADISON - University of Wisconsin President Kevin Reilly has announced that he’s leaving his post. The Wisconsin State Journal reported late this morning that he would step down.

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The Madison paper said Reilly told senior UW System officials in recent days that he’s leaving. Two members of the Board of Regents and the university’s chief spokesman are not confirming the report. The 64-year-old Reilly has been the president of the 26-campus system for almost nine years, after rising through the ranks of the UW. The State Journal said Reilly could phase himself out, and would not leave right away. It’s been a rough-and-tumble year for the system, starting with a payroll computer glitch that caused employees to overpaid $33-million dollars in various benefits – many of which have been recovered. In April, Reilly was put on the hot seat again, having to explain reports that the various campuses sat on $650-million in reserves at a time when students were paying five-and-a-half percent tuition hikes each year for six years. Legislators responded with a series of actions, including the first tuition freeze since the UW and the former Wisconsin State University system merged in 1971. 

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As you might expect, Wisconsin’s police union is none-too-pleased with the idea of losing its collective bargaining privileges. Governor Scott Walker answered a question at a forum in Milwaukee yesterday by saying he might consider ending the police-and-fire exemptions granted when the Act-10 bargaining limits took effect in 2011. Walker said the exemptions were meant to assure that police-and-fire personnel would be on the job if other unions staged mass walkouts. That didn’t happen, except for teachers which closed a number of Wisconsin schools from 1-to-4 days when they joined the heavy pro-union protests in Madison.  Walker opponents charged he exempted both unions as political payoffs for their support of his campaigns. Jim Palmer of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association said it sounds like the Republican Walker is trying to play to the voters in a possible 2016 presidential bid. Palmer called the Walker remark a quote, “unfortunate presidential trial balloon.” He noted that the GOP took away the officers’ ability to negotiate their health insurance. He said local governments can threaten to bargain down with their police unions by offering worse coverage – and there’s no good reason to limit police bargaining any further. After the forum, Walker told reporters he would not propose ending the police-and-fire Act-10 exemptions – but he would consider it if lawmakers sent a bill to his desk. 

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For the fourth time in five days, Protesters were arrested and cited at the State Capitol rotunda today. Police have not released the number of arrests or citations today. Anti-Walker singers claim they do not need a required permit - if 20 or more are gathered - saying it’s their constitutional right. A conservative group was also at the rotunda today, but they had a permit. Capitol police have now issued over 80 tickets in the past three days. On the “Solidarity Sing Along” Facebook page, a post says some protesters have now moved its sing-along outside of the Capitol building.

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Wisconsin U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) says he is supporting legislation that will help protect social security numbers. The bipartisan bill called “The Safeguarding Social Security Numbers Act” requires the Social Security Administration to establish protocols and standards in handling social security numbers. Rep. Kind says the IRS “slipped-up” and posted over 100-thousand social security numbers when they weren't supposed to. The Congressman says there needs to be better checks and balances in place to protect sensitive, private information.

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The Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese scored a major victory today in its bankruptcy court case. Federal Judge Rudolph Randa decided that over 50-million dollars in a church trust fund for Catholic cemetery maintenance cannot be used to pay creditors. That’s means the victims of sex abuse by priests in the archdiocese have no legal claim to the cemetery funds. Their attorneys have accused the church of piling money into the six-year-old cemetery trust, so it’s not exposed to liability in the sex abuse payments. Meanwhile, another big legal question is pending in the bankruptcy case. Randa is expected to decide soon whether the church’s insurance company can cover damages in at least some of the sex abuse claims filed after the church declared bankruptcy in 2011.

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The Iron County Board will decide tonight whether to pursue charges against mining opponents camping at a county forest well beyond its two-week permit period in May. The meeting begins at six o’clock in Hurley. Paul DeMain of the Lac Courte Oreilles  Indian tribe says they won’t leave the encampment, even if they’re served with an eviction notice. He tells Wisconsin Public Radio they’ll remain at the site until the tribal leadership tells them to quote, “stand down.” And that, says DeMain, could be any time, or years from now. The camp consists of about 30 tents, a mile from where Gogebic Taconite has done exploratory drilling for its proposed iron ore mine. State Senate Republican Tom Tiffany – one of the main sponsors of the bill which made it easier to pursue the new mine – says the camp is illegal. And he says it would hurt local tourism if visitors have to deal with quote, “a squatters’ village.” Iron County’s chief prosecutor is expected to give the County Board its options – and he says the Indian treaty rights make the matter complicated. A week ago, an Iron County committee recommended civil-or-criminal charges against the camp. State Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar said it’s time for all sides to start talking, and avoid the threats, court action, and claims of quote, “harboring eco-terrorists.” 

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Former Milwaukee Catholic Archbishop Tim Dolan says he’s less surprised by what Pope Francis said about gays, than by the public’s strong reaction to the remarks. On NBC’s “Today” show, Dolan said the remarks signaled a change in tone – but not a change in the church’s policy. He said the church teaches people to treat everyone with dignity, even if they don’t approve of their personal relationships. Dolan – who’s now the Archbishop of New York and the president of the U-S Conference of Catholic Bishops – said there’s no easy way to interpret the pope’s remarks as either a change in church doctrine, or the church’s faith and morals. Dolan said it’s clear teaching that quote, “We can’t judge people, we can judge actions.” Pope Francis caused a buzz among Catholics yesterday, when he told reporters quote, “If a person is gay, and looks for the Lord and had goodwill, who am I to judge them.” Dolan said the church still considers homosexual acts to be immoral.

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A 19-year-old Hubertus man is due in court tomorrow, after being arrested for the apparent strangulation death of a 19-year-old woman in Hartford. Police did not immediately release the suspect’s name. Police say they’ll release more information about the case tomorrow. Jessie Blodgett was found dead in a bedroom of her parents’ home on July 15th. Police have not said what caused the death, but a search warrant affidavit said the woman had a “ligature mark” on her neck – which could indicate the victim was strangled. 

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 A 24-year-old man has been charged with reckless homicide in Milwaukee. DeMario Jackson is accused of firing a gun at a house party early Saturday morning, injuring three people and killing a 14-year-old boy. Police found the boy outside of the same house that was set on fire on Sunday night. Court records shows three men were fighting in front of the home at 2940 North 12th Street, when Jackson allegedly came out and fired multiple times into the crowd. Police say when Jackson was arrested, over 17 grams of marijuana was in his pocket. The suspicious house fire remains under investigation, police say Jackson nor anyone else has been charged with arson. 

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Two Minneapolis police officers are under paid suspension for a June 29th incident in Green Bay, in which they reportedly used racial and ethnic slurs in describing a street confrontation, as well as their own chief. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune obtained a 40-page report from Green Bay Police. It said the two officers went to Packerland for personal reasons. Their troubles reportedly began while they were out drinking, and they passed a group of nine black men on a downtown sidewalk. One of those men apparently bumped into an officer, and words were exchanged. An officer claimed he feared for his safety and punched one of the black men in the face. Several Green Bay officers responded. The two Minneapolis men said they were police officers, and they accused the Green Bay officers of not taking their complaints seriously enough. One reportedly used a racial slur in saying what the group was doing, and they got worked up after a Green Bay lieutenant said the two officers could be the ones charged for disorderly conduct. After being told to return to their hotel, the two reportedly went to the police station. One of them was quoted as calling Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau a lesbian – and they did not want their names on any reports, because the city’s first gay police chief was looking to fire people. The Star-Tribune newspaper said the two officers have been removed from the Minneapolis SWAT team, and both are named in ongoing misconduct suits from previous incidents. They have not been charged in the Green Bay matter. 

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