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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Five finalists named for the new chancellor at Stout

MENOMONIE -- U-W campuses at Stout and Oshkosh are making progress in choosing new chancellors.  Five finalists have been named to replace the retiring Charles Sorenson at the Stout campus in Menomonie.  They are Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College in Kenosha -- Robert Meyer, president of Indianhead Tech in Shell Lake -- D-C Kosten of Dickinson State in North Dakota -- Margaret Madden of the State University of New York at Potsdam -- and Richard Lapidus of Cal Poly at Pomona.  All five will visit the Stout campus this month for public forums and interviews.  Meanwhile, student affairs' vice-chancellor Petra Roter has been named the interim chancellor at Oshkosh.  She'll start her new role when Richard Wells retires on August 31st.  Roter will serve until a permanent chancellor is hired.


Wisconsin House Republican Paul Ryan said he had a productive one-hour meeting yesterday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.  That was after the House Budget chairman from Janesville came under fire for a talk show remark about poverty and inner cities.  Both Ryan and caucus members said their meeting was cordial, and it did not produce any new policy breakthroughs for fighting poverty.  Caucus chair Marcia Fudge of Ohio said everyone agreed that poverty was an important issue, but they could not agree on how to deal with it.  Ryan stirred up African-American lawmakers a few weeks ago, when he described what he called a "tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working."  Democrats said the comment had racial undertones.  Soon after, Ryan said he was not articulate about the point he was trying to make -- and he promised to speak with the Congressional Black Caucus about it.  Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, has tried to make poverty a signature issue.  He hosted a hearing on the subject yesterday in his role as the House Budget chair.


Two Wisconsin legislative leaders are thumbing their noses at giving the state the power to nullify federal laws, and secede from the U-S.  A resolution to that effect made it onto the agenda for this weekend's Republican State Convention in Milwaukee.  State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he doesn't see a secession or a pull-back of federal laws will happen.  Joint Finance co-chair John Nygren said the way to deal with federal legislation is to win elections at the federal level.  Republican party leaders confirmed earlier that a resolution to secede from the union is among 23 measures to be voted on Saturday.  But the language of that measure didn't come out until now.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the resolution endorses the idea of rejecting any federal law the party considers excessive -- like Obama-care.  Governor Scott Walker has criticized the proposal.  Party executive committee member Michael Murphy says secession is as "American as apple pie," but he fears that Democrats would use it to attack Walker in his re-election bid.


Wisconsin counties along Lake Michigan have too many days with high ozone levels.  That's what the American Lung Association says in its annual "State of the Air" report.  Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha counties were all given grades of "F" for their numbers of high ozone days.  Brown, Outagamie, and Fond du Lac counties around the Fox Valley had grades of "D."  Ten other counties had grades of "A"-to-"C."  Dane County, where Madison's located, scored a "B."  Ashland, La Crosse, Marathon, and Vilas counties all had grades of "A" for their relatively low ozone days.  The Lung Association also graded 16 counties on their particle pollution.  Brown County had the only failing grade.  The counties with Milwaukee and Madison both had "C's."  The others had "A's" and "B's."  Nationally, the Lung Association found that about half of Americans lived in counties with unhealthy air -- but it was still better than a decade ago.


Water-logged Wisconsin farmers got some good news this morning.  The U-S Drought Monitor said the far western part of the state is no longer in a moderate drought -- and only five-percent of the state's land area is abnormally dry, down from 18-percent just a week ago.  The driest areas remain along a line from Hudson to Whitehall.  In general, the new map shows that the rains from the past few days are finally soaking into the ground -- and when it finally gets drier, farmers won't have to deal with rock-hard field conditions to get ready for crop planting.  For now, farmers remain behind on their work.  We learned this week that only one-percent of the Wisconsin corn crop is in the ground -- down from the five-year norm of 10-percent.  Field tillage was only nine-percent done, down from the norm of 33-percent.  The rain that we've pretty much seen all week will continue at least through tonight.  Forecasters say we'll have a chance of rain tomorrow and Saturday, before the entire state finally gets a break on Sunday.  It's also supposed to be a bit warmer this weekend, with highs rising from the 40's today to near 60 in some areas on Sunday.


A major Democratic group does not consider Scott Walker to be among the most vulnerable Republican governors in this fall's elections.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the Democratic Governors Association rates Rick Scott of Florida as one of the three most vulnerable G-O-P incumbents -- along with Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania and Paul LePage in Maine.  Wisconsin's Walker is in the second tier of vulnerable candidates on the Democrats' list --along with Michigan's Rick Snyder and John Kasich in Ohio.  Those three represent states where voters carried Democratic President Barack Obama to re-election in 2012.  Peter Shumlin, who chairs the Democratic Governors' group, calls Walker's main challenger Mary Burke an "extraordinary candidate" with a great chance to win.  Most early polls show Walker leading Burke.  A new Liberty Foundation poll has Walker and Burke tied at 47-percent each.


Wisconsin utilities are counting up the extra money we gave them to keep our homes and businesses warm during the bitter cold winter.  Wisconsin Energy, the parent firm of We Energies, reports an 18-percent increase in its quarterly earnings.  The state's largest electric and natural gas utility netted 208-million-dollars from January through March, up from almost 177-million the year before.  Shareholders saw their earnings rise from 76-cents a share to 91-cents.  That was seven-cents higher than what outside analysts projected.  Record natural gas usage is credited for the earnings' increase -- along with higher electric sales.  We Energies' C-E-O Gale Klappa said this past winter was the coldest since his company started offering natural gas service seven decades ago.