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Wisconsin roundup: Forbes names state 33rd best for business; Walker seeks to lure workers across state lines; more state news stories

Gov. Scott Walker, shown here in a February visit to Willow River State Park, said Wednesday he will ask lawmakers to approve $7 million next spring to attract more workers from out of state including millennials and veterans. File photo

Forbes Magazine says Wisconsin is the 33rd best state for business.

The publication announced its annual rankings this week, with the Badger State dropping six places from last year. Forbes says the results have been mixed in Wisconsin since Gov. Scott Walker declared the state "Open for Business" in 2011. The job outlook remains among the bottom 20 states, but it's much improved from six years ago when it was second worst. That could still rise as the construction of Foxconn begins next year and is due to open in 2022.

Forbes also says Wisconsin was the only state to drop in each of its six categories of business success, now ranking ninth in quality of life, 19th for its economic climate, 24th for its regulatory environment, 32nd in growth prospects, 38th in business costs, and 39th for its supply of labor.

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Walker seeks almost $7M to attract more workers to state

MADISON — "We need more bodies."

That's what Gov. Scott Walker told a business group Wednesday, saying he would ask lawmakers to approve $7 million next spring to attract more workers from out of state including millennials and veterans.

Senate GOP Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald supports the plan, saying Wisconsin should welcome "new taxpayers and home buyers that will add fuel to our economic engine" — but Senate Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling wants Republicans to look at their own policies she says have driven away young adults to states that "invest in public transit, promote workplace flexibility, and support student loan debt relief."

Walker says his plan would also train Wisconsinites. It comes during a worker shortage, just as the new Foxconn high tech plant is about to be built with up to 13-thousand new jobs.

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Senate leaders agree sex harassment reports should be secret

MADISON — Leaders of both parties in the Wisconsin Senate agree with their Assembly counterparts, by affirming that sexual harassment complaints by lawmakers should stay secret.

GOP Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the most "appropriate course of action" is to keep employees' conversations with human resource workers confidential — and in the meantime, Fitzgerald says he and Democratic leader Jennifer Shilling are updating Senate policies on reporting sexual harassment and will start mandatory training to prevent it.

Shilling's office says victims come forward assuming their complaints will be confidential — but open government advocates say voters should have the right to decide whether their legislators deserve to be re-elected based on their behavior. Shilling says she'll continue to support victims who choose to publicize their stories.

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Democrat seeks bipartisan prison changes

MADISON — A state lawmaker urges colleagues of both parties to consider prison reforms that could take pressure off the troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile facility.

Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Evan Goyke held a rare policy briefing Wednesday. He proposed bills to turn Lincoln Hills into an adult treatment center — move the juvenile Lincoln Hills inmates to up to 10 smaller facilities around the state — cut parole revocations for rule violations that are not criminal — and bring back early release dates for prisoners who complete schooling and treatment programs.

Goyke says Wisconsin is close to having to send prisoners to other states, as 23,000 inmates are being held in lockups designed to hold 16,000 — and he says county jails are filling more of the gap, as they hold around 450 youth prisoners now, up from just 50 last year. The Corrections Department says the new state budget includes money for a planning study and bonding for a new prison for older inmates.

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Phone scammer places call — to sheriff

JUNEAU — A phone scammer got more than she bargained for when she called the wrong person this week.

Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt was at work when his caller ID showed an invalid phone number — so he recorded the woman whom he said was trying to gain access to his work computer. Schmidt believed the caller wanted to install ransomware or other type of malicious software.

He said the caller was not fazed when the sheriff mentioned a firewall — but when he brought up his information technology department, the caller quickly hung up. Schmidt says if you get such a call, you should hang up right away.

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Walker seeks farm disaster aid for northwest

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker wants the USDA to declare Rusk and Sawyer counties in northwest Wisconsin as agricultural disaster areas.

In a letter to federal Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday, the governor said heavy rains and floods wiped out 30 percent or more of the corn, soybean, oat, and wheat crops in the two counties. Walker said the floods began in early spring and continued through September, causing many farm fields to have standing water and oversaturated soil for extended periods. Walker is seeking a USDA secretarial designation that could make farmers eligible for aid that includes low interest loans — and the assistance could be extended to counties that border Rusk and Sawyer.

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Florida firm hopes to revive famous Wis. ski lodge

CABLE — A Florida company will try to revive what used to be one of Wisconsin's best known ski resorts.

HK Hospitality Management has agreed to buy the Telemark Lodge at Cable — a 1,000 acre site that includes ski hills and cross country trails. It's been closed since 2013 after decades of financial problems, and the goal is to have it ready for the 2019 American Birkbeiner cross country ski race.

HK says it will try to make Telemark a year round destination with golf packages, concerts, food and wine events, wedding facilities, and more. Managing partner Jim Kelley says the lodge has never marketed itself as a year round resort — and once it takes ownership next year, HK plans to tear down and rebuild the guest wings, although the main structure and its 55 foot high fireplace will remain.

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Baby Jesus stolen from nativity scene

MENASHA — A figure of the baby Jesus has been stolen from a nativity scene outside a Fox Valley church.

Joyce Naps of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Menasha says the thief had to climb a scaffold and move some things around before taking the baby figure away. Joyce Naps of Saint Patrick's tells WBAY-TV the nativity scene is more than 100 years old — and it was donated to the church about 30 years ago. She says the Jesus figure might be hard to replace because of the scene's age. Menasha Police say they're still looking for solid leads in the case — and they issued a Facebook post asking for information.

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