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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Rep. Kind spent about 85 percent of his off-time back in his home district

Retiring House Republican Tom Petri only spent about half as much time in his home district last year as most of Wisconsin's other congressional members. The Gannett News Service found that the 36-year veteran from Fond du Lac spent 95 days in the Badger State, of a possible 265 in which lawmakers were not required to be in Washington.  Gannett says the home visits are a key element of staying in touch with the people they serve.  Fourth-year House Republican Sean Duffy of Wausau spent 86-percent of his available free days in his sprawling north central Wisconsin district.  The report says family roots are the big difference between Petri and Duffy.  Petri married a Washington lawyer and raised his family there, while voting absentee in Wisconsin more often than he does back home.  Duffy moved from Ashland to Weston in his first term to make it easier to fly in-and-out of his home district.  Last year, he bought a house in Wausau where his seven kids are being raised.  La Crosse Democrat Ron Kind spent 85-percent of his off-time back home.  Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan managed to get home 82-percent of his maximum.  That's despite the fact that Ryan has extra duties as the chairman of the House Budget committee, and he's maintaining a national profile as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.  Gannett said both of Wisconsin's U-S senators -- Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin -- spent around 70-percent of their possible off days in their home state.


Wisconsin's largest electric utility will get a lot bigger by this time next year. The parent company of We Energies announced this morning that it's buying the parent firm of the Wisconsin Public Service utility.  Wisconsin Energy of Milwaukee is purchasing Integrys Energy of Chicago for five-point-seven billion dollars in cash and stock.  When debt is added in, the total deal is just over nine-billion dollars.  The boards of both companies have approved the acquisition -- and it's scheduled to be finalized by next summer.  Both companies say it will create a larger and more diverse utility firm, with the strength to meet future electric needs.  It will also create the nation's eighth-largest natural gas distribution company.  And it makes the newly-merged utility the largest owner in the American Transmission Company, which operates electric transmission lines statewide.  We Energies of Milwaukee provides electricity mostly to the southeast quarter of Wisconsin, and as far north as Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  We Energies also provides natural gas to the vast majority of Wisconsin.  Public Service, of Green Bay, serves northeast and north central Wisconsin.  Besides Public Service, Integrys owns electric-and-gas firms in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan.


A La Crosse area woman has become the first to hold the Miss Wisconsin title twice.  24-year-old Raeanna Johnson of Holmen was crowned during the weekend in Oshkosh.  She was the first runner-up in 2011 when the Miss Wisconsin from that year -- Laura Kaeppeler  -- went on to become Miss America.  After that happened, Johnson fulfilled Kaeppeler's Miss Wisconsin duties for the rest of that term.  Pageant rules allow a contestant who ascends to the title to compete again, after waiting a year.  It allowed Johnson to take part for a second time, this time as Miss Madison.  She graduated in May from U-W La Crosse in communication and women's studies, and will represent Wisconsin at the Miss America Pageant in September in Atlantic City.  Johnson replaces Paula Kuiper of Mount Pleasant at Miss Wisconsin.  Miss West Allis was the weekend's first runner-up, 22-year-old Chelsey Wasielewski of Greendale.


Last week's tornadoes at Platteville marked the third year in a row that a University of Wisconsin campus was hit with major storm damage -- and all those storms happened in mid-to-late June.  Two years ago, U-W Superior had 23-million dollars of damage, when about six-inches of rain flooded all but one building on that campus.  U-W Stout was hit last June, when heavy thunderstorms caused 83-thousand gallons of water to pour into a basement at the Jarvis science hall.  Two other buildings also had flood damage, which knocked out Internet service for days on the Menomonie campus.  Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a follow-up story on the damage at Superior, where officials said they're still recovering.  Chancellor Renee Wachter said the storm came at a horrible time for the school, when officials welcomed new students and their parents for a campus orientation.  She said employees pretended that the water damage was not nearly as bad as it really was.  Wachter said the students and parents had no clue, because they couldn't see most of it.  The school ended up filing an insurance claim that was the largest for a state property at that time.  At last word, U-W Platteville was still tallying up its damage, after a twister last Monday night damaged six buildings and a park on the campus.


It was exactly a year ago when 13-inches of rain of fell in just one weekend at Boscobel in southwest Wisconsin.  About 660 homes in Grant County had flood damage, and Boscobel had most of it.  Governor Scott Walker hoped to get federal disaster aid by declaring a state-of-emergency in five area counties.  However, there was not nearly enough damage to qualify for FEMA residential aid -- and many Boscobel residents were not eligible for the one-million-dollars in assistance that the state offered.  The community raised about 100-thousand dollars in relief on its own.  Local service groups helped where they could, and Grant County officials say they've pieced together a series of available relief funds.  Misty Molzof tells W-K-O-W T-V in Madison that the last year has been difficult -- and after heavy rains and tornadoes hit Grant County last week, she's been checking her nearby creek and losing sleep at night.


Man's best friend can also be a war hero, although most of us would never realize it.  Yesterday, a memorial was unveiled near Milwaukee to honor the military dogs who have served our country since at least World War One.  The group "War Dogs" put up a six-foot-tall gray monument in the Menomonee Falls Village Park.  Dog-handlers from the Vietnam War came from as far away as Colorado to join dozens of people attending the ceremony.  Group member Jerry Witt told how his dog Skip was killed by a booby-trap in Vietnam -- but not before alerting Witt to the danger.  He said military dogs should get credit for saving countless lives in combat, including his own.


Summertime is prime-time for garage-and-thrift sales in Wisconsin -- but before you open the door, you might want to check with your local government so you do things right.  Growing numbers of communities limit the amount of time garage sales can be held.  Rothschild Police Chief Jeremy Hunt tells W-S-A-U in Wausau that sellers must respect their neighbors -- so home sales are limited to seven days in a row, and no more than 72-hours at a time.  Marshfield is also considering a time limit for garage sales, to make sure traffic doesn't bother the neighbors.  Signs are another issue.  Many communities ban them from utility poles and terraces next to the streets.  Three decades ago, Marshfield Police confiscated garage-sale signs from terraces -- and then showed piles of them in the local newspaper to remind folks of that ordinance.  It's been a long time since they've done that, but police in general do say they get complaints about signs blocking streets and sidewalks -- and Hunt says that's not allowed.


It's not as foggy this morning along Lake Michigan.  The National Weather Service has canceled a dense-fog advisory that was in effect from Sheboygan southward to the Illinois line.  The fog caused problems during the weekend -- especially in Milwaukee, where the flying portion of the city's Air-and-Water Show was called off both Saturday and yesterday due to unsafe fog conditions.  The Navy's Blue Angels were supposed to highlight the show, after they've been away for several years.  Officials say the Blue Angels' schedule won't allow them to return to Milwaukee for a make-up show during the rest of the season.  It was the first time the air show was canceled on both of its scheduled days.  It remains somewhat foggy along Lake Michigan, but the National Weather Service says visibility is better than expected.  Meanwhile, a dense fog advisory remains in effect until 10 this morning at Duluth-Superior -- when it's expected to dissipate close to Lake Superior.