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Government and Political Roundup: Bipartisan agreement for tuition freeze

The call for a tuition freeze for students in the University of Wisconsin System is bipartisan. Democrats have joined Republicans in demanding the freeze. This comes in response to a memo released last week by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. It showed the system finished the last fiscal year with almost 650 million dollars in reserves. Republicans immediately asked how the Board of Regents could justify raising tuition for the last six years with that much money in reserves. A total of 414 million was in tuition reserves. Democrats are normally among the strong supporters of the system, but they sent a letter to system President Kevin Reilly calling for the tuition to be frozen for the next two years.


U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the federal government has helped hundreds of Wisconsin farms put conservation plans into effect aimed at decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. The original agreement signed in 2009 and being renewed between the federal government and the dairy industry. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has spent more than 250 million dollars so far. Though no official dollar figure was announced with the deal signed yesterday, Vilsack says he expects about the same amount of money, or more, to be invested over the next four years.


A vote to rescind a quarter-million dollar state grant to partially fund a Native American cultural center has been delayed. It's on hold until after Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp meets with tribal leaders next week. Republican state Representative Dean Kaufert first proposed taking away the grant to the Lac du Flambeau Bank of Lake Superior Chippewa as retribution for six tribes raising their walleye spearfishing goals. Kaufert said that could be devastating to tourism in Wisconsin's Northwoods. Governor Walker has said he supports the funding for the cultural center. If there is a vote, if won't happen until next month.


Backers of the plan say a 25 million dollar fund will boost economic growth in Wisconsin. The money would be invested in agriculture, technology, energy and other targeted industries. That fund will include another 50 million dollars in investments from private sources. Supporters of the bipartisan legislation say Wisconsin has fallen behind other states when it comes to creating jobs in the private sector. The money to help fund startups and companies which are growing is a part of Governor Scott Walker's proposed statewide budget.


Groundhog owner Gerald Hahn of Sun Prairie tells Wisconsin lawmakers they should leave groundhogs on the state's protected species list. The Assembly natural resources committee is considering legislation establishing a hunting season for groundhogs. Hahn owns Jimmy the Groundhog, the state's answer to Punxsutawny Phil. He predicts how much longer winter is going to last each year. Hahn closed his remarks at the Capitol yesterday by saying Bucky should watch out if the legislation is passed. Bucky Badger is the University of Wisconsin-Madison's mascot. Hahn says he was just trying to say, with all the expansion of hunting in the state, maybe badgers would be next. Supporters of the legislation say the animals are abundant and it isn't clear why groundhogs were ever put on a protected species list.


One of several featured speakers at next month's annual state convention for Wisconsin Republicans is the group's former chairman Reince Priebus. The convention will be held May 4th in Wausau. Today, Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Joining him as featured speakers at the gathering will be Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Congressman Paul Ryan. Both have been mentioned as potential presidential candidates in the 2016 election.