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Afternoon State News Briefs: New Marquette polls released

MILWAUKEE - If the next presidential election was held today, Wisconsin would go with Democrat Hillary Clinton. That's according to a new Marquette Law School poll.

In head-to-head matchups, Clinton led Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan 48-44 percent among 717 registered voters. She led Governor Scott Walker by a wider margin, 50-42 percent. Clinton also out-polled Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul. Republican voters in the Marquette poll also gave Ryan an edge for his party's White House nomination in 2016. Twenty-seven percent of 302 Republicans surveyed supported the House Budget Chairman. Rubio was second at 21-percent, and Walker third at 16-percent. A whopping 62-percent of 333 Democrats supported Clinton as her party's next White House nominee. Vice President Joe Biden was a distant second at 13-percent. The poll was taken between last Tuesday and Friday.


The new Marquette University poll shows that three-of-every-four Wisconsinites want tuition to be frozen this fall at University of Wisconsin campuses. 76-percent of almost 720 respondents favored a tuition freeze, after reports that the university could have one-point-two billion dollars in reserves by the end of June. Governor Scott Walker and a number of state lawmakers have urged the Board of Regents to freeze tuition, after learning how big the reserves were at the UW's 26 campuses. The Republican Walker has also talked about reducing his original state budget request for an extra $181-million in tax funds for the UW. Forty-four percent in the new poll favor a reduction in state assistance, while 50-percent were against the poll. The results are beyond the poll's margin-of-error of four-point-four percent either way. Also, 48-percent in the Marquette poll favored expanding the state's private school voucher program statewide, or at least in larger districts with under-performing public schools. Another 44-percent said they wanted to limit the choice program to its current Milwaukee County and Racine districts - or scrap it altogether. A month ago, 52-percent supported an expansion of the voucher program, and 42-percent wanted it ended or held steady.


Authorities now know who was killed early today, when his van hit a bridge pillar and caught fire in Fond du Lac County. Sheriff's deputies said the victim was a 52-year-old Fond du Lac man. They did not immediately release his name, pending notification of his relatives. This morning, deputies asked for the public's help in identifying the driver, saying he and the vehicle were both burned beyond recognition. The van was going west when it hit a support pillar at the Highway 41 expressway just north of Byron. It happened around 1:30 this morning.


Governor Scott Walker side-stepped the question today of whether medical biotechnology firms should be included in a bill to provide venture capital for start-up companies. Majority Republicans endorsed a measure last Friday to put $25-million in tax dollars toward a $75-million venture capital package. They did not include bio-tech firms among those eligible for funding. The Republican governor told reporters today that there are plenty of other new Wisconsin start-ups that could benefit from the state-funded venture capital. Walker said there's a need to go forward - and he stopped short of declaring that he'd oppose bio-tech operations. Wisconsin Right-to-Life, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, said it would fight the venture capital package if it includes bio-tech outfits. Democrats, meanwhile, say they'll push to include a bio-tech industry that grew in the last decade with the help of former Governor Jim Doyle.


Efforts to clean up the Great Lakes have produced mixed results over the last quarter century. That's according to a report released today by the International Joint Commission, a group that advises both U.S. and Canadian officials on Great Lakes concerns. The report looks at the progress made since the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was last updated in 1987. Researchers said some types of toxic pollution have dropped, but mercury levels have risen in some fish and consumption advisors are still in effect. The group says invasive species continue to be a problem - but no new species have reached the Great Lakes by incoming ships in at least seven years. The biggest concerns today involve toxic algae blooms caused by run-off from phosphorus, and shrinking ice cover that causes reductions in water levels.


What happened to winter? It was one degree short of 90 at one o'clock this afternoon at Boscobel in southwest Wisconsin. It was just a day earlier when parts of the north almost dropped to almost 20 degrees. Today, spots along Lake Michigan are still somewhat cool, in the upper-40's. Inland, it's in the 60's and 70's in northern and central Wisconsin, and the 80's in southern areas. The National Weather Service said a large warm front brought southwesterly breezes into the Badger State, replacing the northwest chill that much of Wisconsin saw early yesterday. A cold front is expected to go through tonight, bringing a chance of rain and thunderstorms. Once that clears, dry weather is predicted for the rest of the week. It'll be somewhat cooler, but not much. Highs are forecast to be in the 70's into the weekend, with lows in the 40's-and-50's.


Governor Scott Walker wants the president to name a special prosecutor to examine allegations that the IRS used political motivations to review requests for tax-exempt status. Walker, vice-chairman of the Republican Governors Association, joined chairman Bobby Jindal of Louisiana in sending a letter to President Obama. They said the admission that the IRS targeted conservative groups in their tax-exempt requests is a frightening use of power. The letter from Walker and Jindal said quote, "The actions of the IRS are an attempt to gag the voices of Americans who may disagree with the policies and left-leaning ideology of your administration." And the governors called that, quote, "un-American." Obama said it would be outrageous if the IRS targeted conservative groups, but he won't judge the matter until a full audit is completed. Congress is not waiting, though. House lawmakers of both parties have called a hearing for Friday. The Washington Times says there are growing calls for top IRS officials to resign, after new reports that they may have hidden their investigations from Congress.


The parents of a murdered state undercover drug agent were receiving two national awards today for their son's service. Don and Mary Kay Balchunas were to receive the Drug Enforcement Administration's Purple Heart, and the DEA Administrator's Award of Valor. The presentations were scheduled at the agency's museum in suburban Washington. Jay Balchunas was shot-to-death in October of 2004. He stopped for coffee at a Milwaukee convenience store while on duty, and was shot-to-death during what was later found to be a foiled robbery. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says his department has honored Balchunas every year since his death, and it's "tremendously gratifying" to see the federal government honor him as well. Balchunas' name was inscribed earlier on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.


A high-ranking Milwaukee County sheriff's official takes issue with a bill on evictions that's up for a vote in the state Assembly today. The bill would let landlords dispose of property left behind by the tenants they evict, without informing those tenants in advance and without having law enforcement on hand. Milwaukee County sheriff's inspector Ed Bailey says property removal often creates tensions - and letting landlords remove property themselves quote, "would not fit well with our experiences in a major urban city." Bailey says his deputies have made arrests at eviction sites, and officers have been attacked while protecting movers and landlords from being assaulted.


A driver was killed overnight after a van struck a bridge pillar and caught fire in Fond du Lac County. It happened about 1:30 this morning north of Byron on County Trunk "F." Authorities said the vehicle hit a pillar that supports the Highway 41 expressway overhead. Much of the van was burned beyond recognition, and officers could not identify the victim right away. Fond du Lac County deputies were hoping the public could provide information on the vehicle, a 2008 Chevy Express passenger van. Engineers were trying to determine the damage to the bridge, but Highway 41 remained open at last word.


A Wausau woman has been charged with providing the heroin that killed her boyfriend. 33-year-old Nycole Creed made her first Marathon County court appearance yesterday on a felony charge of manufacturing-or-delivering heroin. The boyfriend, 30-year-old Thomas Knickerbocker, died March 11 at his home from a heroin overdose. Prosecutors said two young children were in the house when he died. The judge ordered a 25-hundred-dollar cash bond for Creed, plus a signature bond. She's due back in court a week from tomorrow, to determine if there's enough evidence to order a trial.


The Wisconsin state Assembly approved a bill which would let bar or liquor store owners file suit against underage drinkers who trick them into selling them alcohol. The legislation moves to the state Senate next. It is meant to offer recourse for tavern or liquor store owners who often have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines and the possible loss of their liquor licenses when they sell to people under the age of 21. Alaska has had a similar law on the books for more than 10 years.


The Brown County Sherrif's Department reports it made 21 arrests during an undercover operation into "illicit sexual activity" last week. Charges ranged from prostitution to attempted theft and possession of controlled substances. Law enforcement authorities say they are responding to an increase in prostitution in the country. Suspects reportedly ranged in age from 18 to 50. Seventeen of those arrested were female.