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Inattentive drivers involved in crashes that took 94 lives in 2015; Sen. Johnson discloses nephew’s death from heroin; 14 more Wisconsin news stories

Distracted drivers are causing more traffic crashes, deaths and injuries in Wisconsin.

The Appleton Post-Crescent reports that 94 people died last year in crashes throughout the state where at least one of the drivers was not paying attention to the road. That's up from 72 deaths involving distracted drivers the previous year.

State Department of Transportation safety director David Pabst said cellphones and the constant improvement of electronic devices are blamed for the increase in deaths as well as almost 1,000 more injuries during 2015 to around 10,600.

The DOT says there were a little more than 24,000 crashes that involved distracted drivers last year -- almost 2,000 more mishaps than in 2014.


Sen. Johnson discloses nephew’s death from heroin

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson said for the first time that he had a nephew who died from heroin addiction.

The Wisconsin Republican gave a few details about it Monday when he appeared with state Attorney General Brad Schimel in a teleconference about a bill to give states more money for anti-drug programs.

Johnson would not identify the nephew, but he said the person suffered a sports injury, became addicted to opiate painkillers, and then resorted to less expensive heroin before dying from an overdose two months ago.

Schimel promoted the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which passed the Senate 94-1 last week with a similar bill pending in the House.


Senate may again consider hemp oil for seizure patients

MADISON -- Wisconsin senators of both parties are seeking a vote today on a second bill to let kids with seizures be treated with an oil derivative from marijuana.

Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) is seeking a vote on his bill to let parents possess cannabidiol if doctors give them letters of medical necessity.

A bill was proposed in the last session to let parents get their hands on CBD oil, but lawmakers voted at the last minute to require prescriptions for it. Parents say it's been virtually impossible to get the oil as a result.

The State Medical Society told lawmakers last summer the bill could have unintended consequences. The Assembly recently passed it anyway.


Senate avoids hot-button issues

MADISON – With more than 80 bills are on the agenda, today's (Tuesday's) final meeting of the Wisconsin Senate could be remembered for what's not passed than what is.

GOP leaders did not include most politically contentious bills the Assembly left when it adjourned in late February. Those includes the “sanctuary cities” bill in which cities would lose state aid if they order police not to ask about a suspect's immigration status if they feel it's justified.

Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) -- who's not among the senators up for reelection this fall -- calls the death of the bill an “adherence to political correctness.”

GOP Senate leaders also decided not to take up the governor's plan to end limits on tax deductions for student loan interest, but they will vote on a bill making it harder for Milwaukee and other cities to make lenders sell homes that wind up in foreclosure.

Also, GOP leaders agreed to act on an extra $1 million in funding for respite care, plus a pilot program for new county response units for dementia-related emergencies.


Wrongfully convicted prisoners will not get more from state

MADISON -- A bill to dramatically increase the state's compensation to wrongfully convicted prisoners will not pass this year.

The Assembly approved the measure last month, but the chief Senate sponsor said it will not come up for a vote today when the upper house wraps up the Legislature's two year session.

A spokesman for Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) said there are concerns over its cost and who would be entitled to the extra funds.

The bill would have given a wrongfully convicted person up to $50,000 for each year in prison, ten times the current annual limit with a cap of $1 million. Also, the bill would let the wrongfully convicted close their court records to the public.


GOP: Toughest response planned in Supreme Court battle

WASHINGTON, DC --  Kenosha native Reince Priebus said his Republican National Committee plans the most “comprehensive” response ever to potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees.

The RNC has set up a task force before President Barack Obama nominates a replacement to the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Priebus, a former Wisconsin GOP chairman, says the national party will work with "America Rising" to check the credentials of top Obama candidates. It also plans attacks on Democrats that include Russ Feingold, who's running for Republican Ron Johnson's U.S. Senate seat this fall.

Priebus said his group will tell voters that the American people should decide who nominates Scalia's replacement through the November presidential contest.

Feingold and other Democrats accuse the GOP of not doing its job by refusing to consider anyone Obama nominates this year.


Police shoot unruly transit passenger at rush hour

BROWN DEER -- Police in suburban Milwaukee shot and wounded a man they said was an unruly passenger on a transit bus.

The incident happened in Brown Deer just before 5 p.m. Monday during the area's rush hour.

Authorities say the man harassed the female bus driver and she flagged down police officers who removed him. That resulted in an altercation in which two Brown Deer officers were injured and the suspect was shot.

The passenger was hospitalized in an undisclosed condition at last word. The two officers were treated and later sent home. They're both on administrative leave while police in neighboring Milwaukee investigate their involvement.


Eighteen dogs removed from Racine house

Eighteen dogs have been removed from a house in Racine, where police were alerted to a case of hoarding.

The Wisconsin Humane Society says the unidentified owners voluntarily surrendered 17 Chihuahuas and one beagle. There has been no word on any possible charges.

Veterinarians checked out the dogs at the Humane Society's Racine County facility in Mount Pleasant, and the animals are being prepared for adoption. Twelve dogs were taken to the group's unit in Saukville. Officials say some of the pets could be ready to get new owners by the end of this week.


Uber, Lyft to start paying airport for passenger pick-ups

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's largest airport is starting a three-month pilot program in which Uber and Lyft will start paying to pick up passengers.

Starting today, both ride-sharing companies will pay Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport $3 for each person they pick up from the baggage claim area.

Officials in Milwaukee County, which owns Mitchell, say the 90-day pilot program is expected to result in a permanent policy to incorporate Uber and Lyft as part of the airport's ground transportation.

Spurred by taxi drivers who say Uber often charges $15 less for rides from the airport to downtown, Milwaukee is the latest U.S airport to try to get ride-sharing firms to pay their share of user costs.


UW-Platteville reopens after report of armed man

UW-Platteville is reopening today after a report of an armed man in a campus restroom caused an early closure of the campus Monday.

Chancellor Dennis Shields said a student pulled a fire alarm after hearing a click and seeing a gun barrel in Ullsvik Hall, a classroom building.

Interim campus Police Chief Jason Williams quoted the student as saying the gun was an AK-47 assault rifle.

Classes shut down about 1:30 p.m. -- 40 minutes after the alarm was pulled. Only essential personnel were allowed to stay, while dorm residents went to their respective residence halls.

There were no reports of gunshots or injuries, and those with belongings in Ullsvik Hall were allowed to pick them about 2:50 p.m. after authorities swept the campus and did not find a suspect.


DOT to use portable rumble strips in work zones

For years, rumble strips have been carved into Wisconsin highways to get drivers to slow down or to wake up and stay in their lanes.

Now the Department of Transportation says it will use temporary, portable rumble strips at 12 road construction sites around the state this year to urge motorists to slow down and to keep flag-persons safe.

Operations engineer Erin Schoon said drivers often ignore signs that they're entering work zones, and the rumble strips will provide a loud and vibrating message to slow down.

The state says 12 people died and 945 others were injured in work-zone crashes last year. Most of those were drivers who were either distracted or going too fast.


Green Bay police tell schools to end lockdown after morning shooting

Green Bay Police are searching for two men believed involved in a shooting on the city’s east side Monday morning, prompting a lockdown of nearby schools.

Television station WBAY reported that the lockdown order affected all east-side schools Monday morning while police looked for two people after a shooting on that side of the city shortly after 11 a.m.

Officers say one man was apparently shot during an argument. Police believe the wounded man's is injuries are life-threatening.

Officers remain on the lookout for two people they believe were involved and ran away. They’re described only as two black males who were wearing red.


Sen. Baldwin introduces water technology act

WASHINGTON, DC -- Wisconsin's Democratic U.S. senator has introduced a bill that seeks in part to tap into Milwaukee's growing water technology.

Tammy Baldwin's measure would create a federal grant program to help public and private arrangements that test, adopt and improve current drinking water technology. It also seeks to help communities use more innovative improvements to deal with challenges of wastewater and runoff from storm waters.

Baldwin cited the problems with lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan, from aging water pipes. She said Flint is not alone and more technology can create solutions to confront water problems throughout the country.


County jail populations down, but spending varies widely

Wisconsin's county jails are housing fewer inmates than they did several years ago, but their spending per inmate still varies widely.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reports total jail populations in the 72 counties have dropped 16% from 2008-2014 to more than 12,000 prisoners at the end of the study period.

Costs, meanwhile, have dropped 9%.

Sparsely populated Forest County in northeast Wisconsin has the highest jail cost per inmate at $205 for each county resident. Kenosha has the second-highest spending per prisoner, and Milwaukee County third-highest.

Five other counties -- Iron, Calumet, Grant, Eau Claire and Menominee -- spend less than $30 per resident.


Cocoa beans could force jump in Easter chocolate prices

A jump in the price of cocoa beans could hit Wisconsin shoppers in the wallet as Easter approaches.

Cocoa bean prices have hit a two-month high as dry weather reduces the crops in the African nations of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which make a large share of the cocoa used in chocolate.

In Milwaukee, at least one chocolate maker has felt the pricing pinch as one of the most popular times for the delicacy -- Easter -- is less than two weeks away. The Northern Chocolate Company on Milwaukee's north side told the Journal Sentinel it's been waiting for shipments of chocolate and it finally expects a load today.


Worker stabbed in chest, co-worker arrested

GREEN BAY -- Police in Green Bay say an employee was stabbed and wounded Monday morning by a co-worker at the American Foods plant.

Officials say the two men were in an argument around 8 a.m. when one pulled out a knife and stabbed the other in the upper chest or neck.

The suspect ran off, but was arrested in a nearby parking lot. At last word, police were trying to determine a motive for the stabbing.