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Wisconsin roundup: Walker signs law making it harder to request election recount; more state news stories

Recounts in Wisconsin, as shown in this 2016 photo from St. Croix County, will now only be available to candidates who lose by less than 1 percent in a statewide election. The change was signed into law Nov. 30 by Gov. Scott Walker. File photo

MADISON — Under a new state law, political candidates could only seek a recount if they lost by less than 1 percent in a statewide election.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill Thursday. The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature passed the measure after Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein asked for a recount of the Wisconsin vote, even though she finished in a distant fourth place. Democrats say candidates should be able to request a recount as long as they pay for it. Stein did pay for the Wisconsin recount of the 2016 vote.


Woman arrested after alleged truck theft, crime spree

ELM GROVE — Police have arrested a 22-year-old woman after she went on a crime spree Thursday morning.

It started with a report to police about her being disruptive at a Wauwatosa Starbucks. Shortly after she left that location, she wrecked her vehicle, fled the scene and stole a pickup. She apparently tried to burglarize a home about 11 minutes after taking the truck, then police say she was involved in a series of hit-and-run crashes and may have tried to run down some pedestrians. No injuries were reported. She crashed the truck and was caught after a foot chase. The Delavan woman's name hasn't been released.


Assistant U.S. attorney: Human trafficking arrives in small-town Wisconsin

WISCONSIN DELLS — A federal prosecutor says human traffickers are now preying on small-town Wisconsin.

More than 100 law enforcement officials and advocates have been in Wisconsin Dells this week for a special statewide conference on human trafficking. Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Schlipper says she thinks trafficking is "evolving," though she says she hates to use that term. Schlipper says traffickers are trolling Facebook, looking for victims.

She says there's no reason law enforcement agencies can't also use Facebook as a tool to find out who's involved. The two-day seminar wrapped up Thursday at Chula Vista.


Man accused of sexually assaulting woman came to help him

EAU CLAIRE — A 56-year-old Eau Claire man allegedly sexually assaulted a woman who was coming to his aid.

Investigators say Wesley Halliday set his apartment on fire, then attacked the woman who came to check on him. The woman has a master key to the apartments in the complex. When she came in, she said she saw Halliday burning papers. He allegedly pushed her against a wall and assaulted her, before she was finally able to run away and call for help. Halliday has apologized. He is charged with endangering safety, sexual assault, battery and bail jumping.


Man accused of 21 sexual assaults requests venue change

MADISON — A man accused of 21 sexual assaults in Madison is asking the court for a change of venue.

Attorneys for Alec Cook also want the prosecution not to be allowed to use Cook's diary at his trial. Police say the leather-bound journal lists the names of women and what he wanted to do to them. Cook made an appearance in Dane County court Thursday.

His attorneys say news coverage of the case in Dane County has tainted the potential jury pool. They also say the consent form police were using to search Cook's home didn't reasonably include a search of the diary's contents. The motions were taken under advisement.


Governor signs industrial hemp bill into law

MADISON — The sponsor of a bill allowing Wisconsin farmers to grow industrial hemp says Gov. Scott Walker's signature will make the state a national and global leader in hemp production.

Republican State Representative Jesse Kremer's tweet included the hashtag "AmericasHempland." Walker signed the legislation Thursday. It means Wisconsin joins 30 other states which have legalized hemp farming. Hemp farmers with drug convictions won't be able to get a state license to grow the crop, even though there are strict limitations on how much THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, their crop can contain.


EPA: Wis. barrel plants violating environmental laws

MILWAUKEE — Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency say industrial refurbishing plants in the Milwaukee area are violating federal law.

The agency announced Wednesday that plants in St. Francis, Oak Creek and Milwaukee are breaking the law by transporting, storing and treating hazardous waste without licenses. Inspectors obtained a warrant to enter the St. Francis and Oak Creek plants and found drums leaking chemicals, barrels labeled as "non-hazardous" that had flammable chemicals and plumes of smoke creating a standing haze.


Waupaca Industries shutting down

MANAWA — A Wisconsin organization which helps train disabled workers and places them in jobs will shut down at the end of this year.

Waupaca County Industries has been in operation for more than 30 years. Effective Jan. 1, people with physical or cognitive disabilities will work with their individual case managers to find programs and jobs in their local communities. County officials say they couldn't afford to continue. In addition to the 80 members who have depended on WCI — in some cases, for decades — about one dozen employees are left without a position, too.