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Walker will sign mining bill today; Legislators' email feud draws formal complaints; more briefs

Gov. Scott Walker will sign Wisconsin's mining incentive bill this afternoon at two factories that could supply equipment for the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine.

The governor plans to sign the package at the Oldenburg Group in Rhinelander. He'll then fly to Milwaukee, where he'll have a ceremonial bill-signing at the P&H Mining Equipment shop.

It appears that Walker chose the two locations to emphasize his contention that a mine would provide thousands of support jobs throughout Wisconsin - and not just the 700 to operate the Gogebic Taconite facility in Ashland and Iron counties.

The bill got final legislative approval last week.

Democrats, environmentalists and a nearby Indian tribe say the mine would pollute the far north, but Republicans and many local government leaders say it would provide work to a region that badly needs it.

Gogebic and other mining projects would still have to meet federal guidelines. Critics say they plan to tie up the measure in court for years. Republicans expect the legal action, but some still believe the Gogebic mine would open in three to four years.


Legislators' email feud draws formal complaints

Two state lawmakers have been waging an email feud, and a couple of their colleagues were so upset about getting copied, they filed complaints with the Government Accountability Board.

Assembly Democrat Andy Jorgensen of Fort Atkinson sponsored a bill to give $1 million to a trade group to help small and medium-sized factories market themselves. The bill easily passed the Assembly by a 90-8 vote.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jorgensen then sent a news release about it to his colleagues, and one of the opponents, Whitewater Republican Steve Nass, called that an "in-my-face" move.

So Nass sent all his Assembly colleagues a video showing Jorgensen leading chants of "kill the bill" during the massive 2011 protests against the public union bargaining limits.

Jorgensen and Nass traded other email barbs as well for all their colleagues to see. Some lawmakers, especially newcomers, were taken aback.

Assembly freshman Dianne Hesselbein said lawmakers are not supposed to email campaign material to and from official addresses.

"It's no longer a campaign matter - this is history," replied Nass. He told the Journal Sentinel he had no regrets about sending the protest video.

"Everybody hates this kind of stuff," said Jorgensen. "It's unfortunate in every way."


Former Milwaukee archbishop on short list for pope

The world's Catholic cardinals have reportedly narrowed their list of possibilities for the new pope, and former Milwaukee Archbishop Tim Dolan is one of those names.

But unlike some candidates, Dolan does not have Vatican experience. He admits having weak language skills in Italian. That could be a big disadvantage since the day-to-day administration of the Vatican is done in Italian.

Still, the Associated Press says Dolan and Sean O'Malley of Boston are among the focus of the voting cardinals.

Cardinals Odilo Scherer of Brazil and Angelo Scola of Milan, Italy are also on the rumor list. Scola heads the Archdiocese of Milan, and he used to serve in Venice where several previous popes have come from.

Over 100 cardinals, including Dolan and Wisconsin natives James Harvey and Raymond Burke, are in the final day of talks before the voting begins tomorrow.

The new pope needs 77 votes. If the leading candidates don't get them, the AP says a host of surprise names could come forward to replace the retiring Pope Benedict.

Dolan served as Milwaukee's archbishop for seven years before becoming the Archbishop of New York in 2009. He became a cardinal early last year.


Big cheese contest starts tomorrow at Lambeau

The U.S. Championship Cheese Contest begins tomorrow in Green Bay with a record number of entries.

At last word, 1,702 cheeses have entered - almost 100 more than the last national contest which was held two years ago.

John Umhoefer of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association said the variety of cheeses continues to grow, and that's probably why we're seeing more and more entries.

In 2011, the top winner was a goat cheese made by the LaClare Family Farms of Chilton.

Judging takes place tomorrow and Wednesday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, where the event has been held every two years since 2009.


Potato growers' leader says farmers need voice in immigration reform talks

A Wisconsin farm leader says agriculture needs to be represented as immigration reform is discussed in Washington.

Immigration reform is among the top concerns of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association. The group's director, Duane Maatz, said there needs to be an open and transparent system that lets immigrant workers answer questions honestly and lets farmers employ them legally.

Maatz told the Brownfield Ag News Service, "We've historically not been in favor of amnesty for people who are in our country illegally, but we also don't want to have our workforce deported only to have them stand in line to get back to work." He said the process could take years.

Wisconsin potato and vegetable growers discussed that issue and others when they met with their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill recently.

Congress has been working on a possible bipartisan compromise, as President Obama seeks his own package which includes a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.

Wisconsin dairy groups have urged Congress to let foreign workers stay on farms for at least 11 months a year if not 12.


Ryan still hopeful for budget compromise

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville said a compromise is possible on federal taxes and spending - even though Democrats are sure to reject the new budget he'll submit tomorrow.

The Republican Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday" that the two parties might be able to agree on less dramatic steps to narrow the budget deficits in the coming years.

"There are things we can do that don't offend either party's philosophy, that don't require someone to surrender their principles, that make a good down-payment on getting this debt under control," said Ryan.

For now, though he plans to submit a 2014 budget blueprint to his Republican House majority with the same types of measures rejected by President Obama and Senate Democrats the past two years. They include a repeal of the Obama health reform package and cuts in Medicare benefits by converting to a voucher system for seniors who are now 54 and younger.

The GOP-controlled House is expected to endorse Ryan's plan for a third straight year. The Democratic majority in the Senate OKs its own budget blueprint to reduce tax breaks for the wealthy and keep spending on safety-net programs unchanged.


Freeway victim hit by two vehicles

Investigators now say that two vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian on a suburban Milwaukee freeway nine days ago.

Waukesha County sheriff's deputies are asking people to tell what they know about the second vehicle.

Denise Merkel, 54, of Sussex had her car break down on I-43 in New Berlin, and she was struck and killed while crossing the traffic lanes.

The incident happened around 5:30 a.m. March 2. Investigators say they just learned that a second vehicle ran over Merkel as her body was lying on the freeway.