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Judge won't halt St. Croix bridge work; Senators split votes on internet sales tax; garlic-cheese bread chip nets woman $1 million prize

This seven-year-old mock-up from the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation web site, shows the location of the new St. Croix River crossing downstream from the existing lift bridge that links Houlton with Stillwater, Minn.

A federal judge said he would not stop preliminary work on the new Saint Croix River bridge near Hudson because of a bidding dispute in Minnesota.

C.S. McCrossan is challenging the state's rejection a contract to do approach work for the new bridge and it filed lawsuits in both federal-and state courts.

On Monday, Federal Judge Richard Kyle said he would put McCrossan's suit on hold until the case is finished in the state courts.

Minnesota officials said McCrossan did not adequately promise it would use enough sub-contractors from minority and female-owned companies. McCrossan disagreed.

Progress on the bridge is also being delayed for environmental reasons. Dead invasive zebra mussels were found on six of eight barges that were going to be used to ship building materials to the construction site.

The barges never got to the river, and the involved contractor says it will de-contaminate all 100 of its barges for the project before doing anything else.

The new bridge is still scheduled to open in 2016, providing four-lane access over the St. Croix north of Hudson and south of Stillwater.

Senators split over online sales tax issue

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Wisconsin's two U.S. senators split their votes Monday when the Senate agreed to force online retailers to charge state sales taxes - just like brick-and-mortar stores have to do.

The measure was passed 69 to 27.

Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin voted yes, and Republican Ron Johnson voted no. He said he favors a level playing field but the bill puts "too much of a burden on online retailers."

The bill now goes to the House, where observers say it faces tougher sledding.

State revenue officials say Wisconsin would get an extra $95 million a year, once an Internet sales tax is fully implemented.

Currently, only stores with a physical presence in a state must charge sales tax on Web purchases within that state. Wisconsin shoppers are supposed to voluntarily report sales taxes on their income tax returns but relatively few people do so.

Sheboygan jeweler Alan Rudnick said the current situation puts him at a 5 percent cost disadvantage against Internet retailers who don't have to charge the sales tax like he does.

Catalog retailer Miles Kimball of Oshkosh says it would be a headache to keep each state's sales tax straight, and provide refunds to those who overpay the tax.

Stores with less than $1 million a year in online sales would be exempt from the proposed law.

Farmers scramble to catch up on planting

With more rain in the forecast for Wednesday, Wisconsin farmers are trying to get more of their crops in the ground.

Last week's rain and snow kept the tractors in the sheds, as farmers got further behind on their spring planting.

Officials say just 4 percent of the state's corn was planted between the raindrops and snowflakes last week whereas 26 percent is normally in the ground by now.

Eighteen percent of Wisconsin oats have been planted, up from 5 percent a week ago. Normally, 62 percent of the oats are in by now.

Alfalfa is coming out of dormancy, and more winter-kill is being seen. Sheboygan County estimates that 60 percent of its alfalfa is lost, along with 25 percent of its winter wheat.

Brown and Rock counties also report significant damage. A number of counties are waiting for things to green up before assessing the damage.

Spring field work is 12 percent finished, up from 4 percent the previous week.

Most soil moisture is rated adequate and 28 percent of the state's topsoil has surplus moisture, along with 11 percent of subsoil.

The National Weather Service forecast Tuesday to be mostly sunny with highs in the 70's. A cold front is to arrive Wednesday with a chance of rain and thunderstorms throughout the day. Rain chances diminish on Thursday and Friday, with highs cooling down to the 50's and 60's.

Assembly vote expected on food stamp limitations, careless driving near trash trucks

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Assembly is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a bill aimed at reducing the amount of junk food bought by those on food stamps.

Neenah Republican Dean Kaufert says taxpayers provide the Food-Share benefits, and the government should decide what those benefits should be used for. Kaufert says everybody seems to have a story about seeing food stamp users load up on soda and chips at the grocery store.

A committee recently softened his bill by making Food-Share recipients spend two-thirds of their benefits on healthy foods approved by the state. There would also have to be a study of what the change would cost grocery stores and their suppliers.

Even if the state approves Kaufert's bill, the federal government would have the final say, since it covers most of the costs of the $1 billion Food-Share program.

Kaufert admits that Washington has said no to similar requests from other states but he says it's the principle of the thing.

Food makers, grocers, and food banks have all lined up against the bill, saying it would create higher costs for them and for taxpayers.

The state Health Services Department, which operates the Food-Share program, is not taking a stand on the measure. Agency spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley says there have been no studies on the types of groceries bought with Food-Share benefits.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are also expected to vote on a bill to double the fines for those who drive recklessly around garbage trucks. Both the Assembly and the Senate are scheduled to take up the measure.

Assembly Republican John Jagler of Watertown proposed the bill, after a sanitation worker in his district was seriously hurt by a driver in January while collecting trash.

The National Solid Waste Management Association says up to eight sanitation workers are killed each year by reckless vehicles. Wisconsin and most other states require drivers to slow down or move as far away as possible from police and other emergency vehicles on roadsides - but Michigan is the only state with a similar requirement for garbage trucks.

Announcement on state's newest sheriff leaked via school's Facebook page

WAUSAU -- A new sheriff for Marathon County could be announced as early as Wednesday but it appears that somebody has spilled the beans on Facebook.

For a short time Monday, Trinity Lutheran School in Wausau had a photo on its Facebook page which showed Gov. Scott Walker posing with Chief Deputy Scott Parks and his wife Theresa. She runs the early childhood learning center at Trinity and the photo indicates that Walker has chosen Parks as the new sheriff.

The photo was removed from Facebook within an hour, but WSAU Radio in Wausau captured the picture and placed it on its Web site. The station says tweets indicate that Walker will announce Parks' appointment as the new sheriff tomorrow. Neither Parks nor the governor's office has commented.

Parks has been filling in for Randy Hoenisch, who announced his retirement in February. He said he needed to be with his family, as his wife awaits sentencing for stealing painkillers from offenders she supervised as a former state probation agent.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Illinois corporation announces Wisconsin expansion

MUKWONAGO -- A company that makes caps, valves, and pumps for food and household products is working on a $50 million expansion for its plant in Mukwonago.

State officials say the Aptar Group will get $2.3 million in tax breaks, if it keeps 424 jobs at the plant over the next five years.

The plant has already been awarded $422,000 in tax credits, after spending $2 million to upgrade its facility and $3 million on research and development.

In addition, the village of Mukwonago is considering a request by the Aptar Group to install a rail spur which would connect the plant to a nearby Canadian National line.

The state and the village would share the $1.25 million cost for that spur, which would reduce Aptar's costs for bringing in raw plastic materials.

Aptar is based in Crystal Lake Ill., and it has about 12,000 employees worldwide.

Woman once thought dead in Wisconsin, surfaces in Cleveland

FOND DU LAC -- Amanda Berry, who turned up in Cleveland Monday after being missing for 10 years, was once thought to have been found dead in Fond du Lac County.

Deer hunters found a woman's body partially submerged in a frozen creek in November, 2008. The Cleveland Plain Dealer said the body appeared to have similarities to Berry, but DNA tests turned up negative a year later.

On Monday, Berry made a frantic 9-1-1 call, saying she had been kidnapped and missing for 10 years but she's free now. Police later found Berry and two other women who had been held, and they arrested three brothers.

Berry vanished while walking home from work in Cleveland in April of 2003, just before she turned 17.

As for the missing Fond du Lac County woman, deputies investigated a number of leads but they could never identify her or determine how she died. She was named "Jane Doe," and was buried in a formal ceremony in Waupun in December, 2011.

Green Bay man charged in girlfriend's death

GREEN BAY -- Bond of $250,000 has been set for a Green Bay man charged with stabbing his girlfriend to death.

Michael Whitmire, 50, is accused of killing 45-year-old Ouida Wright at her Green Bay home on Friday.

He's due back in court May 17th on a Brown County charge of first-degree intentional homicide.

Prosecutors allege the couple was arguing and was about to break up when Whitmire grabbed a knife and cut Wright's throat.

The two had been dating for about nine months.

Inmate who badly injured female guard now claims insanity

WAUSAU -- A Wausau man now claims he was insane when he allegedly assaulted two corrections officers in the Marathon County Jail.

Fredrick Morris, 20, entered insanity pleas Monday to charges of aggravated battery and two counts of battery by a prisoner.

The court will now appoint a doctor to check Morris' mental state at the time of the attacks. The results are expected to be reviewed at a court hearing on June 7th.

Prosecutors said Morris attacked officers Julie Christensen and Denney Woodward on March 27th. The 36-year-old Christensen was still hospitalized at last word.

Morris' mother has said that her son has bipolar disorder and schizo-phrenia - and he might not have been taking his medications when the attacks took place.

Morris has charges pending in four other Marathon County court cases. He's currently being held in neighboring Lincoln County under a $250,000 bond.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Unborn baby dies in car-pedestrian accident

MILWAUKEE -- A mother who was nine months pregnant lost her baby Monday, after she was struck by a hit-and-run driver in Milwaukee.

Police said a 23-year-old woman was walking along a north side street when a traffic crash happened nearby.

Officers said one of the vehicles left the road and hit the woman. She was taken to a hospital, where her child was pronounced dead. The mother was in serious condition at last word.

The driver fled on foot but later called police. He was taken into custody, and charges are pending.

New chip flavor worth a million to Wisconsin woman

A northern Wisconsin woman has won a national contest to come up with the next great potato chip.

Karen Weber-Mendham of Land O'Lakes won $1 million Monday evening in the "Do Us a Flavor" contest put on since last summer by Lay's Potato Chips.

She created a Cheesy Garlic Bread chip that was one of three finalists chosen from around $3.8 million entries. Weber-Mendham's chip then beat out Chicken-and-Waffles and Sriracha in an online vote.

Actress Eva Longoria presented the prize during a ceremony Monday night. Before she won, Weber-Mendham told WSAW TV in Wausau that she'd use the money to help her three children go to college - and she might get a used car and shoes.

In her words, "I'm too middle class to go really crazy."

-- Mike Michalak, WMQA, Minocqua