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Gov. Walker to visit New Richmond Friday; bat disease now confirmed here; 8 more state stories

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Gov. Walker to visit New Richmond Friday; bat disease now confirmed here; 8 more state stories
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker will tour the Cancer Center of Western Wisconsin at 2 p.m., Friday in New Richmond, his office announced Thursday.

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There no indication of Walker's agenda or why he was making the visit. He also has appearances planned Friday at Green Bay and Milwaukee so he's not expected to stay long.

Look for details of his visit at www.newrichmond-news.com later in the day.

Walker is also expected to sign a bill Friday to help Milwaukee Police learn when-and-where gunshots are being fired on a real-time basis.

The bill-signing ceremony is scheduled at a police station. The state will provide $175,000 to expand the city's "Shot-Spotter" program.

Right now, the program's equipment alerts officers when shots are fired in a radius of three square miles. The new funding will expand the zone to ten square miles.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Ed Flynn also plan to use the occasion to repeat their call for tighter state gun laws.

They said the accidental shooting of a two-year-old boy while he was watching cartoons on Wednesday night again highlights the need to get guns out of criminals' hands. The toddler was wounded when somebody fired a shot from an alley into a north side home.

Flynn said the incident appears to involve retaliation against recent residents of the house -- not the current ones. The boy's family said he was about to have a second operation, but he's alert and his prognosis appears to be good.

White nose syndrome now killing bats here

MADISON -- Just hours after a devastating bat disease was confirmed in Wisconsin, we learned that it's knocking on the state's territorial door from Upper Michigan.

The DNR in that state said Thursday that white nose syndrome was confirmed in bats located in three counties -- including Dickinson County in the UP, which is very close to Marinette and Florence counties in far northeast Wisconsin.

Officials have warned for several years that white-nose syndrome would hit Wisconsin at any time, after it was found close to the Badger State in neighboring Iowa and Illinois. Yesterday, the Wisconsin DNR said the disease finally arrived.

Results from visual inspection and genetic and tissue tests completed earlier this month showed that 2 percent of bats in a single mine in southwestern Wisconsin had the disease, named for the characteristic white fuzz on their nose, wings and tails, according to Erin Crain, who leads the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

"The discovery is not a surprise but it's a sad day for Wisconsin. We face the loss of multiple bat species and the benefits they provide to our ecosystems and our people," Crain says.

"We knew this day would come because white-nose syndrome spreads rapidly bat to bat and bat to cave. With great cooperation from mine and cave owners, we took aggressive steps to prevent human spread of the disease to Wisconsin, and we think those steps helped delay its arrival by several years, allowing more time for research and to learn from other states' experiences. But we knew there would be no dodging the bullet. We now face the sad potential of bat die offs that will be felt at home and across the country."

Wisconsin is home to several of the upper Midwest's largest bat hibernation sites and historical estimates have put the population at 350,000 to 500,000 bats.

It was confirmed in bats hibernating at an old mine in Grant County in the southwest part of the state. Officials were quick to point out that white-nose syndrome does not directly affect humans. But it does have the potential to wipe out entire species of bats that protect people, by eating the bugs that damage farm crops and the infectious mosquitoes that could give you Lyme disease or the West Nile virus.

It also affects tourism, as many cave visitors must wipe their shoes so they don't spread anything. White-nose syndrome has killed nearly 6 million bats in the U.S. and northeast Canada since it was first spotted in New York in 2006.

Wisconsin citizens can help bats by continuing to avoid disturbing bats, especially during hibernation; by following all decontamination requirements for those who enter caves or mines, and by continuing to volunteer to monitor bat populations in Wisconsin through a variety of different opportunities. Wisconsin's four bat cave species are listed as threatened, a status which makes it illegal to kill them or take action that would result in their death. Learn more about bats and volunteering opportunities on DNR's Bat Program website, found at http://wiatri.net/inventory/bats.

People who see sick or dead bats are encouraged to report them to DNR. DNR's Bat Program website, http://wiatri.net/inventory/bats has a link to the reporting form and instructions for how to safely collect carcasses of dead bats. People should not touch or handle bats without appropriate protective clothing.

"Now more than ever we need Wisconsinites' help to keep our bats as healthy as they can heading into next year's hibernation period and the challenges they will face," Crain says.

Ryan-crafted budget passes on a party line vote

WASHINGTON D.C. --A federal budget alternative crafted by Janesville Republican Paul Ryan passed the House Thursday on a party line vote.

Wisconsin's other four GOP members joined Ryan in voting yes. The state's three Democrats voted no.

Ryan, the House budget chair, said his package would put the nation on a path toward prosperity by balancing the budget within a decade. Just like the last three years, the Democrat-controlled Senate has no plans to take up the House budget.

Some Democrats said they'd use it to campaign against Republican House members who are running against Senate incumbents this fall.

House speaker John Boehner calls the Ryan plan "our vision for getting Americans back to work." Ryan says Congress owes the country an alternative budget which grows the economy, pays off the deficit, and lowers the long-term national debt.

It includes key provisions Ryan has offered in the past -- like giving seniors less-expensive vouchers for Medicaid instead of covering their bills directly.

Democrats said the Ryan budget would harm the economy by cutting social safety-net programs, and reducing the top federal income tax rate. It also includes higher defense spending.

Minnesota Senate bill contains tax reciprocity initiative

State senators in Minnesota want Gov. Mark Dayton's people to try and resolve a dispute with Wisconsin over income tax reciprocity.

The request is included in a bill passed by the Senate which would give a new round of tax cuts to businesses, veterans, volunteer firefighters, and transit riders in the Gopher State. It's different from a House version, and talks would have to take place to hammer out a final version.

The Senate bill shows that Minnesota lawmakers remain concerned about the reciprocity issue, after their former Gov. Tim Pawlenty ended a long-time agreement between Wisconsin and Minnesota in 2009. It allowed border residents who live in one state and work in the other to file state income tax returns only with their home states.

Wisconsin balked at paying a designated amount of tax credits to Minnesotans to make up for the Badger State's higher income taxes. Since the last agreement was scrapped, thousands of border residents have had to file income tax returns with both states.

-- Minnesota News Network

Man dies in overnight house fire

MILWAUKEE -- A man was killed in a house fire overnight in Milwaukee.

Officials said it began around 10:50 p.m. Thursday in a rear cottage on the city's north side.

Firefighters pulled the man from the burning house and took him to a hospital -- where he died a short time later.

There was no immediate word on what caused the blaze. Fire officials said the house did not have smoke detectors.

Former Northwestern dean named new UW-Madison provost

MADISON -- The arts and sciences dean at Northwestern University will become the new provost at U-W Madison.

Sarah Mangelsdorf has been named to replace Paul DeLuca, who said last summer he wanted to return to the campus faculty. Mangelsdorf is also a professor of psychology and an expert in child development. Besides being the provost, she'll also be Madison's vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The provost coordinates student and faculty life on campus, and becomes the top executive when the chancellor is away. Mangelsdorf won the job over three other finalists.

Justice promises more compassion for female victims

MADISON -- The state Justice Department will soon do more to protect female victims of sensitive crimes.

Justice official Jill Karofsky says there will soon be a new assistant attorney general whose only job is to train police Officers to protect female victims. She also said the Attorney General's Statewide Sexual Assault Response Team is doing a lot to help. On Thursday, Attorney General J.B Van Hollen spoke at a ceremony at the Capitol on the 30th anniversary of the federal Victims of Crime Act which uses surcharges from offenders to provide critical services for victims without making taxpayers spend more.

Van Hollen said there's been a lot of progress in the fight, but more needs to be done.

In the Rhinelander area, Melissa Dailey of a regional domestic violence and sexual assault council says too many people still blame victims for their plight -- and the focus needs to be put back onto the perpetrators.

Members of her group are speaking to school students this month, which is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

-- Jackie Johnson, Wisconsin Radio Network and Ken Krall, WXPR-Rhinelander

Oshkosh workers 'blind-sided' by latest job cuts

OSHKOSH -- The main employee union at the Oshkosh Corporation said it was blindsided by Thursday's announcement that up to 760 military vehicle jobs will be cut in June.

United Auto Workers' local president Joe Priesler calls the news "gut-wrenching." He said the union worked with the company in the last year to soften the blow, as defense spending cuts have reduced the numbers of new vehicles needed by the armed services.

Oshkosh vice president John Urias said the firm did what it could to delay the impact of the Pentagon spending cuts on the company's defense division. Spokesman John Daggett said employment remained strong during the recession -- and with the improved economy, those being let go should have a better chance of finding new work.

Oshkosh plans job fairs to help those being laid-off, as it eliminates about 700 hourly positions, plus 60 salaried posts. The company says no major military vehicle contracts are on the horizon.

Oshkosh is one of three contractors in the running to build a next-generation type of Humvee for the Army and the Marines, but even if Oshkosh wins the contract, production won't begin until 2016 at the earliest.

Racine DA surrenders license for a year

RACINE -- Racine County's chief prosecutor will lose his driver's license for a year, after he agreed to plead guilty to driving drunk last weekend.

Racine Police said District Attorney Rich Chiapete struck a traffic signal and a tree last Friday night, then went to his home which was nearby. When police knocked on his door, he said he had been sleeping.

On Thursday, his attorney said Chiapete wanted to take responsibility for his actions. So he agreed to plead guilty to municipal charges of OWI and hit-and-run, plus a new count of obstructing an officer.

Chiapete agreed to pay just over $1,200 by mid-June, and have his driver's license revoked for a year. When it's restored, the DA can only drive vehicles with interlock sobriety tubes for the next year.

A municipal judge must still approve the plea agreement.

Railroad ordered to pay injured conductor

MILWAUKEE -- A railroad has been ordered to pay $350,000 to a conductor who was fired for not saying quickly enough that he was hurt on the job in Manitowoc.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the fine yesterday against the Wisconsin Central -- and the railroad was ordered to give the man his job back. The company's parent firm, Canadian National, says it disagrees with the penalty and is considering an appeal. OSHA (oh-shuh) said the conductor was injured during a 60-day probationary period. He reported his injury the day it occurred, but not until after his work shift ended. OSHA said the railroad fired him on his last day of probation, claiming he didn't report the injury early enough.

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