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Harsher drunk-driving laws will cost hundreds of millions, say agencies; Fuel-efficient cars mean less money for road work; more state news

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Harsher drunk-driving laws will cost hundreds of millions, say agencies; Fuel-efficient cars mean less money for road work; more state news
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

While Wisconsin lawmakers consider half a dozen bills introduced to crack down on drunken driving in the state, agencies that would have to deal with implementing the changes are talking about the cost.

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The agencies say the state would have to spend about $250 million as it sends thousands of more people to jail. Wisconsin would also have to come up with another $236 million to build almost 20 new jails to hold the people serving time for the offenses.

Surveys have showed Wisconsin has the highest incidence of drunken driving among the 50 states.

Public hearings could be held this summer on the legislation.

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More fuel-efficient cars mean less money for road work

With a looming deficit of more than $63 million, Wisconsin officials are trying to figure out how to pay for road construction and repairs over the next two years.

The state's transportation fund gets its money from gasoline tax revenues and vehicle registration fees. Its troubles come from a precipitous drop in those sources due to things like more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates drivers in Wisconsin will consume 276 million fewer gallons of gas and diesel fuel during the next two-year budget period than the Walker administration has projected.

A governor's task force has suggested increasing the gas tax by five cents a gallon to replace some of the lost money.

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Floating power plant promoted as way to clean algae from lake

The mayor of Adams says algae on Lake Petenwell gets so bad, no one wants to go in the water.

That's why the city wants to partner with Global Environmental Infrastructure Technologies to build a floating solar power plant on the lake. The power plant would clean up blue-green algae by sucking up phosphorus and other contaminants.

The Australian company would build a factory in the Adams Industrial Park near Hwy. 13, making power plant equipment there while using green technology to clean the city's wastewater. Part of a deal could also include powering streetlights.

Initially, the project would create 30 jobs, while an eventually work force of 200 would be possible.

Questions are being raised about a private company building its plant on a public waterway. The Department of Natural Resources is studying the matter.

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Companies divided on Internet sale taxes

Wisconsin businesses offer mixed responses to an effort in the U.S. Senate to require Internet sellers to collect sales taxes.

The businesses would have to send those tax funds to the city where the buyer lives.

A Milwaukee man who sells cheese heads to Packer fans thinks a tax like that would reduce his sales. Other brick-and-mortar business owners say not charging sales taxes for Internet purchases is an unfair advantage for businesses like Amazon.com. They say forcing online sellers to collect the sales taxes would level the playing field.

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Tougher penalties proposed for hitting or pushing lawmakers

Penalties may be ramped up for individuals who hit, shove or kick a Wisconsin lawmaker or his or her family members.

Assemblyman Garey Bies is sponsoring the bill. The Republican from Sister Bay says harassment of lawmakers has long been an issue, but it has become worse since the law ending collective bargaining for most state workers was signed into effect two years ago.

Bies said he supports freedom of speech but there's a line people shouldn't cross.

Republican state Rep. Samantha Kerkman and Democratic state Senator Lena Taylor are co-sponsors. More than two dozen states have similar laws on the books.

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GOP convention starts Friday near Wausau

Wausau is getting ready for a visit by hundreds of Republicans this weekend.

The 2013 Republican Party of Wisconsin State Convention starts Friday and runs through Sunday at The Patriot Center in Rothschild.

Several high-profile speakers are on the agenda, including Gov. Scott Walker, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and congressmen Sean Duffy and Paul Ryan.

The party is expecting a crowd of about 800 people to attend. Organizers say there will be some talk about policy, but the annual gathering is more about energizing the base and creating the potential to reach more voters.

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Three found dead in Wiota home

The Lafayette County Sheriff's Department says a Sunday morning call led deputies to a home with three dead bodies inside.

The caller said there was a dead person inside a home in the town of Wiota in a rural area in South Wayne. When deputies arrived, they found three people dead.

Authorities later found a "person of interest" in the crime in southeastern Wisconsin. A Ford F-150 pickup truck they were looking for has also been found.

The bodies were discovered at about 10 a.m. Sunday with the truck and person of interest tracked down several hours later. Authorities say they arrested a suspect at an apartment complex in Waukesha.

The names of the victims are being withheld, and authorities are not saying how they died.

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Wisconsin air shows go on without military jet teams

The absence of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds isn't expected to have much effect on Wisconsin's two largest air shows.

Federal budget cuts grounded the military's top jet demonstration teams, cancelling their seasons. The U.S. Army Parachute Team known as the Golden Knights has been grounded too.

The head of the Milwaukee Air and Water Show said it will have a strong lineup without the Thunderbirds and Golden Knights. Organizers of the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture in Oshkosh said their event is more of a convention any way, and it's never relied on military performances.

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Monk accused of trying to kidnap girl

Illinois authorities report they are holding a 57-year-old Benedictine monk from Wisconsin on charges of attempted child abduction.

Thomas Chmura was arrested last week. Police say a 14-year-old girl was walking along a road in Antioch, Ill., when a man in a station wagon stopped and asked if she needed a ride. The girl ran away, and the suspect drove off.

The teen gave police a description of the man and his car, and Chmura was arrested.

He had reportedly been living at St. Benedict's Abbey in Benet Lake for more than 30 years.

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Milwaukee officer shoots, kills suspect

For the second time in a week, a Milwaukee police officer has used deadly force.

The Saturday night incident is being investigated.

Officers were called to a house where a man with two knives was allegedly threatening to kill a relative. The caller said the 46-year-old man had a history of using violence against members of his family.

When police arrived on the scene, the man advanced on them, refusing to drop his weapons. One officer shot and killed him.

Just last Wednesday, Milwaukee police killed a 45-year-old man who also refused to drop his weapon.

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Missing man case solved

The Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department is looking for relatives of a man who disappeared 27 years ago.

Some determination and a little bit of 21st Century technology helped track down what happened to Harry Ballard, who was reported missing in March 1986. The courts declared Ballard, who had drinking problems, dead in 1990. But his body was never discovered - until now.

The search led to Florida where Ballard had been sleeping in a van. He died of natural causes shortly after he was reported missing. A positive identification was made this month using fingerprints on file with Dade County.

Ballard was 59 when he went missing, and his wife has died. Manitowoc County Coroner Curtis Green says notification will be made when relatives are found.

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After 38 years in mental hospital, jury says killer can be released

A Waukesha jury decided 54-year-old Alan Randall can go free, 38 years after he killed police officers Rocky Atkins and Wayne Olson.

A six-person jury decided Thursday afternoon that Randall, convicted in 1977 of killing, should be allowed conditional release.

Randall was 16 years old at the time. He was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect and was committed to a state mental hospital.

Randall won't be free until after a July hearing to determine the conditions of his release. Until then, he will remain in the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison where he has been for several years.

His doctors say he has been free of mental disease for some time. Randall had tried to win his release at least four times over the years. He had been turned down every time, previously.

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