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Panel will decide on DNA-collection question, 'double-dipping'; house explosion levels one- damages five near Eau Claire; more state news

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News River Falls,Wisconsin 54022
Hudson Star Observer
Panel will decide on DNA-collection question, 'double-dipping'; house explosion levels one- damages five near Eau Claire; more state news
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

MADISON -- A legislative panel will decide on Thursday whether the new state budget should let police collect DNA samples from people who have not been convicted of felonies.


The governor and attorney general want to expand the state's DNA database which police use to find suspects in past- and present crimes. Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget includes $6 million to have law enforcement collect DNA from all those arrested for felonies and sex crimes, plus those convicted of misdemeanors. Offenders would pay for the extra sampling with surcharges of up to $250 on their fines.

Law enforcement compares DNA to fingerprints - but DNA contains a person's health and genetic information, plus prospects about their future health.

For that reason, the American Civil Liberties Union and others call the proposed measure an invasion of privacy.

If approved, Wisconsin would join 25 other states and the federal government in collecting DNA upon felony arrests.

Career paths uncertain for thousands of Wisconsin college grads

Thousands of Wisconsin college students graduated over the weekend - and many still face uncertain job prospects in the wake of the Great Recession.

UW Madison career services' director Leslie Kohlberg said hiring for new graduates is up, but it's still well below the pace from 2008 before the recession began in earnest.

As a result, Kohlberg said graduates have toned down expectations for their first jobs out of school.

She told WISC TV in Madison that before the recession "They thought they were going to get six-figure salaries and bonuses."

Kohlberg said today's graduates have been in college throughout the weak economy. Still, she said more employers are hiring these days, and starting salaries are going up in many college degree fields.

In Milwaukee Sunday, comedian Bill Cosby received an honorary doctorate degree at Marquette. He told the grads to remember their school's values of respect, integrity, and a responsibility to serve others.

At UW Milwaukee, Baseball Commissioner and former Brewers' owner Bud Selig told grads to have an impact on others - and he cited Jackie Robinson as an example. Robinson broke the Major League color barrier, and the UW M baseball team plans to retire his Number 42 after this spring.

Committee will decide on 'double-dipping' by public employees

MADISON -- The legislative committee that's working on the new state budget will decide Tuesday whether it should ban double-dipping by public employees.

The Joint Finance Committee will consider Gov. Scott Walker's plan to discourage workers from returning a short time after they retire, and then collect both a pension and a paycheck.

The current law is designed to have experienced people mind the store until their replacements can get hired.

School districts are among those opposing Walker's measure, saying it would be harder to fill jobs with the highest needs.

The subject became a bone-of-contention in 2011, after a UW Green Bay official joined others in retiring out of fear that Walker would reduce his pension - only to return to the same job later in a pre-arranged deal with his bosses.

Under the budget measure, retirees would have to wait 75 days to return to government service instead of the present 30 days.

If they work more than two-thirds of a full schedule, they'd have to stop taking pension money and pay into the retirement system again.

Senator expects compromise to Walker's quest for right to sell state property

MADISON -- The Senate chair of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee expects a compromise to the governor's proposed authority to sell off state property to pay down the government's debt.

Republican Alberta Darling said she was surprised that Gov. Scott Walker's plan allows for the selling of highways and prisons and she wants lawmakers to have more of a say.

The finance panel will decide tomorrow whether the Walker plan, or a part of it, should be in the next state budget. The state owes about $8 billion and Walker proposed the sell-off plan to reduce the debt.

The UW System is up-in-arms about it. They say dormitories that were funded with student fees could end up paying for new highways instead. Student leaders also fear that their campus union buildings would no longer be controlled by their schools.

Milwaukee businessman Sheldon Lubar donated millions to build academic facilities at UW Madison and Milwaukee. He said he could never imagine that the structures he helped build could go to an outside party. Lubar believes it could hurt the university's fund-raising.

The governor would be allowed to negotiate with buyers, without having to go through a public bidding process.

Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards says he's against what he calls a "fire sale" process.

The administration says it sought broad selling authority because it does not yet have an inventory of all state properties - and its focus is to sell things like land for expanded highways that was not needed.

Bill would protect employees who refuse flu shots

MADISON -- A proposed bill would make Wisconsin the first state to prohibit employers from firing workers who refuse to get flu shots.

Assembly Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac is seeking co-sponsors for his bill, after some hospital workers and health care contractors said they were fired for refusing to be vaccinated.

In a memo, Thiesfeldt told his colleagues "No one should have to choose between losing employment and having a large, ineffective vaccine injured into their body."

Many health care providers require their employees to get flu shots to protect themselves from sick patients.

Wisconsin's current law protects workers who refuse to get vaccinated for religious reasons, but Thiesfeldt says it's not enough.

UW Health in Madison requires its workers to get vaccinated once-a-year but there are exceptions for medical and religious reasons.

UW Health spokesman Lisa Brunette says she can remember of no one being fired for not getting a flu shot.

Aurora Health Care says 95 percent of its workers are vaccinated, with nobody let go for not complying.

DNR board will decide on 140-acre purchase near Oconomowoc

MADISON -- The state Natural Resources Board will decide on Wednesday whether to buy 140 acres near Oconomowoc that would fill a gap in the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Robert and Renotta Thompson are offering the land for $720,000. That's less than some recent appraisals, which showed that the property could be sold for up to $980,000 for single-family homes.

The couple wants to prevent development. The land has a variety of trees and plants, and the Oconomowoc River runs through it just before it empties into Loew Lake.

Renotta Thompson says she has hiked and skied on every square inch of the place, and the public should have a chance to do the same.

Investigation continues into Eau Claire-area home explosion

EAU CLAIRE -- Authorities are trying to figure out why a house exploded yesterday near Eau Claire.

The family who lived there was away on vacation, and nobody was hurt. Their house was leveled, and five others received damage.

The blast was reported just after noon Sunday in the Eau Claire County town of Washington.

Media reports said the blast was so strong, it tossed a mattress onto a roadway.

A neighbor, Gary Streveler, said his house became uninhabitable as a result of the blast. He told reporters that his walls cracked and windows were blown out.

Officials do not believe that foul play was involved in the blast. The Red Cross is helping those affected by the damage.

Rhinelander man dies in ATV crash

RHINELANDER -- An investigation continues into a weekend all-terrain vehicle crash that killed a 49-year-old man from Rhinelander.

Lincoln County authorities said the man's ATV was heading east on a trail when it veered out of control and slammed into a tree. The man died a short time later at a Merrill hospital.

The accident occurred early Saturday evening in the Lincoln County town of Harrison, near Merrill.

Investigators said the rider was wearing a helmet, but it was not secured properly. Speed appeared to be the main factor. Officers do not believe alcohol had anything to do with it.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Girl dies after bicycle struck by SUV

MILWAUKEE -- A teenage bicyclist died Sunday, after being struck the day before by a sport utility vehicle in suburban Milwaukee.

Police said a 15-year-old Greenfield girl was crossing a street from the New Berlin Recreational Trail, when she was hit by the southbound vehicle.

The girl died Sunday at Milwaukee's Froedtert Hospital. Her name was not immediately released. Police are still investigating.

Justice probing weekend shooting death by Madison Police

MADISON -- The state Justice Department has taken over the investigation of a weekend shooting death by Madison Police.

Brent Brozek, 43, was killed Friday night after a day-long standoff.

Police were trying to remove Brozek from his condo, where he was evicted after it was put under foreclosure proceedings.

Officials said Brozek charged at officers with a large sword. Officers then used bean-bag rounds to try and arrest the man without killing him.

He reportedly made a second charge, and was shot at that point.

Three Madison officers are on paid leave, pending an internal investigation.

Tomahawk woman scammed -- but it could have been worse

TOMAHAWK -- An elderly Tomahawk woman lost $1,000 in a contest scam but she could have lost over $8,000 if her daughter hadn't come to the rescue.

Lincoln County authorities said the victim got a phone call, claiming she won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes - but to get the prize, she had to send in $3,500 for processing. After she took the bait, the caller later demanded a $4,000 money order, plus a pair of money cards totaling $1,000.

The woman told her daughter what happened. She called a bank to stop payment of the check and the money order. The scammer had already used the money cards.

Officials have told us many times that we should never claim a prize for a contest we don't enter - and if we win, we should never pay anything to claim a prize.

Authorities say many elderly people might be too confused to get the message, and they could get hit upon by slick salesmen who are very good at preying on their targets.

Officials urge folks to teach their elderly relatives and friends about these scams.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau