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Same-sex license issue no longer partisan; participants sought for Asian trade mission; more state stories

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River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Gay marriage is no longer a red- versus blue issue. Wisconsinites are seeing new evidence of that, as counties decide for themselves whether to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

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Fifty counties have gone against a directive by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to keep enforcing the state's ban on gay marriage even though Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled it unconstitutional last Friday.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says 27 of the 36 counties carried by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 are now allowing same-sex marriages and so are 23 of the 36 counties that went with Republican Mitt Romney.

At first, the aftermath of the Crabb decision appeared to follow party lines, as the heavily-Democratic counties of Milwaukee and Dane were the first to issue marriage licenses to gay couples starting late Friday. Other counties followed suit on Monday.

A third of them are still holding back to either get more guidance from state officials, or to see how Judge Crabb handles the case as it moves forward. She and a federal appeals court are deciding whether to put her Friday decision on hold while it's being challenged in the higher courts.

Fifty-nine percent of state voters approved the state constitutional gay marriage ban in 2006 but a recent Marquette poll shows that 55 percent of registered voters now believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, while 37 percent said no.

Duffy-sponsored provision adds $10 million for rural homelessness

WASHINGTON D.C. -- The U.S. House has approved a spending bill that includes a Wisconsin Republican's effort to help rural residents who are on the brink of homelessness.

Wausau area Republican Sean Duffy moved to add $10 million to the Rural Housing Stability Assistance program.

His amendment was approved on a voice vote, as part of a Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations bill for the fiscal year starting in October. Duffy's measure was spurred by a campaign he conducted last year to prevent hunger and homelessness in his large and rural north central Wisconsin district.

He said rural America is too often forgotten but the pain of poverty is just as great, even though it's different. Instead of families living on the street, Duffy said up to three families have been known to crowd into a one-bedroom apartment so kids can have shelter.

Duffy's amendment would provide money to a program that never got funded since it was created in 2009. The larger housing bill got final passage last night on a vote of 229- to 192. Menomonee Falls Republican Jim Sensenbrenner joined the state's three Democrats in voting no.

-- WSAU, Wausau

Incumbents overcome challenges, will remain on primary ballot

Four Wisconsin legislative incumbents will stay on the August primary ballot, despite efforts to remove them.

The Government Accountability Board rejected challenges Tuesday to nomination papers for Senate Republican Frank Lasee of De Pere, Assembly Republican Kathy Bernier of the Chippewa Falls area, and Milwaukee Assembly Democrats JoCasta Zamarripa and Mandela Barnes.

Their nominating signatures were challenged for a number of reasons, but the Board said all four had enough valid signatures to be on the ballot.

Democrats argued that Lasee actually lives in Racine, and not in his Green Bay area district. Lasee provided documentation of his residence. He also mentioned the need for his wife to maintain a residence in Racine, due to child custody arrangements.

The board said there was not enough evidence to prove that Lasee doesn't live in northeast Wisconsin. Earlier Tuesday, the Board allowed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Brett Hulsey and congressional candidates Gary George and Jeremy Ryan to stay on their primary ballots. It cleared the way for Hulsey to run against Democrat Mary Burke for governor in August.

Former state senator George will run against Milwaukee House Democrat Gwen Moore. State Capitol protester Ryan will oppose Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan in their primary.

Businesses invited to join trade mission to Asia

MADISON -- State officials are looking for businesses to take part in an 11-day trade mission to Singapore and Indonesia.

Deputy Secretary Ryan Murray of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will be the state's lead official on the trip, which takes place from Aug. 11th-22nd. The governor normally goes on trade missions but Scott Walker is sitting this one out, at a time when his re-election bid will be heating up.

Wisconsin companies will have a chance to find new business opportunities in the Far East, especially in water technology, in which Singapore is regarded as a worldwide leader.

Dean Amhaus, CEO of Milwaukee's Water Council, says Singapore does a lot of water research and it would be a real coup for Wisconsin companies if they can help Singapore address its issues.

The WEDC says medical equipment is another major emphasis during the trade mission along with defense and security businesses, energy power, aviation and aerospace, food processing, and various agricultural areas.

The deadline for businesses to apply is July 1st.

Milwaukee man jailed for federal contract fraud

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee man will spend five months in jail for taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks as part of a federally-funding training program for minority contractors.

Homer Key, 69, was convicted by a jury last month of conspiracy, theft by fraud, and forgery in a scheme he carried out with the program's leader, Frieda Webb. She was put on a year of probation Monday, after her case was bargained down to misdemeanor theft.

Besides the jail time, Key must also spend 2.5 years on probation and perform 100 hours of community service. If he doesn't follow the terms, he'll go to prison for 15 months.

Webb hired Key in a series of no-bid contracts that paid him up to $40,000 a year for seven years ending in 2011. The judge said county officials had rubber-stamped whatever Webb did while Key did hardly anything but her conduct with key was at the center of the problem

Webb and Key said they never committed a crime, and their final contract was meant to correct earlier payment errors.

Fallen officer-pilot remembered 30 years after tragedy

BARABOO -- An open house took place in Baraboo Tuesday to remember a Sauk County sheriff's sergeant killed in a helicopter crash 30 years ago.

Stuart Searles was responding to the tornado which virtually destroyed nearby Barneveld. He had just dropped off former Gov. Tony Earl, so he could assess the tornado damage. Searles then flew up to Merrimac to pick up the county sheriff when his chopper started on fire.

WKOW TV of Madison said the pilot was frantically trying to put out the flames and he was planning to crash-land the helicopter in the Wisconsin River so nobody else would be hurt, but the chopper did not get that far. It crashed in a field near Merrimac.

Sauk County lieutenant Terry Spencer said almost his entire department was playing in a law enforcement softball tournament that day. He said Searles' death was never forgotten, and he and his fellow officers could never really heal from it.

Wisconsin deemed 'average' place to live -- well behind Minnesota

Wisconsin is about average when it comes to being a good place to make a living. That's according to www.moneyrates.com.

Its annual survey ranks Wisconsin as the 24th best state in which to make a living. That's based on things like average salaries, the cost of living, workplace conditions, and employment rates.

Neighboring Minnesota is the third best, behind only Texas and first-place Washington. Hawaii is ranked 50th.

Judge orders media restrictions at stabbing suspects' hearing

MILWAUKEE -- Two 12-year-old Waukesha girls are due back in adult court today, for allegedly stabbing another girl 19 times in allegiance to a fictional horror character.

Circuit Judge Michael Bohren is scheduled to meet with attorneys on both sides at 1:15, to review the status of the case against Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser. Both are currently charged with attempted homicide in the May 31st incident.

Their attorneys have said they'll try to get the youngsters into juvenile court, with a chance for more treatment and earlier releases. If they're found delinquent, they could be held until they turn 25 but if they're convicted as adults, each could get up to 65 years in prison.

Previous reports indicated that the stabbing victim was near death before starting to recover. All three students go to Horning Middle School in Waukesha.

On Tuesday, Judge Bohren ordered news media covering Wednesday's proceeding not to photograph the defendants' faces.

Attorneys for the Wisconsin Broadcasters and Newspaper associations filed a challenge to the judge's order, saying there's no need for it because the suspects' photos have been published worldwide online. They were photographed at their initial adult court appearance, where bonds of a $500,000 each were set.

Toddler recovering after ingesting cocaine

LOMIRA -- A two-year-old child is recovering, after swallowing a tiny amount of cocaine at a home in Lomira in Fond du Lac County.

Sheriff's deputies are still trying to find out how the toddler came in contact with the drug. Rescuers were called to a house in Lomira on Sunday night, to help a child who was not feeling well.

The toddler was taken to a Fond du Lac hospital, where tests showed that the youngster injected cocaine. The child was then sent to a Milwaukee hospital.

Sheriff Pat Ninmann tells the Fond du Lac Reporter that the toddler is doing well. His parents had just moved into their apartment, and the sheriff says they are not suspected of any law violations.

Door County added to ash borer quarantine list

Door County has become the 22nd in Wisconsin to be quarantined for the tree-killing emerald ash borer.

The green beetle was found last week on private land south of Fish Creek. The USDA confirmed the bug's presence Tuesday.

Firewood is a common carrier of the emerald ash borer and with so many campgrounds and cabins in Door County, officials are not surprised that the beetle showed up there.

Still, the ag department's Brian Kuhn says it's always disappointing to find. The ash borer killed millions of trees in the eastern U.S and Canada by the time it found its way to Wisconsin in 2008 in Washington County.

Under the new quarantine, no one can take firewood from Door County to counties which are not quarantined. And businesses must prove to the state that their wood products are pest-free before they can be shipped.

Students lauded for auto repair skills

MILWAUKEE -- Two suburban Milwaukee high school students have won a national auto repair skills contest.

Colt Morris and Justin Bublitz of Grafton won the Ford/Triple-"A" student skills competition Tuesday at the Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.

They and 49 other state champions raced the clock to diagnose problems with a car, and provide solutions. Bublitz and Morris earned a perfect score by fixing all the bugs with no demerit points. They were judged on their quality, workmanship, and safety.

Teams also took a written test which counted toward their final scores. Over 13,000 youngsters competed in the national contest, which encourages high school students to pursue automotive careers while continuing their educations.

Morris will be a senior at Grafton this fall. Bublitz missed his graduation to take part in the event but he said it was more than worth it.

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