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Witness in Schaffhausen trial is due in court today for knife possession; gas down 31 cents from a year ago; UW wins cancer research grant, more state news

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Witness in Schaffhausen trial is due in court today for knife possession; gas down 31 cents from a year ago; UW wins cancer research grant, more state news
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Employees and visitors at the courthouse in Hudson are getting security screenings as they enter the building Monday in the wake of what St. Croix County authorities said was a "potential threat" on Friday while Aaron Schaffhausen's sanity trial was going on.


Sheriff John Shilts declined to say whether the threat was connected to the trial but the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram said one of Schaffhausen's friends who testified on Friday was arrested later that day.

The witness, 31-year-old Joe Rollag, was due in court Monday on possible charges of battery or threats to a witness, and misdemeanor counts of possessing a switch-blade knife and disorderly conduct.

The Eau Claire newspaper quoted a jail officer as saying there was an incident on Friday, the same day authorities announced a vague security issue as the reason for Monday's added security.

The sanity trial is starting its second week. A jury must decide whether Schaffhausen will go to prison or a mental institution, after he admitted killing his three daughters last July at their home in River Falls.

In his testimony, Rollag said he worked with Schaffhausen in Minot after he split from his wife in mid-2011.

Rollag said he did not remember Schaffhausen talking about killing his family - even though he reportedly told that to police after the deaths.

Rollag said he was not on his medication at that time and "What I said may or may not have actually been true."

Few state employees got pay raises last year

MADISON -- Only one of every 14 state government employees got pay raises in the first year that public unions lost most of their bargaining power.

The Wisconsin State Journal said more than half the increases were one-time merit awards and those who did get raises got an average of 6.5 percent - well above the zero- to 2 percent increases given to all workers in the decade before the 2011 bargaining limits.

Almost 2,800 employees were given more money and most are with the UW. The law allows unions to negotiate for raises at-or-below inflation but the biggest unions lost their official state recognition, after they refused to go along with a provision that required annual re-certification votes.

The Wisconsin State Employees Union was among those which stay in business without certification. Director Marty Beil complained that there's no longer objective criteria in granting raises to his members and it can open the door to favoritism.

Compensation consultant Charles Carlson says Wisconsin has excellent public employees and their experience and expertise could be lost if they resign or are replaced.

Gov. Scott Walker's office says the raises that were granted are a good start, and more agencies will offer merit hikes in the future.

Gas is 31 cents less per gallon than a year ago

Gasoline in Wisconsin is about six cents cheaper than last Monday. The state's American Automobile Association said the average price of regular unleaded is $3.62 per gallon on Monday, down a penny from Sunday.

The statewide Triple-"A" average is 31 cents cheaper than on this date a year ago and the web site Milwaukee Gas Prices says regular was as low as $3.30 Monday morning in the state's largest metro.

Greg Laskoski of Gas says the Great Lakes Region could see the highest price increases this summer, once more folks head out for vacations but for now, motorists are getting relative bargains.

Laskoski said numerous refinery problems drove prices up a year ago but there were fewer such problems this spring.

He says Americans are saving $3.5 million a day compared to last year.

Of course, that's still a far cry from the early 1970's - when UW Whitewater students could drive home on a weekend for as low as 19 cents a gallon during a so-called "price war."

-- Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander

Wayward floe leaves ice fishermen stranded

GREEN BAY -- At least nine ice fishermen had to be rescued on the Bay of Green Bay during the weekend.

Authorities said there was still plenty of ice to support the anglers, and even their pickup trucks but winds of up to 40 miles an hour caused the ice to crack and shift away from the shore.

Door County fire departments and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted the rescues on Saturday.

Southern Door Fire Chief Randy Massart said the use of ice-cutters since the shipping season began made it easier for the rest of the ice to shift in high winds.

At least two ice fishermen told the Door County Advocate that they didn't realize they had to be rescued. A Milwaukee angler said they saw a helicopter overhead for two hours, and then an airboat came out to get them.

Massart said that after the cutter goes through, the ice is no longer solid on Green Bay between southern Door County and Marinette.

State's cheese output higher again last month

Wisconsin cheese factories kept increasing their output in February, even with one less day on the calendar.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the Badger State made almost 220 million pounds of cheese, 3.7 percent more than February a year ago which had an extra day because it was a Leap Year.

Once again, Wisconsin bucked the national trend of a lower cheese output. Total U.S. cheese production was 857 million pounds in February, down slightly from the same month last year.

Wisconsin is the nation's top cheese-maker. Second-place California had a 5 percent drop, to 175 million pounds.

UW Madison, 5 others win major cancer research grants

UW Madison and five other research institutions will share $14.5 million for new studies on cancer treatments.

The St. Baldrick's Foundation is providing the money. The research will focus on genomics - studies of DNA to find genetic causes of cancer.

The scientists will then try to find immuno-therapeutic treatments which use the body's own immune system to fight the genetic diseases.

The UW and the five other institutes will analyze childhood cancer genomes and normal tissues to find susceptible molecules on cancer cells, before looking for suitable medicines.

The work begins in July, and the initial tests will be performed on mice.

Sen. Johnson's video drawing big views

About 50,000 people have seen a YouTube video, in which U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson showed how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came down hard on an Iowa farmer.

It's the first of a video series called "Victims of Government," in which the Wisconsin lawmaker wants to highlight those he says have been harmed by a bloated federal government and its excess of red tape and regulations.

Johnson said he wanted to bring back former Wisconsin Senator Bill Proxmire's Golden Fleece Award, which highlighted waste in federal spending, but Johnson said his Oklahoma colleague Tom Coburn's already doing that. So after consulting with conservative author David Horowitz, Johnson developed the idea of showing victims of the federal bureaucracy.

He told CNBC that it's not an anti-government project, rather, a demonstration of how the national government has gotten too large.

Like Proxmire's Fleece Award decades ago, Johnson's project has its critics. The liberal One Wisconsin Now calls it an unproductive effort to trash the government and tax money shouldn't be used for it.

Budget provision would lower interest rate for some who pay child-support

MADISON -- Divorced parents who don't have custody of their kids would pay less interest on their overdue child support, under Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget.

The interest rate on arrears would be temporarily cut from 12 percent to 6 percent for 18 months starting in January, to see if it encourages non-custodial parents to pay more of what they owe.

If it does, the Legislature could extend the lower rate.

The Racine Journal Times said over 14,000 people have past due child support in Racine County alone and they're behind by an average of $13,500.

Andy Smith of the state Department of Children and Families says studies have shown that non-custodial parents are more likely to make payments on the debt when interest is low.

He says it would help children and the parents they live with get the support they need - and it would save tax money by having fewer custodial parents on government assistance.

Dale Schultz, Senate's most moderate Republican, has a challenger if he runs next year

MADISON -- The most moderate Republican in the Wisconsin Senate will have a primary challenger next year if he runs again. G-O-P Representative Howard Marklein of Spring Green said yesterday that he'll run for Dale Schultz's Senate seat 19 months from now. Marklein is in his second two-year term in the Assembly, while Schultz - a 30-year legislative veteran from Richland Center - says he won't decide until this fall whether he'll run again. Schultz rankled hard-line Republicans by voting against the GOP's mining incentive legislation two years in a row. He has also formed an alliance with veteran Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville, calling for an end to the divisiveness and polarization that's been a hallmark in recent years in both Madison and Washington.

Marklein did not criticize Schultz in his Senate campaign announcement, but he did say he supported the mining bill. Marklein, an accountant, says he would keep trying to provide tools that help businesses grow.

Schultz said he votes with Republicans almost 99 percent of the time and he thought it was enough to avoid a primary challenge.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Democrats believe they have a chance to win the seat if someone more conservative than Schultz goes on the ballot.

Two killed in Sheboygan area crash Sunday

SHEBOYGAN -- Two people were killed Sunday evening in a traffic crash near Sheboygan Falls, and two others were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

It happened just before 7 p.m. on Highway 32 at Sheboygan County Trunk "J."

The county road was closed for about two hours for clean-up and investigation. Authorities have not yet released the victims' names or any other details of the accident.

Bill would negate high court ruling on doctor-to-patient treatment advice

MADISON -- A new bill in the state Legislature would nullify a Supreme Court ruling on what doctors have to tell patients about alternative treatments.

Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon says medical costs will go up because doctors would have to expand their "informed consent" duties but Democrats say patients would be hurt in the process.

The court ruling said doctors must tell patients about tests and treatments that might be appropriate for their symptoms - even if it involves diseases the patients don't have.

The court's action was in the case of a man with Bell's Palsy. His doctor ordered tests that ruled out one type of stroke but another test was not ordered which would have alerted the patient to a second type of stroke that he suffered less than two weeks later.

Sports broadcast pioneer dead at 78

MILWAUKEE -- The man who turned Milwaukee's WTMJ radio into a powerhouse of sports broadcasting died over the weekend.

Bill Haig, 78, died in a hospice care unit, after being ill for several years. He was a Milwaukee area native who worked at radio stations in Waukesha and Duluth before spending 16 years at WTMJ.

During that time, it became the flagship radio stations for live game broadcasts for the Brewers, Bucks, Green Bay Packers, and Wisconsin Badger football and basketball.

Haig helped WTMJ maintain statewide radio networks for all of those teams.

In 1980, Haig joined the Milwaukee Brewers as a vice-president for broadcast operations. He held that post until he retired in 1997.

Officials of WTMJ's parent company, Journal Communications, said Haig was known throughout Wisconsin for a tireless work ethic, an encouragement of young broadcasters, and a keen understanding of what sports means to people.