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Wisconsin roundup: Third western Wis. school threat probed; more state news stories

MENOMONIE — Police in western Wisconsin are investigating a third high school threat within the past week.

Menomonie High School was put on a lockdown for part of the school day on Tuesday, after officials said they found a note in a girls' restroom which read, "I'm going to shoot up this school" with an expletive in the note. Meanwhile, police in Chippewa Falls say a pair of 16-year-old students face juvenile charges for a threat Monday at that city's public high school — and a 15-year-old girl was referred to juvenile officials are a threat written in a bathroom last week at Eau Claire Memorial High.

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Johnson opposes tax overhaul, could derail speedy approval

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson could put a monkey wrench into his party's effort to give President Donald Trump his first big congressional win by the end of the year.

Johnson has become the first GOP senator to come out against the party's major overhaul of the federal tax code — and if two of the three uncommitted Republicans vote no, the party would not have enough votes to pass it. Johnson says the Senate version gives unfair treatment to "pass through" businesses in which owners pay taxes on their personal returns instead of corporate returns.

Johnson used to own such a business, Pacur Plastics of Oshkosh — and reports say he still owns 5 percent of it. Meanwhile, the House is expected to give approval Thursday to a similar tax plan that would cut both personal and business tax rates, drop certain credits and deductions, and add one-point-five trillion dollars to future deficits.

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AAA: State Thanksgiving travel to rise 3.4 percent

MADISON — If you're traveling to your Thanksgiving dinner, you could see a lot more people on the road than last year.

The state's AAA automotive group says more than 1 million Wisconsinites will venture at least 50 miles from home between next Wednesday and Nov. 26 — and that includes 82,000 who will fly someplace. The total increase is 3.4 percent from last year, and AAA says a strong economy and high consumer confidence are encouraging people to hit the road. Nationally, the auto club projects the highest Thanksgiving travel since 2005 — and it won't just be families getting together. Wisconsin's gun deer hunting season takes place the entire holiday weekend, and at least some cheeseheads will fly to Pittsburgh to watch the Packers take on the Steelers.

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Walker challenger wants advisory referendum on pot legalization

MADISON — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Flynn says there's a high financial and personal cost to enforcing drug laws — and that's why he wants a statewide referendum on legalizing marijuana.

Flynn is part of a crowded field of Democrats running against each other next August for the right to go up against Republican Scott Walker next November. The Milwaukee attorney and former state Democratic Party chairman says he's asking lawmakers to call an advisory referendum for next November — the same day of the governor's general election. G-O-P legislative leaders have previously said they're not interested in making marijuana legal. Walker opposes it for both recreational and medicinal purposes.

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UW study links ethanol production to global warming

MADISON — A new UW-Madison study says farm fields are releasing more of the carbon emissions that cause global warming in the years after corn based ethanol was required in gasoline.

The study showed an increase of 7 million acres of cropland in the Midwest — mostly lands that used to be pastures, wetlands, and forests — and as a result, Wisconsin was ranked ninth in the additional releases of carbon from 2008 to 2012. That's after a federal law from 2007 required most gasoline to have ethanol made from corn and sawgrass as 10 percent of its content to reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels.

The study showed changes in the rural landscape through satellite images and other data. But the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group, questioned the validity of the maps and said other university studies "grossly overstated" land use trends in the wake of the ethanol mandate.

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Walker fears Democratic money, not opponent, in 2018 race

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Scott Walker says Democratic groups are moving their focus from national elections to the state level.

As a result, the Wisconsin Republican says he's more afraid about the money the Democrats attract, than which of a dozen or so Democrats will be his opponent next November. Walker chairs the Republican Governors Association, and he spoke to the group in Austin, Texas, this week about Democrat Ralph Northam's 9 point victory in the recent Virginia governor's race — in which Republican Ed Gillespie was expected to run neck and neck. Walker said he wanted to know what drove the turnout in Virginia, what regions and types of voters supported Democrats — and what impact Washington had. Republicans will defend 26 governorships in 2018.

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Bill would let women pick up full year’s supply of birth control

MADISON — A state Assembly Democrat wants to make pharmacies give a full year's supply of certain birth control to women with the proper prescriptions.

Stevens Point Rep. Katrina Shankland says her bill is needed to help women get consistent access to birth control medications, but are now limited to a maximum supply of three months. She says the current restrictions make it hard for women who have multiple jobs, or live in rural areas. Shankland says easier access would give women more control of family planning, and reducing a risk of unplanned pregnancies. Shankland previously introduced a similar measure, but it did not get far in the Republican controlled Legislature.

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Candidate seeks tuition cut for UW’s two-year colleges

MADISON — One of the Democrats who wants Gov. Scott Walker's job says he would try to cut tuition in half for students at the University of Wisconsin System's two year colleges.

Tony Evers says it would help the colleges get stronger, train more workers for good paying jobs, and make higher education more affordable. Evers says a tuition cut would cost less than $20 million a year based on current averages — and he says he'd pay for it by reducing tax breaks for the wealthy. Enrollment at the two year colleges has dropped by about one third since 2010, causing UW-President Ray Cross and the Board of Regents to merge the 13 two year schools with four year campuses in their respective regions.

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DNR says 240 new Wis. waterways are impaired

MADISON — State officials say 240 new waterways in Wisconsin are classified as "impaired," and their pollution will have to be reduced.

The DNR says more than 180 of the newly listed waters are lakes and sections of rivers that have higher phosphorus levels than the standards which took effect seven years ago. DNR water quality director Sharon Gayan says her agency has been looking for waters that need pollution reduction plans — and more than 80 percent of 6,000 waterways that were studied are in good condition. Thirty-five waters were removed from previous impaired listings — and the ones now on the list could get state and/or federal cleanup funds. The new list is on the DNR's website, and the agency is taking public comments on them until Dec. 29.

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Black lawmakers say they need representation on prison panel

MADISON — Four black state Assembly members say at least one of them should be on a task force to study the need for a new prison.

The state budget calls for the governor and legislative leaders to appoint members — and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has named three white lawmakers, Republicans David Steffen, Michael Schraa, and Mark Born. Four black Milwaukee Democrats — Leon Young, Jason Fields, David Bowen, and David Crowley — responded by asking that one of them be named. They say the panel deserves black representation because blacks have a disproportionate percentage of people in prison compared to their share of the state's population. Vos's office says no black lawmakers asked to serve before the speaker made his appointments, and the Senate did appoint one black legislator to the task force, Milwaukee's LaTonya Johnson.

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