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Wisconsin roundup: Old remark by Zimmerman raises criticism; girl, 6, bags buck; more state news stories

Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, faced criticism this week after a video surfaced of him making comments about how women communicate. File photo

RIVER FALLS — A state representative who's trying to get elected to the Senate is the latest public figure to be questioned about his attitudes toward women.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was given a video of River Falls Republican Shannon Zimmerman's remarks in a lecture four years ago at UW-River Falls — and he was talking about his role in a translation service company called Sajan when he joked that his own employees' language could be the toughest to translate and said a woman sometimes says one thing but means another. The audience laughed, and Zimmerman told the Journal Sentinel the remark was a "lighthearted attempt to address communication barriers."

But a spokeswoman for the liberal group One Wisconsin Now called the remark inappropriate. Zimmerman is running against Assembly Republican Adam Jarchow in a Dec. 19 primary for the Senate seat given up by River Falls Republican Sheila Harsdorf when she became the new state agriculture secretary.

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Girl, 6, shoots buck, thanks to new law

MADISON — A 6-year-old girl is among the first, if not the first, to shoot a deer as the result of a new state law that lets kids younger than ten hunt with mentors for the first time.

The DNR tweeted Monday that Tyler Harris had "tears of joy" when his young daughter Lexi got her first buck Sunday and posed for warden Randy Dunkel. Officials did not say where the buck was taken, or where the Harrises were from — but Dunkel is the game warden for Marathon County which includes Wausau and part of Marshfield. Meanwhile, the DNR was poised to release totals for deer shot Saturday and Sunday — the opening weekend of the nine day gun season.

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Felon arrested for possessing rifle he used to hunt deer

SHIOCTON — Convicted felons in Wisconsin are not supposed to have guns, and a convict who went deer hunting learned that lesson the hard way.

Thirty-four-year-old Travis Schroeder of Bear Creek shot a 10-point buck Sunday that the DNR confiscated, along with his Ruger .270 deer rifle. He was also arrested for illegal firearm possession by a felon.

Outagamie County sheriff's deputies say they were called to check out a trespassing complaint near Shiocton — and that's when they saw that Schoreder bagged his buck. It was taken away after officers learned that he was convicted in 2008. Online court records show that he was convicted on three counts of breaking into motor homes while six other charges were dropped in a plea deal.

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Top Assembly Democrat tours Lincoln Hills

IRMA — The Wisconsin Assembly's minority leader was one of two Democrats touring the troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile institution Monday.

Gordon Hintz joined Milwaukee Democrat David Bowen in meeting with present and former employees about reported abuses of both youth inmates and staffers. Retired youth counselor Doug Curtis tells WAOW-TV it's the first time he could speak in depth with lawmakers since the assaults of staffers occurred after the July federal court order to ease off on punishments for inmate behavior.

Bowen says what he heard made him even more concerned about the state of affairs at Lincoln Hills — and it's clear that more staffers are needed. That remark came on the same day the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that three of every ten jobs at Lincoln Hills are either vacant or have people on leave — and the state corrections' department vowed to fill every vacancy.

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State elections panel seeks more staff to catch up, boost security

MADISON — The state Elections Commission will seek legislative approval to add three staffers, after five were vetoed by Gov. Scott Walker in the new state budget.

The head of the agency's board, Mark Thomsen, says two of the new people would boost security in the state's voting systems after reports that Russians tried to hack those systems in the 2016 presidential contest. Elections' administrator Mike Haas says his office is also "falling behind" in its "normal and traditional" tasks — and the rest of us might not see it until its gets closer to next year's elections. Haas says existing state and federal money could pay for the three new positions, but it's likely that legislative approval would be necessary.

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School report cards: Good grades for most, but some in question

MADISON — The second annual Wisconsin school report cards are out — and for the second time, state officials urge caution in the way we interpret them.

The Department of Public Instruction says a "value added calculation" required by state law caused major fluctuations from last year in the scores for 162 schools and 24 districts. If there's a change of more than 10 points either way, the DPI says statistical issues might be to blame, more than a school's actual performance. The report did say that 1,671 schools — met or exceeded the state's expectations in the last school year, and were given at least three stars in a five star rating system. But 108 public, charter, and private tax funded schools failed to meet expectations, a third of those being in Milwaukee — and another 250 met only a few expectations.

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Senate panel restores $300M for Great Lakes cleanups

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senate panel has restored $300 million in federal funding for environmental cleanups along the Great Lakes.

The Senate Appropriations Committee included the funding in the Interior and Environment budget, after President Donald Trump eliminated the annual allocation in his first federal budget package this past spring. Wisconsin Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin, a member of the panel, said Monday that preserving the Great Lakes is an "economic necessity" and not just a goal.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative goes back more than 15 years, when a panel commissioned by former President George W. Bush proposed thousands of local cleanup projects totaling billions of dollars. But Congress refused to fund them until former President Barack Obama started proposing annual allocations in 2009.

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Wis. finally exceeds nation in milk production growth

MADISON — For the first time in months, Wisconsin's milk production is growing faster than the nation's other dairy states.

The USDA says Wisconsin made a little more than 2.5 billion pounds of milk in October. That's an increase of 2.3 percent from the same month last year, while the nation's 23 major dairy states had a combined increase of 1.5 percent. Wisconsin has lagged behind the national growth for most of this year — but it's still the country's second largest milk producer after first place California had a one-point-five-percent decline last month to three and a quarter billion pounds. Wisconsin's dairy herd remains steady at almost one-point-three billion head, with each cow making 45 more pounds since the previous October for an average of 1,995.

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Three of every 10 Lincoln Hills jobs unfilled for now

IRMA — Three of every ten jobs at the state's troubled juvenile institutions are either vacant or have people on leave.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says 67 of the 313 posts at the Lincoln Hills boys' school and Copper Lake girls' school are open, including 21 that were just added when Gov. Scott Walker signed the new state budget in September. Also, 26 current employees are out due to injuries or other reasons. The state's largest news outlet says the remaining workers are frequently getting 16-hour shifts, sometimes with very little notice.

Media reports have exposed numerous abuses of inmates by guards and vice versa while a federal probe is ending its third year. State officials say they're doing their best to fill the vacant positions.

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White House Christmas tree arrives from Wis.

WASHINGTON — The official White House Christmas tree was expected to arrive at the presidential mansion late this afternoon.

Jim, Diane, and David Chapman of Endeavor in Marquette County won a national contest to provide the tree — and First Lady Melania Trump was on hand to receive it. ABC News says first ladies normally accept the White House on the tree after Thanksgiving, but the Trumps are planning to spend the weekend at their Florida resort at Palm Beach. The Chapmans are providing a 19-and-a-half-foot Balsam fir. The National Christmas Tree Association says the Chapmans also presented the White House trees in 1998 and 2003.

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