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Postal employees rally to keep Saturday delivery; Walker ignores prisoner pardon requests; Feds consider pre-pay funeral fund probe, more state news

MADISON -- Hundreds of postal workers rallied at several locations in Wisconsin Sunday as part of a nationwide campaign to save Saturday mail delivery.

In Madison, the state's newest congressman - House Democrat Mark Pocan - promoted a bill he's co-sponsoring to maintain six-day-a-week service, and find other ways to save money. Madison's postal union says it could lose around 70 employees if Saturday delivery ends.

In West Milwaukee, officials of the Wisconsin Association of Letter Carriers called the Postal Service a vital public institution that the nation cannot afford to dismantle. In Green Bay, postal workers said lots of people need Saturday deliveries to handle bills, among other things - because not everyone uses the Internet. A retired postal worker asked if they're supposed to let UPS take over, but the Postal Service would continue delivering packages on Saturdays, while cutting off regular residential routes on Saturdays.

Officials say it would save over $2 billion dollars a year.

Pocan's bill would save money mostly by repealing a 2006 law that forces the Postal Service to set aside funds for up to 75 years of future health care benefits for the agency's retirees. It's the only federal agency which has such a requirement, and union officials say it's why the Postal Service is losing millions.

Will that pre-paid burial bring your survivors peace of mind or angst? Feds scrutinize statewide trust fund

The federal government is looking into a statewide trust fund which holds the money that Wisconsinites pay to funeral homes for pre-paid burials.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Wisconsin Funeral Trust now has a shortfall of $24.5 million. The Securities and Exchange Commission is examining the Blue-Point Investment Counsel, formed last year by a pair of long-time advisers to the funeral trust account.

Milwaukee attorney Jeremy Levinson says the government's examination process normally determines whether there's enough evidence to do a full-fledged investigation. The Funeral Trust was placed into court-ordered receivership last fall, after it built up a deficit of 21 million dollars - $3.5 million less than what's being reported now.

The court-appointed receiver, John Wirth, has criticized Blue-Point's fees and the aggressive investments chosen for the trust. The fund has over 10,500 investors. The Journal Sentinel says it's supposed to have over $70 million on hand - but it actually has less than $50 million.

'I beg your pardon': Walker shuns 1,400-plus pleas for forgiveness

MADISON -- The number of requests for pardons that Governor Scott Walker has refused to consider has exceeded 1,400.

The Associated Press reports almost half the applications have been submitted in the two-plus years Walker has been governor, and rest were left over from former Governor Jim Doyle.

The Republican Walker refused to create a Pardon Advisory Board, and he suspended the state's pardon system in late 2011. Milwaukee Senate Democrat Lena Taylor has proposed a bill forcing the governor to create the Advisory Council. It would meet every three months, and at least recommend pardons for Walker to consider.

Walker has said he doesn't want to interfere with the criminal justice system. Pardons do not erase convictions, but they allow recipients to regain such privileges as possessing guns and voting.

Winter's grip expected to linger on

SULLIVAN -- The calendar says it's spring, but Old Man Winter still has a grip on Wisconsin.

Madison picked up about 3.5 inches throughout the day Sunday and parts of southwest Wisconsin got less than an inch. Furnaces are still going at full-blast in north central areas, where temperatures were in the single-digits and teens at 6 a.m., Monday.

Racine was the state's warm spot with 35 degrees at 6 a.m.

The National Weather Service says brisk northerly winds will keep things cool across Wisconsin Monday, with highs well-below normal in the low- to mid-30's.

Highs in the 40's are predicted statewide for Thursday and Friday. Highs above 50 are possible next weekend. There may be some afternoon flurries Monday - but otherwise, a dry week is predicted.

Rep. Kind again presses for duck stamps on-line

Wisconsin hunters could get their federal duck stamps online under a bill proposed by La Crosse House Democrat Ron Kind.

He and Virginia Republican Rob Wittman say it makes sense to make it more convenient for sporting enthusiasts and collectors to get their duck stamps on the Internet.

It could save a trip to local post offices, wildlife refuges, and sporting goods shops where the stamps are now sold.

Kind first proposed the idea a few years ago. Since then, a pilot program was conducted in 15 states - not including Wisconsin. Kind said it resulted in higher stamp sales, thus raising more money for a federal conservation fund. Those revenues have been used to buy-or-lease over five-million acres of wetlands and habitat for waterfowl.

Kind's bill would work like the pilot program did. Electronic proofs-of-purchase would grant duck hunters free access to the nation's 553 federal wildlife refuges. After 45 days, the proof-of-purchase would expire, and hunters must have the normal paper stamp to get its full benefit.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

High Court's campaign reports due out Monday

MADISON -- Incumbent Pat Roggensack and challenger Ed Fallone have until midnight Monday to file their latest campaign finance reports with the state Government Accountability Board.

The new reports will tell us how much the candidates have raised and spent between Feb. 5th and March 18th. There's been some outside special interest in the race, but not a lot that's been visible.

As of February, Roggensack had $219,000 in her campaign fund. Fallone had about $64,000.

Voters will decide the Supreme Court race on Tuesday, April 2nd along with the state school Superintendent contest and a host of local races.

Neenah mulling rules to keep bartenders dry

NEENAH -- Neenah might become the fourth Wisconsin community to try-and-prevent bartenders from drinking along with their customers. A Neenah committee is scheduled to consider an ordinance Tuesday to require bartenders to be sober when they show up for work and not drink on the job

Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson says it would hold bartenders accountable if they're serving alcohol while they're drunk and they're not doing enough to control their patrons.

The Appleton Post-Crescent reports that at least three places in Wisconsin regulate drinking behind the bar - Madison, La Crosse, and Jackson, but the newspaper says there's only been spotty enforcement in those places and there are only a relative few such mandates nationwide.

How do you spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S? Madison girl wins spelling bee

MADISON -- Thirteen-year-old Aisha Kahn of Madison has won the State Spelling Bee, and will be Wisconsin's only representative at the National Bee two months from now.

Aisha Kahn beat out 47 other spellers to win the State Bee over the weekend. The Wisconsin State Journal sponsors the state event in Madison and the newspaper said Aisha almost didn't show up.

She said she felt too upset, after making several trips to her native India to see her maternal grandmother before she died from cancer at age 63. Aisha said her grandmother encouraged her to press on and take first place.

Her father, Abdul Patan, said his daughter didn't have much time to prepare for the state spelling bee - but her skills come more from her passion for reading than from practice drills.

The state winner is normally the only Wisconsin contestant in the National Spelling Bee, which takes place May 26th through June first in Washington.

Illinois rider strikes tree, resulting in 19th snowmobile death

At least 19 people have died in Wisconsin snowmobile crashes this winter. The latest reported death was on Saturday. Oneida County authorities said 31-year-old Dean Katsaros Junior of Willow Springs, Ill. lost control of his machine and slammed into a tree near Three Lakes. He died at the scene, and the crash is still being investigated.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Web site, Wisconsin has not officially recorded a snowmobile death since March 3rd - although there's been plenty of snow on the ground in most places.

A man was found dead near his snowmobile in Langlade County on March 16th, but investigation showed there had been no crash. Officials say it's possible the rider died of exposure.

Pre-dawn fire destroys Arlington area landmark

ARLINGTON -- Officials say it might take a while to determine what caused a fire that destroyed a popular bar and grill in south central Wisconsin.

Thirsty's Bar in Arlington burned down over the weekend. A passer-by called 9-1-1 early Saturday morning. By then, officials said smoke was billowing throughout the 80-year-old structure, which used to be a general store.

Nine fire departments took about four hours to get the blaze under control and water had to be trucked in because of the bar's rural location. Arlington is located on Hwy. 51, about 45 mile north of Madison.

A fire-fighter was treated at a Madison hospital with a minor injury, after falling from a piece of equipment.

Tavern owners's son hurt in drive-by shooting

WAUPACA -- The son of a rural Waupaca tavern owner was hospitalized in critical but stable condition Sunday, after he was wounded in a drive-by shooting.

Waupaca County authorities said 35-year-old Rickey Stoflet Junior called 9-1-1 about 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning to say gunshots were fired at the bar and a few minutes later, he called back and said he was shot.

Officials said Stoflet was in an apartment connected to the Wally World Tavern in the town of Farmington, and both the bar and the living quarters were hit by the gunfire. Surveillance cameras caught images of two suspects in a lighter-colored Chevy Impala, 2002 to 2005 model that passed through the bar's parking lot.

The tavern owned by the victim's father, Rickey Stoflet Senior, and his son helps with the business. Waupaca County deputies are asking for people for information.

Waupaca is located about 30 miles southeast of Stevens Point.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Four Wisconsinites among $10K winners in weekend Powerball

The sixth largest jackpot in Powerball history was won by somebody in New Jersey but four Wisconsin players each won $10,000 by matching four- of the five regular numbers, plus the Powerball.

The winning tickets were sold in Tomah, Mukwonago, Saukville, and Sheboygan Falls.

Just over 56,000 tickets sold in the Badger State won smaller prizes. Saturday's numbers were 17, 29, 31, 52, and 53. The Powerball was 31. The jackpot was the largest of the year, and the biggest since last November's record Powerball prize of $587.5 million, split by players from Missouri and Arizona.