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Senate's final agenda includes marijuana, strip-search modifications; voters deciding many referendums Tuesday; more state news

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Senate has a full agenda Tuesday, in its final meeting of the two-year legislative session.

The Assembly has already called it quits, and senators will consider a number of measures the lower house has passed in recent weeks. One bill would let doctors apologize or express sympathy to patients and their families, without having their comments used against them in malpractice lawsuits.

Supporters say the bill would improve communication between doctors and patients. Trial lawyers and other opponents say it would make it harder to win malpractice cases.

Among the other bills up for Senate approval would legalize a marijuana extract to treat child seizures, allow more types of jail inmates to be strip-searched by officers, allow the U-W to do classified national security research and prohibit anyone under 18 from officiating at weddings in Wisconsin.

BMO nixing interest-only home loans

BMO Harris Bank is among those cutting off home equity lines of credit in which borrowers only have to pay interest each month.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says federal regulators are discouraging those types of arrangements, because it could put a severe strain on banks should another severe recession occur.

The interest-only credit lines are backed by the equity in the borrowers' homes. They were fairly common during the housing boom which preceded the Great Recession in 2008.

BMO Harris spokesman Jim Kappel tells the paper that his bank has a new group helping customers whose credit lines are ending.

In many cases, borrowers can moved into other types of home equity financing in which they'd have to start paying down the principal on their loans, as well as the interest. Kappel did not say how many customers were affected.

For those with distressed financial hardships, he said the bank would do what it could to help them make it through. Kappel stressed that BMO Harris would continue issuing home equity loans, and they're an important part of its business in Wisconsin.

Voters will decide referendums, thousands of local races

Wisconsin voters are heading to the polls Tuesday to elect or re-elect almost 4,000 city, village, county board, and school board members.

Circuit and appellate judges are also on the ballot. The only judicial incumbents being challenged are circuit judges in Forest and Jefferson counties.

Many local government candidates are also unopposed, but there are a few hot races. Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima and South Milwaukee Mayor Tom Zepecki survived primary challenges in February -- although both finished second in those contests.

In many places, referendums highlight the ballots. Milwaukee County voters will act on a proposed 50 percent pay cut for county supervisors.

Twenty-six school districts are asking voters to approve tax increases above state-mandated limits, just to keep the programs they have. Many of those districts are in rural areas. About 20 school systems have building referendums.

The Kettle Moraine district hopes to borrow the most -- almost $50 million for a variety of maintenance, security, and technology improvements.

Elections' officials predict a statewide turnout of 12 percent. All polls opened at 7 a.m. and were to close at 8 p.m.

Driver arrested in death of 8-year-old boy

MILWAUKEE -- The driver of a sport utility vehicle that killed an eight-year-old boy in Milwaukee is under arrest for causing death while driving with a suspended license.

The district attorney's office is expected to consider charges within the next few days.

Police said a 58-year-old man was driving on Milwaukee's north side Sunday night when Jacari Maxwell ran into the street between parked cars, and was struck. He died at the scene. Police said the driver cooperated with investigators.

Jacari was a third-grader at the Thurston Woods Campus Elementary School. Counselors were at the school Monday, helping youngsters cope with the tragedy.

Post-bar exchange turns deadly for Kenosha man

RACINE -- A 23-year-old man is under arrest for the weekend killing of another man in downtown Racine.

Police said the suspect is from Racine, and was taken into custody Monday at his workplace. He's linked to the shooting death of 21-year-old Dulonden Ratliff of Kenosha early last Saturday.

Police say they'll seek charges of first-degree reckless homicide, and two counts of reckless endangerment.

Veronica Vargas, the victim's sister, told the Racine Journal Times her group had just left a nightclub when a group of strangers on the street began exchanging words.

Vargas said one of the men then punched her in the eye, and shot her brother. Police are still investigating.

Convicted bigamist heading to prison for forgery

A convicted bigamist from Wausau will spend another three years behind bars, this time for stealing thousands of dollars from an ex-girlfriend's business.

Tim Swinea, 46, was sentenced in Calumet County for forgery. He'll do time in a state prison, and will be under extended supervision for three years after he gets out.

Swinea was convicted of stealing thousands from Penny Schoenke of Menasha in a check-kiting scheme.

Last year, he spent four months in the Marathon County Jail for bigamy. That was after a former wife from the Wausau area learned that Swinea was also married at the time to a Missouri woman who had three of his kids.

Schoenke said last year that she met Swinea online, and she almost married him. Authorities said he skipped out on a couple of previous court appearances, including Monday's sentencing which was supposed to happen in late January.

First 'lakers' headed for Soo Locks

The shipping season is underway on the Great Lakes, but vessels are having trouble with the record amount of ice.

At Duluth-Superior, a Coast Guard ice-breaker is helping two lake carriers loaded with iron ore get through Lake Superior to the Soo Locks. After that, the goal is to have the Mackinaw ice-breaker help four up-bound vessels ship coal and iron ore to Two Harbors and Duluth-Superior.

Adele Yorde of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority says rain and warmer weather should help keep the ice-breakers' tracks open.

Yorde says the ice on Lake Superior is the thickest in decades.

-- Minnesota News Network