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Poll shows governor's race is dead heat; Hudson bank robber gets 3 1/2 years; 10 more Wisconsin stories

MILWAUKEE -- The gubernatorial race in Wisconsin has tightened in the last two months, with Democratic candidate Mary Burke now in a dead heat with Republican Governor Scott Walker, a poll released on Wednesday showed.

Both candidates received 46 percent support among registered voters, with 6 percent undecided, the Marquette Law School Poll taken from May 15 to 18 found. The previous poll in March showed Walker leading Burke 48 percent to 41 percent.

Walker held a 48 percent to 45 percent lead over Burke among respondents who said they were likely to vote in November, according to the poll of 805 registered voters, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

"These results show that the election outcome can change depending on turnout as both parties seek to mobilize their supporters," poll director Charles Franklin said in a statement.

Walker rose to national prominence among conservatives in 2011 when he pressed for legislation that restricted the power of many public sector unions. His reputation grew the following year when he became the first U.S. governor to survive a recall election.

While Walker is seeking a second term as governor, he has made appearances in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states, and published a campaign-themed biography, adding to the perception that he is preparing for a possible presidential run in 2016.

The same poll also indicated two of every three Wisconsin voters say Walker should give up his White House aspirations, and not run nationally in 2016.

Only 27 percent of 805 registered voters who participated want the Walker to run for president. Sixty-seven percent say he should stay home.

Republicans in the poll are split 50-50 on the question. Only 9 percent of Democrats say Walker should run.

Walker has repeatedly refused to say whether he would serve a full four-term as governor if he's re-elected this fall. Sixty-five percent in the Marquette poll do not believe that any governor can run for president and still handle their duties back home.

Burke, who has opponents in the August primary, is seen as the likely Democratic nominee for governor. A former executive at bicycle manufacturer Trek, Burke served as state commerce secretary under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle from 2005 to 2007.

Burke's only elected political office is her current position as a member of the Madison Metropolitan School District school board.

-- Brendan O'Brien, Reuters & Learfield News Service

GAC uploads loosening of campaign donations to sitting lawmakers

MADISON -- Special interest groups can have their lobbyists pass on campaign donations to Wisconsin lawmakers at any time during the year.

That's what the Government Accountability Board decided unanimously Wednesday. The new rule eliminates a previous ban on any donations from lobbyists before June 1st -- or whenever the Legislature is in session.

This spring, Republican lawmakers relaxed the rules but kept some limits in place. But officials said the language was vague, and some interpreted it to mean that lobbyists could no longer furnish donations from their bosses at any time.

Legislative leaders, their attorneys, and lobbyists all supported what the board approved. Personal donations from lobbyists to candidates are still banned before April 15th of each election year.

A watchdog who heads the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign criticized the more liberal interpretation of the new law.

Mike McCabe said the board was "bullied into submission" by lobbyists. He called it a "sad commentary" on the condition of Wisconsin's political system.

Hudson bank robber gets 3 1/2 years prison

A suburban Twin Cities' woman has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in a federal prison for robbing five banks -- two in western Wisconsin and three in Minnesota. Ranya Al-Huthaili, 23, of Roseville, Minn. was also ordered to pay back what she stole -- over $20,000 in all.

Al-Huthaili was arrested last September outside the Rosedale Center shopping mall. Authorities said she bought a laptop with the money she stole that day from the Dairy State Bank at Menomonie in Dunn County.

The other Wisconsin heist occurred four days before that at First State Bank & Trust, downtown Hudson.

In each hold-up, officials said she handed a note to a teller which demanded money.

Cab fire spreads, destroys 4 sanitation trucks

BELOIT -- Authorities near Beloit are still trying to figure out how a fire destroyed four garbage trucks this week but they've ruled out arson or any other foul play.

Two trash vehicles were engulfed in flames and the other two were partially ablaze when firefighters arrived at Rock Disposal in the town of Beloit on Tuesday.

Officials said the blaze apparently started in a cab of one garbage truck. A fifth truck will need minor repairs. Total damage was estimated at $1 million.

Rock Disposal has about 25 garbage trucks in its fleet.

Chequamegon bike trails all open

CABLE -- After a long winter in the Northwoods, all recreation trails have re-opened in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest -- just in time for the holiday weekend.

Trails for horses, bicycles, and all-terrain vehicles were closed for a while to prevent ruts and erosion due to saturated soils. Officials said the closings were designed to reduce damages when they're highly-used as the weather gets warmer.

Some trails which were not at risk of damage had opened earlier. The U.S. Forest Service Web site has a map of the open trails and roads in Wisconsin's only national forest.

View the map here:

Treaty rights don't extend to land-use veto, judge decides

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Chippewa Indians in Minnesota do not have the legal right to decide where a proposed crude oil pipeline should be located between North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman of St. Paul ruled Wednesday that the Chippewas' long-standing treaty rights do not give them veto power over a right-of-way for the new pipeline.

The environmental group "Honor the Earth" pressed the issue. It said the proposed Enbridge Energy pipeline could hurt tribal rights to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice in ceded territories off reservations.

Lipman ruled that an 1855 treaty which ceded Minnesota's Chippewa land to the federal government did not forbid new rights-of-way on the land that was sold.

Enbridge attorney Christine Brusven said there was no legal precedent for the plaintiffs' request.

Enbridge wants to create a new pipeline from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields across northern Minnesota to a refinery in Superior.

Child struck, killed by school bus

MILWAUKEE -- The driver of a school bus struck and killed a six-year-old pedestrian late Wednesday afternoon on Milwaukee's south side.

Police said the youngster was crossing Cesar Chavez Drive when he was hit by a bus driven by a 24-year-old Milwaukee woman.

No children were on the school bus at the time. The victim died at the scene.

Police say the driver is cooperating with officers who continue to investigate the incident.

Playground shooting spurs more calls for stiffer gun penalties

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's police chief wonders what it will take for Wisconsin legislators to make it a felony to illegally carry firearms.

Ed Flynn made a renewed call for help from the Capitol, after an 11-year-old girl was seriously wounded Wednesday evening on a school playground. She was struck by crossfire from two men shooting at each other. It happened around 7 p.m. outside the Clarke Street Elementary School on Milwaukee's north side.

The girl was taken to Children's Hospital, where she was in serious condition at last word.

At a news conference, Flynn said the girl took her life into her hands just by playing at a school. The chief called the shooters "skunks" and "so-called young men." He promised to put them in jail, but said it was not enough.

Mayor Tom Barrett said it's time that the governor and Legislature go into special session to pass mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. As the mayor put it, lawmakers should "come down hard on those who value life so little."

Milwaukee has seen a wave of shooting incidents lately. Two people were murdered and another was wounded last Sunday outside a liquor store, and an 11-year-old girl and a man were shot outside a north side alley eight days ago.

Rhinelander, 'Rapids dedicate road, shrine to veterans

As Memorial Day approaches, some Wisconsin communities are already making special efforts to recognize their fallen service personnel.

In Rhinelander, Military Road has been re-named Adams Way in honor of Sergeant Ryan Adams, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. He was in a convoy that was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades.

In Wisconsin Rapids, a ceremony will be held Friday morning at the Wood County Courthouse. That's where 24 legacy stones will be dedicated, a new name will be listed on a memorial wall, and 414 flags will be placed on the courthouse lawn in honor of Wood County residents who've died for their country.

-- WSAU, Wausau

Majority favor toll roads to help pay for highway improvements

MADISON -- It's been more than a decade since former Gov. Jim Doyle declared that Wisconsin would have toll roads "over my dead body." Now, with transportation revenues dwindling, a new poll shows that most Wisconsinites are at least willing to put up with tollways.

Fifty-six percent of 805 registered voters in the latest Marquette Law School poll said they're willing to use tolls to help pay for new and improved roads while 42 percent are against it.

A state panel is looking for acceptable road funding sources, at a time when gas tax revenues are harder to come by due to today's fuel-efficient cars.

Seventy-one percent in the Marquette poll agreed that the economic benefits of good highways outweigh taxpayer costs. Still, 58 percent said they're against higher gas taxes and registration fees. Sixty-five percent oppose more borrowing for road projects and the same percentage don't want money diverted from other state programs.

DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb says his agency needs an extra $600 million to do all the road work that's planned for the two-years ending in mid-2017.

Back in 2012, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos suggested toll roads near the state's borders, where more out-of-staters would help pick up the tab.

Gov. Scott Walker is talking about a new tax structure for the next state budget that would not raise people's overall tax burdens.

'Pants on fire' video prompts more warnings on charity stunts

At least one boy stepped up the dare, after Midwest authorities have repeatedly warned against jumping into cold waters in a social media charity stunt.

The "Cold Water Challenge" dares people, mostly teens, to post videos of themselves jumping into cold waters. If they don't post within four days, they're told to donate 100-dollars to a charity.

In one of the latest reported incidents, police said a Marshfield teenager lit his clothes on fire before jumping into a pond near a rural road. A friend captured the video and put it on Facebook -- where it was removed after police spoke with the boy and his parents. Fond du Lac teenager Kayla Jacob struck razor-sharp zebra mussels when she jumped into Lake Winnebago and she hurt herself so badly, she won't be able to take part in school sports for much of next year.

A 16-year-old from Minnesota died in another stunt. Law enforcement and medical officials have urged people not to take part in "cold water challenges" -- but instead take part in organized Polar Plunges where safety precautions are taken and emergency help is readily available.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Beloit man charged with murder for fleeing incident that killed woman

BELOIT -- A Beloit man is jailed under a $100,000 bond, on a charge that he killed a woman with her van as he tried fleeing from police.

Christopher Rutherford, 40, made a first appearance Wednesday in Rock County Circuit Court on a felony count of first-degree reckless homicide. He's scheduled to complete his formal initial proceeding Friday, which will give him time to get a lawyer.

The incident occurred on Mother's Day, when 47-year-old Sheila Rosenbaum called 9-1-1 about an unwanted person at her home.

Officers said they were trying to arrest Rutherford when he ran from a home, got into the victim's van, and struck her with the vehicle before driving off.

Police fired shots at the van, which Rutherford subsequently crashed. He ran off before he was quickly caught.

He was treated for a gunshot wound, and was taken into custody after he left the hospital on Tuesday.