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Cap on political gifts removed; Cross proposes free college classes for high-schoolers; 11 more Wisconsin stories

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's political donors no longer have a limit on the total amount they can give candidates each year.

Federal Judge Lynn Adelman Thursday signed an agreement to stop enforcing Wisconsin's $10,000 aggregate cap on political donations by one person.

It was first announced a couple of weeks ago that the Badger State would no longer enforce its limit. That was after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a total annual cap on how much donors can give to congressional candidates and political action committees each year.

The Wisconsin settlement also ended a lawsuit from Fred Young of Racine, which challenged the state's aggregate limit.

Donors still have limits on what they can give to individual candidates.

Program would give high-schoolers free tuition for UW, tech college classes

MADISON -- The new University of Wisconsin president wants to offer free tuition to high school students who take university courses in a dual-enrollment program at their schools.

Ray Cross said Thursday he would ask for a $1 million in the next UW budget to cover the program's costs for the next year. It's aimed at giving public high school youngsters an early start toward college educations.

The program is being expanded under an umbrella called "Course Options," which lets high school youngsters enroll in up to two courses from a host of eligible educational institutions -- including tech colleges. Cross said that by taking classes with both high school and college credits, they'll reduce the cost of their eventual college degrees, and they'll earn those degrees sooner.

School districts are supposed to pick up their share of the program's costs -- and some have wondered how they'll do it.

The university's assistance would only apply to students taking UW courses. The Board of Regents will consider Cross' request in two weeks.

Gov. Scott Walker says he'll work with the UW on a permanent funding source for the new program.

Bluebird weather forecast most of the weekend

Campers who started their holiday weekends a day early were shivering Friday morning in far northern Wisconsin. Tomahawk reported frost at 6 a.m. Many parts of far north central Wisconsin were also in the 30's while most of central Wisconsin was reporting temps in the 40's. It was 50 at 6 a.m. at Monroe and Viroqua.

Forecasters expect a quick warm-up, however with clear, dry weather for the balance of the Memorial Day Weekend. Highs in the 70's are expected statewide through Monday. A chance of rain returns on Sunday night and Monday.

The American Automobile Association expects just over 700,000 Wisconsinites to travel at least 50 miles one way during the holiday. That's up slightly over a year ago. The AAA said Wisconsin's average gas prices have held relatively steady. As of Thursday, regular unleaded averaged $3.61 a gallon -- four cents cheaper than the national average, and a nickel cheaper than a month ago.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says most activity in work zones was to end at noon, Friday -- standard procedure for holiday weekends -- and the work will resume early Tuesday.

Non-candidacy deadline looms for politicians

MADISON -- While most of us focus on the Memorial Day weekend, a few Wisconsin politicians faced an important deadline Friday.

Those not running for re-election this fall must file documents about their intentions with the Government Accountability Board. If not completed by Friday afternoon, candidates who want to replace them get three extra days to circulate their nomination papers.

Twenty-two state Assembly members and seven senators are bowing out after this fall -- the most in decades.

Among those, Senate Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center and Assembly Republican Chad Weininger of Green Bay are the only ones not to file their required paperwork. Both say they expect to do so Friday.

State Treasurer Kurt Schuller is not running, either, and he had not filed his paperwork at last word. Campaign committees of both parties do not expect last-minute bomb-shells from anyone who has not already announced their intentions to step down.

The non-candidacy forms have been required for years. That was after some lawmakers hand-picked their successors, by withholding their decisions to step down until it was too late for other possible suitors to file their nomination papers.

Lawsuit filed to curb Corps' placement of structures in Mississippi

Environmental groups have filed suit to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from building more man-made structures to preserve navigation on the Mississippi River.

The National Wildlife Federation is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Thursday in a federal court in East Saint Louis.

The Army Corps has long relied on wing dikes, bend-way weirs, and chevrons to keep places of heavy sediment clear. Those things reduce the need for expensive dredging in the Mississippi.

The plaintiffs say the structures actually provoke flooding and four large floods over the past two decades prove it.

The plaintiffs want the Corps to stop using the man-made devices until their full environmental impacts are determined. The Army Corps says it stands behind its work.

Professor suing former student for alleged defamation

WHITEWATER -- A three-day trial is set to begin Sept. 15th in a civil suit filed by a UW Whitewater professor, who said a student took cheap shots at her on a Web site that rates college instructors.

Communications professor Sally Vogl-Bauer claims that Anthony Llewellyn defamed her character, when he posted accusatory videos and comments on a professor-rating site.

Llewellen told the Janesville Gazette he spoke with Vogl-Bauer in April about various concerns, two months before he was told he flunked her class. His online comments accused the instructor of criticizing his academic abilities, giving him an unfair grade, and causing him to drop out of school.

Llewellen said he was simply using the Web site's opportunity to alert other potential students to his experience.

Vogl-Bauer's lawyer said the comments could be especially damaging to a person in a smaller town, where the university is by far the main employer.

The suit seeks punitive damages, plus the professor's legal costs. A hearing on pre-trial requests is set for June 23rd in Walworth County.

View the dialog that spurred the lawsuit here:

Senior housing developer announces expansion

WEST ALLIS -- A company that operates various housing facilities for the elderly will expand its support center in suburban Milwaukee.

The firm of Brookdale Senior Living has started a $3.9 million expansion of its offices in West Allis. It will get up to $1 million in state tax breaks over the next two years as long as it maintains its 400-plus existing employees, and fulfills a pledge to add 202 more jobs. Brookdale is based in Brentwood, Tenn., with 650 senior living centers in 36 states.

Gov. Scott Walker announced the West Allis project Thursday. He cited it as another example of a national company which reviewed its options, and chose to grow in Wisconsin because of the state's strong workforce and business climate.

Eau Claire vet receives belated medal for WW II battle

EAU CLAIRE -- A 92-year-old Army veteran from Eau Claire has received the highest military honor from France for what he did during WW II.

Richard Hogstad was recently given France's Legion of Honor medal. He served as an Army private, when he was assigned in his early 20's to secretly watch German troop movements.

Hogstad was shot in one of his hips, while he helped capture a German bridge under heavy machine gun fire. He completed his service in 1945, and he used the G I Bill to attend at what's now known as UW Stout in Menomonie.

Hogstad said his recent award represented the sacrifices of everyone who served. He said his division lost over 1,200 troops during WW II and he was just lucky to survive.

Search underway for man missing on Eau Claire River

ALTOONA -- A search was expected to resume today near Eau Claire for a man missing after his canoe flipped over.

Officials in Altoona said two young men were in a canoe that was heading east in the Eau Claire River, when it got too close to the Altoona Dam and it overturned.

The mishap appeared to have taken place less than a minute after the canoe was launched last evening. One man swam to shore, but the other was unaccounted for.

Rescuers were called about 7:30 p.m.

They searched the river until it got too dark to continue. Officials said neither man was wearing a life jacket.

Sex charges against former math teacher advance

NEILLSVILLE -- A former central Wisconsin school teacher has been ordered to stand trial for having sex with two students, and contacting one of them after he was charged.

A judge in Clark County found enough evidence Thursday to put 25-year-old Andy Follen on trial.

The former Abbotsford High School math instructor is scheduled to enter pleas July 2nd to five felony counts of sexual assault by a school staffer -- plus three additional charges filed a month later.

Authorities said Follen had sexual relationships with two 17-year-old female students last October, and one was a volleyball player.

After the initial counts were handed down, prosecutors said Follen claimed to be with an Eau Claire softball team when he got one of his victims to set up an instant messaging account, where he urged the girl to call the District Attorney and ask that his charges be reduced. That resulted in a new charge of intimidating a victim, plus two bail jumping counts.

Follen resigned from Abbotsford in January, while the case was being investigated.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Man charged with homicide in crash that killed two

SHELL LAKE -- A Sarona man was intoxicated and driving in excess of 120 mph last summer when he lost control of his 2005 Ford Mustang, killing two passengers, according to charges filed in Washburn County Circuit Court.

Edward T. Depies, 26, was charged Thursday with two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and one count of injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

Passengers Molly Undem, 20, and Donald Roberts, 25, were killed in the July 21, 2013, crash on County Highway A in the town of Stone Lake.

“The extended investigation was very difficult for the family of all four occupants of the vehicle,” Sheriff Terry Dryden said in a news release. “This crash was a tragedy and avoidable. It involved speed and alcohol, both deadly, in concert.”

Depies is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court on June 30.

-- Forum News Service

Youngster caught in crossfire listed as 'critical'

MILWAUKEE -- Police say they've identified one of two men engaged in a shoot-out in which a ten-year-old girl was critically wounded in the crossfire.

No arrests were made as of last evening. Sierra Guyton was still in critical condition at last word at Children's Hospital after being shot in the head.

Her family said she was on life support with minimal brain activity but treatment continued, and her father was still hoping she could make it through.

Sierra was playing close to the monkey bars at the Clarke Street Elementary School on Milwaukee's north side when she was struck early Wednesday evening.

Alderman Russell Stamper visited Guyton's family home Thursday, urging residents to start block clubs and neighborhood watch groups. It was still light when the shootings occurred. A couple of neighborhood residents said it become normal for people to brandish guns in broad daylight.

Some begged for structure to return to what's considered one of Milwaukee's poorest areas.