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Appeal expected in same-sex ruling; dive planned Monday to recover crash victim; more state stories

A St. Louis County Rescue Squad boat motors through the fog over Lake Superior at Brighton Beach in Duluth while searching for the wreckage of a small plane that apparently crashed into the lake about a mile off the beach Saturday morning, June 7, 2014. Photo by Clint Austin, Duluth News-Tribune.

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Justice Department was expected to ask a federal appeals court Monday to stop the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked Federal Judge Barbara Crabb for a similar stay last Friday night, just hours after she ruled the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

Crabb's ruling was silent on whether Wisconsin counties could start issuing licenses for same-sex marriages.

Dane County officials in Madison were ready to do so before the judge's ruling came down and couples attending Milwaukee's weekend Pride-Fest took advantage and tied the knot. Almost 300 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses and took advantage of what could be a very short window.

Rock County, at Janesville and Beloit, has said it would start issuing similar licenses Monday.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said the marriages performed over the weekend might be put in limbo by a court stay.

Wisconsin's ruling was the 15th straight pro-gay-marriage ruling in lower courts since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act last summer.

High Court fast-tracking some cases in race for June 30th deadline

MADISON -- In a break from tradition, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is limiting the time it spends in deliberating individual cases.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the court voted 5- to 2 in late May to limit its discussions, at the suggestion of Justice Patrick Crooks.

The court faces a self-imposed June 30th deadline to resolve its cases, and some high-profile matters remain to be decided. They include the constitutionality of the Act-10 public union bargaining limits, and whether the U-W can ban student fee protester Jeffrey Decker from its campuses.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote that 46- of 60 cases are still pending, and the two high-profile cases might have to wait until the court's next term in September.

Abrahamson says justices should schedule more deliberation meetings, instead of limiting discussions on each case. She said it would compromise the quality of the Supreme Court's opinions.

However, the court's four conservatives all agreed with swing justice Crooks. He proposed a 15-minute time limit for the lead authors of opinions pro- and con, and five minutes for other justices.

The Journal Sentinel also said an internal e-mail from Crooks indicated that he'll retire in 2016. The 76-year-old Crooks is nearing the end of his second ten-year term.

There's been speculation about whether Crooks would retire and a vacancy could pave the way for outgoing Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to run for the high court.

Hillary Clinton, Mary Burke lead straw polls at Dem's convention

WISCONSIN DELLS -- Wisconsin's most-involved Democrats want Hillary Clinton to be our next president.

The former Secretary of State was the big winner in a straw poll at the state Democratic convention at Wisconsin Dells over the weekend.

Clinton received 185 votes to 81 for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Vice President Joe Biden was a distant third with 18.

As expected, Mary Burke was the overwhelming choice for governor in the straw poll. She received 317 votes from delegates and others at the Democratic convention -- while Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey of Madison got 14 votes.

Racine Senate Democrat John Lehman was the overwhelming choice for Burke's running mate. Lehman received 299 votes for lieutenant governor, to 27 for Mary Jo Walters of Milwaukee.

For attorney general, Democrats favored Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards with 167 votes to 111 for Jefferson County D.A. Susan Happ, and 54 for Dane County D.A. Ismael Ozanne.

Those three will square off in an Aug. 12th primary, with the winner to face Republican Waukesha D.A. Brad Schimel in November.

Tech school funding structure, control would change under proposal

The Wisconsin Legislative Council is considering a possible state funding and control plan for the 16 regional technical colleges.

One lawmaker says a bill could emerge in 2015 or '16, but it's already getting opposition from tech schools and the businesses for which they help provide workers.

Assembly Republican Scott Krug of Nekoosa says a state takeover is in the formative stages of a Legislative Council committee and while he's willing to discuss it, he sees no reason to support it.

State Technical College System President Morna Foy says the current system is not broken, and a state takeover would hurt the schools' abilities to serve their unique local areas.

North Central Technical College President Lori Weyers says a state-controlled system would make the schools less able to work with local companies and it would delay course changes needed to keep up with business needs.

Mid-State Tech president Sue Budzac says the schools' boards are local people chosen by their areas' county board chairs. She said there's no need for schools to take all their program and funding requests to Madison.

Central Wisconsin lawmakers of both parties say they're skeptical of such a change.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos brought up the idea of cutting local technical college taxes in January, when we first learned about a billion-dollar budget surplus. It never went anywhere, but Vos called it a sure-fire way to cut property taxes.

The Legislative Council is one of five nonpartisan legislative service agencies of the Wisconsin Legislature. The staff is headed by Director Terry C. Anderson who reports to the Joint Legislative Council and the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization.

The duties of the Legislative Council are to provide nonpartisan legal, scientific and other research services and administrative support services to Joint Legislative Council study committees and other legislative standing committees and task forces; to serve as the Rules Clearinghouse for review of all proposed administrative rules; and to respond to research and information requests from legislators, legislative staff, other governmental agencies and other state legislatures in a confidential and nonpartisan manner, according to the group's web site.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Reclaiming Sunday as 'family day' endorsed during Catholic conclave

Catholics in southeast Wisconsin have endorsed 16 possible priorities for the church to consider over next 15 years.

They include new ways to support married and engaged couples, and helping Catholics practice their faith at a time when they're busier than ever.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki held a synod in St. Francis -- on Milwaukee's south east side -- during the weekend, to get church members thinking about the positive ways to identify with the Catholic religion. About 400 members from the ten-county archdiocese attended the meeting.

As part of a session on marriage and family, a common theme was reclaiming Sunday as a family day. Listecki said that for believers, their faith runs 24-7 and Sunday is the day they publicly express that faith.

Synod participants also brought up Friday's federal court ruling that at least temporarily struck down Wisconsin's constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Listecki told them that gay community members are not apart from the church -- but he said marriage still needs to be defined between one man and one woman.

Absence of tornadoes nearing record

SULLIVAN -- Wisconsin has had 55-below wind-chills, two-foot snowstorms, and four-inch rainstorms this year but we've yet to see a confirmed tornado.

The National Weather Service says it's the latest start to a tornado season since 1997, when it took until June 15th for a twister to find its way to the ground in the Badger State -- that being near Downsville in Dunn County.

The Weather Service also says this year is the ninth-latest without a tornado in 64 years of keeping records on this. The latest tornado to start a calendar year came in 1995, when a twister landed at Onalaska in La Crosse County on June 28th.

Forecasters say the threat of severe weather looks minimal this week so by this weekend, 2014 could be in the Top Five for the state's latest first tornado.

Dive planned Monday to crash victim from Lake Superior

DULUTH -- A recovery operation was expected to occur Monday in Lake Superior, where a body and wreckage from a small home-made plane have been found.

Authorities said specialized divers are needed to recover the craft and its pilot who apparently went down with the sunken plane. Both were first discovered Saturday in 137 feet of water hours after a single-engine Lancair Four with one person aboard disappeared from radar almost as soon as it took from the Duluth International Airport.

Reports said the pilot flew in the previous day from Big Bend, Ore. and had just taken off for Goose Bay in far northeastern Canada when the plane vanished.

First responders from Duluth used sonar equipment to locate the aircraft, about 1.2 miles from the shore of Brighton Beach in Duluth.

The Superior-Douglas County Dive Rescue Team members were to join specialized rescuers from Minnesota in the recovery.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was registered to an engineering firm in Wilmington, Del.

One source said the pilot was en route to Germany.

FFA members convening in Madison this week

MADISON -- The 85th Future Farmers of America State Convention is being held Monday through Thursday at the Alliant Energy Center.

State president Logan Wells said it all started with a Day of Service Monday. Members were to deploy across Madison to work on several community service projects.

Other FFA members will pack meals for the Second Harvest Food Bank and Outreach Incorporated. Their goal is to have 350 members pack 40,000 meals by 8 p.m., Monday.

The convention has a couple of new features -- including an agricultural art contest, and a panel discussion in which state officials will talk about career opportunities in agriculture.

Later in the week, a number of awards will be presented, highlighting various FFA accomplishments during the past school year.

Charges likely in rollover that killed one

KENOSHA -- A man faces a possible drunken homicide charge, after a crash that killed his passenger in Kenosha County.

Authorities said the two men were heading home from a tavern when the vehicle lost control on a curve, slid into a ditch, hit a culvert, rolled over several times, struck a fire hydrant, and knocked down a utility pole.

The accident occurred just before 2 a.m., Sunday on Highway 45 west of Kenosha.

The driver was treated at a Kenosha hospital, and was then sent to jail pending charges. The other man died at the scene. Investigators said speed was also a possible factor.

The names of the two men were not immediately released.

Miss Wisconsin made Top Ten in pageant

Wisconsin's entry in the Miss U.S.A. Pageant made it to the Top 10 Sunday evening before she was eliminated.

Bishara Dorre of Milwaukee was among 51 women in a competition held in Baton Rouge, LA.

Dorre is a graduate of Wauwatosa East High School. She frequently appears as one of the "Fox Sports Wisconsin Girls" which are part of televised Milwaukee Brewers' games on TV.

Miss Nevada, Nia Sanchez, was crowned the new Miss U.S.A. She's a fourth-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

Audra Mari, Miss North Dakota, was the first runner-up.

Sanchez is the 63rd Miss U.S.A. and will represent the country at the Miss Universe pageant later this year.