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State Senate takes aim at food stamp policy; Baldwin tackles veteran-care ID; Maya Angelou honor draws fire; five more Wisconsin state news stories

MADISON – Wisconsin food stamp recipients would have to use their benefits or lose them, under a bill endorsed by a state Senate panel.

The Republican measure was endorsed on a 3-2 party-line vote Wednesday. The state Health Services agency would nullify Food-Share cards that have not been used for six months or longer, while giving recipients a chance to re-apply.

Any cards not used after one-year would be revoked.

The bill is among several aimed at fighting fraud in Milwaukee County's Food-Share program -- four years after reports that people were buying-and-selling food stamp cards on Facebook, while 2,000 recipients claimed to have lost their cards at least six times in the course of one year.

Baldwin bill would change how VA identifies veterans

MADISON – U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she's writing a bill to make the Veterans Affairs Department stop using Social Security numbers to identify vets.

The Wisconsin Democrat took action after Terry Everson opened an e-mail from a V-A address last April and found an attachment with personal information of hundreds of state veterans. W-I-S-C T-V in Madison says the e-mail was sent by a former state veterans' affairs employee who now works for the national department. The e-mail was not encrypted, and state official say they're still trying to figure out how Everson received it.

Wisconsin congressman opposes honor for Maya Angelou

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wisconsin Republican Glenn Grothman is among a handful of U.S. House members who oppose the naming of a post office in honor of Maya Angelou.

The House voted 371-9 this week to name a postal facility in Winston-Salem, N.C., in honor of the late poet and civil rights supporter.

Grothman, a Republican from Campbellsport, told his colleagues to check out conservative publications noting what he called Angelou's "embrace of radical leftist politics in the 1960s, including sympathies for Fidel Castro and interactions with Malcolm X."

Bloodstream infection linked to 18 deaths

MADISON – State health officials are investigating an outbreak of a blood-stream infection that's linked to the deaths of 18 people.

A bacteria called "Elizabeth-kingia" has been found in 44 patients in the southern and southeast Wisconsin -- most over age 65, and all with serious underlying health issues.

State health officer Karen McKeown says all of those died tested positive -- but officials are still trying to determine if the deaths were caused by the Elizabeth-kingia, other existing health conditions, or both. The first cases were discovered in late December -- and the symptoms include fever, chills, short breath, and the cellulitis bacteria.

Report: Private sector hiring on uptick

MADISON – Wisconsin created 30,235 new private sector jobs during the year ending last September. That's 10 percent more than the previous year-to-year comparison from last June.

State officials released the data Thursday -- and even with the report's time lag, it's still the most reliable indication of Wisconsin job growth as 96-percent of the state's employers had enough time to provide data. Remaining unclear for now is how Wisconsin's job growth compares to other states -- a politically sensitive comparison to be learned next week when the U.S Labor Department releases its quarterly job census.

Wisconsin's Ribble backs Rubio

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Outgoing House Republican Reid Ribble is backing Marco Rubio for president. Ribble, who represents northeast Wisconsin, announced the endorsement Wednesday on a pair of state radio talk shows.

He says a nominee with experience in setting foreign policy would give the GOP the best chance of capturing the White House in November -- and Ribble believes Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, would be the best choice in a matchup with Democrat and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ribble, who's stepping down this year, joins Wausau Republican Sean Duffy as the only Wisconsin House members to endorse Rubio.

President to reward Milwaukee with visit

MILWAUKEE – President Barack Obama visits Milwaukee Thursday afternoon as a reward to the city for winning a contest to sign up residents for the Affordable Care Act.

Milwaukee beat out 19 other major U.S. cities in helping register the highest percentage of eligible enrollees for health coverage in the federal exchanges. The White House says three-fourths of the 51,000 eligible residents obtained Obamacare coverage for this year -- and when returning clients are added in, 89,000 Milwaukee area people are in one of the plans offered through the federal purchasing exchange.

Obama is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. at the United Community Center, his 17th visit to Wisconsin since becoming the president in 2009.

State FFA creates memorial to honor one of its own

MADISON – Wisconsin's agricultural education group is starting a memorial fund to honor a previous state officer who died in a skiing accident.

The state FFA Foundation says the fund honors 24-year-old Brittany Rieth of Madison -- and donations will help support community service projects by local FFA chapters.

Rieth died Feb. 6 after she struck a tree while skiing down a difficult hill at Cascade Mountain near Portage. She was the state FFA's sentinel in the 2012-13 school year, helping numerous agricultural educators and F-F-A members in a variety of ways.

(Thanks Mike Warren, WDLB-WOSQ, Marshfield)