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Wisconsin roundup: State will soon seek Medicaid changes for childless adults; Feds: State ACT exam inadequate for federal accountability; and 11 more state news stories

MADISON -- Childless adults would pay more for Medicaid, take drug tests and have their coverage limited to four years in a request the state will soon make to the Trump administration.

State Medicaid director Michael Heifetz tells the Wisconsin State Journal the feds will soon be asked for the okay to let the state charge premiums of $1 to $5 per month for childless adults, with higher premiums for those with risky behaviors like smoking -- and those who don't pass drug tests would get treatment.

Gov. Scott Walker has asked Washington to consider letting states have block grants for Medicaid so they can be more flexible.

Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families calls higher cost sharing an "ideological change" that may hurt lower income people and have "unintended consequences." The State Journal says lawmakers could consider other Medicaid changes as part of the next state budget, or wait until later in the year.


Feds: State ACT exam inadequate for federal accountability

MADISON -- Only Wisconsin and Wyoming use the ACT college entrance exam to show that schools meet federal performance requirements.

But the U.S. Education Department says the ACT only meets part of the federal standards for assessing reading, math and language arts -- and both Wisconsin and Wyoming will have to give substantially more information to show that they're complying with the federal accountability law.

Wisconsin could face federal funding limits if it does not deal with the matter -- and the state's education agency says it's reviewing what it must do.

The state has 30 days to set a timeline for submitting its information to the federal government, and the ACT says it will help meet that deadline.

Wisconsin decided to use the ACT a couple years ago to measure high school performance and all 11th graders take it.


Parents speak for first time about fire that killed 3 kids

SHEBOYGAN -- More than one year after it happened, the parents of three children killed in a house fire have spoken publicly about the tragedy for the first time.

Chris and Kristi Maki spoke during a Sunday service at Crossroads Community Church in Sheboygan. Chris said they were doing "surprisingly" okay for the most part but it hurt to see the children's friends as the couple continued volunteer work at the church -- and they're still upset about losing their home.

Initial reports said the parents were at a Bible study last Jan. 26 when their children Carter, Benjamin,and Natalie, ages 7 -11, died in the fire.

Natalie was recently honored posthumously by the Carnegie Foundation for leading her sister Jenna to safety and trying in vain to save her other siblings.


Teen arrested for driving drunk in fatal crash

NEW RICHMOND -- An 18-year-old New Richmond man is jailed while awaiting charges in an apparent drunk driving crash.

It happened early Sunday in the St. Croix County town of Richmond. Sheriff's deputies say the teen was driving east when he lost control while making a turn -- and his car veered into a ditch, hit a utility pole and overturned.

A passenger, 19-year-old Jordan Tulgren of New Richmond, died at the scene and two other passengers were taken to a hospital with injuries.

The driver was booked on a possible charge of homicide by drunk driving and officials say the crash is still being investigated.


Central Wisconsin couple named state's Outstanding Young Farmer

BARABOO -- A central Wisconsin couple has been named the state's Outstanding Young Farmer.

Sam and Jennifer Zimmermann of Ringle, east of Wausau, won the honor during the weekend at a program in Baraboo. The Zimmermanns were among five finalists for the 64th annual award.

Sam's father raised custom heifers for about 10 years before he became ill in 2009, and he said the couple decided to take the farm and started with 50 cows in 2010. They have more than tripled the herd, while purchasing his parents' assets so they can retire.


Wolf not hired as Colts GM, but ex-Badger gets the job

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Green Bay Packers' executive Eliot Wolf will not become the new general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, but a former UW Badger player will.

Chris Ballard was named Sunday to replace Ryan Grigson, who was fired nine days ago.

Wolf was among six finalists for the Indianapolis job, after he withdrew from consideration for the GM's post at San Francisco. As a result, the 34-year-old Wolf remains in line as a possible successor to Packers' GM Ted Thompson down the road.

Ballard, was a wide receiver for the Badgers before graduating in 1993 when Barry Alvarez coached the UW football team. He's leaving the Kansas City Chiefs, where he's been since 2013 and was the head of football operations the past two seasons.


Sensenbrenner apologizes for favoring U.S. entry ban for green cards

MENOMONEE FALLS -- Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has apologized for supporting a ban on green card holders from reentering the U.S.

The Menomonee Falls Republican answered a question at a town hall meeting in Jefferson Saturday by saying that longtime immigrant residents with green cards should not be allowed back into the country, if they're away during President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from predominantly Muslim nations.

Sunday, Sensenbrenner backtracked, issuing a statement that green card holders should not be banned from entering America regardless of where they're from, unless there's "evidence of a threat."

At a town hall meeting in Menomonee Falls Sunday night, Sensenbrenner told an overflow crowd of about 250 people that he "misspoke."


One dead in Janesville house fire

JANESVILLE -- One person has died in a house fire in Janesville.

Fire Chief Randy Banker says the house was engulfed in flames when first responders arrived just after 8 p.m. Sunday  -- and several people escaped, but one person was trapped.

Police tried rescuing the victim from a balcony on the second floor, and firefighters later found the person dead.

Banker says one man and one woman were taken to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation -- and the name of the person who died was not immediately released.

Janesville fire and police officials are investigating, along with the Dane County medical examiner's office from Madison.


Two Wisconsinites win Minnesota's snow sculpting competition

ST. PAUL -- A team with two Wisconsinites will get a chance to represent Minnesota at the National Snow Sculpting Competition this week in Lake Geneva.

Jessica Turtle and David Aichinger of Osceola helped team captain Dusty Thune of St. Paul win Minnesota's snow sculpture contest Sunday at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul.

They turned a large cube of snow into the head of an unusual looking animal with eyes on both sides of its head, entitled "When Nature Calls."

The team won a trophy and $1,000, and the winning sculptures will remain on display all week -- weather permitting -- as part of St. Paul's annual Winter Carnival.

Snow sculpting begins Tuesday at the national competition in Lake Geneva, and those winners will be announced Saturday.


Federal panel orders new state redistricting by November

MADISON -- A panel of three federal judges ordered Wisconsin lawmakers Friday to redraw state Assembly and Senate maps by Nov. 1, so they can be used in the 2018 elections.

The unanimous order comes after the same panel ruled 2-to-1 two months ago that the maps majority Republicans drew behind closed doors in 2011 were excessively gerrymandered to give the GOP artificial advantages in the past three state legislative elections.

The judges Friday turned down a request from Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to wait to require the new maps until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on an appeal of the November decision.

The judges also rejected a request to have the court draw the new boundaries. That request came from Democrats who filed suit against the GOP maps.

The state Justice Department says it expects to appeal the order to redraw the district lines this year, but it's still reviewing what the judges required. Democrats are calling for public hearings on the redrawing of legislative boundaries.


UW-Oshkosh Foundation considers bankruptcy

OSHKOSH -- A state lawmaker says the private UW-Oshkosh Foundation is considering filing for bankruptcy, because it does not have enough money to cover what it owes for five building projects.

That move could leave state taxpayers to cover debts totaling $14.5 million.

State Assembly Democrat Amanda Stuck of Appleton is a new member of the foundation's board, and she confirmed the possible bankruptcy to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The state Justice Department is now looking into university funding guarantees to the foundation to help pay for the five projects from 2011 through 2014.

Earlier this month, the UW Board of Regents sued former Oshkosh chancellor Richard Wells and a former chief business officer, accusing them of illegally guaranteeing university funds if the foundation could not repay its loan debts for the facilities.


Legislators push bipartisan measure to address youth prison abuse

MADISON -- Lawmakers have launched a bipartisan effort to push the first bill addressing child abuse allegations at Wisconsin's troubled youth prison through the Legislature.

Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch and Democratic Sen. LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee introduced a bill this week that would make guards at the prison mandatory child abuse reporters.

If they fail to report abuse to child welfare workers or police they would face up to six months in jail.

Word broke in December 2015 that state agents were investigating allegations of widespread abuse at the prison in Irma. The FBI has since taken over the investigation.

Democrats introduced bills last session that would have created changes at the prison but they stalled in the Republican-controlled Legislature.


Boy saves overdosing father's life

WAUKESHA -- An 8-year-old boy and his two siblings still have their father with them Friday thanks to the boy's quick actions to call 911.  

The child called for help Thursday night after his dad overdosed on heroin behind the wheel of their car in a parking lot in Waukesha.  

A passerby helped dispatchers with the location during the phone call, and police say the man was breathing and somewhat alert when they arrived.

Television station WISN reports the children were turned over to their mother. As for the man who overdosed, he could face charges as soon as he's released from the hospital.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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