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Schaffhausen sentencing set for July 15; Lawmakers demand UW tuition freeze; more state news

Convicted killer Aaron Schaffhausen will be sentenced next July. He pleaded guilty last month to killing his three daughters in River Falls, but had claimed his mental state meant he wasn't responsible. A jury disagreed.

Each of the three counts of first-degree intentional homicide carries a life sentence. The judge will decide whether they are to be served consecutively or concurrently and whether he will be eligible for parole in 20 or more years.

Yesterday the sentencing was set for 1 p.m. Monday, July 15.

Prosecutors had told the court Schaffhausen had killed his daughters to hurt his ex-wife, the mother of the girls. He was living in Minot, N.D., at the time.


Lawmakers demand UW tuition freeze

The call for a tuition freeze for students in the University of Wisconsin System is bipartisan. Democrats have joined Republicans in demanding the freeze.

This comes in response to a memo released last week by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. It showed the system finished the last fiscal year with almost $650 million in reserves.

Republicans immediately asked how the Board of Regents could justify raising tuition for the last six years with that much money in reserves. A total of $414 million was in tuition reserves.

Democrats are normally among the strong supporters of the system, but they sent a letter to system President Kevin Reilly calling for the tuition to be frozen for the next two years.


Small business owners cautiously optimistic

Wisconsin small business owners believe the economy is recovering, but they are still cautious about expansion.

A new survey by U.S. Bank released Wednesday shows 47% of small business owners who responded do think the U.S. economy is improving. Another 39% say it's still in a recession. The remaining 14% simply aren't sure.

About two-thirds of the 210 Wisconsin business owners contacted are hesitant to make major investments in their companies and say they probably would not do so in the next year.


Grant for Native American cultural center held up

A vote to rescind a $250,000 state grant to partially fund a Native American cultural center is on hold until after Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp meets with tribal leaders next week.

Republican state Representative Dean Kaufert first proposed taking away the grant to the Lac du Flambeau Bank of Lake Superior Chippewa as retribution for six tribes raising their walleye spearfishing goals.

Kaufert said that could be devastating to tourism in Wisconsin's Northwoods.

Gov. Scott Walker has said he supports the funding for the cultural center. If there is a vote, if won't happen until next month.


Unemployment rates drops in nearly all counties

The unemployment rate has gone down in 70 of Wisconsin's 72 counties.

The statewide rate for March was 7.1%. Menominee County has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 14.6%, with Dane County the lowest at 5.1%.

The data are based on monthly claims for unemployment insurance, plus a survey of almost 1,500 households. The numbers could change when seasonally adjusted.

Thirty-one cities reported lower jobless rates. Racine has the highest rate in the state at 13.3%, while Caledonia has the lowest at 3.9%.


Leave groundhogs on protected list, says Jimmy's owner

Groundhog owner Gerald Hahn of Sun Prairie told Wisconsin lawmakers they should leave groundhogs on the state's protected species list.

The Assembly natural resources committee is considering legislation establishing a hunting season for groundhogs.

Hahn owns Jimmy the Groundhog, the state's answer to Punxsutawney Phil. He predicts how much longer winter is going to last each year.

Hahn closed his remarks at the Capitol Wednesday by saying Bucky should watch out if the legislation is passed. Bucky Badger is the UW-Madison's mascot.

Hahn says he was just trying to say that with all the expansion of hunting in the state, maybe badgers would be next.

Supporters of the legislation say the animals are abundant, and it isn't clear why groundhogs were ever put on a protected species list.


Cold weather delays sturgeon spawning season

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports the unseasonably cold weather has delayed the sturgeon spawning season.

State biologists say this shouldn't impact the survival rate of sturgeon eggs, but it could be a factor in the size of the fish.

The sturgeon had taken over the Wolf River for spawning well before the end of March last year. That hasn't happened this year.

Pike and walleye spawning is also about two weeks late. Forecasters are offering hope the fish will be moving in soon as temperatures get warmer.


Market worker dies after 15-foot fall

A 21-year-old worker at Woodman's Food Market in Beloit has died of head injuries.

The Rock County Coroner's office confirmed the death of Bradley Olson yesterday. He suffered head trauma and a significant brain injury when he fell 15 feet at the Woodman's warehouse last weekend.

Olson had been taken to University Hospital in Madison after the accident. The coroner has ruled his death accidental, saying the family has agreed to donate his organs.

The incident happened at the warehouse at 1805 S. Madison Road in Beloit Sunday.