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Guns-at-school bill dies quickly; trade groups push for Kenosha casino; more state news

MADISON -- It appears that Wisconsinites will not have police, teachers, or anyone else carrying guns at school.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' office said Wednesday that the lower house would not vote on a bill to let retired, off-duty, and out-of-state police officers carry concealed weapons in Wisconsin public school grounds.

Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer did not say why the Assembly won't vote on it.

The announcement came after Oconomowoc Republican Joel Kleefisch said he would initiate a debate on guns-in-schools. He proposed an amendment to let any of the state's 203,000 concealed weapon permit-holders carry hidden heat on school grounds.

Kleefisch chairs the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee. He was planning to have the panel vote Thursday on the original bill and his amendment. Kleefisch said he did not have the votes to let adults carry concealed guns at school, but he said the issue deserved a debate.

Groups that represent Wisconsin school boards and administrators registered against the amendment, as did the city of Milwaukee.

John Forester of the School Administrators' Alliance said he doesn't hear a lot of parents clamoring for guns in schools. The state Justice Department and a half-dozen law enforcement groups came out in support of letting certain officers carry hidden guns in schools. The Justice Department did not respond to letting others do the same.

Medical group launches suit to block Obama-care

MILWAUKEE -- A conservative medical group filed suit Wednesday on behalf of a northeast Wisconsin psychiatrist who claims that Obama-care is unconstitutional.

The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons said Robert McQueeney gets most of his payments in cash, because he does not take most forms of insurance.

The group says McQueeney's clients will spend less for his care, because they're required to be insured under Obama-care -- and McQueeney will never be able to recover those losses.

The association said the White House bypassed constitutional restrictions, when it delayed the so-called "employer mandate" without the approval of Congress. Employers with 50 or more workers must offer affordable health insurance to the employees or face fines.

Without the employer mandate, the group says people are spending more for the insurance they're required to have. That's because they don't have price protections the employer mandate could offer.

The lawsuit asks that Obama-care be thrown out or to not enforce the individual mandate to buy insurance before the employer mandate kicks in.

Trade groups urge approval for Kenosha casino

MADISON -- A group of local officials, construction workers, and business leaders were expected to make a trip to Madison Thursday to urge Gov. Scott Walker to say yes to a Kenosha casino.

The coalition plans a news conference at the State Capitol, to emphasize the estimated 3,500 jobs to be created by the Menominee tribe's proposed off-reservation casino and resort. They also plan to point out the tax benefits that state and local governments would get.

The Menominee has offered to increase what it pays to the state in gambling winnings, so two other tribes that fear revenue losses from their own casinos would not have to pay as much.

Walker delayed a decision scheduled last Friday on the Kenosha casino, so he could study the ramifications further. He's been issuing daily updates on the subject, clarifying the conditions he set for approving it.

One of those is community support, and Walker mentions a mixed record on that. He said Kenosha voters approved a referendum for the project in 1998, and Kenosha County residents did the same six years later.

The governor also the Milwaukee City Council and County Board opposed the project, supporting the Potawatomi which fears a loss of gaming revenue if the Kenosha casino is built.

State may be on the hook for $67 million in Medicaid reimbursements

A recent audit says Wisconsin might have to give back up to $67 million in federal funding, for excessive billings to Medicaid for a youth psychiatric program.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the state hired the consulting firm of Maximus in 2004, to make sure it was getting the maximum federal Medicaid reimbursements to help run the Health Check psychiatric program.

Instead of giving Maximus a flat fee, it paid the firm according to the amount of federal dollars the state was able to lure. Taxpayers shelled out almost $3.5 million for those fees from 2004 to 2009. Now, a federal audit questions a $67 million increase in what Wisconsin got from Washington.

State Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades said the state shouldn't have to pay anything back, because it acted properly in receiving the money.

The department says it's still waiting for a federal order on a payback. Legislative audit committee co-chair Rob Cowles expects an order to pay at least something back.

The Green Bay Republican said he hoped the state could somehow recoup whatever it has to pay back, and avoid such incentive arrangements in the future. Cowles said, "When I hear stuff like this, I do a slow burn."

Japan ends Wisconsin poultry ban

Japan has ended a ban on Wisconsin poultry products.

It was imposed in July, after birds at a Jefferson County poultry farm showed signs of exposure to the bird-flu.

A routine inspection this summer showed that some birds had antibodies to a low-pathogen avian flu.

State Veterinarian Paul McGraw said over 110 flocks in the area were tested in early August. Everything turned up negative, but McGraw said it takes time to work through the numerous channels involved in international business.

McGraw said there was never any risk to food safety or public health. The state agriculture department says Japan will start accepting poultry products from eggs laid and birds killed after Wednesday, when the country's ban was officially ended. China and Russia still have similar bans on Wisconsin poultry.

McGraw says his agency has been working with federal officials to get those bans lifted as well.

Use 'Fall back' as trigger to check smoke detectors

The weekend will be one hour longer. Daylight savings time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, when the clock goes back to 1 a.m. for second time.

Wisconsin officials remind folks to turn back their clocks one hour before going to bed on Saturday night. They also suggest that you check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors -- and to change those batteries when you change your clocks.

In Milwaukee, firefighters hand out new smoke detectors to neighbors when there's a fatal house fire.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says about 16 million homes around the country have smoke detectors which don't work, due mainly to dead and missing batteries.

Bill would protect privacy of non-violent 17-year-old offenders

MADISON -- An effort to keep non-violent 17-year-olds out of prison could take another step forward Thursday. The Wisconsin Assembly Corrections Committee was scheduled to vote at mid-morning on a bill to treat those teens as juveniles instead of adults.

The Senate's public safety committee is taking testimony on the same measure late Thursday morning.

It would only affect 17-year-olds charged with their first non-violent offenses. Repeat offenders and those accused of the most serious crimes like homicide and sexual assault would still be tried as adults.

The State Bar, the public defender's office, and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference are among those supporting the bill.

Advocacy groups have tried in the past to treat all 17-year-olds as juveniles -- but that effort has gone nowhere, so a compromise was crafted this time around.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is still opposes it. He says the current system works well.

Wisconsin started treating 17-year-old criminal suspects like adults in 1996, when former GOP Governor Tommy Thompson approved it.

Today, Wisconsin is among just 11 states where all minors are treated as adults in the court system.

OSHA assesses $140,000 in fines for death at ethanol plant

BEAVER DAM -- Federal workplace safety officials are recommending $140,000 in fines for an ethanol plant in southern Wisconsin where a worker died in April.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 15 citations to United Ethanol for health and safety violations at its plant in Milton.

OSHA said the company exposed 27-year-old Jerad Guell of Janesville to a safety hazard which led to his death.

Guell entered a grain bin to unclog a floor chute, and thousands of bushels of corn began flowing down on him.

United Ethanol is based in Beaver Dam.

The firm has not said how it will respond to the OSHA citations. It can either pay or challenge the fines, or seek a settlement conference with the agency.

Construction worker killed in garage collapse identified

FOX POINT -- A worker killed when a residential garage collapsed in Fox Point is identified as Sean Held, 38, of Slinger.

Police said Held was working for MDM Builders, which had two workers shoring up the garage when it collapsed. The other employee was working just outside the garage. That person escaped injury.

Held was inside the building, and got trapped in the rubble. The homeowner was away at the time of the incident, around 9 a.m, Wednesday.

Officials are still trying to find out why the collapse occurred.

Fox Point, on Lake Michigan, is located about 10 miles north of Milwaukee.

House fire claims life of elderly woman

SHOREWOOD -- A 90-year-old woman was killed Thursday night in a house fire in suburban Milwaukee.

North Shore firefighters were called around 9 p.m. to a burning house in Shorewood.

TV reports said the blaze started in a kitchen, and rescuers pulled the victim from the house. There was no immediate word on what caused the fire.

The victim's name was withheld, pending notification of relatives.

'Beer tourism' thrives at Stevens Point

Four Stevens Point area breweries in the Stevens Point area are having a drawing for an all-expenses-paid trip -- tagged a "Beer-cation" -- to central Wisconsin to tour the breweries.

The purpose is to show off the wide variety of craft beers being made in the area.

Julie Birrenkott of the Point Brewery says the craft-beer industry is re-defining the way people think about beer in Wisconsin. She says they’re making brews with more flavors, more hops, more malts, and great tastes.

Mark Buttera of the O’so Brewery said beer tourism is no longer a fad. He said folks are really serious about seeing all the different breweries, and hear their stories. He says it helps that the Stevens Point Brewery is part of the campaign, with its 156-year tradition that’s a part of Wisconsin history.

The Central Waters and Kozy Yak breweries are also sponsoring the contest. Beer-lovers can sign up for the weekend tour prize through next month, by logging onto the Stevens Point Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Web site or Facebook page. Visit it at

-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau

Packer fans invited to donate old phones

GREN BAY -- Heading to Monday night's Packer-Bears game? Bring an old cell-phone if you still have one. The team will collect old phones, batteries, chargers, and related accessories, to be given to survivors of domestic violence.

Verizon Wireless will refurbish the phones that can be saved. The company will donate the phones, plus air-time, to domestic violence victims and survivors.

Also, Verizon will donate $10 for each phone collected to the Golden House, a Green Bay organization that helps those affected by domestic violence.

Volunteers will be at the gates starting at 5:30. Those not going can still drop their items off at Verizon stores statewide.