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Vos, Steineke elected to lead Assembly, new agenda taking shape; Burke won't seek another statewide office; 9 more Wisconsin stories

MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker was to meet Tuesday with state legislative leaders to discuss their agenda for the next two years.

He told Assembly Republicans Monday they have the ability to "get some really great things done."

As Walker considers a run for president in 2016, his main selling point is running an efficient Wisconsin government in contrast to what he calls the "dysfunctional" federal government.

Walker brought up that point again Monday in a 15-minute pep talk to what could be the largest Republican Assembly majority since 1957. It could be as high as 63- to 36, depending on the final outcomes of close Assembly elections from last week in the Spring Green and Wausau areas.

Racine County Republican Robin Vos was re-elected the Assembly speaker Monday. Jim Steineke of Kaukauna out-polled two others to win the majority leader post, after serving as the assistant leader this past session.

Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald was re-elected last week. He envisions a more conservative upper house, after gaining one member last week for a 19-14 GOP majority.

Walker said he wants to find out what Vos and Fitzgerald have on their plates for the next session. Last month, Assembly Republicans unveiled a conservative agenda that includes reducing more red-tape for businesses, expanding private voucher schools, replacing the Common Core education standards, improving people's privacy, finding new ways to pay for road construction, and making those who apply for public benefits take drug tests. Walker has mentioned some of those measures, along with more tax cuts.

Republican Senate leader advocates for more school funding

MADISON -- The head of the Wisconsin Senate's education committee says public schools will go backward if they don't get at least some increase in their state aid.

However, Ripon Republican Luther Olsen says he does not expect the conservative Legislature to make any changes in the school funding formula over the next two years.

On Monday, the Department of Public Instruction made a budget request for an additional $613 million in state school aid from mid-2015 through 2017.

The Department of Public Instruction also wants to increase the state-mandated school revenue limits by over $400 a student over the two-year period, with automatic future increases for inflation. That's means the prospect for higher local property taxes, at a time when majority Republicans have promised to keep reducing the combined state and local tax burden.

The GOP has shunned what the DPI calls the "Fair Funding for our Future" initiative in each of the last two budgets.

Olsen said the DPI is asking for what schools need, including the higher operating costs that everyone faces and it's up to the governor and Legislature to decide what taxpayers can afford.

State Superintendent Tony Evers also proposes to have Milwaukee's private school voucher program funded with general state tax dollars, instead of a local tax levy.

Burke will continue school board service but won't seek another statewide office

MADISON -- Mary Burke has no plans to run for statewide office again. She told reporters yesterday that she'll probably seek another three-year term on the Madison School Board next spring, but has no intention to run for any other office, after losing by almost six percentage points to Gov. Scott Walker a week ago.

The next statewide opportunity is in two years, when U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson goes up for his second term. Burke has ruled out a bid for that post, saying there are others who are "pretty serious" about it.

The Washington Post wrote over the weekend that Democrat Russ Feingold, whom Johnson defeated in 2010, may try to get his old job back.

Burke, a former state Commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive, said she ran for governor because she wanted the job and it was a "call to duty." There were rumblings that state Democratic leaders tried to get Burke to run and she accepted the challenge while spending $5 million of her own money on the race.

Burke said she doesn't regret that. She said it's a lot of money, but she knew going in that she'd have to spend it to stay competitive with the well-funded Walker.

Glidden records 14 inches, Washburn County reporting a foot of snow

Winter storm warnings continue in northern Wisconsin, where up to 14 inches of snow fell by early Monday evening.

The National Weather Service says another one to five inches are possible in the northern half of the state, including areas where freezing rain caused hazardous driving conditions Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Glidden in Ashland County had the most snow in the state Monday -- 14 inches by 7 p.m.

Parts of Vilas and Washburn counties also had a foot or more. Winchester, which received 9 inches in late October, had 12 inches and counting by 7:30 p.m., Monday.

In central Wisconsin, snow totals were as low as two inches in Marshfield, but the region could get another two- to four inches of snow Tuesday.

Winds are forecast to reach 30 miles per hour in some places, causing snow drifts and limited visibility for drivers.

Snow was expected to end by late Tuesday morning but the South Shore of Lake Superior could get more snow into Wednesday. Up to two feet is possible.

Post office renamed to honor fallen soldier

DE PERE -- The post office in De Pere has been renamed in honor of a local soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Government leaders joined friends and relatives of the late Justin Ross Monday at a dedication ceremony.

Ross, 22, from Howard, was killed just over three years ago while clearing improvised explosive devices from military shipping roads in Afghanistan.

House Republican Reid Ribble of Sherwood sponsored the bill that re-named the De Pere Post Office.

Ribble said it's meant to honor Ross and four others from his northeast Wisconsin district who've died in combat since he took office at the start of 2011. Ross's father said he hopes people will think about courage, honesty, and integrity when they see his son's name.

DNR: Wetter 2014 likely reduced statewide water use

MADISON -- A state official estimates that Wisconsin will again use less water in 2014 than the year before.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources water supply specialist Bob Smail says the weather determines the demand for ground-and-surface water and we certainly know that we've had more rain and snow this year than in the recent past.

The DNR said three weeks ago that Wisconsin's water usage hit a three-year low in 2013, as surface- and groundwater use fell by six percent from 2012 when we had the most severe drought in decades.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was to takes a more detailed look at the numbers Tuesday morning.

It said the drought forced agriculture to use more water than the state's communities for the first time in 2012.

Smail predicts that the demand for groundwater usage will keep growing, even when we don't have drought conditions because canneries are relying more on farmers who irrigate their vegetable crops and irrigation territories are growing in central and western Wisconsin.

UW Oshkosh student charged with possessing ricin

OSHKOSH -- A UW Oshkosh student was charged in federal court Monday with possessing ricin, a deadly biological toxin.

Kyle Smith, 21, was arrested Oct. 31 after Oshkosh Police cordoned off a four-block area around his home while executing a search warrant.

The Oshkosh Northwestern reported that professors told campus police about comments Smith made about extracting ricin from castor beans, and how he learned more about the chemical from the Internet.

In a search warrant affidavit, Smith was quoted as telling a concerned professor -- "They are all interested in life, and I am interested in, like, ending it."

Officials said Smith also mentioned a fascination with chemical weapons, but he never expressed a desire to harm anyone.

Authorities said powder in a glass vial in Smith's home tested positive for ricin, which experts say can cause respiratory failure if it's inhaled.

Smith has been held in jail while authorities decided whether Smith should face state or federal charges. Prosecutors chose the latter.

Reward fund in toddler's shooting death rises to $15,000

MILWAUKEE -- It's been five days since five-year-old Laylah Petersen was killed when a bullet was shot into her Milwaukee home and police are still trying to find out who did it.

On Monday, the community group Citizens for Urban Justice put up a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. That's on top of another $10,000 reward put up by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Police have not said what the motive might have been for the shootings. Laylah's funeral will be held Wednesday.

Milwaukee's Our Lady of Good Hope School has called off classes for Wednesday so the girl's school mates can attend the service.

Onalaska fisherman still missing

LA CROSSE -- Rescuers were not sure yet if they'll be searching Tuesday for a missing boater who's presumed drowned in the Mississippi River near La Crosse.

Officials say it all depends on the weather.

Diving teams and crews with sonar equipment searched Monday for Joshua Xiong, 27, of Onalaska.

Sheriff's deputies in Winona County, Minn., said Xiong's fishing boat may have gone through a roller-gate at Lock & Dam 7 at Dresbach, just northwest of La Crosse.

He went fishing on the river late Saturday night, and searchers were told Sunday he was missing.

With snow and strong winds in the forecast, Sheriff Dave Brand said it might be too risky for the rescue teams.

If Xiong has not been found by Wednesday or Thursday, Brand said he would request the Wisconsin State Patrol to assist with a helicopter.

Child-molester gets 75 years in prison

FRIENDSHIP -- An Adams County man will most likely die in prison for molesting five children between 1989 and 2005.

Joey Hicks, 49, was sentenced Monday to 75 years in prison -- which means he'll only go free if he wins an appeal, or lives nine years longer than the oldest living person on record. If Hicks defies the odds, though, he'll have to spend up to 20 years under extended supervision after his prison term. A jury convicted Hicks in April on nine criminal charges that included first- and second degree child sexual assault, repeated assault of the same child, incest, and attempted sex assault.

One young victim told police Hicks had sexual contact with her more than 100 times and he would use horses to lure her into the woods.

Visiting Judge John Roemer of Juneau County called Hicks a "psychopath" with "no concern for others or children."

The world's oldest person on record died in 2009 in Portugal at age 115. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said at the time that there was no record of any current Wisconsinite age 110 or older.

Walker cracking football jokes at Bears' expense

MADISON -- No matter what you think of Governor Scott Walker, you've got to admit he has a sense of humor. Walker tweeted Monday he has more victories in Wisconsin than Chicago Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler.

The tweet showed up on ESP-N's Sports Center Monday evening, just hours after Walker made a similar crack to his fellow Republicans in the state Assembly.

Walker won his third statewide election last Tuesday -- and five nights later, Cutler's record in Wisconsin dropped to 1 and 10 when his Chicago Bears got trounced by the Packers in Green Bay Sunday, 55- to 14. The Republican Walker told GOP representatives it's been a good week -- and he was only talking about the Packer-Bear game.

Walker was re-elected last Tuesday by almost six percentage points, and Assembly Republicans were headed toward their largest majority in the lower house since 1957.

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