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Wisconsin news: Walker to consider limiting recounts as Wisconsin effort enters second day; 10 more state news stories

Hudson resident Dianne Kiel (left) fields a question Friday during the presidential recount at the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson. At right is town of Richmond resident Donna Preece, who also assisted with the canvassing effort. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Mike Longaecker)

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker says he will consider putting limits on the recounts that losing candidates can seek.

The Republican Walker is not happy that Green Party candidate Jill Stein -- who finished a distant fourth in the Wisconsin White House contest -- is now getting a statewide recount to see if computer hackers wiped out ballots before the original canvass. Walker admits the recount could reaffirm voters' confidence in the election system -- but he says it's also putting a strain on county clerks at a time they're supposed to be preparing local property tax bills.

After lighting the State Capitol Christmas tree Friday, Walker repeated what he said in the Fox Valley Thursday -- that Stein is using the millions of dollars she's raising to pay for recounts to build a database of Green Party supporters. Walker did not say what changes he wants for the process, after he and legislative Republicans agreed earlier to reduce the margin of defeat for getting a tax funded recount from 0.50 percent to 0.25 percent.


Wisconsin presidential recount enters Day 2

This is Day Two of the presidential recount in Wisconsin, where many counties got off to a slow start Thursday as they muddled through record keeping and paperwork before getting to the business of counting the state's 2.8 million ballots from Nov. 8.

Starting Friday, the state Elections Commission says it will release data from counties where the vote totals are changed -- and the state says it will try to publish explanations for any change of 10 votes or more. Canvassing shows that Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 22,000 votes -- but fourth place finisher Jill Stein is the one seeking the recount, amid reports that computer hackers took away ballots that were electronically counted.

Forty-nine counties are performing hand recounts, 10 others are using a mix of hand counts and electronic scans, and 13 counties are scanning the vast majority of their ballots, and they're all supposed to finish by the night of Dec. 12.


Governor's panel proposes to make families stronger

MADISON -- A commission formed by Gov. Scott Walker has come up with 12 proposals to make Wisconsin families stronger, including an expansion of tax funded vouchers for private school kids.

The "Future of the Family Commission" spent 11 months developing its ideas -- some of which could end up in Walker's next two year state budget. Beside a larger voucher program, the proposals include the teaching of family planning and financial skills in schools -- helping prisoners improve their parenting and relationship skills -- and adopting the Heritage Foundation's "Success Sequence" that encourages high school graduation, getting jobs, and waiting until marriage to have kids.

The suggestions did not have cost estimates. Walker formed the 12 member panel to identify "challenges and barriers families face," and to look for solutions to "overcome those hurdles."


DNR reorganization: Large farms could hire consultants for permit applications

MADISON -- The state Department of Natural Resources says large livestock operations would be allowed to draw up their own permit applications under an agency reorganization plan.

DNR officials announced the plan Wednesday. The proposal calls for allowing large farms to hire qualified consultants to help write applications for construction permits and manure management permits. The agency would still approve or deny the permits and its environmental protection standards won’t change. DNR officials say the change would hopefully reduce back-and-forth between farmers and DNR staff on application revisions, freeing up staff to perform more frequent field compliance checks.


Ryan, Johnson slam latest problem at Tomah VA

WASHINGTON – U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson are demanding more accountability at the Tomah VA Medical Center.

The hospital that was heavily criticized two years ago for prescribing too many painkillers is now telling almost 600 patients that a dentist may have infected them with hepatitis or HIV because he kept using his own equipment rather than sterile and disposable items as required by VA policy. Speaker Ryan from Janesville says he's upset that the dentist -- whose name has not been disclosed -- is still working at Tomah in an administrative role.

Johnson says all veterans who've been notified of the matter should take advantage of free medical screenings, and free treatment if they test positive. Officials at Tomah say an employee filling in as a dental assistant noticed the violation and reported it -- and the VA has sent the case to its inspector general for consideration of possible charges.


Trump could make 'Thank You Tour' stop in Wisconsin

The next president and vice president have started a "Thank You Tour" in battleground states that helped elect them.

Republicans Donald Trump and Mike Pence spoke during a rally in Cincinnati on Thursday -- and Gov. Scott Walker is guessing they'll visit Wisconsin in the next couple weeks. Meanwhile, Walker told reporters in Seymour Thursday that the statewide recount of the presidential ballots is "nothing more than a fundraising scheme for the Green Party."

Candidate Jill Stein has raised $6.8 million for recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania as well as Wisconsin -- and the Republican Walker says the party will use the donors' names to create a "long term mailing list that they'll use for their own political functions." The governor said Stein has acted within her rights -- but he says county clerks have other things to do after a busy year, like getting property tax bills out to home and business owners.


Two new state finance panel members named

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Legislature's most powerful committee is getting two new members.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has named Reps. Mark Born of Beaver Dam and Mike Rohrkaste of Neenah to the Joint Finance Committee. The speaker also removed Oshkosh Republican Michael Schraa, but no one has said why. Rep. Dean Knudson of Hudson is also leaving the panel after he decided not to run for another term in his Assembly district.

The finance panel rewrites the governor's state budget proposal every two years and submits it to the Legislature for approval -- and the rest of the time, it acts on a variety of state government financial and policy matters.


Despite clerk's error, absentee ballots OK'd in Senate recount

VIROQUA -- Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling continues to lead in a recount for her state Senate seat.

On Thursday, a canvassing board in Vernon County approved 46 absentee ballots on which clerks did not write their addresses as required by a new Republican law. An attorney for Shilling's GOP opponent, Dan Kapanke, said the ballots should not have counted -- but Shilling's lawyer says voters should not suffer because of clerical mistakes which the voters did not make.

Kapanke asked for the Senate recount after losing by 56 votes to the Democrat Shilling, of almost 90,000 ballots cast Nov. 8. Schilling now leads by 64 total votes after recounts were completed in the Vernon, Monroe, and Crawford County parts of the Senate district. The largest county, La Crosse, expects to finish its tally Friday.


Warm November blamed for big jump in traffic deaths

MADISON -- A warm November is blamed for a big increase in Wisconsin traffic deaths last month.

The DOT says 62 people were killed in November crashes throughout the state -- 13 more than the same month last year, and 14 above the average for the past five years. November was tied for July as being the deadliest month on the highways this year, and the DOT's David Pabst says mild weather apparently had more and faster drivers on the road than normal.

Five motorists were killed during the Thanksgiving weekend, one more than last year. The DOT says 550 people died in state crashes in the first 11 months of 2016 – almost 6.5 percent more than in the same period the previous year.


UW-Madison students pass resolution for sanctuary campuses for imimigrants

MADISON -- The student government of University of Wisconsin-Madison has passed a resolution demanding Chancellor Rebecca Blank and UW-System President Ray Cross declare system schools sanctuary campuses for students who entered the country illegally as minors.

The Associated Students of Madison passed the resolution Wednesday. It calls on Blank and Cross to issue the declaration before President-elect Donald Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration, saying Trump may start deporting immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors. The resolution says such a declaration would mean campuses wouldn't release information to federal immigration authorities on deportation issues, federal authorities would be barred from visiting campuses to arrest students who entered the country illegally as minors and campus police would be prohibited from working with federal immigration authorities.

Responding Thursday morning, University of Wisconsin-Madison officials said Chancellor Rebecca Blank doesn't have the authority to declare the school a sanctuary for students who entered the country illegally. A university spokesperson says that Blank doesn't have the power to make such a declaration and she must run the school within the constraints of federal and state law.


Duluth-Superior leaders: AIDS stigma must end

DULUTH -- Officials and health advocates in the Twin Ports say a stigma against those with the AIDS virus needs to end.

HIV patients, their loved ones, and others lit candles on Thursday at the first Twin Ports Expo held in conjunction with World AIDS Day. Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen and Duluth Mayor Emily Larson helped kick off the event, and Larson assured patients and loved ones that they're a safe and "beloved" part of the community. AIDS deaths are down since the disease was first made known in the 1980s -- and Christy Rushfeldt of the Minnesota AIDS Project says patients still have expensive needs like mental and chemical health, insurance, and affordable medicines. Other counselors say people are still afraid of those with HIV because they don't know that with proper medicines, it's much harder to transmit the virus than in the past.


Drowned hunter ID'd

MERRILL -- A deer hunter who drowned in a north central Wisconsin river has been identified 76-year-old William Storm of the Merrill area.

The Lincoln County coroner's office says Storm was reported missing for almost six hours on Wednesday before his body was found in a wooded area in the town of Pine River. Officials say the man stopped at home to get waders to track deer close to the Pine River. He was supposed to return home Wednesday but did not -- and officers and rescuers from several agencies looked for Storm with the help of a drone with a thermal imaging camera. Wisconsin's gun deer hunt ended last weekend, but archery and muzzleloading seasons continue.