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Wisconsin roundup: Unexpected deficit in Walker budget proposal; EMT service expansion proposed in bill; 9 more state news stories

MADISON — The Legislative Fiscal Bureau projects a larger structural deficit for Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget than previously thought.

The figure released Thursday was nearly $1.1 billion. The previous estimate from Walker's office was about $740 million. Wisconsin lawmakers would have to erase that deficit when they put the 2019-2021 budget together.

Leaders of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee have questioned the spending approach in the past. The final budget will have to be balanced because that is required under the state Constitution.


Bill would allow for expansion of EMT service

MADISON — A bipartisan measure introduced Wednesday would help communities expand the service EMTs and paramedics provide to people across Wisconsin.

The Assembly Committee on Health held a public hearing on the bill Wednesday that would define statewide standards for Community Emergency Medical Services. The legislation would allow local hospitals, ambulance companies and municipal EMTs to deliver non-emergency care to people in their homes under the medical direction of a physician, and could consist of preventive care or chronic disease management.

Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point, along with Republican Rep. Amy Loudenbeck of Clinton, and Republican Sen. Terry Moulton backed the bill. Supporters say it would help bridge the gap in medical shortages that often plague rural communities.


Suspect in Wausau-area shootings still hospitalized

WESTON — The 45-year-old suspect in the Marathon County shooting rampage that left four people dead this week is being treated for non-fatal wounds and remains in a hospital.

The name of the Weston man has not been officially released. The four shooting victims have been identified as Everest Metro Police Detective Jason Weiland, Marathon Savings Bank employees Dianne Look and Karen Barclay, and attorney Sara Quirt Sann.

Investigators say the shooter was motivated by a domestic incident and wasn't trying to rob the bank. The domestic violence victim was not injured.


Gummy Bears, anyone? Candy maker headed to Wisconsin

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker says international candy maker Haribo will build its first North American plant employing 400 people in southeast Wisconsin.

Walker, surrounded by state and local economic development officials, announced the $242 million planned facility Thursday. The company is expected to be operational in the village of Pleasant Prairie, near Kenosha, by 2020.

The German-based Haribo is known for its Gummy Bear candy. Walker held up two bags of Haribo candy when he made the announcement, but says he won't be eating any because he gave up sweets for Lent.


Families of drunken-driving victims plead with lawmakers

MADISON — Several families brought photos of drunken-driving victims to an Assembly hearing room Thursday, asking Wisconsin lawmakers to pass stiffer penalties for the crime.

Three bills are being considered by the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee. The families spoke of lives cut short and moments they would always remember. One father told lawmakers, "it's criminal to allow it to go on." Although some opponents question the expense of the legislation, supporters say it's aimed at stopping people from driving drunk — not necessarily putting more people in Wisconsin prisons.


Honey, what happened? Production falls 4 percent

MADISON — The U-S Department of Agriculture reports Wisconsin honey production fell by 4 percent last year. The value of the honey was off by a similar amount.

The USDA puts statewide production at 3.35 million pounds in 2016, down from almost 3.5 million pounds the year before. The average price-per-pound was up by a penny and the number of honey-producing colonies increased by 2,000.

Despite some negative numbers, the value of the industry has been trending higher overall. Production in neighboring Minnesota and Iowa also declined.


Madison lawyer loses license over misuse of client funds

MADISON — A Madison-area attorney has agreed to give up his law license after failing to keep records of his client trust account and possibly using client money over a period of several years.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday revoked Adam Walsh's license to practice law. Walsh most recently ran Affordable Legal Services in Madison.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation noted that Walsh couldn't provide complete records of the trust account but several thousand dollars appeared to be missing in at least two instances. Walsh admitted he'd deposited his own money into the account at times, apparently to make up for missing funds. According to the opinion, none of Walsh's clients have asserted he still owes them money.


Chippewa Falls distribution center gets green light

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Mills Fleet Farm will be building a distribution center in Chippewa Falls, creating more than 300 full-time jobs.

The Chippewa County Board approved the agreement Wednesday with Minneapolis developer Ryan Companies for the $65 million project. It was approved earlier in the week by the Chippewa Falls City Council. Ryan Companies will buy 72 acres of county land at the Lake Wissota Business Park for the development.


Wisconsin group sues Texas judge over prayers

HOUSTON — The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a federal suit against a Texas Justice of the Peace who allows prayers to be said in court before proceedings start.

The lawsuit against Montgomery County Justice Wayne Mack seeks to halt the prayers, saying they violate the Constitution. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion last year saying the courtroom prayer and volunteer chaplain program are okay.

People don't have to remain for the invocations. The suit was filed in Houston Tuesday.


Doctor shortage approaching

LA CROSSE — Wisconsin doctors say an aging population means an increasing demand for medical care, and at the same time the number of doctors is dropping.

An estimated 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for Medicare every day. At the same time, the nation's doctors are aging, making recruitment tactics for young professionals even more important. La Crosse-based Gunderson Health System says the number of medical students isn't growing right now. The country may be short more than 88-thousand doctors in less than a decade.


Construction to start soon on La Crosse County stretch of power line

LA CROSSE — American Transmission Co. says it has started construction on the La Crosse County portion of its controversial high-voltage power line.

The project is moving forward despite permit delays and a legal challenge which isn't going away. The $548 million project runs 180 miles from the Madison suburbs in Dane County to Holmen. There it will connect with another high-voltage line. Necessary wetlands permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers haven't been issued, but the company reports it has strung line near Wisconsin Dells and has been clearing land in Monroe County.