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Wisconsin roundup: Incumbent Evers cruises at polls, remains state schools chief; second teen pleads guilty in Houlton chicken death case; 10 more state news stories

State Public School Superintendent Tony Evers, shown here in a candidate debate, defeated challenger Lowell Holtz at the polls Tuesday. Image courtesy of WisconsinEye

Seven of every 10 Wisconsin voters choose Tony Evers, who won a third term as the state's public school superintendent.

He received about 490,000 votes on Tuesday to 211,000 for former Beloit and Whitnall Superintendent Lowell Holtz. Evers says people feel positive about their schools — and while his margin of victory surprised him, Evers says he won because he maintained a positive campaign.

Holtz, an advocate of tax funded private school vouchers, says he was obligated to focus on the problems that involve failing schools. Holtz says he hopes his campaign would broaden the way people view education reform, including his effort to throw out the Common Core standards. Holtz, who also ran for state superintendent in 2009, was outfunded 4-to-1 in his campaign.

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Second teen pleads guilty to burning live chicken in town of St. Joseph

HUDSON — A second teenager from the Green Bay area has pleaded guilty to setting fire to a live chicken in St. Croix County.

Seventeen-year-old Hayden Lammers of Suamico was given a deferred prosecution agreement in St. Croix County, in which his misdemeanor conviction will be dropped if he meets certain conditions in the next year. They include performing 30 hours of service at an animal shelter. Seventeen-year-old Ryan McElmurry of Suamico made a similar deal last month. Both were charged after the chicken's burning was recorded and placed on social media last year.

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Assembly OKs 9 more bills to battle opioid, heroin abuse

MADISON — Nine more bills have passed the state Assembly, aimed at fighting Wisconsin's growing opioid and heroin abuse problems.

The lower house approved all but two proposals Gov. Scott Walker sought in a special session — and the other two are still in committees. The measures include more funding to expand treatment programs, training more doctors to detect addictions, training school teachers to screen youngsters for addiction, and starting a charter high school for addicts.

The bills were written by Assembly Republican John Nygren of Marinette with recommendations from the governor's opioid task force. The nine bills were sent to the Senate with overwhelming support — and Democrats tried but failed to get Walker to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, which Walker has turned down several times in the past.

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Vote on rule relaxations for high-capacity wells delayed

MADISON — Wisconsin senators will vote Wednesday morning on a bill to let the state's largest farms keep their high capacity water wells without more regulations.

Minority Democrats used a procedural move to delay the measure after a debate late Tuesday, and it would go the Assembly upon Senate approval. The bill would exclude large well owners from having their state permits reviewed when they fix or redrill wells, or sell their land.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the current rules can "choke off" vegetable and cranberry growers — but Monona Democrat Mark Miller says it lets the permits last "forever" with no chance to review them. Senate Republicans agreed make the DNR study central Wisconsin's sandy soils to see if a well causes pollution when combined with other wells. Environmentalists filed suit to bring back the analyses.

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Finance chair: UW students make 'strong argument' to keep fees

PLATTEVILLE — Senate Finance Chairwoman Alberta Darling says some UW-System students make a "strong argument" against giving students the option of paying fees that help keep campus organizations going.

Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget would no longer require UW students to pay segregated fees for campus groups, saying it would give students the choice of what they do and do not want to fund. Several students who spoke at a finance committee hearing on the budget Monday in Platteville said the measure would change the culture on campuses, and result in lower funds to critical services like rape crisis centers. About 170 people were registered to speak at Monday's budget hearing at UW-Platteville. The committee's next hearing is Wednesday in West Allis.

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Road funding referendums get mixed results

Voters in Milwaukee and La Crosse counties gave conflicting opinions on whether to tax themselves for local road improvements.

In Milwaukee County, 72 percent of voters said no Tuesday to County Executive Chris Abele's proposed $60 annual wheel tax on residents' cars and trucks — after half that amount, or 30 dollars, started being imposed in March.

In La Crosse County, the vote was 55-45 percent to ask state lawmakers to declare the county a "premier resort area" like Wisconsin Dells and Bayfield — so they can a levy a special 0.50 percent sales tax for roads and other utilities. County Board Chairwoman Tara Johnson says voters recognized what she called "a desperate attempt" to raise money to fix crumbling roads because in her words, "The state is not pulling its weight and contributing what it it supposed to for local roads."

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Justice Ziegler re-elected, state gets first Hmong circuit judge

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler has been re-elected to a second 10-year term.

The former Washington County circuit judge was unopposed Tuesday, after raising an initial $370,000 in case she had a challenger. Ziegler is a part of the court's 5-2 majority that generally takes the conservative side in most major cases.

Meanwhile, Kristy Yang of Oak Creek has become Wisconsin's first Hmong/American circuit judge, replacing the retiring John Siefert. Yang defeated Scott Wales of Fox Point Tuesday 57-43 percent to become only the nation's second Hmong refugee from the 1980s and '90s to be elected to the bench. The other is from California.

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Body found where missing man was being sought

MENASHA — Rescuers have not confirmed whether a body found in a Fox Valley lake is that of a man missing since last Saturday.

Winnebago County divers say they found the body of an "adult male" Tuesday in Little Lake Butte des Morts, south of a boat landing toward the center of the lake. Rescuers and family members had been looking for 50-year-old Mark Graham of Neenah, whose empty boat was seen running in circles last Saturday afternoon near the boat landing.

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JanSport to end apparel production, nearly 400 to lose jobs

APPLETON — The VF Corporation is ending its JanSport Collegiate apparel line, a move that will put nearly 400 Fox Valley workers out of a job.

Television station WBAY reports that a letter provided to employees says the business located in Greenville will begin letting employees go on June 9. The move will impact 380 jobs. A letter to employees says the last possible day of employment will be Sept. 29.

Employees will receive a package for 120 hours of severance. The company is not closing the facility. VF says it will remain open to service its outdoor brands Timberland, The North Face and Vans. The 370 workers in accounting, finance, credit, and customer service will remain employed.

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Maple syrup volumes and quality uneven throughout state

MADISON — Some Wisconsinites are still sapping trees for maple syrup while for others, the season ended weeks ago.

The Wisconsin Ag Statistics Service says the production levels and quality of the syrup varied widely throughout the Badger State. Officials say tree tappers had an early and erratic start as result of February's warm temperatures. A more seasonal March resulted in good sap production in some places, especially in northern Wisconsin.

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State submits corrective plan at King veterans home

MADISON — The state has submitted a "corrective action plan" to the federal government aimed at preventing residents' injuries at the Veterans' Home in King.

U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin released the plan Monday, after an inspection she requested turned up problems that included a broken skull to a resident who fell from a bed while two nursing assistants were caring for him. The state promised to give new training to nurses, and make random checks to prevent future injuries to the veterans who live at King.

There have been numerous reports of inadequate staffing, building decay, and diversions of federal funds earmarked for King — and the federal VA inspectors also found that King did not have adequate written plans for its care, and not meeting standards to protect against injuries. Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget includes $12 million in building and drinking water improvements at King.

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USDA: Too early to assess winter crop damage

MADISON — It's too early to tell how the warm weather affected possible damage to Wisconsin's winter wheat and hay stands.

The state Ag Statistics Service says record warm temperatures in February removed the snow cover in most of the state — while rainy and above freezing days in March left fields exposed to occasional cold snaps.

Fifty-four percent of the state's winter wheat is rated good to excellent, and about two percent of this year's oat crop has been planted. Fields are highly saturated, with about 30 percent of farm fields having surplus moisture — and officials say more sunny and warmer days are needed to create good field conditions for planting.

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