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Wisconsin roundup: State unemployment rate second-lowest on record; 9 more state news stories

Wisconsin labor officials on Thursday, June 15, announced a seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 3.1 percent for May. File photo

MADISON — Wisconsin's unemployment rate is the second lowest on record.

State labor officials on Thursday announced a seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 3.1 percent for May. That's down 0.10 percent from April and the lowest since July of 1999 when unemployment was at 3 percent for three straight months.

It's also more than 1 percent lower than the national jobless rate for May of 4.3 percent. More than 8,000 Wisconsinites entered the statewide labor force last month, which means that more people are actively looking for jobs — and the number of residents listed as unemployed, 96,000, is the lowest since February of 2000.


Budget panel votes to end state domestic partner benefits

MADISON — The panel that's rewriting the new state budget has voted to end Wisconsin's domestic partner registry, which gives same-sex couples about 40 percent of the legal benefits of married couples.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 Thursday to put an end to the 8-year-old registry in the new budget, saying it's no longer needed after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2015 to let same sex couples get married. Those currently on the registry would not lose their benefits. Democrats said the registry should be extended to all couples, and Middleton Sen. Jon Erpenbach said the GOP is "pushing marriage on people who may not want to be married for whatever reason."

The finance panel also voted 12-4 to stop giving fringe benefits to domestic partners of state and local government workers — most of whom are in opposite sex couples. And as expected, the finance panel said no to the governor's proposal to have the state government insure its own workers instead of letting 17 private HMOs do that.


Report: Trooper drove 122 mph in rain before dying in crash

MADISON — State Trooper Anthony Borostowski was driving 122 mph on a rainy freeway just before a crash that killed him near Wisconsin Dells.

A Sauk County sheriff's sergeant has completed an analysis of the April 11 mishap on Interstate 90/94 — and it says the 34-year-old Borostowski of Tomah left no margin for error while driving on a surface with reduced friction. Reports said the officer lost control of his squad car and hit a tree, but it was not known what prompted that.

Earlier reports said he was parked in a median just moments before the mishap, indicating that he was trying to catch up with an offending motorist. The sheriff's analysis showed there were no mechanical issues with the patrol car, and Borostowski — who served three tours of duty in the Middle East with the National Guard — had only caffeine in his system.


NTSB investigates blimp crash near U.S. Open

ERIN — The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash of a blimp at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills near Hartford that severely injured its pilot.

It went down about 11:15 a.m. Thursday, one mile from the golf course where thousands of spectators were. The blimp's owner says pilot Trevor Thompson climbed out of the unit on the ground — and he did not jump with a parachute, as the first reports indicated on Thursday.

He was in serious condition at suburban Milwaukee's Froedert Hospital with burns. The blimp, owned by AirSign, was advertising a credit union when the outer skin had some type of failure — and AirSign CEO Patrick Walsh told WITI-TV the company never had that happen before.


Ten tornadoes confirmed in east, northeast Wis.

The National Weather Service has confirmed ten tornadoes from Wednesday afternoon in eastern and northeast Wisconsin.

They landed in Brown, Outagamie, Winnebago, Green Lake, and Shawano counties between 1:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. Eight tornadoes have been categorized as EF-0 and EF-1 storms, with peak winds of 60 to 90 mph — and one near Appleton damaged two industrial buildings and some other structures, while a twister at Pulaski destroyed a barn and damaged two garages. Numerous tree damage was also reported. Meanwhile, thunderstorms hit parts of Wisconsin for the fifth day in a row — this time in the far south, where trees and power lines fell late Thursday night in parts of Green and Lafayette counties in the Browntown and South Wayne areas.


Assembly OKs bill aimed at owners of foreclosed homes

MADISON — A bill passed by the state Assembly would stop letting those who buy foreclosed houses pass on their costs to the previous owners.

On a voice vote this week, the lower house voted to make the operators of sheriff's sales submit data to county registers of deeds offices, instead of the buyers themselves. Lawmakers say it would stop the practice of landlords hiding ownership of houses they buy from government entities that end up acquiring the properties — thus passing on things like taxes and repair orders to the homes' previous owners who had the sites foreclosed upon.

Milwaukee officials asked for the change, but Republican Rep. Joan Ballweg of Markesan says it would work well throughout the state. The measure now goes to the Senate, where a similar bill was introduced.


No illnesses reported after E.Coli found at U.S. Open water site

ERIN — Nobody was known to get sick after E.Coli bacteria was found in a water station for fans at the U.S. Open golf tournament at Erin Hills near Hartford.

The Washington/Ozaukee County health agency says it found the bacteria in a sample taken from a station connected to a well at the 12th hole. The water line was shut off during the opening day of the tournament Thursday, but officials say fans might have drank the contaminated water between Tuesday's practice rounds and Thursday morning. The USGA, which puts on the Open, says it will give fans bottled water at all hydration stations for the rest of the tournament, which runs through Sunday.


Expelled UW-Madison student accused in 11th case

MADISON — Expelled UW-Madison student Alec Cook has been ordered to stand trial on charges that he harassed an 11th woman on campus dating back to 2014.

The 21-year-old Cook appeared in Dane County Circuit Court Thursday, soon after he was charged with his 22nd and 23rd criminal counts. According to the new charges, Cook occasionally stared at a female student before trapping her in a dormitory basement, seven months before previous incidents that included alleged sexual assaults against 10 other Madison campus women. Cook remains free on a $100,000 bond, living with his parents in his home town of Edina, Minn. — and he's scheduled to enter pleas July 11 on his newest counts of false imprisonment and disorderly conduct.


Justice Gableman won't seek re-election

MADISON — State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman said Thursday he would not run for a second 10-year term next spring.

However, he did not address media reports that he might step down before his term ends in August 2018. Gableman was elected in 2008, when he became the first jurist since 1967 to defeat an incumbent justice, Louis Butler. Gableman called his nine years on the state's highest court a "privilege."

He said he hoped his successor would be "similarly committed to the rule of law." Gableman is considered to be one of five conservatives among the seven members on the state's highest court. If he leaves early, Republican Gov. Scott Walker would have a chance to appoint a third conservative. Two people are running for Gableman's seat next spring, and both are supported by Democrats — Madison attorney Tim Burns and Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet.


State appeals court upholds military ruling against soldier

MADISON — For the first time, the Wisconsin appeals court system has ruled on a challenge to a military court-martial.

The Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison ruled Thursday that National Guard Sgt. Jesse Riemer got a fair sentence when he was convicted of seeking sex from recruits. He struck a plea deal in which he admitted guilt to discrediting the military, maltreatment of subordinates, and pulling rank for personal gain.

He was sentenced to 30 days of confinement and a discharge for bad conduct. The state appeals judges said Military Judge David Klauser was fair in handing down Riemer's sentence. State law requires court-martial appeals to go the state's Court of Appeals, but that hasn't been done until Riemer's case.