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Wisconsin roundup: Pierce County's tornado was among 4 Wednesday; more state news stories

The aftermath from Wednesday's tornado in Pierce County included severed treetops and structure damage. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia

The National Weather Service confirms four tornadoes as part of Wednesday's storms across Wisconsin, one more twister than first reported.

Damage surveys Thursday revealed a second tornado near Monticello in Green County, both rated EF-1s, with speeds of 100 mph. One of the storms damaged four houses, destroyed a barn, and caused a camper to roll into a pond as the tornado stayed on the ground for about two miles — and the second twister damaged two roofs, flipped a trailer, and affected an engineering firm as it stayed on the ground for one half mile.

The Weather Service also confirmed previously reported tornadoes near Ellsworth in Pierce County, and near Siren in Burnett County — both in west/northwest Wisconsin. One person had undisclosed injuries in the Ellsworth storm, rated EF-1 with winds up to 105 mph as several homes had roof damage in a 12 mile stretch from Ellsworth to Spring Valley — and the Siren tornado was only down for a "very brief" time.

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Johnson: Health compromise could keep Obamacare taxes

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson now says some Obamacare taxes might stay in the GOP's health care package.

The Wisconsin Republican spilled the beans when a caller in his telephone town hall meeting said the Senate bill would give a "massive tax cut for the affluent." That's a key criticism from Democrats. Johnson answered the caller by saying at least a couple of taxes in the Affordable Care Act could stay, the most likely being a surtax on investments that exceed $250,000 for couples.

Johnson also said a payroll tax might stay for those same higher income individuals, with the money going into the Medicare trust fund. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says his fellow Republicans would try to negotiate items that would provide the votes needed to pass the Obamacare replacement bill soon after the July 4 congressional recess.

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Poll: What digital divide?

MILWAUKEE — If Wisconsin ever had a "digital divide," a new poll shows that it's not much of one.

Eighty-four percent of state voters in the new Marquette Law School poll say they use the internet and email. Three-fourths of families making less than $40,000 a year manage to go online. Just 12 percent say there's no one in a household who doesn't use the web from home.

That's close to Wisconsin's poverty rates, but plenty of free public access remains for kids at schools and libraries. Almost four of every five Wisconsinites in the Marquette poll say somebody in their house uses high-speed connections to reach the Internet through DSL, cable, or Wi-Fi. Three fourths of rural residents have high speed hookups while just one percent still uses dial-up connections.

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Madison's mayor prepares for both mayoral, gubernatorial bids

MADISON — Paul Soglin says he's preparing campaigns for both his re-election as Madison's mayor, and a Democratic bid for Wisconsin governor.

The 72-year-old Soglin tells the State Journal's editorial board he'll decide around Labor Day which office to run for. He says that if runs for governor, he expects to win — and he's ready to debate Republican Gov. Scott Walker on live TV right now.

Soglin says he would not base a gubernatorial campaign on Walker's Act 10 union bargaining limits and their fallout — but instead, he would zero in on the quality of public schools, and challenges involving transportation and technology. Soglin is Madison's longest serving mayor, with 20 years in office during three stints dating back to 1973. If he seeks the governor's office, it's likely that Soglin would face a Democratic primary in August of next year.

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Appleton school leader: We didn't mean to skirt open meetings law

APPLETON — Appleton's public school superintendent says the School Board never meant to get around the state Open Meetings Law by having an administrator create a book review panel.

The State Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that the committee illegally closed a meeting to the public where parent John Krueger was hoping to challenge the required reading of a ninth grade book he said exposed kids to sex and suicide. The district said the School Board never created the panel — and therefore, it did not have to follow the state Open Meetings Law.

Various media groups say the ruling will assure that school boards won't circumvent the public meeting requirement by having others create committees. Appleton Superintendent Lee Allinger says he's disappointed by the court's decision, but he says the district will comply with it.

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Wisconsin's Van Susteren is 'out' at MSNBC

NEW YORK — Former Appleton resident Greta Van Susteren is leaving MSNBC after six months of hosting a news interview show.

She tweeted Thursday that she was "out" at NBC's cable news channel — and its president, Phil Griffin, told employees the two "have decided to part ways." The network had no further comment. Van Susteren joined MSNBC in January after 14 years as a cable host at Fox News, and ten years before that as a legal analyst for CNN. She hosted the 5 p.m. show "For the Record," and the network's chief legal correspondent Ari Melber will start hosting that program in July.

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State's congressional Republicans help pass sanctuary city crackdowns

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House joins the president in cracking down on sanctuary cities.

All four voting Wisconsin Republicans helped their GOP colleagues pass a bill Thursday to expand cities' requirements to enforce immigration laws, and take away federal funds if they don't. That bill passed 228-195, and the House also voted to increase penalties for those illegally entering the country after being deported, with Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville saying that sanctuary cities "put lives at risk."

La Crosse Democrat Ron Kind, a former prosecutor, joined the state's Republicans in favoring the higher penalties, which passed 257-167 — but Kind voted against the higher enforcement mandates on sanctuary cities, and the state's two other Democrats opposed both bills which now go to the Senate where observers expect little chance of passage. Earlier, the feds told Milwaukee County it might lose federal policing funds unless it can prove it's following immigration enforcement rules — but a judge later struck down that possibility.

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State plans to file Dassey appeal within 2 weeks

MADISON — The State Justice Department says it will tell a federal appeals court within two weeks why Brendan Dassey should remain in prison for at least the next 31 years.

The state has decided to appeal to the full Seventh Circuit Appellate Court in Chicago, after a three-judge panel from that court ruled last week that Dassey's conviction should be dropped in the 2005 slaying of Teresa Halbach. On Wednesday, the appellate court agreed with the state that Dassey should stay in prison while the state's appeal is considered. Previous rulings said investigators illegally coerced the then 16-year-old Dassey into confessing for both his and Steven Avery's roles in the Halbach slaying. Both are appealing their convictions in the wake of the 2015 Netflix series "Making a Murderer," which raised questions about their cases.

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Green Bay gets $500K to replace lead service

GREEN BAY — The city of Green Bay is among the 35 municipalities in the state that will receive a grant for lead service replacement.

Television station WBAY reports that the grant will allow the city to assist private property owners in replacing lead service lines that supply water to homes, schools, and day care centers. Green Bay will receive $500,000 in financial assistance from the Lead Service Line Replacement Funding program. The funding will go toward replacing an estimated 161 lead service lines that connect homes to a water main.

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