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Wisconsin roundup: Catfish caught on St. Croix River sets Minn. record; 11 more state news stories

Mark Mosby of St. Anthony, Minn., hoists a 52.5-inch flathead catfish he caught and released on the St. Croix River near Stillwater Aug. 2, 2017. The fish broke the previous catch-and-release record. (Courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

STILLWATER — A flathead catfish caught on the St. Croix River at the Wisconsin border has set a new record for Minnesota.

The DNR in the Gopher State confirms that Mark Mosby caught a 52.5-inch flathead Aug. 2 on the Minnesota side of the river near Stillwater. He told wildlife officials that the record fish "put up a great 15 minute fight" until he got it into his boat. It set a new record for "catch and release" flathead catfish. The DNR says Mosby and a partner targeted big flathead catfish that are commonly found on the St. Croix in the Hudson and Stillwater areas.

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Spirited testimony expected at mining hearing

LADYSMITH — Spirited testimony is expected at a public hearing Thursday on a Republican bill to end Wisconsin's mining moratorium.

The Senate's mining panel will hold the proceeding at the high school in Ladysmith — where the state's last sulfide mine closed in 1997. The moratorium was adopted in 1998, forcing companies to prove that they ran non-polluting mines for at least a decade before they can operate in Wisconsin.

One of the bill's co sponsors, Assembly Republican Rob Hutton of Brookfield, says he does not want to bypass anything — but he wants to make a four- to five-year permit process easier to start. Hutton and Senate sponsor Tom Tiffany say it could also bring much needed jobs to the north, but Kerry Schuman of the League of Conservation Voters views the bill with alarm as he calls sulfide mining the most "toxic industry in America."

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Overdue state budget heads to Assembly

MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly is expected to vote next week on a new state budget that will be almost two and a half months overdue by then.

The Joint Finance Committee completed its work on the two-year, $76 billion package Wednesday night as majority Republicans made a number of tax changes that Democrats opposed. The panel reduced the personal property tax for non-manufacturing business equipment by $75 million and approved tax exemptions for items ranging from broadcast equipment to bee-making supplies. They also said no to Gov. Scott Walker's proposals for a $203 million income tax cut, a back to school sales tax holiday, and $20 million more for the earned income tax credit for the working poor. Assembly Republican Dale Kooyenga says the budget makes the tax code simpler and fairer, but Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach said it gives more to the wealthy.

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Police chief calls shooting death 'heartbreaking'

EAGLE RIVER — A Eagle River teen is free on a signature bond for the apparent accidental shooting death of a 20-year-old friend that the police chief calls "heartbreaking."

Online court records show that 19-year-old Jeremiah Solis has not been charged yet in an incident Sunday night that killed 20-year-old Connor Stephens — but Solis was booked into jail on a possible charge of negligent homicide. A Vilas County prosecutor told a judge that Solis thought the gun was not loaded when handling it. Still, Eagle River Police Chief Mark Vander Bloomen tells WJFW-TV that people should never point a firearm at someone, and they should assume that weapons are loaded at all times.

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Wis. average ACT score same as last year

MADISON — Wisconsin high school graduates had the same average score on the ACT exam as their predecessors did one year ago.

The state's composite score was 20.5 for the second straight year. That's lower than the national average of 21 out of a possible 36 — but Wisconsin's score is the third highest among the 17 states where students are required to take the ACT college entrance exam. Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsin students either met or surpassed the ACT's benchmark for college readiness in English while 42 percent made the benchmark for reading, 39 percent for math, and 37 percent for science. Since 2015, all Wisconsin high school juniors have been required by state law to take the ACT test.

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Vukmir enters GOP U.S. Senate race

WAUWATOSA — Wisconsin Republicans are one step closer to having a primary next August for Democrat Tammy Baldwin's U.S. Senate seat.

State Sen. Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa announced her bid Thursday morning, after Delafield businessman and Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson announced his candidacy earlier.

A third Republican, 2012 candidate Eric Hovde, says he'll announce his plans next month. In a campaign video, Vukmir described herself as a mother and a nurse who entered politics to achieve school reform. Vukmir joined the state Assembly in 2003 and the Senate in 2011 — and she said she "stood" with Gov. Scott Walker while calling Baldwin someone who stands with whom she calls "liberal Democrats and Washington elites."

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Standoff ends with fire, arrest of suspect

MONONA — A man wanted for questioning in a shooting incident has been arrested after a police standoff near Madison ended in a house fire.

It all started Wednesday afternoon, when officers were called to a house in Monona where they tried arresting 42-year-old Edward Matthews. He was considered a "person of interest" in a Madison shooting incident that seriously injured a woman.

Around 12:40 a.m. Thursday, officials said a tactical team tried getting into the house and saw a fire inside — and they saw that he had a gun. Matthews finally surrendered around 2 a.m. and Monona fire crews finished putting out the fire.

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State: Dairy industry strong despite drops in farm numbers

MADISON — State agriculture officials say the dairy industry remains strong despite a continued drop in the numbers of farms.

Wisconsin dairy operations have dropped below 9,000 after the state had 143,000 farms in 1950. A total of 8,970 herds were milking as of Sept. 1 almost 480 fewer than last September. State ag statistician Greg Bussler tells the Wisconsin Ag Connection that low milk prices and higher production costs are the main reasons the state is losing dairy herds — but cow numbers and milk production remain consistent, resulting in continued strength for the industry. Wisconsin expects to set another record for milk production this year, after setting a new mark of 30.1 billion pounds in 2016 — and more than 1.28 million head of dairy cattle are being milked, also a record high.

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Packers' Bennett cried after police mistook brother for gunman

GREEN BAY — Packers' tight end Martellus Bennett said he cried Wednesday after seeing video of his brother handcuffed by police in Las Vegas where he was mistaken for a gunman.

Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks was stopped after the recent boxing match that Floyd Mayweather won — and as Bennett asked what he did wrong, one Vegas Metro officer straddled his back while another pointed a gun from a ledge. His brother talked to reporters for 20 minutes about it Wednesday, saying he couldn't help thinking what might have happened to Michael if the situation changed for just two seconds.

Michael Bennett released a long statement on Twitter Wednesday describing his ordeal, and Martellus said he was proud of the way he handled it. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell also had words of praise — and Goodell said the issues Michael raised "deserve serious attention from all our leaders in every community."

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Milwaukee ends most residency restrictions for sex offenders

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee will eliminate most of its restrictions on where sex offenders can live — something many Wisconsin cities have struggled to deal with in recent years.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted 13-2 Wednesday to end a citywide requirement that sex offenders live at least 2,000 feet from places where kids congregate like schools and parks. Critics say such ordinances create a de facto ban on sex offenders, and many end up living away from the places where they committed their crimes.

Milwaukee will continue making sex offenders return to the areas where their crimes were committed — and the city will keep following a 2015 state law that sexually violent offenders on supervised release live within 1,500 feet of where kids meet.

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Foxconn court arrangement raises questions

MADISON — The head of a conservative law group questions a state plan to let Foxconn and its opponents bypass the Court of Appeals in their legal actions.

Rick Esenberg of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the plan might have constitutional issues for violating the separation of powers among the three branches of government. The Legislature's finance panel voted Tuesday to let lawsuits involving Foxconn be appealed directly to the Supreme Court, and put whatever actions that circuit judges decide on hold until the high court makes its rulings.

The legal change was added to the state's $3 billion incentive package to encourage Foxconn to locate its LCD screen plant in southeast Wisconsin. The panel approved the agreement Tuesday and sent it to the Senate.

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Packers' Titletown District park, plaza to open

GREENBAY — Another big part of the Green Bay Packers' Titletown District will open soon just west of Lambeau Field.

It's a 10-acre park and plaza that covers almost one quarter of the business and residential development aimed at attracting younger residents to Green Bay. An opening event will be held Sept. 15 with live music and previews of the park's programs.

The park has a full-sized football field, a 40-yard dash area, playgrounds, and places for games like shuffleboard. A sledding hill and skating pond are set to open in November when snow and ice can be made. A Bellin Health facility, the Hinterland Brewery, and the Lodge Kohler Hotel were the first places to open. Another business structure is expected to be next.

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