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Wisconsinites outraged over omission of slain cop's name; Many GOP lawmakers oppose school aid freeze; 150 cats taken from one house; More briefs

Over 6,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that slain Wauwatosa police officer Jennifer Sebena be added to a national memorial for fallen officers.

State law enforcement leaders were outraged after the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund decided not to include Sebena in the memorial because she died from domestic violence.

Sebena was on duty last Christmas Eve when she was allegedly gunned down by her husband, Ben Sebena, 30, who has pleaded insanity. The board of the national memorial was expected to reconsider its omission today.

State Attorney General JB Van Hollen said the board's decision "deprecates" Sebena's professional sacrifice.

State police union president Jim Palmer called it a travesty to classify Sebena's murder as a domestic violence incident. He said the state's law enforcement memorial will have Sebena on it.

Palmer says his group has contacted individual board members for the national memorial. He said Sebena fits the requirements to be included and there's no reason for her to be excluded.

Milwaukee police issued a tweet which asked the memorial board, "If a cop was killed while directing traffic, but the car was driven by their spouse, would you add their name?" Memorial fund officials have not answered that question, or others that were raised locally this week.


With their districts losing funding, GOP lawmakers oppose school aid freeze

Almost 50 Wisconsin school districts are getting less in revenues than they did 10 years ago and two-thirds of those school systems are in Republican Senate districts.

That could explain why a number of GOP senators have come out against their governor's plan to freeze state school aid in the next budget.

Gov. Scott Walker proposes giving property taxpayers an amount equal to 1% of school aid, and those taxpayers can decide in referendums whether to give the money to the schools.

But Senate GOP President Mike Ellis is among those critical of a freeze in school aid. He and Senate education committee Chairman Luther Olsen have proposed a slight increase, which would also include a small jump in property taxes.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says most of the 18 Republican senators represent school districts that have had either small growth or declines in their state-mandated revenue limits over the last decade.


150 cats taken from one house

Officials in Waukesha County are investigating a case of animal hoarding in which 150 cats were seized, and 90 were in such bad shape that they had to be euthanized.

Waukesha's Humane Animal Welfare Society figured that about 50 of the cats could be rehabilitated. The group is asking for donations of food and litter as well as good homes once the pets get better.

The head of the animal society, Lynn Olenik, told WDJT TV in Milwaukee that a complaint was made last week. That's when the animals were taken to the shelter.

Olenik said some of the cats were so dehydrated, they could not stand up, and some were given fluids to no avail. Other cats had eye and skin problems, and many did not have proper nutrition.

Olenik said an older woman owned the cats, and she gave them up voluntarily. There was no immediate on whether criminal charges would be sought.


Cold 'spring' continues

It's the second day of spring - but don't tell that to folks in northwest Wisconsin.

It was minus nine in Ladysmith at 7 a.m. today. New Richmond had eight below, and it was minus two in Eau Claire. But at least there was not a lot of wind to make it feel even colder.

People were also shivering in southern Wisconsin, where Milwaukee had a wind chill of minus one with an air temperature of 10.

In the far north, people are digging out from a lake-effect snowstorm near Lake Superior. Cornucopia in Bayfield County had six inches over the past couple days, and Gile in Iron County had five inches.

Dry weather is expected at least through the weekend. But it won't warm up very highs. Daytime highs are expected in the 20's today and the 30's on the weekend. More snow showers are possible early next week.


Lawmaker suggests fining teachers who don't report bullying

A Republican state lawmaker wants school district employees to be fined $200 if they don't report incidents of bullying.

Rep. Garey Bies of Sister Bay said he's heard from parents who complained to teachers about their kids being bullied and "nothing was ever done." Bies is asking his colleagues to co-sign a bill to change that.

A state law from 2010 requires schools to report bullying incidents to the state Department of Public Instruction, but there are no penalties for not reporting.

"We need to put more incentive into somebody following through," said Bies, a former sheriff.

But Dan Rossmiller of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards said it might create a whole new set of problems. He said teachers could over-blow bullying incidents to cover themselves so they don't get fined.

Rossmiller said schools might end up narrowing their definitions of bullying so they don't get tied up with never-ending investigations. State law requires public schools to have specific policies to deal with bullying.

The DPI and the state's largest teachers union have not commented on the proposed penalties.


Judge orders search for evidence of affair

A judge in Madison has ordered prosecutors to look for evidence of an affair between former state health secretary Dennis Smith and his department's top lawyer.

The attorney's husband, Andrew Spear, 60, is charged with trying to burn his wife Mary in a fire at his Madison wood shop last summer. Spear contends that his wife started the fire to prevent him from exposing the purported affair to Smith's wife.

Now, Circuit Judge William Hanrahan said the affair allegations could be "arguably relevant" to Spear's contention that the affair was about to be proven, and it influenced her actions in connection with the fire.

The judge told prosecutors to subpoena various records to look for evidence of an affair, but if anything turns up, Hanrahan said it would not be made public. He said there's no room in his court for "salacious details."

Smith vehemently denied having an affair with Mary Spear, even when he left the state Health Services Department a few weeks ago to take a job with a Washington law firm. Mary Spear left the state agency last fall.


School board rehires teacher fired in drug-ring sweep

The Merrill School Board has voted to reinstate a teacher who was fired earlier this year for smoking marijuana sold to him in a school drug ring in Antigo.

Middle school science teacher Jay Peterson filed a union grievance after he was terminated. The Merrill teachers union, the School Board and Peterson issued a joint statement yesterday, saying they avoided a costly and uncertain arbitration process in the matter. The School Board accepted the deal on a 5-4 vote.

Under the terms, Peterson will return this fall after what will be considered a one-year unpaid leave. He was given a deferred prosecution agreement in which his criminal charge would be dropped if he stays clean. Peterson said he turned to marijuana after his home was destroyed in the Merrill tornado almost two years ago.

He was one of about 15 people charged last year as part of a marijuana sales ring headed by former Antigo football coach and elementary Principal John Lund. Lund is scheduled to be sentenced April 5 on a felony conviction of manufacturing marijuana with the intent to sell it.

Most of the Antigo and Merrill teachers who were arrested were caught using pot and were given deferred prosecution agreements.


Nursing home voting rules clarified

The board that runs Wisconsin elections to clarify the way nursing home residents receive and cast absentee ballots.

The Government Accountability Board was told in December that many local clerks do not follow or understand the rules, and that makes nursing home residents susceptible to voter fraud.

Board elections specialist David Buerger said the new rules clear up existing policies without changing them. The board reaffirmed that designated poll workers must deliver absentee ballots to nursing homes in secured containers, and the workers must ask the home residents whether they intend to vote. Family members can watch a resident vote, but they cannot give assistance unless the voter agrees to it.

Poll workers are often designated by political parties. Carol Boettcher of Cedarburg says they've been accused of "harvesting" votes in the past by the way they assist nursing home residents. Boettcher says the poll workers need to carefully explain the voting process to family members to prevent voter fraud from taking place later.


DNR asks hunters: Are deer herds growing? Dwindling?

Wisconsin deer hunters are being asked to take part in a pair of new surveys.

In the first survey, the Department of Natural Resources wants to know how large people think their local deer herds are, if they're getting bigger or smaller, and if the numbers of hunting permits are adequate for keeping the populations under control.

In the second survey, hunters will be asked how the DNR should adopt the recommendations made by researcher James Kroll for improving the deer hunt, and fighting chronic wasting disease.

The surveys will be available on the DNR's website and at public meetings over the next few months where Kroll's ideas will be discussed.


Fire destroys Antigo pawn shop

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused a fire that destroyed a downtown building in Antigo.

Flames reignited Wednesday in a building that housed Peep's Pawn Shop and apartments with four residents. The fire started early Tuesday.

Antigo Fire Chief Jon Petroskey said the second floor apartments were gutted, while the pawn shop on the first floor had heavy smoke and water damage. No one was hurt.

Langlade County Emergency Management Director Brad Henricks said it was one of the oldest structures in downtown Antigo. It housed the local Boys and Girls Club just before the pawn shop moved there.


Woman accused of driving drunk with four kids in car

The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office says a woman stopped for operating while intoxicated had four children in her car at the time.

A deputy reported stopping a car with suspended license plates Monday night. He said he detected a strong smell of alcohol from the 24-year-old driver.

In her car were a 26-year-old passenger and four children, ages two to eight. The woman now faces a charge of OWI with a passenger under 16 years of age, which is a misdemeanor. She is also being held on a probation violation charge.