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Regents hope to patch things up with lawmakers; Minnesota reports two West Nile deaths, Wisconsin has none so far; 11 more news briefs

The University of Wisconsin’s policy-setting body wants to rebuild its relationship with state legislators.

The Board of Regents plans to meet Thursday with lawmakers from both parties in the hopes of patching things up.

Legislators were upset earlier this year when they learned UW campuses were sitting on at least $650 million in reserves while making students pay 5.5% more each year in tuition. Republicans responded by freezing the university’s tuition levels for the first time since the UW-Wisconsin State merger in the early 1970’s.

GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Racine County will attend Thursday’s Regents’ meeting along with Republican Rep. Pat Strachota of West Bend, Senate Finance chairwoman Alberta Darling of River Hills, Senate Republican Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Assembly Democrat Jill Billings of La Crosse.


Minnesota reports two West Nile deaths

Neighboring Minnesota has recorded two deaths from the West Nile virus.

Health officials report 29 human cases of the mosquito-borne virus in Minnesota this year, many more than Wisconsin reported as of six days ago.

The Health Services Department’s Website in Wisconsin reports four probable human cases in Eau Claire, Dane, Rock and Walworth counties. None have been confirmed yet. Also, Wisconsin has not reported any deaths this year, but that can still happen, since West Nile cases in the Upper Midwest are most common in August and September.

Last year was unusually severe for West Nile with hundreds of deaths throughout the nation’s mid-section. Wisconsin had four deaths in 2012, plus 53 human cases – the most since officials began tracking the West Nile virus in 2002. Minnesota had 103 total human cases a year ago, almost twice as many as Wisconsin.


Bill would give campuses more say in selection of student regent

A Wisconsin Senate Democrat wants to give University of Wisconsin students more of a say in picking the two student members of the university’s Board of Regents.

Under a bill from Madison’s Fred Risser, student governments on each campus would provide nominees whom the governor would have to choose from when there’s an opening.

Risser said that would guarantee the student regent will “be a representative of the student community.”

Dylan Jambrek of the United Council of UW Student Governments said it would give those who pay tuition and attend classes a greater voice in picking their representation. Jambrek said it would assure “good, thoughtful, involved, and critical students to be our student regents.”

In June, Josh Inglett of UW-Platteville had his nomination as a student regent withdrawn after it was learned that he signed the recall petition against Gov. Scott Walker.

Last month, Walker made his second appointment for the opening, by naming Platteville student Chad Landes. He’s an animal science major who travels to high schools around the Midwest to recruit ag students to Platteville. Landes did not sign the Walker recall petition.


Textbook costs lowest at UWRF

As thousands of Wisconsin college students begin their fall classes today, many have saved money by renting textbooks instead of buying them.

Most of the smaller four-year UW campuses have rental programs with set prices for the year, ranging from $143 at River Falls to almost $203 at Eau Claire.

The state’s largest public campuses at Madison and Milwaukee do not have textbook rental programs. Students at the UW’s flagship Madison campus pay around $1200 a year for their books, although the privately owned University Bookstore rents limited numbers of books for the more popular courses.

A task force studied the idea of a rental program for the Madison campus in 2007. It concluded that such an idea would not work, mainly because of the sheer size of the 40,000 student institution.

The task force thought Internet-based textbooks were on the horizon, but according to the National Association of College Stores, 77% of students still prefer the good-old-fashioned printed books.

The Government Accountability Office says textbook prices have jumped by 6% a year and 82% over the last decade. The national bookstore group says rental programs now exist at almost all of its 3,000 member stores. Only a tenth that many schools had rental programs as recently as 2009.


Lt. governor looking for female candidates across country

Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor will help recruit fellow Republican women as candidates for next year’s elections throughout the nation.

Rebecca Kleefisch is a co-chair of the group “Right Women, Right Now.” It seeks to recruit 300 female GOP candidates for the current two-year election cycle.

Kleefisch will be among the featured speakers at the group’s national summit in Nashville in October.

She told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel there are several barriers women face in running for public office. Kleefisch said they include family duties, fundraising and a lack of internal initiative. She said women often need to be asked or encouraged to run.

Kleefisch, 38, often tours the state to promote Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda for boosting the economy, creating jobs and helping small businesses. She is now cancer-free after suffering colon cancer during her first election campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010.


Flying hood ties up traffic on Hwy. 51

The Hwy. 51 freeway near Tomahawk looked like a NASCAR track Monday afternoon as flying debris caused traffic to slow down while the road was cleared.

According to Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies, the hood from a 16-year-old car broke off and flew backwards. It punctured a tire on a 20-foot camper-trailer.

The sheriff’s department did not mention any injuries in a statement about the mishap.

The driver of the camper, from Kaukauna, swerved to avoid hitting the loose car hood, but that failed. The car driver, from Schofield, was ticketed for not having vehicle insurance.

Traffic was slowed down for almost two hours.

--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau


Trempealeau Co. man dies in ATV accident

A western Wisconsin man killed in a weekend all-terrain vehicle crash was identified as Austin Johnson, 28, of Galesville.

Trempealeau County authorities said Johnson was among a group of riders on Saturday night. When they returned to a farm, the others discovered that Johnson was not with them.

Several riders went back to look for Johnson and found him lying on the ground next to his vehicle. Deputies said Johnson apparently lost control of his ATV on a curve.


Neighbor suspected of assaulting, killing woman

A Plover man is scheduled to appear in court this afternoon on suspicion of sexually assaulting and killing a neighbor, then setting her body on fire in an abandoned car.

Charges against Jose Flores Aca, 32, have been pending since he was placed under a $1 million cash bond Aug. 13.

Flores Aca is suspected of killing Jamie Koch, 36, at the apartment complex where they both lived. Her body was found Aug. 6 in a burned vehicle in neighboring Waupaca County.

Online court records do not show any charges filed yet. At last word, Portage County prosecutors were planning to file counts of homicide, hiding and mutilating a corpse and sexual assault. That was while the case was still being investigated.


Three murdered in Milwaukee over weekend

At least three people were murdered in Milwaukee since Saturday.

Police said a man was shot and killed overnight in a north side neighborhood, but no other details were immediately released.

Another shooting death was reported around 1:30 p.m. Monday on Milwaukee’s south side. There was no word on suspects or a motive.

Also, a 25-year-old woman was shot to death Saturday night on the north side. Police said an argument preceded the shooting. A known suspect was being sought at last word.


Milwaukee Co. considering ‘living-wage’ law

Wisconsin’s most populated county will consider a living-wage ordinance this fall.

Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen announced the measure during a Labor Day rally yesterday.

Private firms that are contracted by the county would have to pay their employees at least a standard wage based on federal poverty guidelines. Bowen said companies that take public tax money have an obligation to invest it back into the community.

Earlier this summer, the Milwaukee County Board endorsed a living wage requirement for a proposed hotel at the Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa. It would have required the hotel to provide sick pay plus wages at least 125% of the poverty level. County Executive Chris Abele vetoed it, saying the hotel project would not be competitive and it would eventually be killed.

Bowen said he remains undaunted in seeking a living wage mandate.

Janet Veum of the group Wisconsin Jobs Now said firms that get tax money should keep their workers off public assistance. Otherwise, she said, taxpayers pay twice – once for the contractor and once to support its workers on public aid.


SUV driver dies going wrong way on expressway

The driver of an SUV was killed overnight after the vehicle slammed into a semi-truck on the Hwy. 29 expressway in Shawano County.

The crash happened just after midnight near Pulaski, just west of Hwy. 160.

According to WLUK TV in Green Bay, the SUV driver was going the wrong way on the four-lane road, and it struck the oncoming semi.

Two people in the semi reportedly had non-life-threatening injuries. The eastbound lanes of 29 were reopened in time for the morning rush hour.



Man killed after boat flips over on road

A 41-year-old man was killed over the weekend after a boat flipped over while it was pulled by a pickup truck on a rural road in Waupaca County.

The victim was identified yesterday as James Wall of Orland Park, Ill.

Sheriff’s deputies said Wall and a 13-year-old boy were riding in the boat on Saturday evening when it overturned. Wall died at the scene from massive head injuries. The teenager was not hurt.

The truck driver, a 58-year-old man from Manhattan, Ill., was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk.


Stepfather appeals denial of permit to carry concealed weapon

A state appeals court is being asked to decide whether certain people convicted of domestic violence should be allowed to carry concealed weapons.

Robert Evans Jr., 68, of Cottage Grove in Dane County is the first to challenge the rejection of a state permit since the concealed carry law took effect 22 months ago.

The state cited a federal ban adopted in 1996 in which those convicted of domestic violence cannot possess guns.

Evans pleaded no contest in 2002 to disorderly conduct-domestic violence. Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust ruled in February that the state was correct in rejecting the concealed carry permit. The issue is now before the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals.

Evans claims his conviction is not covered under the federal weapons ban, known as the Laufenberg Amendment. He said his case does not meet the federal definition of domestic violence, which requires that a person use force against somebody in order to be convicted.

Evans said he merely pushed his stepdaughter outside a door, and he did not have a domestic relationship with the victim as the federal law requires.

The state Department of Justice disagrees with Evans on both counts. The state said its disorderly conduct law includes physical force, and Evans indeed had a domestic relationship with his adult stepdaughter.