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Wisconsin roundup: GOP-controlled legislative agenda takes shape; state voter turnout near 20-year low; 10 more state news stories

MADISON -- More money for private schools and state highways are among the items on the GOP's plate going into next year's Wisconsin legislative session.

That's according to Assembly and Senate leaders who were both given larger Republican majorities in Tuesday's elections. Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald says he'd like to come up with a compromise to the party's internal disagreements about road funding -- perhaps by raising taxes for highway projects while cutting taxes elsewhere.

And he might push for more limits on "prevailing wage" laws that set minimum pay scales for contractors that build roads and public buildings. There's also renewed talk of doing away with the state's longtime minimum market laws, regulating high capacity water wells, and letting teachers carry concealed weapons in their school buildings.


Wisconsin election turnout near 20-year low

MADISON -- Turnout for the presidential election in Wisconsin appears to be a 20-year low.

Based on unofficial results, turnout in Tuesday's election was about 66 percent of the voting age populations. Nearly all precincts were reporting Wednesday morning. More than 2.9 million people voted in Wisconsin's Senate race, about 3,000 more than did in the presidential.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission predicted about 3.1 million would cast ballots, which would have been roughly a 69 percent turnout. If that number holds, it will be the lowest since 1996 when turnout was 58 percent.


Almost 3 of every 10 Wisconsin voters voted early

MADISON -- Almost three of every 10 Wisconsin voters had their ballots in the can before Tuesday's balloting.

The state Elections Commission says almost 828,500 absentee ballots were cast, after a federal judge in July removed Republican limits on early voting. All absentee ballots were supposed to be returned to local election officials by the time the polls closed Tuesday night -- and they have all been counted, but clerks are still entering data into the state's voting system so the final figure will be a little higher.

As of Wednesday, 28 percent of voters took advantage of the early absentee voting, about one third more than the 21.6 percent who voted absentee in 2012.


Pollsters vow to improve their forecasting approaches

MADISON -- The head of Wisconsin's only major independent statewide poll says a subcommittee in his industry will crunch the numbers, and find out why so many polls were so far off.

The Marquette Law School poll had Democrat Hillary Clinton leading by six points just one week before Tuesday's elections -- but the actual results gave Donald Trump a four point victory. Franklin tells WKOW-TV in Madison that a late surge of Trump voters might have been a problem for the forecasters.

He cited exit polls showing that 14 percent of voters did not make up their minds until the final week -- and almost six of every ten of those went for Trump. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel analyst Craig Gilbert says the polls were generally accurate in tracking support for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who holds a slight lead in the national popular vote but not the electoral vote.


Man to face arraignment in drunken-driving death

CHIPPEWA FALLS -- A western Wisconsin man is scheduled to enter pleas Dec. 13 to charges that he allegedly killed a woman in a drunk driving crash.

Forty-eight-year-old Gregg Irwin of Boyd has been ordered to stand trial in the death of Erica Strandt of Chippewa Falls. Sheriff's officials say Irwin's blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit of 0.08, when his truck failed to yield at an intersection in September of last year, and struck a car driven by Strandt. Irwin is charged in Chippewa County with homicide by drunk driving, and homicide while driving with a prohibited blood alcohol content.


Former Oshkosh soccer coach charged in sex case

OSHKOSH -- A former junior varsity boys soccer coach at Oshkosh West High School has been charged with three sex related felonies.

A judge set bond at $15,000 dollars Wednesday for 23-year-old Fredrick Baier of Oshkosh. He waived the state's time limit for a preliminary hearing, and he's due back in court Nov. 21 on charges of second degree forcible sexual assault, sex assault of a student by a school staffer, and letting a teen view sexual activity.

Prosecutors said Baier started to rape a girl at a party this summer, even though she pleaded for him to stop. Officials say he also traded lewd photos with a 14-year-old girl, he allegedly bought alcohol for minors on his soccer team and made sexual conversation, and his contract was not renewed when his soccer season ended last month.


Deeper-red Legislature to choose leaders

MADISON -- A more conservative Wisconsin Senate majority will choose its leaders Thursday for the next two year session.

There's no word of any contests, which means that Juneau Republican Scott Fitzgerald will stay in charge of a larger majority of 20 to 21 members -- depending on what happens to Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. She's expected to face a recount, as she led her La Crosse area election against former Senate Republican Dan Kapanke by only 58 votes from almost 90,000 cast.

The 12 or 13 Senate Democrats will wait until that contest is resolved before choosing its leaders. Assembly leaders are scheduled to be chosen Monday and Tuesday -- and Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca planned to take a couple days to decide if he wants to keep presiding in a smaller caucus of 35 members, to the Republicans' 64.


State immigrants fear deportation with Trump at helm

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's undocumented immigrants fear an uncertain future now that Republican Donald Trump is about to become the president.

Valeria Ruiz, an immigrant from Racine, was allowed to seek a two year work permit under a program from President Barack Obama. That's called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and she fears that Trump will end the program after the president elect vowed during his campaign to deport millions of illegal immigrants and build a wall at the Mexican border to keep new ones from coming in.

The Milwaukee immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera says it will keep fighting for people like Ruiz -- and it plans to hold two question-and-answer sessions Sunday on what immigrants can expect at a Milwaukee church.


State veterans secretary Scocos to resign

MADISON -- State Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos will resign in January.

Gov. Scott Walker appointed Scocos to the post in 2011, after lawmakers took away the Veterans Affairs Board's authority to hire the secretary. Scocos held the post from the 2003 to '09, when the board fired him for spending decisions made without the panel's input -- and he sued the board and won a $325,000 settlement, claiming he was wrongly let go just two months after he returned from tour of duty in Iraq.

Most recently, the Veterans Affairs agency became the subject of a legislative audit amid allegations of a lack of performance at the state veterans' nursing home at King in Waupaca County -- but Scocos defended the facility, saying it received high marks from the federal government. In announcing the resignation, the Republican Walker cited a list of accomplishments in helping state veterans, calling Scocos a "tireless advocate."


At least 2 jump to safety from burning apartment building

WHITEWATER -- At least two people jump to safety in a burning apartment building in Whitewater.

The fire started around 7 p.m. Wednesday at the University Garden Apartments for students and others near the UW-Whitewater campus. Student Brad Allen, a part timer with the Janesville Gazette, says several people heard an apparent explosion that may have come from a natural gas line -- but the cause of the fire was not immediately determined. Officials were looking to find other housing for displaced residents as the apartment complex will be closed until further notice.

A witness told WISN-TV in Milwaukee that one man and boy of about 12 jumped from a second floor onto a police vehicle. Fire Chief Don Gregoire says some residents were trapped, but everyone got out safely -- and the fire department said there were no injuries.


Ryan: Trump will lead unified Republican government

JANESVILLE – U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan promises a unified Republican government with President-Elect Donald Trump.

Ryan told reporters in his hometown of Janesville he spoke with Trump twice since Election Night and they discussed the "importance of bringing this country together" and the work ahead of them. Ryan got 67 percent of the vote Tuesday to keep his 1st District House seat, but he's expected to face a much tougher election in January when the full House elects new leaders.

Ryan says his relationship with Trump is fine, even though some other Republicans criticized the speaker for being distant from the nominee during much of October. Ryan says he wants to stay on as speaker. He called on both parties to focus on "redemption, not recrimination."


State Supreme Court hearing appeal in double homicide

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court is hearing the appeal of a Minnesota man convicted of killing a father and his teenage son at their La Crosse camera store in 2012.

Jeffrey Lepsch of Dakota, Minnesota, contends his constitutional rights were denied because the jury selection process was flawed in his La Crosse County trial for the shooting deaths of Paul Petras and 19-year-old AJ Petras at May's Photo. The 4th District Court of Appeals ruled last year that Lepsch should have objected to the jury selection process at the time and the trial judge reasonably decided the jurors were impartial.