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Compromise Gogebic access bill heads to Assembly; Internet ad for sex apparently led to woman’s death; more state news

The Wisconsin Assembly is moving quickly to try to pass a compromise for restricting public access at the proposed Gogebic Taconite mining site.

The Assembly's Forestry Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the bill for late this morning after Senate Republicans rammed it through their chamber on a party-line vote Tuesday.

The original plan was to ban public access on all 3,200 acres of the proposed mining site in Ashland and Iron counties where the property owner gets a tax break for allowing public recreation under the state's managed forest law.

The compromise would ban public access within 600 feet of mining roads and most mining equipment, and the landowner would have to surrender tax breaks on any property that's closed. All the land would also be open to deer hunters in the November gun season.

The restrictions were proposed in the wake of a theft and vandalism incident by mining protestors at the site in June. The bill's supporters say it's needed to protect the workers. Opponents call it a "sweetheart deal" for the mining firm by preventing independent evaluators from determining the mine's viability.


Internet ad for sex apparently led to woman’s death

A Rock County man who's a possible suspect in the death of a Fitchburg woman reportedly met her when she answered his Internet ad for sex, according to search warrant affidavit obtained by WISC TV in Madison.

The document said the 29-year-old man apparently burned Aprina Paul's body in a pit at his home near Evansville two days after he met her. Authorities call the man a person of interest in the death of the 19-year-old Paul. He was arrested for allegedly violating a previous probation.

Paul's family said they last saw her Oct. 27 when she left their home with a man they didn't know. The Janesville Gazette cited search warrant documents stating that he took Paul to his house where they had sex and smoked marijuana together.

The paper said the man woke up the next day and found Paul dead in his bed and tried reviving her but could not do so. He then reportedly hid her body in a blanket outside his garage, burned her purse and clothing, threw her cellphone in a ditch, built a fire pit and started burning Paul while his fiancée was out shopping.

The documents said both the man and his fiancée tended to the fire that night, and he allegedly burned the body again the next day. The media stories did not indicate whether the fiancée knew Paul was in the house.


UW-La Crosse ROTC on ‘probation’

UW-La Crosse will not necessarily lose its ROTC military education program.

Congressman Ron Kind said Wednesday that the Pentagon is willing to keep the La Crosse program going under a two-year probationary period. Kind says he's not sure what that means and he wants to find out what steps the program must take to successfully complete the probation.

Kind also wants to make sure the standards are "realistic and achievable."

The Army announced just over a month ago that ROTC programs at La Crosse and a dozen other U.S. colleges would shut down in mid-2015. The Army blamed "a reduction of resources" for ending the La Crosse program that's been around for 40 years.

Wisconsin's other ROTC programs are at the University of Wisconsin campuses in Stevens Point and Eau Claire.


Winter moves into northern Wisconsin

It's beginning to feel like winter in far northern Wisconsin where temperatures dropped into the teens overnight.

Rhinelander had a wind-chill factor of eight above at 7 a.m. with an actual reading of 17. Hayward was the state's cold spot with 15. La Crosse – at 33 degrees -- was the only Wisconsin reporting station that was above freezing.

The National Weather Service said a cold front went through the Great Lakes region yesterday, ending the rain and snow from earlier this week and replacing mild southerly breezes with cold air from the northwest. Places that were in the 50's on Monday were in the 30's yesterday afternoon.

Parts of the north had up to five inches of snow while southwest Wisconsin got waterlogged with up to 1.5 inches of rain.

It's dry this morning but a new low-pressure system is moving in, giving us another chance of scattered sprinkles and light rain or snow this afternoon and again tomorrow. A slight warm-up is expected tomorrow with highs in the 40's statewide at least into Veterans Day on Monday.


Mental evaluation ordered for man accused of killing Subway worker

PORTAGE -- A southern Wisconsin man has pleaded insanity to the killing of a co-worker at a Subway restaurant in Portage.

Jordan Scott, 19, of Rio pleaded both not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity this week to a Sept. 5 incident at the restaurant's parking lot. David Johnson, 22, of rural Pardeeville was shot to death.

Scott is charged in Columbia County with first-degree intentional homicide. At a preliminary hearing, Scott's attorney said his client talked about being depressed and suicidal and he might have multiple personalities or schizophrenia.

Visiting Judge Brian Pfitzinger ordered a mental evaluation for Scott. Future proceedings could be scheduled at a pre-trial conference in the case that's scheduled for tomorrow. For now, Scott remains in jail under a $1 million bond.


Anti-abortion bills go to Senate

A Wisconsin Senate committee is scheduled to vote today on a pair of anti-abortion bills that passed the Assembly earlier this year.

One bill would ban abortions sought only because the parents didn't want the baby's gender. The other measure would ban tax money to pay for abortions in public employee health insurance. The same bill would also exempt religious groups from having to provide insurance for contraceptives.

At an Assembly hearing earlier this year, De Pere Republican Andre Jacque said he did not consider elective abortions as health care, and he believes contraceptives are fine as long as taxpayers are not involved.

If the bills are endorsed today, the full Senate could take them up next Tuesday.  Senate approval would send the measures to Gov. Scott Walker, who says he supports them.


Connecticut company buys Eau Claire, Wausau steel plants

Steel fabricating plants in Wausau and Eau Claire are now owned by a firm from out East.

Atlas Holdings, an industrial holding company in Greenwich, Conn., has acquired PDM Bridge. It will become a part of Veritas Steel, which is based in Chicago.  That firm will operate steel fabricating plants in Palatka, Fla., as well as in Wausau and Eau Claire.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Atlas said it would allow Veritas to compete for more complex bridge projects and create greater efficiencies. All employees of the acquired plants have been offered jobs under the new ownership.


Search for 15-year-old girl continues

Waukesha County sheriff's deputies are asking for help in searching for a 15-year-old girl missing since Tuesday.

Kathryn Stalbaum of the town of Genesee is a freshman at Kettle Moraine High School. Deputies said she missed her bus to school Tuesday morning, and she later texted a friend to say she would ride her bike to school. She never showed up there.


Democrats question neutrality of nominee who contributed to GOP candidates

Democrats on a state Senate committee rejected the appointment of former judge and congressman Harold Froehlich to the state Government Accountability Board.

The elections panel reached a 2-2 deadlock Wednesday before Sheboygan Republican Joe Leibham -- who was listening by phone and was cut off -- called back and cast the deciding vote.

Democrats questioned Froehlich's ability to act fairly on the non-partisan elections and ethics board. That's after they learned he gave $200 to Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and another $200 to a GOP Senate campaign group in 2011.

An AP reporter said Republican committee chair Mary Lazich stormed out of the meeting after Democrat Lena Taylor refused to stop questioning the panel's attorney. Lazich returned a few minutes later. Leibham had cast his “yes” vote while she was gone.

Lazich said Froehlich has proven he would be evenhanded on the board. She noted that a panel of four current appeals judges recommended Froehlich's appointment, and he had served honorably as a judge in Appleton for 30 years.

The full Senate could vote on Froehlich's confirmation as early as Tuesday. He's one of four new Walker appointees to the Accountability Board. The others include new appointee Elsa Lamelas and holdover members Gerald Nichol and Tim Vocke.



Bridge worker injured in fall

A 19-year-old construction worker had surgery yesterday after he fell 45 feet from a bridge project on I-90 just north of La Crosse.

The man has worked for Ames Construction for about six months. Authorities said he was installing concrete forms on the Dresbach Bridge at the Minnesota-Wisconsin border when he fell into a coffer dam on a support pier. It's a temporary enclosure that helps expose the bottom of the Mississippi River to allow for the pier's construction.

The man was wearing a harness when rescuers got to him and placed him on a boat which helped take him to a La Crosse hospital.

Media reports said the man's father was also working on the bridge.

Minnesota's Department of Transportation was handling the project, and that state’s job safety agency will investigate the matter. Officials say it could take six months to complete the investigation and determine if any safety violations led to the incident.

Officials of both Ames Construction and government agencies said they worked in advance on a safety and emergency response plan for the bridge work. The new structure is due to open in 2016.


Democrats object to new voter ID bill

Democrats say the poor could face new obstacles to voting under a state bill to let them vote without a photo ID.

The minority party raised a host of concerns Wednesday at a public hearing on a Republican bill aimed at making some sort of voter ID constitutional.

One of the bill's main sponsors, freshman Assembly Republican Michael Schraa of Oshkosh, said it could be "years and years" before the courts rule on the constitutionality of the original law. He says he's trying to put it in place earlier.

Two state judges have ruled that the 2011 photo ID law was unconstitutional because it discourages the poor and disadvantaged from voting. The same issue is being raised in a federal trial which goes into its fourth day today in Milwaukee.

Republicans say a voter ID law is needed to stop voter fraud. Without it, Schraa says elections will be left "in doubt." His bill would let people vote without ID's if they cannot afford the birth certificates needed to get them or if they object to be photographed for religious reasons. Their votes would be marked and could be challenged in recounts.

Democrats at yesterday's hearing said the bill would publicly identify voters as being poor, and some could face criminal false swearing charges if they don't follow the exact terms for qualifying to vote without ID's.

The bill is on a fast track in the Assembly, but the Senate plans to hold it up until the court challenges are finished. The state is still appealing last year's two state court decisions.


Company owner dies in plane crash in Missouri

Two men from southeast Wisconsin were killed in a plane crash in northern Missouri near Kirksville.

James Quinn, 66, of Wauwatosa and Robert Groh, 64, of Pewaukee were identified yesterday as the victims.

KTVO TV in Missouri said their small aircraft went down Tuesday night in a rural area about three miles southeast of Kirksville. Authorities said the wreckage was scattered along a 300-yard path along a pasture, a bean field and a wooded area. It was dark and rainy at the time.

Groh was the owner and president of Geo Synthetics of Waukesha. The TV station said he was flying back from a meeting with a customer in Colorado when the crash occurred.

The FAA said the plane had intended to land at Kirksville, and controllers lost radar and radio contact with the craft about five miles from the airport. Federal investigators are looking into the mishap.