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Walker taking his time considering marijuana-extract bill; Lawmakers’ expense reimbursements top $1 million; 11 more stare news briefs

Gov. Scott Walker says it might take a month to decide whether he'll sign a bill to legalize a marijuana oil extract to treat childhood seizures.

Walker says he wants to make sure there are no unintended problems with the way the measure was drafted.

Experts say cannabidiol helps certain youngsters avoid up to 100 seizures a day so they can lead more normal lives.

The governor said it's his understanding that the bill would not come close to legalizing medical marijuana -- which lawmakers of both parties have opposed in recent years. Walker says the cannabidiol is a byproduct that would be narrowly used.



Lawmakers’ expense reimbursements top $1 million

Wisconsin lawmakers claimed just over $1 million in daily expenses last year for the time they spend in Madison -- way more than the year before.

The Wisconsin State Journal said the average per diem reimbursement for Assembly members was almost $8,700. That's 55% more than in 2012. The per diem for senators averaged $9,200 last year, about one-third more than the previous year.

Most lawmakers are entitled to $88 a day to cover their travel to and from Madison and for their living expenses while in the city. Dane County lawmakers close to Madison get $44 a day.

Assembly Republican Scott Krug of Nekoosa had the biggest increase. He claimed just over $10,000 in third year in office after claiming nothing in his first two.

In 2010, Krug unseated longtime Assembly Democrat Marlin Schneider of Wisconsin Rapids, whose per diems had been an issue. Krug claimed he would never accept the reimbursements -- but now he said the promise was only for his first term. The money is in addition to the legislators' salaries, which are close to $50,000 a year.



Governor will sign laws to fight heroin abuse

Gov. Scott Walker will focus on fighting heroin abuse today in a series of bill-signing ceremonies throughout Wisconsin.

The governor is traveling to Marinette, Stevens Point, Eau Claire and Milwaukee to sign a group of bills proposed by Assembly Republican John Nygren. His daughter almost died from heroin abuse, and Nygren said he was glad he could turn a negative into a real positive.

Among other things, the bills allow trained emergency responders to administer the heroin antidote Narcan to those suffering overdoses. Another bill provides limited immunity to encourage those who witness heroin overdoses to call 9-1-1 and get help.


Ceremony honors state’s first female soldier killed in combat

Ten years ago on Wednesday Michelle Witmer of New Berlin was killed in Iraq. She was the first female Wisconsin National Guard soldier to die in combat.

Yesterday a ceremony was held on a street that was renamed in her memory. It's on Milwaukee's north side and runs past the Richards Street Armory where the 20-year-old Witmer was based.

Her father John said many of today's younger soldiers might not know who his daughter was, and now they will know.


Burke criticizes long delay in deciding Kenosha casino issue

Democrat Mary Burke says Gov. Walker has left a lot of people hanging by holding up a decision on the proposed new casino in Kenosha.

Burke, who's running against Walker this fall, said she agreed with the decision to do an independent study. If it shows it would create thousands of jobs, Burke said she'd waste no time approving it.

The U.S. Interior Department of the Interior gave its blessing last August to the $800 million off-reservation casino for the Menominee tribe. The federal agency gave Walker a year to make the final call, and he's asked for a six-month extension which could delay the ruling until after the November elections.

Burke says even a one-year decision period is "ridiculous" and "politics as usual."

Walker has said it took several years for the federal government to make its decision on the Menominee Casino, and he's also entitled to a thorough review.

Supporters say the Kenosha project would create well over 3,000 jobs.

The Potawatomi Tribe has fought the project for years, fearing it would reduce revenues at its casino in Milwaukee. For now, that casino is the only one in heavily populated southeast Wisconsin.

--Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander)


Yogurt’s popularity means more jobs for Wisconsin

More of us are eating yogurt -- a trend that's about to create more jobs in southwest Wisconsin.

Schreiber Foods of Green Bay is about to build a new distribution facility in Richland Center, where the company now has two yogurt plants that provide about 400 jobs.

University of Wisconsin experts say yogurt is big business. The university's Center for Dairy Research says 83% of American households buy yogurt. Three-fourths of those people are repeat customers.

Schreiber Foods has 35 plants and distribution centers throughout the globe, including a plant in Green Bay that makes processed cheese, and a cream cheese factory in West Bend.


Lisbon man dies when car falls on him

A Waukesha County man has died after a car crushed him while he was working on the vehicle.

Authorities said the victim was a 56-year-old man from the town of Lisbon. His name was not immediately released.

Sheriff's deputies said the man was working on the car at his home when it apparently fell on him. He was alone at the time. His wife found him late yesterday afternoon. Rescuers tried but failed to resuscitate him at the scene.


Newspaper: Green Bay area counties still sending patients to problem-prone facilities

Those getting court-ordered treatment in three Wisconsin counties are being sent to assisted-living facilities with operational problems.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported Oconto, Kewaunee and Shawano counties continue to send poor and sick people to four facilities that got numerous state citations for resident abuse since 2000. The newspaper said staffers at those living facilities have drugged and restrained residents and did not separate people with violent records.

Complaints of abuse were substantiated in 2006 and 2013. State officials said they notified the counties each time they took enforcement actions against the living facilities, but the three counties did not stop using those places.

Shawano and Oconto counties recently renewed contracts to keep using the centers this year. A Kewaunee County official said he's "exceedingly reluctant" to keep working with one center.

Shawano County attorney Tony Kurdus said the county quickly removed two people from one living facility after learning about abuse. He said it helped prevent the abuse from continuing. An Oconto County official would not comment.



As Milwaukee works on funding plan for Bucks arena, coalition says playgrounds need work too

Churches, charities and neighborhood groups are banding together to have their say on a proposed new arena in Milwaukee.

The Common Ground coalition will decide tomorrow whether to oppose tax money for a new arena unless $150 million to $250 million is saved for better schools, parks and playgrounds.

The NBA is trying to get Milwaukee to build a new arena for the Bucks that would replace the 26-year-old BMO Harris Bradley Center. The building is also the home of Marquette men's basketball team and numerous concerts.

A committee of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has been meeting with a consultant on a proposed funding plan. Besides the arena, the plan hopes to shore up other cultural and tourist attractions in Milwaukee. The goal is to make it more politically palatable after some of Milwaukee's suburban counties have already come out against public money for a new city arena.

Common Ground says kids deserve better facilities just like the Bucks do. A study last summer showed that two-thirds of youth athletic and recreation facilities were rated as "terrible," poor or fair.


Controlled burns planned for public lands

The state Department of Natural Resources plans to do some environmental spring cleaning by burning parts of public lands in 20 southern Wisconsin counties.

The DNR says the controlled burns are designed to prevent invasive species and unwanted brush from crowding out native vegetation. Officials say the burning efforts would also encourage new grass to grow, create more water pockets for geese and ducks and make the habitat better for nesting birds.

The controlled burns will start this month and run into mid-May, weather permitting.


Resources board looks at restricting 100 foreign species

Wisconsin might scale back its effort to fight the tree-killing emerald ash borer and do more to control other invasive plants and animals.

On Wednesday the Natural Resources Board will consider a package of new strategies that include restrictions on almost 100 foreign species. The emerald ash borer would be downgraded from a "prohibited" status to "restricted."

Department of Natural Resources pest specialist Andrea Diss-Torrance said most communities fighting the wood-hungry beetle are now working to manage the pest instead of trying to eradicate it by cutting down ash trees. That's how widespread the ash borer has become. It's now in 19 Wisconsin counties.

The DNR's package would also prohibit 50 other invasive species for the first time. They include the "killer algae" seaweed from the Mediterranean and killer shrimp from eastern Europe.

Thirty-two species would be added to the restricted list, including a couple that are popular in landscaping. Seventeen plants that are sold at nurseries would be among those affected. Stores would get three to five years to sell out their current inventories.


Long cold winter took its toll on water lines

Water crews are finally getting a breather after a winter filled with broken mains and frozen pipes throughout Wisconsin.

In Milwaukee alone, about 660 water service lines burst from December through March 28. That's almost twice as many as the previous winter.

Milwaukee water users will spend almost $1.7 million for outside crews to inspect and repair broken water mains. That's four times as much as the year before.

Milwaukee will also spend $655,000 for the overtime spent by city employees on all water services connected with the cold. City water Superintendent Carrie Lewis said some of her crews worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week to help the water flowing.

In parts of northern Wisconsin, residents were urged as recently as last week to keep a small amount of water constantly running in their homes to keep their pipes from freezing. That's because there's still a lot of frost in the ground. In that situation, building owners not pay for their extra usage.


Authorities ready to announce developments in two decades-old killings

After years of investigations, authorities are about to announce new developments in the killings of two teens from two decades ago.

Racine County sheriff's officials have arrested a 36-year-old Illinois man for the slaying of 18-year-old Amber Creek in 1997. They'll say more during a news conference tomorrow.

In Fond du Lac County, officials say they might have enough evidence to tie a 60-year-old Kenosha truck driver to the 1990 kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Berit Beck of Sturtevant. The man was not in custody as of yesterday. Sheriff's officials plan to say more later today.

A search warrant affidavit shows that photographs of the trucker's hands are being evaluated along with other evidence in the Beck abduction. She was heading to a computer seminar in Appleton when she vanished. Her body was found in a ditch near Waupun.

In the Racine County case, Creek was a ward of the state in Illinois when she disappeared in early 1997. Her body was found three weeks later by a pair of hunters checking out land at a marsh in Burlington.