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Wednesday State News Roundup: Faculty no-confidence votes approved at UWM, not at Eau Claire

Almost 300 UW-Milwaukee faculty members voted unanimously to express no confidence in System President Ray Cross and the Board of Regents.

But at Eau Claire, the Faculty Senate fell one vote short Tuesday of taking the same no-confidence vote, saying the group was moving too quickly in opposing the recent decision to cut back on faculty tenure protections.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker chided the UWM faculty for what he called a “collective groan” about “job for life” tenure. Walker said faculty members ignored that full professors made twice as much as Milwaukee County employees in 2014, while instructors spent 20% less time in classrooms since 2000.

Faculty at Madison, La Crosse and River Falls have approved no-confidence resolutions. Green Bay is due to take it up today (Wednesday).

The student body president at Eau Claire urged faculty to reject the no-confidence resolution, saying it would just give lawmakers “ammunition for their next assault on the system.”


State delays, restructures debt payments again

MADISON -- State officials have given themselves some financial breathing room, by delaying and restructuring $101 million in debt payments.

The loans were scheduled to be paid back this month, but the Walker administration extended the payments for eight more years. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the delay will cost taxpayers an extra $2.3 million in interest.

Leaders of both parties have done the same thing for years to reduce current expenses and make sure the state budget has the required positive balance by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

The Fiscal Bureau says the state has restructured $1.5 billion in debt since 2001.

The administration calls it a “prudent financial tool,” while Assembly Democrat Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh said it refutes Walker's claim that the state's fiscal house is in order.


Sensenbrenner says Trump must unite GOP

OCONOMOWOC -- The dean of Wisconsin's congressional delegation said the new president will decide which direction the Supreme Court takes for the next generation.

If Democrat Hillary Clinton wins in November, GOP Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls said she would not “do the right thing” with three court nominations he expects in the next term.

At a town hall meeting in Oconomowoc, Sensenbrenner said Donald Trump has an obligation to unify Republicans, and if he doesn't, anti-Trump voters could stay home and give Democrats Clinton and U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold paths to victory.

Sensenbrenner, who's in his 38th year in the House, said he hopes Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville have a good meeting Thursday.

“Trump and Ryan are in it together,” said Sensenbrenner because the future of both will depend on the popularity of Republicans further down the ballot for turning out the votes.


Mother: Lincoln Hills teen given wrong medicines

IRMA -- Relatives of a 15-year-old inmate say the boy was given the wrong psychotropic medicines twice last month at the embattled Lincoln Hills juvenile institution.

The youth is from Milwaukee County. His mother told the Journal Sentinel that a guard who administered the first medication realized the mistake and then gave the correct meds without checking whether it caused more problems by giving the two together.

The state's largest news outlet said there have been other complaints about the handling of drugs at Lincoln Hills where guards reportedly hand out medications instead of medical personnel.

State corrections officials say they cannot comment on the matter due to medical privacy concerns. Federal investigations continue at Lincoln Hills over alleged abuses of inmates and possible civil rights violations.


Search continues for second suspect in Manitowoc killing

Authorities have been searching for a second suspect in the murder of a 52-year-old man in Manitowoc.

Police said Tuesday that Quinn Orn Smith, 22, of St. Paul is under arrest in Minnesota for the February shooting death of Kor Yang. Smith awaits extradition to Wisconsin to face a charge of first degree intentional homicide.

The other suspect, Joe Vang, 22, has reportedly been wanted for other charges in Minnesota for the past year.

Manitowoc police Captain Larry Zimney said a gun found near the murder had DNA which helped identify both suspects. He said both are members of the Twin Cities Asian Crips gang, but police have not disclosed a motive for Yang's death.


Johnson meets with court nominee, still opposes him

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Ron Johnson said he had a “very cordial” one hour meeting with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland Tuesday. But the Wisconsin Republican said he still opposes the Democratic president's nomination of the Washington appeals judge.

Johnson said he still believes voters should have an indirect say over conservative Antonin Scalia's replacement by whom they elect as president in November.

Harry Hartfield of the Wisconsin Democratic Party called Johnson's meeting a “ploy to distract” from the fact that he's refusing consider Garland's nomination.

Johnson is the 15th Republican Garland has met with. He has also met with 32 Democrats, including Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin.


Gypsy moth spraying to begin

The state plans to begin its annual spraying today (Wednesday) to fight the spread of the leaf-killing gypsy moth.

Sites in La Crosse, Crawford, Richland and Vernon counties were scheduled for aerial spraying as early as sunrise -- weather permitting.

It's cloudy in southwest Wisconsin this morning with fog in some places and a chance of rain in the forecast.

Eighty-six treatments will include insecticides with the natural BTK soil bacterium that poisons gypsy moth caterpillars. This year's program includes 240,000 acres of spraying in 19 counties, mostly in the western part of the state.


Madison police probe gas station murder

Madison's police chief said a murder victim at a gas station appeared to be specifically targeted.

Mike Koval said his officers were called to a south side BP station around 6:30 p.m. where they found a 38-year-old man bleeding profusely.

Witnesses reportedly indicated that the shooter and the victim knew each other, and several people ran from the scene. Koval said multiple shots were fired.

Investigators are working on several leads in their search for suspects.


Wisconsin crop planting ahead of schedule

Wisconsin farmers have taken advantage of recent dry weather to plant their crops ahead of schedule.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 56% of the state's corn crop is in the ground, up from 22% the previous week and the average of 28% for the past five years.

About 18% of Wisconsin soybeans have been planted, more than the norm of 6% for this time of year.

Farmers had almost six days suitable for field work last week before a large area of rain moved in the past couple of days.

Meanwhile, the USDA says Wisconsin plans to devote more acreage to winter wheat. Officials predict a large increase in the state's crop from about 15 million bushels last year to 20 million for 2016.


State monitoring for Zika-carrying mosquitoes

The two species of mosquitoes known to carry the Zika virus currently are not found in Wisconsin due to the climate, but the state Department of Health Services is starting efforts to monitor for them.

The state is working with the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the project as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note the range of the insects could eventually stretch to southern parts of the state.

As many as 15 border counties will be monitored.


Waukesha water request reduced again

CHICAGO -- For a second time, officials of eight Great Lakes states and provinces have reduced the amount of water that Waukesha could get from Lake Michigan.

At a meeting in Chicago Tuesday, the officials reached a preliminary agreement to let only the city of Waukesha and town islands totally within the city limits tap into Lake Michigan,

Part of Pewaukee would no longer be part of the request. Also, the amount of daily water allocations would be reduced from 8.4 million gallons by 2050 to 8.2 million.

All eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces must approve Waukesha's request for Lake Michigan water because the city lies just outside the lake's natural basin. The city has long asked for lake water because its own wells are running dry.

Governors and other leaders will meet June 13 in Chicago to act on Tuesday's recommendation.


Former sports agent gets prison time for selling bogus tickets

MILWAUKEE -- Former sports agent Stacy Foote was sentenced Tuesday to 58 months in a federal prison for embezzling almost $2 million and selling fake Packers tickets to fans.

Foote, 53, earlier pleaded guilty to taking $1.9 million from IEWC Global Solutions, where she was an event planner.

Milwaukee Federal Judge Pamela Pepper noted that Foote, formerly Stacy Jenson, sold $55,000 in false Packers game tickets last season after she was charged with ripping off the IEWC firm in New Berlin.

Foote also served time in prison in the 1990s for writing bad checks and bilking money from a church and a high school pompon team.


Appeals court upholds denial of frac sand mine permit

MADISON -- A Wisconsin appeals court is upholding a Trempealeau County decision denying a permit to open a new sand mine for use in hydraulic fracking.

Iowa-based AllEnergy Sand had argued that a Trempealeau County environmental and land use committee in 2013 wrongly denied its permit to open the 550-acre sand mine and processing plant.

A circuit court had affirmed the county committee's action in January 2015, and the appeals court upheld that ruling Tuesday, saying the “decision was supported by substantial evidence.”

County officials denied AllEnergy's application, saying it was rushed and incomplete. The company wanted to open a mine near the town of Arcadia.


Kennedy to retire as state's top elections official

MADISON -- The man who has run Wisconsin elections for the last 33 years will retire next month.

The Government Accountability Board said Tuesday that Kevin Kennedy will leave June 29.

Kennedy, 64, told he wanted to retire at the end of this year, but he moved the date up because he is not interested in continuing after the GAB splits into separate elections and ethics agencies at the start of July.

Kennedy kept his retirement letter upbeat, thanking Wisconsinites for entrusting him with carrying out the nonpartisan GAB, which Republican lawmakers eliminated after criticizing its involvement in the second Walker John Doe investigation and making decisions the GOP claimed had favored Democrats.

Kennedy joined the former State Elections Board in 1979 as its general counsel, and headed the elections agency since late 1982.


West Allis man gets 45 years for murder, robbery

WAUKESHA -- A West Allis man will spend about 44 years in prison for killing a gas station employee in Waukesha and robbing a convenience store in Brookfield.

Kenneth Thomas, 21, was given credit for 477 days behind bars while his case was going through the courts. He must spend 20 years under extended supervision when he gets out of prison.

Thomas struck a plea deal that convicted him of felony murder and armed robbery, in which Saeed Sharwani, 65, was shot to death in January of last year during a struggle. Charges of robbery, reckless endangerment, selling a weapon to a child and illegal firearm possession were dropped.

But as part of the deal, Thomas must testify against a co-defendant in the gas station murder, Darrin Malone.


Prosecutors: Teacher caught in sex sting

GREEN BAY -- Prosecutors now say a northeast Wisconsin teacher and coach was caught in an Internet sex sting.

Nicholas Darnick, 34, of Seymour was sent to jail under a $25,000 bond during his first court appearance Monday on Brown County charges of child enticement and using a computer for a sex crime. He's due back in court Friday.

Ashwaubenon officials say Darnick emailed and texted an undercover officer posing as a 15-year-old girl, and he was arrested last Friday when he went to meet the person.

A criminal complaint indicates that Darnick feared he would be arrested and was trying to “negate” her advances, but police say the defendant acted solely on his own.

Darnick is on administrative leave as a physical education teacher in the Seymour school district. He is also the high school girls basketball coach.


Death of airline passenger investigated

Milwaukee County authorities continue to investigate the death of a passenger who flew into Mitchell International Airport.

Sheriff's deputies say Brendan Smith, 36, of San Diego has relatives in the Milwaukee suburb of Glendale.

Officials say he fell unconscious from an apparent medical emergency during a flight from Phoenix to Mitchell early Monday. Airport fire personnel went onto the plane after it landed and tried saving Smith but could not do so.