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Wisconsin roundup: Wisconsin plunges into the deep freeze; state bill would require drug tests for certain high school students; and 10 more state news stories

Unlike Tuesday morning, it's above zero everywhere in Wisconsin. But forecasters say the respite won't last long as another round of arctic air pushes its way into the Badger State Wednesday.

By Thursday morning, lows are supposed to get down to 15 below with wind chills as cold as minus 30.

Then on Friday, the National Weather Service says all of Wisconsin will get another dose of snow -- and up to 8 inches are predicted in the western part of the state on Friday and into Saturday, on top of a 9-inch storm from last weekend.

Meanwhile, officials say the sudden cold snap is why part of Madison's Beltline expressway buckled around 5:15 a.m. Monona Police closed the two right westbound lanes, and crews only needed about 20 minutes to get the road back into shape.

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State bill would require drug tests for certain high school students

MADISON -- A state Republican wants to make all Wisconsin high school students take random drug tests if they're in extracurricular activities, or if they park on school grounds.

Oconomowoc Rep. Joel Kleefisch is drafting the measure for the next session. It's one of a number of proposals considered by a panel Kleefisch formed to look for new ways to fight heroin use -- and that group includes legislators, police, educators, religious leaders and health care employees.

The drug testing bill would only apply to those in voluntary school activities -- and the Wisconsin State Journal says it's in line with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2002 which legalized random drug tests for high school youngsters in voluntary activities.

Some school districts in the Badger State already have their own similar policies -- including Hartland Arrowhead, De Pere and Crivitz.

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Survey: Wisconsin fourth best U.S. state for drivers

(NEW YORK, N.Y.) -- A new survey says Wisconsin is the nation's fourth best state for drivers, despite all the talk in Madison about crumbling roads and finding money to fix them.

The personal finance website bankrate.com says Wisconsin motorists pay about $200 less than the national average for insurance each year, while spending $30 less for each car repair, and two fewer minutes in their daily commutes while suffering fewer traffic deaths per 100 million miles driven with slightly fewer car thefts.

However, Wisconsinites pay almost $50 more than the average U.S. motorist for gasoline, burning almost $1,200 of fuel each year. Bankrate says neighboring Iowa is the Number One state for drivers, and California is the worst.

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Man charged for planning school shooting

SHEBOYGAN -- A 21-year-old Sheboygan man is charged with making terrorist threats for allegedly planning a school shooting.

A judge ordered a $75,000 bond Tuesday for Joshua Bagemehl, who appeared in Sheboygan County Circuit Court on a video hookup from his detention facility.

Police say they received an anonymous tip Monday from a caller to Crime Stoppers, and Facebook posts indicated that Bagemehl had bought a semi automatic weapon and thought it would be "funny" if Sheboygan had a school shooting incident.

Police say they found assault rifles, ammunition, plans for a "hostile takeover" and related items -- he reportedly told investigators he wanted to get a "reaction" from people -- and his mother told officers that Bagemehl is bipolar with schizophrenia.

He's due back in court next Wednesday for a preliminary hearing.

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While thanking state voters, Trump defends Secretary Of State choice

WEST ALLIS -- President Elect Donald Trump uses part of his "thank you" speech to Wisconsin voters to defend his choice for the nation's top diplomat.

Some in both parties say Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is too close to Russia's President Vladimir Putin. But Trump told supporters in West Allis Tuesday night, "Rex is friendly with many of the leaders in the world that we don't get along with, and some people don't like that" -- and he praised Tillerson for making what he called "some of the greatest deals ever in the oil industry."

As the state's top Republicans looked on, Trump praised them -- especially Gov. Scott Walker, whom Trump called a strong and tough leader -- and House Speaker Paul Ryan, whom Trump says is like a "fine wine," noting he has a growing appreciation of Ryan's intellect.

Trump's speech also took more slaps at reporters whom he said were "devastated" when he won on Election Night -- and since then, a recount confirmed his nearly 23,000 vote victory in the state.

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Board delays decision on government self insurance

MADISON -- The state Group Insurance Board will wait until at least January to decide whether about 250,000 public employees should get their health insurance directly from the state government.

The Board reviewed several options Tuesday to restructure health benefits for state and local workers and their families -- and chairman Michael Farrell says his panel has asked a consultant and the state Employee Trust Funds Department for more information.

If the state goes to a long-considered self insurance model, consultants say it would save money and give the state more control over what it provides -- but it would also mean a big loss of business for 17 HMOs where the public workers now get their coverage.

GOP legislative finance chairs Alberta Darling and John Nygren say they want to work with the panel on the possible changes.

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Senate leader says no to a 2018 run for governor

MADISON -- State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling says she will not run for governor in 2018.

The La Crosse Democrat says she's committed to rebuilding a majority that focuses on jobs, infrastructure and schools to try and win her party's voters back.

The 47-year-old Shilling says she's "flattered" to be mentioned as a possible contender for governor, but she says there will be other opportunities.

Shilling also says she's happy with the district she represents -- even though she was just barely re-elected in November by only 61 votes out of almost 90,000 cast in her contest with former Senate Republican Dan Kapanke.

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Triple murder suspect found competent to stand trial

MILWAUKEE -- A judge in Milwaukee says an apartment dweller accused of killing three residents of his building has regained his mental ability to go on trial.

The case of 40-year-old Dan Popp resumed Tuesday, after it was ruled in April that he was incompetent to help with his defense -- and he had received treatment since June at a state mental hospital in Madison.

Bond was set at $750,000, and Popp is due back in court next Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.

Popp is accused of killing Phia and Mai Vue along with their neighbor Jesus Manso-Perez in their northwest side Milwaukee apartment building in March.

Popp is charged with three counts of first degree intentional homicide, and one count of attempted homicide for allegedly shooting at Manso-Perez's teenage son.

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Watchdog: PACs double spending state legislative races

MADISON -- A watchdog group says political action committees spent twice as much on state legislative races than in 2014.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says special interests spent $4.5 million on this year's Assembly and Senate hopefuls, about the same as in the last three elections combined.

In the last session, majority Republicans increased contribution limits, ended a state ban on corporate political donations, and redefined PACs which Democracy Campaign director Matt Rothschild says allowed big national groups to "hide their influence-peddling." But lawmakers said they were just keeping up with federal changes.Rick Esenberg of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty tells the Madison Capital Times the public could still find how much was spent, which allowed the Democracy Campaign to put together its report in the first place.

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Milwaukee County officials seek outside probe of jail deaths

MILWAUKEE -- Two Milwaukee County supervisors are seeking outside investigations of deaths at the Milwaukee County Jail after four deaths have occurred since April.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Senior and Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde are sponsoring the resolution, which would require outside investigations of deaths at the Milwaukee County Jail.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office runs the jail and is investigating three of the four deaths. The Milwaukee Police Department is conducting a criminal investigation of the fourth.

The proposal will be considered Thursday at a county supervisors subcommittee meeting. However, county lawyers say the board of supervisors lacks the authority to demand independent probes.

The sheriff says the two supervisors are diverting attention from the fact that opiate-related deaths have reached a crisis level in Milwaukee.

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Stein: Recounts "energized" goals for trustworthy voting system

Jill Stein says the presidential recounts she sought in Wisconsin and two other states "energized" the movement for "a voting system we can trust."

The Green Party White House candidate ended her fundraising efforts for the recounts Tuesday, the final date to get them done before next Monday's Electoral College vote.

Wisconsin was the only one to complete a full statewide recount, and it showed that Donald Trump's 22,000 vote lead on Hillary Clinton increased by 131 votes.

State officials said it turned up none of the computer hacking that Stein claimed there was, even though she still believes the full story was never told due to the use of machines to count a percentage of the ballots.

Stein's camp says it raised $7.3 million for all three recounts, and she's about 100,000 short. But Stein says the actual costs should go down once all the expense figures are tabulated. Stein says any funds left over will be given to voting rights' groups.

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DNR board to vote on plan for recreation area at former ammo plant

MADISON  --  The Department of Natural Resources board is set to vote on a plan that would allow rockets, motorcycles and hunting dog training at a southern Wisconsin recreation area despite a lawsuit challenging those activities.

The DNR's master plan for the Sauk Prairie State Recreation area includes creating a site for model rocket clubs, motorcycle use on some trails and a 72-acre hunting dog training area. The area sits on the site of the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant between Sauk City and Baraboo.

The Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance filed a lawsuit last week contending the DNR lacks the authority to allow high-impact activities such as rockets, motorcycles and dog training in the area. The agency's board is still expected to vote on the master plan Wednesday.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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