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Senate OKs expansion of crossbow use, relaxes 'Lemon' law; day-care reimbursement fraud lessens; 9 more state stories

MADISON -- All hunters could take part in a special crossbow season each fall, under a bill passed by the Wisconsin Senate Tuesday. It would run at the same time as the traditional bow and arrow season from mid-September through November or early December.

Monona Democrat Mark Miller, who's a bow hunter, cast the only no vote. He said crossbows have the potential to taint the archery season, and he wanted part of the season to be for traditional bow and arrow hunting only.

Miller said crossbows are more like shotguns, in which triggers are used to release the arrows. Right now, they're only allowed for disabled hunters and those over 65.

The new bill would allow all eligible hunters to use crossbows to shoot deer and smaller animals. Supporters say it would create more hunting opportunities, and encourage more people to go out hunting.

The bill was approved by the Assembly in June. It's going back there to ratify some amendments. Also, the Senate voted to ban local governments from restricting bow-and-arrow hunting, except within 1,700 feet of a hospital or school, and within 100 yards of government buildings.

The new rules aren't likely to take effect until September, 2014.

Also Tuesday, the Senate watered down Wisconsin's Lemon Law. The vote was 32 to 1 Tuesday to give fewer legal protections to those who buy defective new cars.

Middleton Democrat Jon Erpenbach cast the only no vote. The measure now goes to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

An association of plaintiffs' attorneys endorsed the bill's final version. It would end the requirement that automakers pay double-damages to consumers who win in court. Wisconsin is the only state which mandates that.

Also, the time limit for filing lawsuits would be reduced from six years to three years after the purchase of faulty vehicles. In addition, car manufacturers would have 45 days instead of 30 to give refunds or replacements -- or they can negotiate settlements for the first time.

The bill's sponsors said they took direct aim at Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney Vince Megna. He won $880,000 in damage, interest, and legal fees in a long court case involving a Waukesha man's defective sedan.

Also Tuesday, the Senate voted to ban registered sex offenders from being on school property unless they notify school officials first. The Assembly okayed the measure 95-to-1 in May. It now goes to Walker for his signature.

Landlords likely to gain more power over tenants

MADISON -- Wisconsin landlords are one step closer to getting more power over their tenants.

On an 18-15 vote Tuesday, the state Senate approved a package of changes which landlords say would create some much-needed fairness for them while opponents say it would roll back tenants' rights.

Milwaukee Democrat Lena Taylor, a landlord herself, voted against the bill -- as did all 14 other Democrats.

The measure now goes back to the Assembly to ratify some amendments. That house first approved the package by a 20-vote margin in June.

Landlords could dispose of anything tenants leave behind without telling them in advance. De Pere Republican Frank Lasee says it's expensive to store those items, and future tenants pay for it.

The bill also lets landlords remove improperly-parked cars without police issuing tickets first. Lasee says the police are often too busy to handle those kinds of things.

Also, tenants could be evicted for crimes committed in their units, even if there was no way they could prevent them. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking would be exempt. Middleton Democrat Jon Erpenbach said the package was nowhere near being fair to tenants. He said there were 28,000 evictions last year, and he predicted the number would grow under the new changes. Just over 3,500 of last year's cases went to court.

Taxpayer subsidies for day-care fall in wake of fraud investigation

MADISON -- Five years after a newspaper investigation uncovered massive fraud by 39 child care providers in the greater Milwaukee area, Wisconsin taxpayers are spending millions less on the Wisconsin Shares child care program.

The Journal Sentinel said the costs of the subsidized day-care program for the working poor dropped by $65 million a year in Milwaukee County alone. That's where most of the fraud took place. After it came to light, lawmakers approved a series of reforms, and a task force rooted out offenders.

Thirty-nine child care providers in Milwaukee County have been convicted of defrauding Wisconsin Shares -- mostly by claiming millions in state reimbursements to serve children they never actually cared for. Similar cases were scattered elsewhere in the state.

Milwaukee prosecutor David Feiss said the spending cuts have generally not hurt those in Wisconsin Shares. He said the numbers of families being served have remained held steady.

David Edie of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families says other factors have also brought costs down. He says reimbursement rates have not gone up since 2006. Providers no longer get paid when kids are absent. Centers which don't meet more stringent standards have lost 5 percent of their funding.

Duffy says Democrats are distorting his position on Obama-care

WAUSAU -- House Republican Sean Duffy says Democrats are misleading his constituents in his position on Obama-care.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been placing automated robo-calls to voters in Duffy's district, claiming he favors a government shutdown to stop funding of the Affordable Care Act.

Duffy said the Democrats falsely claim that he signed a letter from North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows which called for defunding Obama-care in any relevant appropriations bill or any continuing resolution to keep the government running.

Duffy says he believes Obama-care needs to be defunded, but a government shutdown is not the right tactic.

On Wednesday, a group of over 175 House conservatives plans to introduce an alternative health care package. The Republican Study Committee's plan would give individuals tax deductions for buying state-approved private insurance, and raise government funding to cover high-risk patients.

It would not have the mandates and taxes outlined in the Obama law. The group has not said how much its package would cost.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Petri urges Ft. Hood shootings be deemed terrorism for victims' benefit

WASHINGTON D.C. -- As Congress looks into the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, a Wisconsin House member says there's still unfinished business from the 2009 Fort Hood massacre.

Fond du Lac Representative Tom Petri has co-signed a bill to declare the Fort Hood shootings as an act of terrorism. Currently, it's officially declared as "workplace violence."

As a result, Petri says the victims and their survivors are being denied the military medals and benefits they deserve.

Two Wisconsin soldiers were killed, and six other state residents survived. One of them, Dorothy Carskadon of Madison, first brought up the classification issue almost a year ago. At the time, she said the Fort Hood victims were being denied Purple Heart awards. Petri calls that "bureaucratic and political."

On Tuesday, he joined 100 other House members who've co-signed a measure to reclassify the Fort Hood massacre as terrorism. Petri said the Pentagon had previous concerns about the idea, because shooter Nidal Hasan's trial was not finished yet.

Last month, Hasan was convicted of killing a total of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood and injuring 32 others. A jury ordered the death penalty.

Special election for the state Assembly set for Nov. 19th

Voters in the Abbotsford- and South Milwaukee areas will be asked to chose two new Wisconsin Assembly members on Nov. 19th.

A special election was called earlier for the 69th District seat vacated by Republican Scott Suder of Abbotsford and Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker scheduled a vote for the same day in the 21st Assembly District, where Republican Mark Honadel of South Milwaukee recently stepped down.

Candidates for both seats are now circulating nomination papers. They must be filed by the end of next Tuesday for both seats. Primaries, if needed, would take place on Oct. 22nd.

It appears a primary will be needed for Suder's seat, where four Republicans and no Democrats are running. Regardless of the outcome, the GOP will keep its large majority in the lower House. That edge is currently 58- to 39.

Woman killed after fleeing from argument, police say

TWO RIVERS -- Police said a 43-year-old woman may have driven away from an argument at a high rate of speed, before she died in a crash a short time later.

Officers were called to an intersection on 13th Street early yesterday afternoon, where the woman and others were arguing about something.

A short time later, police said the woman drove through a stop sign down 13th Street before ending up in a wooded area. She was pinned in the wreckage and was pronounced dead at the scene after she was pulled out.

The woman had suffered extensive injuries. Her name was not immediately released.

The State Patrol is re-constructing the crash scene as part of an investigation that's continuing.

Two Rivers is located on Lake Michigan, about 40 miles southeast of Green Bay.

-- Damon Ryan, WOMT, Manitowoc

Autopsies planned for couple found dead near near Sun Prairie

SUN PRAIRIE -- Autopsies were planned Wednesday on a man and a woman found dead at a home in Dane County.

Sheriff's deputies were sent to a residence north of Sun Prairie around 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, and found the bodies.

A co-worker called 9-1-1 after one of them didn't show up for work.

Media reports said an older couple used to live at the house -- and they turned it over to her daughter.

Naked would-be thief, found in a tight spot

MILWAUKEE -- Police said a northern Wisconsin man tried to steal drugs from a veterinary clinic in Milwaukee -- but when he tried to break in, he got stuck in an air vent for 10 hours while naked.

Officials said Shane Ray, 19, of Phelps was discovered Monday morning, when workers at Milwaukee's Small Animal Hospital heard him screaming for help. He faces an attempted burglary charge in Milwaukee County. Online court records do not list the case yet.

Police Captain Aaron Raap said Ray went to the vet hospital on Sunday night with the idea of getting drugs. Raap said Ray couldn't find any windows to enter, so he got naked on the roof before entering the ventilation system with a hammer and flashlight in each hand.

He reportedly crawled in one direction, but the air shaft got narrower so he had to turn around. Eventually, Rapp said the suspect missed his entry hole and ended up at the ground level.

A hospital official said the incident caused about $5,000 in damage, but the ventilating system still works.

Rapp said the suspect faces similar charges for incidents in Oneida and Vilas counties.

Court records show five pending cases in those two counties on charges that include criminal trespassing and damage, resisting an officer, and bail jumping.

Man sought in alleged child-snatching dies after police chase

MERRILL -- A 24-year-old man was killed in a car crash, while he was being pursued by sheriff's officers near Merrill late Tuesday afternoon.

The accident occurred on a Lincoln County road after the driver hit another vehicle and veered off the road during the chase.

The Wisconsin Justice Department had put out a statewide crime alert for the man, after he reportedly took his three-week-old daughter in violation of a court order. The infant was born drug-dependent, and was under the court-ordered care of the Taylor County Human Services agency.

The baby and an 18-year-old passenger were not seriously hurt. They were taken to a Merrill hospital for treatment.

The names of those involved were not immediately released. Officers from the State Patrol and neighboring Marathon County are doing the investigation, to avoid a conflict-of-interest for Lincoln County officers.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.