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Wisconsin statewide news roundup

Attorney general wants employers to test for Rx drugs

WAUKESHA -- Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel wants to get employers to test workers for certain prescription drugs. 

It's part of an effort to curb the use and abuse of prescription painkillers, according to the attorney general. Speaking in Waukesha, he said prescriptions should be added to tests by companies for illegal drugs, saying some are more dangerous than drugs like marijuana.

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Report: Financial penalties for polluters drop sharply

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation says a large drop in fines for sewage polluters has become "too dramatic." 

The group released figures Wednesday showing that last year's penalties for violating state environmental laws were $307,000, the lowest since 2006 -- and sewage-related fines dropped to $12,000 from a 10-year average of $455,000. 

Federation President George Meyer, a former DNR secretary, says the lack of fines is not fair to those follow the laws, and he blames fewer DNR inspections and Justice Department prosecutions. Both agencies say they take environmental enforcement seriously, although it's been harder for the DNR since it's been going through a major reorganization. 

The DNR says it cannot confirm the group's numbers -- which shows that total fines for the for the last five years under Republican Gov. Scott Walker were only 42-percent of what was levied in the previous five years under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.

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Walker suffers legal defeat on school powers

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker suffered a legal defeat Wednesdaywhen the Wisconsin Supreme Court said he cannot veto administrative rules from the state's education agency. 

The justices voted 4-3 against overturning a 1996 ruling that gave the agency complete authority over public schools because voters elect the superintendent. Walker's office says it will keep seeking ways to change the system. 

State Superintendent Tony Evers calls the ruling a "victory." Conservative Justices Michael Gableman and David Prosser joined liberals Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson on the four member majority, saying the constitution would have to be changed if lawmakers want the governor to have veto power over school administrative rules. 

In a dissent, Chief Justice Pat Roggensack said the rulemaking process is a legislative function and that gives lawmakers oversight of the process.

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Sykes refuses comment on making Trump's potential justice list

Federal appeals judge Diane Sykes of Wisconsin says she will not comment on making Donald Trump's list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees. 

The only remaining GOP presidential candidate named 11 judgesWednesday that he would consider nominating if he's elected this fall, and the vacancy from Antonin Scalia's death is still not filled next year. 

The 58-year-old Sykes is a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who's been on the federal appeals court in Chicago since 2004. GOP Congressman Glenn Grothman says the conservative Sykes would be a good justice, and it's what Republicans are looking for from Trump. 

House Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse says it's "presumptuous and premature" for anybody who's not officially a nominee to be releasing a list of Supreme Court possibilities.

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UW-Madison professor: state's voter ID law unconstitutional

MADISON -- University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Barry Burden believes the state's voter ID law is unconstitutional. 

He submitted a report on behalf of the plaintiffs suing the state in federal court and testified for much of the second day of the nine-day trial Tuesday. 

Burden says the voter ID law and other election law changes disproportionally impact low-income, minority, and young voters. The attorney general's office says the laws are meant to prevent voter fraud.

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House approves scaled-back funding to fight Zika virus

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Wisconsin House members voted with their parties on a scaled-down Republican plan to fight the Zika virus. 

The vote was 241-184 Wednesday in favor of a $622 million program that would run through September. 

That's much less than the $1.9 billion sought by the Obama White House for a two year battle against the mosquito-borne Zika, and $1.1 billion passed by the Senate on Tuesday as an addition to an unrelated spending bill. 

Eventually, the two houses will have to work on a compromise. But Director Tom Frieden of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the delays will make it harder give what he calls the "protections" that Americans deserve.

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Appeals judge won't run again

MADISON -- South central Wisconsin will get a new appeals judge next year. 

Paul Higginbotham says he will not run for re-election to the state's Fourth District Appellate Court next April. 

He became the state's first African-American appeals judge when former Gov. Jim Doyle appointed him in 2003. Before that, he spent nine years as a Dane County circuit judge and a short tenure as a Madison municipal judge. The Fourth District appeals court is based in Madison and serves 24 counties in the southern and central parts of the state.

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Fallen state trooper immortalized

FOND DU LAC -- After getting national recognition, fallen State Patrol officer Trevor Casper is immortalized in his home city. Fond du Lac Police held a ceremony Wednesday, where Casper's name was unveiled on a memorial that honors four fallen officers to be killed in the line of duty in Fond du Lac since 1898. 

The 21-year-old Casper died last March in a shootout that ended a crime spree through eastern Wisconsin that included a murder and a bank robbery. 

Police Chief Bill Lamb says Casper saved the lives of others by sacrificing his own -- and the honor comes during National Police Week in which federal, state, and local leaders pay tribute to their fallen officers. Casper was also remembered earlier this month in a fundraising bike ride for the National Law Enforcement Memorial in the nation's capital.

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Motorcycle death victim ID'd

MUKWONAGO -- A motorcyclist killed in a two-vehicle crash in Mukwonago was publicly identified Wednesday as 48-year-old Danny Weber of North Prairie. 

Witnesses say he was apparently speeding when his bike hit the rear of a vehicle that turned in front of him last Sunday night on Highway 83. Also, an ambulance that was taking Weber to a hospital got into a crash with a car in Milwaukee. Two rescuers in the ambulance had non life threatening injuries, along with two people in the other vehicle. Officials say Weber apparently died from injuries received in his initial crash.

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Zika virus finally reaches Wisconsin

MADISON -- Wisconsin is among the last states to confirm a case of the Zika virus. 

That's what state health officials said Wednesday, when they confirmed that a Wisconsin woman picked up the mosquito-borne virus while on a recent trip to Honduras. 

State health officer Karen McKeown emphasizes that nobody has contracted the Zika virus directly in Wisconsin, and her department has tested more than 300 people who have traveled to countries where the virus is known to be present. Officials say pregnant women and unborn babies have the biggest health risks from the Zika virus -- but the health agency would not say if the Wisconsin victim was pregnant, or where she is from. 

McKeown says her agency is working with UW-Madison and others on surveillance -- so they'll know if infected mosquitoes turn up in the Badger State.

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Potential jurors released in Badger Guns civil trial

MILWAUKEE -- The judge in a civil court case against a Milwaukee area gun shop has released a group of potential jurors, just before they were about to be impaneled. 

The jury selection process will be restarted on Monday in a lawsuit filed by Milwaukee police officer Jose Lopez and former officer Alejandro Arce. They claim that Badger Guns of West Milwaukee was negligent in selling a weapon to a 24-year-old man who later allowed a teenager to use it to wound the officers in late 2007. 

Circuit Judge John DiMotto, who's hearing the trial, said the jurors were being dismissed due to what he called "issues beyond our control" but he would not say what the issues were. Last fall, two other Milwaukee police officers were awarded $6 million by a jury in a similar case against Badger Guns -- and those officers later settled for about $1 million.

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Suspicious death remains under investigation

PHELPS -- Authorities in far northern Wisconsin continue to investigate the death of a 47-year-old woman whose body was found on a snowmobile trail. 

Vilas County sheriff's officials consider Luann Beckman's death to be suspicous. She was last seen four days ago, riding a bicycle that was later recovered. Officials say the circumstances and the evidence they've gathered indicate that foul play was involved -- and they're still interviewing witnesses.

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UW-Madison frat suspended

MADISON -- UW-Madison has suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity from all school activities until Nov. 1. 

A committee found that the chapter had a discriminatory environment which violated the university's conduct code for student groups. The frat can appeal the suspension. 

An African-American student complained in early March that Sigma Alpha Epsilon fostered a hostile environment since 2014. The investigation found that frat members used anti-racial and homophobic slurs and later ostracized an African-American member who tried to halt it. 

The committee said the frat responded to some allegations, but not enough to improve the "overall environment."

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