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Wisconsin roundup: AG to appeal ruling against GOP's redistricting; Wis. Supreme Court won't probe John Doe leaks; 9 more state news stories

Wisconsin's GOP-drawn Assembly districts were ruled unconstitutional Monday by a federal judicial panel.

MADISON -- Wisconsin's Republican attorney general says he will appeal a federal court ruling that strikes down the Assembly and Senate district lines the GOP drew in 2011.

But the case is not at that stage yet, as a panel of three federal judges asked both sides to submit written responses to their ruling from Monday before deciding what to do next. The panel found the GOP maps are unconstitutional, and the additions of Republican voters in many districts "impeded" the Democrats' ability to "translate their votes into legislative seats." The panel's senior judge, Kenneth Ripple, said the redistricting plan was "intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters" throughout the 10-year period following the 2010 Census.

The ruling was the result of a lawsuit from Democrats, as part of an effort to seek a new national standard for determining whether a state's 10-year redistricting plan discriminates against voters of a certain party. GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos defended the maps, saying his party has won elections because it has "better candidates and a better message" -- and if there's an appeal, it would go directly to the U-S Supreme Court.


State Supreme Court says no to probing John Doe leaks

MADISON -- Wisconsin Supreme Court justices say it's not their job to investigate leaks from a secret John Doe probe.

On a 3-1 vote Monday, the court said no to appointing a "special master" to find out how the Guardian newspaper obtained more than 1,300 pages of secret John Doe testimony. Three justices did not take part in the ruling -- but those who did say it's a job for the executive branch, not the judicial branch, and the state Justice Department says it's still doing its own investigation of the matter.

The former John Doe probe looked into whether Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP recall election candidates broke the law by working with an outside group that secretly raised funds for those candidates. The State Supreme Court ended the Doe probe last year, saying there was no wrongdoing -- and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider prosecutors' requests to reopen the investigation.


State agencies seek $693M more than available revenues

MADISON -- State government agencies want to spend $693 million more than the projected tax revenues in the next budget -- but that's a lot smaller excess than the $2.2 billion sought by the departments two years ago.

That means Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature won't have to cut as many spending requests for the period from mid 2017 to mid 2019. In a tweet, Walker promised to budget more money for public schools, technical colleges, and the UW System.

According to figures released Monday, some state agencies did not ask for additional money in the next budget, and a few asked for less. The Department of Public Instruction asked for $500 million additional dollars for K-12 schools, while health officials asked for an extra $455 million -- mostly for Medicaid.


Hate crime ruled out after suspect ID'd in UW-Stout student's death

MENOMONIE – Police have a suspect in the death of a UW-Stout student, though authorities said it's been concluded that the offense was not a hate crime.

Menomonie police said late last week that its investigation into the beating death of Hussain Alnahdi was sent to the Dunn County District Attorney's Office for possible charges. The department did not identify the suspect, “pending a charging decision,” according to a statement.

The UW-Stout campus rallied in recent days in hopes of finding Alnahdi's killer after his Oct. 31 death in the downtown Menomonie.

“Through the course of the investigation the MPD hasn’t found any evidence that would suggest the death of Hussain Alnahdi was a hate crime,” the police statement reads, which notes that the suspect is neither a UW-Stout student nor a Dunn County resident.

The case remains under investigation, according to Menomonie police.


Wisconsin harvest winds down

MADISON -- As Thanksgiving approaches, Wisconsin farmers are wrapping up the harvest of their two main crops.

Officials say 92 percent of the state's corn for grain has been harvested 11 days ahead of the average for the past five years and two days ahead of 2015. Ninety-eight percent of soybeans are in the bin, about even with the five year average.

All but 5 percent of the winter wheat crop has emerged from the ground, a little behind last year -- and farmers have completed 77 percent of their fall field work, five days ahead of the norm. The ground is starting to freeze in some parts of the Badger State after parts of far northern Wisconsin got 5 inches of snow last weekend, and the rest of the state had little or none of the white stuff.


Tomah man charged in fireworks explosion

SPARTA -- A western Wisconsin man is due in court Dec. 19 after being charged with making illegal fireworks.

Monroe County sheriff's deputies say 62-year-old Emile Salvo of Tomah caused a small explosion and fire at his home last Friday while making fireworks. Investigators say they found materials for manufacturing fireworks as they searched the property following the incident. Salvo is charged with felony counts of reckless endangerment and making fireworks without a license -- misdemeanor counts of obstructing police and negligent handling of burning materials -- and a non criminal citation for storing fireworks near a house.


Opening weekend deer harvest down 5 percent

MADISON -- Wisconsin deer hunters shot more than 120,000 animals during the opening weekend of the nine day gun season.

That's down 5 percent from the previous year, but the DNR's preliminary figures show that the weekend decline was only half as much as the opening day on Saturday. That's after strong winds in much of state died down by Sunday.

Hunters shot about 8,000 more bucks than in last November's opening weekend. The antlerless harvest was down by about 6,500, even though fewer parts of the state were off limits to doe hunting than one year ago.


Waupun man dies in head-on traffic crash

WAUPUN -- A 23-year-old Waupun man has died in a head on traffic crash.

It happened about 5:45 p.m. Monday on County Road AW in the town of Alto near Waupun. Fond du Lac County sheriff's deputies say a vehicle driven by a 57-year-old Waupun man crossed a center line and hit an oncoming unit in which the fatal victim was riding.

Officials say the man who caused the crash was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, along with the 52-year-old driver of the other unit and another of her passengers. All the victims were from Waupun, and their names were not immediately released.


La Crosse Republican has until Wednesday to seek election recount

MADISON -- Nearly two weeks after the election, a La Crosse Republican is still looking to unseat the state Senate's Democratic leader and he has until Wednesday to ask for a recount.

Dan Kapanke is trying to defeat Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. Unofficial Election Day results showed Shilling with a 58-vote lead. The official canvass the four counties in their Senate district turned in to state election officials on Friday showed Shilling ahead by 56 votes.

Under Wisconsin law, candidates have three days to request a recount once the official canvass has been filed. That gives Kapanke until Wednesday to make a decision. The recount would be free since the margin between the candidates is less than point-25 percent of the total votes cast. Senate Democrats plan to meet Tuesday to select their leaders for the upcoming session.


Wisconsin milk output records 30 straight months of growth

MADISON -- For the 30th month in a row, Wisconsin's milk production is higher than the same month the previous year.

The USDA says the Badger State produced almost 2.5 billion pounds of milk in October, an increase of 2.2 percent from the year before. Wisconsin's increase was smaller than both the national jump of 2.5percent, and 2.7 percent in the 23 major dairy producing states.

Wisconsin remains the nation's second largest milk producer. The No. 1 producer, California, had a smaller increase of 1.8 percent for October. Wisconsin again did more with less, as the state had 2,000 fewer cows than one year ago. The monthly production per cow rose by 45 pounds to 1,950 for the month.


Phillips man gets life for murder on Milwaukee freeway

MILWAUKEE -- A northern Wisconsin man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing another man while both were riding in a car on a freeway in Milwaukee.

A judge agreed to give 32-year-old Andrew Scholz of Phillips a chance at freedom, by letting him be considered for a supervised release as early as 42 years from now. A jury convicted Scholz of first degree intentional homicide and illegal firearm possession for an argument in which he shot and killed 25-year-old Randall Radtke in April 2015 while they and two others were in a car on Interstate 894 on Milwaukee's south side.

Officials say the car driver, 33-year-old Claytin Krimmer, then left the freeway -- and they dumped Radtke's body near an intersection. Krimmer is serving five years of probation after he pleaded guilty to aiding a felon.