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Wisconsin roundup: State investigates season's first snowmobile death; new OWI penalties begin Jan. 1; 7 more state news stories

ARBOR VITAE — Wisconsin's first snowmobile death of the winter is still being investigated.

Vilas County sheriff's deputies say a 63-year-old man from East Moline, Illinois, died when his machine struck a tree Monday night off a trail near Arbor Vitae where he was part of a group of riders. The name of the Quad Cities victim was not immediately released.

The state DNR says the season's first snowmobile death did not happen until Jan. 16 last winter -- but that was a relatively mild season, and only nine people died in state snowmobile crashes last year. That's down from 23 deaths just three winters ago.

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Wisconsin's new drunken driving penalties begin Jan. 1

MADISON — Repeat drunken drivers will face tougher penalties in Wisconsin starting with the new year.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a law in April that makes a fourth drunken driving offense a felony regardless of when it's committed. Currently a fourth offense is a felony only if committed within five years of a third offense.

The law also increases the maximum sentence for fifth and sixth offenses from three years to five. Maximum sentences for seventh, eighth and ninth offenses will increase from five years to seven-and-a-half years. The maximum sentence for a 10th or subsequent offense will move from seven and a half years to a decade behind bars.

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Walker: DOT secretary left on his own

MADISON —Gov. Scott Walker's office says Mark Gottlieb made his own decision to leave, even though he's gone against the Republican governor on highway funding issues in the past.

The Republican Walker said Tuesday that Gottlieb will retire Jan. 6, to be replaced by state Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dave Ross who's a former mayor of Superior. Two years ago, Gottlieb's DOT proposed $750 million in tax and fee hikes that Walker rejected.

This time, Gottlieb told lawmakers that the number of Wisconsin roads in poor shape would double in the next decade if new revenues are not found -- but he said he understood the governor's insistence not to raise taxes on state motorists. GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who also says a highway tax hike might be needed, praised Gottlieb -- a civil engineer and former legislator -- as being one of the state's "most hard working and articulate public leaders."

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Ribble reflects on Trump, Obamacare

APPLETON — The only Wisconsin congressman to leave Washington next week has mixed reviews on his party's incoming president.

Northeast Wisconsin Republican Reid Ribble of Sherwood says it's interesting that Donald Trump's cabinet picks have mostly been mainstream conservatives. But Ribble remains an opponent of Trump, as he's been for months -- and he tells WHBY Radio in Appleton that Trump attracted voters who thought they were victims of the people and nations that Trump labeled as villains on the campaign trail -- China among them.

Ribble also said his fellow Republicans cannot just drop most pieces of Obamacare right away, as both Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville have pledged to do -- and Ribble says it would create uncertainty and rising prices in the health care market. Ribble -- a roofer by trade -- is leaving after six years in the House, and he'll become the new director of the National Roofing Contractors Association of suburban Chicago.

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OSHA cites Columbus firm with 16 serious violations

MADISON — A welding repair shop in southern Wisconsin has been cited for 17 federal workplace safety violations after a 17-year-old worker died in late June.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends almost $120,000 in fines against GD Roberts and Co. of Columbus, after Dusty Babcock of Reeseville got trapped in a machine. Police say he was cleaning scrap metal underneath a laser cutting machine when the unit engaged and fell on him -- and he later died.

OSHA's Madison office says a proper device to lock out the machine could have saved Babcock's life, along with proper training. The company says it's cooperating with OSHA, it works continually to improve employee safety, and it hopes to quickly resolve the citations. GD Roberts has 15 days to pay the fine, challenge them, or seek a settlement conference to try and reduce the proposed penalty.

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Possible explosive device investigated in Superior

SUPERIOR — Police in Superior say it will take a few days to determine exactly what was in a suspicious package that forced an evacuation of a surrounding area.

The Marathon/Oneida County Bomb Squad was called up from Wausau to examine the package -- and officials say it was either an explosive device or something that resembled it. Superior Police say they were first called about noon Tuesday concerning a duffel bag or a backpack which had components stretching out from it. Officials say the package was taken to a safe remote site for dismantling.

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Cattle truck overturns in De Pere

DE PERE — Highway 57 is open again in De Pere, after a truck with 35 cows tipped onto its side.

Media reports say at least one of the animals died, and the truck driver escaped injury. De Pere police and fire officials say the driver veered off the road and hit a small driveway before the truck tipped.

It happened late Tuesday morning, and the highway was closed for more than five hours. The cows were heading to Green Bay to be processed.

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Comedian Jim Gaffigan volunteers at Milwaukee food shelf

MILWAUKE — Stand up comedian Jim Gaffigan makes fun of food in his routines. But in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Gaffigan and his family helped provide food for the needy when they volunteered at the Riverwest Food Pantry run by his brother in law, Vincent Noth.

Gaffigan's wife Jeannie is from Milwaukee, and he calls the city his "hometown in law." Jeannie says the food invites people into the pantry, and then they receive "all sorts of mentoring." Gaffigan has performed on New Year's Eve in Milwaukee for the past decade -- and this week, he added an extra Friday night show at the Pabst Theater, with all of the ticket revenues from that show going to the Riverwest Pantry.

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Tribal corporation sues Green Bay over power plant

GREEN BAY — A tribal corporation is suing the city of Green Bay, seeking damages from a failed waste-to-energy plant.

The Oneida Seven Generations Corporation received the city's permission in 2010 to build a power plant fueled by municipal solid waste. However, after construction started, the city revoked the conditional-use permit under pressure from citizens opposed to the plant.

The tribal corporation now wants to recover damages. In the complaint filed Friday in federal court, the corporation says it lost around $21 million in profits and expenses, plus substantial legal expenses. The Wisconsin Supreme Court last year affirmed an appeals court ruling that Green Bay improperly revoked the plant's permit.

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