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Wisconsin roundup: Lawmaker raises concern over Walker welfare plan; winter weather to return; 8 more state news stories

A Wisconsin Senate Democrat says children could be hurt by Gov. Scott Walker's plan to expand the work requirement to get food stamps.

The Republican Walker held briefings in four cities Monday to explain his plan, which would extend the current 80 hour-per-month work or job training requirement to parents of school aged kids, and not just childless adults. Walker pitched the extension as the "foundation" former Gov. Tommy Thompson set up in the 1990s with the "W-2" welfare to work program.

But Milwaukee Senate Democrat Lena Taylor says the Walker plan "lacks details" and could hurt kids -- and policy analyst Stacy Dean of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities calls the plan "unprecedented." The changes would have to be approved by Congress and the new Trump administration.


Much of Wisconsin due for another winter blast

Wisconsin's dry and foggy January warmup is about to end.

Another snowstorm is expected Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday for southwest Wisconsin and the state's midsection from about Madison and Sheboygan northward to the Eau Claire region and Door County. The National Weather Service has posted watches and warnings for those areas, and 3-8 inches of snow are forecast in most places.

Far southwest Wisconsin could get 1-4 inches of sleet and snow. Some places will get a wintry mix in advance of the snow -- and forecasters say central Wisconsin could get an ice buildup with the snow on top. Meanwhile, flood warnings continue on the Milwaukee River at Cedarburg, and the Pecatonica River at Martintown -- and both locations expect minor flooding before the rivers fall back below their flood stages Tuesday and early Wednesday.


State bill would scale back asset seizures for drug suspects

MADISON — Suspects accused of selling illegal drugs in their homes and cars could no longer lose those properties as part of a new bill proposed in the Wisconsin Legislature.

Senate Republican Dave Craig of Big Bend is the chief sponsor of the bill, which would only allow police to seize suspects' property upon convictions -- and the seizures would have to be proportional to the crimes. Also, sales of seized assets would go to the state public school fund -- and law enforcement would no longer keep some of the proceeds after longtime criticisms that federal and state police have used the seizure laws to bring in revenue.

Several GOP lawmakers in both houses are proposing the bill, along with Assembly Democrat and former Milwaukee Judge Fred Kessler -- and Craig says it assures that no one is deprived of their due process rights. But many say the seizures are effective in fighting crime -- and the head of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police, Robert Rosch of Hartland, says his group opposes the bill in its current form.


Ryan invites Trump to speak to Congress

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville has invited President Donald Trump to speak before a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28.

It will be the Republican Trump's first chance as president to spell out his agenda to both houses and the American people. Ryan announced his invitation on Twitter this (Tuesday) morning. Incoming presidents do not normally make State of the Union speeches, and Trump's appearance before federal lawmakers and officials will be in lieu of that event.


Realtors report record home sales in state

MADISON — Wisconsin Realtors have set a new record for their home sales in 2016.

The Realtors Association says 81,405 existing houses were sold statewide last year, 6.1 percent more than in 2015. Median sales prices jumped 5.9 percent to $165,000. For December, Realtors sold almost 5,600 homes, about 4 percent more than the year before -- and the median sales price of $161,000 was up by almost 7.1 percent.

In the New Year, association president Mike Theo says higher interest rates will continue, and buyers will have to move quickly to take advantage of good prices. Theo calls it a "you snooze, you lose" market.


Lincoln Hills inmates allege excess confinement, pepper spray use

MADISON — A class action lawsuit accuses the state of giving excess solitary confinement and pepper spray to juvenile offenders at Lincoln Hills.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Juvenile Law Center of Philadelphia filed the lawsuit on behalf of four Milwaukee County youngsters -- but the suit seeks remedies for all past, present, and future offenders at the state's Lincoln Hills Boys School and Copper Lake Girls School in Lincoln County. Among other things, the suit alleges that up to 20 percent of youngsters have been in solitary confinement.

It also says pepper spray was used almost 200 times in a 10-month period, and it says youngsters have been abused before state and federal officials began investigating Lincoln Hills in late 2015. The federal probe continues, and the state says it's reviewing the lawsuit but is not commenting further.


State Dems praise Trump's pullout of TPP

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin Democrats are among those praising Republican President Donald Trump for pulling the plug on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Trump issued an executive order Monday which ended America's efforts to approve a trade deal with Pacific Rim nations sought by the Obama White House. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says ending the TPP and renegotiating NAFTA are "good first steps" -- but she says Trump must also crack down on reforms like requiring the government to use American vendors, and stop outsourcing jobs. Madison House Democrat Mark Pocan says he'll seek to ensure that United States trade deals benefit "families, not big corporations."


Olivia Munn reaches out to Packer fans

Actress Olivia Munn reached out to Packer fans who remained stung by their team's NFC Championship Game loss at Atlanta.

In a handwritten note on Instagram, Aaron Rodgers' girlfriend thanked those who supported Green Bay by putting out what she called "only positive energy," saying, "It helped them get this far." The Packers were 4-6 in November before they won eight straight games, due in large part to a rejuvenated Rodgers who threw an improbable sideline pass to set up Green Bay's signature playoff win at Dallas. That was one week before the Packers got crushed at Atlanta 44-21 this past Sunday, as the Falcons advanced to the Feb. 5 Super Bowl against AFC champion New England.


Kenosha inmate tested for TB

KENOSHA — An inmate at the Kenosha County Detention Center is being tested for tuberculosis.

Sheriff's officials say the unnamed inmate was taken to a medical facility after having chest pains and shortness of breath on Friday -- and a CAT scan indicated a reading for one type of TB. Sheriff David Beth says nothing is confirmed yet, and the cell block where the man was located was locked down for a short time to make sure the disease didn't spread. Officials say tuberculosis is not easily transmitted to other people, and it often takes continuous close contact to spread it.


Retrial ordered for Berit Beck's alleged killer

FOND DU LAC — Prosecutors in Fond du Lac will get a second chance to try and prove that a Kenosha trucker killed 18-year-old Berit Beck almost 27 years ago.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Wirtz has granted the state's request for a new trial in the case of 63-year-old Dennis Brantner. A jury could not reach a verdict last June on a first degree murder charge, and Wirtz rejected Brantner's request to drop the charge.

Investigators say Beck was driving from her Racine County home to a computer seminar in Appleton in 1990 when her van was later found empty in Fond du Lac -- and her remains were found several weeks later in a ditch near Waupun. Brantner is currently behind bars for a drug conviction as the result of a search when he was first booked into the Fond du Lac County Jail for Beck's murder.