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Wisconsin roundup: Duffy's out, but who's in to challenge Baldwin?; new bill re-targets daylight saving time; 7 more state news stories

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, shown here speaking at a 2016 event in Hudson, said he won't challenge Tammy Baldwin for one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats. (File photo)

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy's decision not to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018 could leave a wide open field of Republicans.

One possible candidate, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, recently warned against a crowded GOP primary — saying it would leave little money for the nominee to go up against Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin in a repeat of 2012, when Tommy Thompson lost to a well funded Baldwin. Several Republican names have popped up — but as of now, nobody is making a commitment except to consider the possibilities.

Democrats say the national GOP is scrambling to avoid a primary — and if it rallies behind Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, the Dems say a "circus" would emerge. Clarke has said little about running for Senate, while reports indicate that four groups outside Wisconsin are raising money to draft him.

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Sponsors put new spin on bill to dump daylight time

MADISON — Two Republican state lawmakers got a lot of heat for proposing that daylight saving time be eliminated.

Now, WISC-TV says Reps. Samantha Kerkman of Salem and Mike Schraa of Oshkosh plan to change the bill so Wisconsin stays on Central Standard Time all year long. That would have been the effect of the original legislation, which according to Schraa attracted opposition in hundreds of Facebook posts in the seven days since the measure was first made public.

Schraa says the new bill makes it clearer that it's about eliminating time changes, which he says make it hard on children and animals, and increases the risk for heart attacks. He said some vocal constituents came up with the idea — while opponents generally said it would hurt summer tourism and recreation by making it darker one hour earlier.

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Liberal group files complaint in school superintendent race

MADISON — A liberal group has asked the Elections Commission to see if any laws were broken when two challengers for state school Superintendent talked about consolidating their efforts.

One Wisconsin Now says it wants to know if John Humphries and Lowell Holtz illegally exchanged votes for things of value. In the final days before Tuesday's primary, the Humphries camp said he offered Holtz a $150,000 per year job in the state's education agency, with the power to "control" up to five larger school districts and replace voters' choices for school board members if necessary.

Incumbent state Superintendent Tony Evers is running for a third term Tuesday, and Amanda Brink from his campaign calls the reported Humphries plan a "heavy handed top down approach struck through a backroom deal between a few unnamed business leaders and two politicians looking out for their own financial interests." Holtz denied Thursday he was a part of "any plot" to take control of larger schools.

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Report: Nine percent of state's bridges 'structurally deficient'

WASHINGTON — A national group of road builders says one of every 11 Wisconsin bridges are "structurally deficient."

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association says 1,232 bridges have at least one key element in poor condition. The group's report says Wisconsin has the 24th highest percentage of deficient bridges.

Nearly 800 state bridges are said to be "functionally obsolete," not meeting design standards for current usage. Wisconsin lawmakers are having a hard time coming up with politically acceptable ways to raise highway revenue. Road builders say they'll have to deal with $2 billion of needed bridge repairs. The group says Wisconsin has built almost 1,400 new bridges in the past decade, with the help of $2.3 billion in federal funds to help fix 2,200 bridges since 2005.

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Baldwin meets with Supreme Court nominee, still plans to vote no

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she had a "respectful and thoughtful conversation" Thursday with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

But the Wisconsin Democrat still plans to vote against his confirmation and support a filibuster to delay the Senate's final action. Gov. Scott Walker was among the Republicans critical of Baldwin, after she announced her opposition to President Donald Trump's nominee just two days after she promised to give him a fair review.

Baldwin says Gorsuch is "very smart," but she still has "deep concerns" about his prior rulings against workers, disabled students, and women's reproductive health care. Baldwin also says a Supreme Court justice should protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and in her words, "I don't have confidence Judge Gorsuch is that nominee."

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Green Bay mayor wants judge to stop effort to remove him

GREEN BAY — Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt has asked a judge to stop the City Council from considering a petition to remove him from office.

The aldermen are scheduled Monday to review a petition filed in December by resident Scott Vanidestine, saying the council should remove Schmitt following his recent misdemeanor convictions for not properly reporting campaign donations. All judges in Schmitt's home county of Brown have withdrawn from the case, and it's been referred to John Des Jardins of neighboring Outagamie County — and he has not scheduled a hearing as of late Thursday. In his request to stop the Council's possible action, Schmitt's lawyer contends that the campaign reporting violations had nothing to do with his official duties as mayor.

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Oshkosh wins legal latest battle in pub-crawl flap

MADISON — A state appeals court has ruled in the city of Oshkosh's favor in an ongoing battle with the organizer of a pub crawl.

Television station WLUK reports that Joseph Kubiak declined to pay for an event permit for a pub crawl in 2014 after several years of doing so. The city sued, saying Kubiak didn't comply with the ordinance requiring a permit. A circuit judge dismissed the suit, ruling that the meaning of "organizer" was unconstitutionally vague.

However, an appeals court reversed the decision and ruled in the city's favor Wednesday. The appeals court said that even though the term "organizer" isn't perfectly clear, it doesn't make room for guesswork in its enforcement. The appeals court sent the case back to Winnebago County Judge Thomas Gritton. No hearings have been scheduled.

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Walker signs first bill of new session to help cheesemaker

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker has signed the first bill of the new legislative session, which helps a cheese maker in Sheboygan County.

It lets the small town of Oostburg create a tax incremental financing (TIF) district to help Masters Gallery Foods build a $30 million cheese packaging and distribution plant with 120 jobs within the next three years. The TIF law lets local governments keep all of the increased property taxes from new developments to build things like streets for business facilities, Walker approved an exception to a law that prohibits TIFs from covering more than 12 percent of a community's total property tax base.

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Youth coach has 201 child porn charges dropped

SHAWANO — A traveling basketball coach has had 201 felony child pornography charges dropped in Shawano County.

Circuit Judge James Habeck agreed with a defense lawyer who said detectives went beyond the scope of a search warrant when they seized child porn images from Nicholas Bennett's laptop computer. The 24-year-old Bennett is from Portland, Oregon, and he was arrested for arranging to have sex with a 13-year-old boy while running a basketball camp in Shawano in the fall of 2015 for a company based in Ohio.

Sheriff's officials say the boy's mother lent her cellphone to her child for one day — and when she got it back, she saw sexually explicit messages which indicated that Bennett would meet the teen for sex, and they later arrested Bennett at a hotel where the encounter was reportedly planned. Bennett still faces felony counts of child enticement and using a computer to facilitate a sex crime, and a trial in that case has been moved up to April 27.

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