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Wisconsin roundup: Hudson-area school gains national honors for 'green' efforts; 11 more state news stories

Houlton Elementary, shown here, was one of four Wisconsin institutions honored for its implementation of "green"-friendly practices. File photo

WASHINGTON — A Hudson-area school and three other Wisconsin institutions have been named "Green Ribbon Schools" by the U.S. Department of Education.

UW-Stevens Point, best known for its natural resource programs, is the state's only post secondary school to be honored. Kromrey Middle School in Middleton and Houlton Elementary in St. Croix County are among 45 individual schools recognized nationally — and the Washburn school system near Bayfield is one of just nine school districts that got "Green Ribbon" awards. The program recognizes schools that teach sustainability, minimize environmental impacts, and make health and wellness programs a priority.

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Dry weekend boosts risk of wildfires

A dry weekend has increased the risk of wildfires in Wisconsin.

As of Monday morning, the DNR says the fire danger is very high in nine counties in the far northeast part of the state — and the rest of the state has a high fire risk except for ten counties in the southwest corner. Madison is among the places where the risk fire is only moderate.

The conditions may result in new restrictions for burning permits, but the DNR does not announce those until 11 a.m. Apparently, a cold morning is not doing much to reduce the fire risk. It got down to 20 degrees at 6 a.m. in Land O'Lakes in Vilas County, one of those with the state's highest fire risks. Frost and freeze warnings are in effect as far south as the Milwaukee area, where the mercury got as low as 28 in West Bend — and highs are expected to return to the 60s Monday in all of Wisconsin except the far north close to Lake Superior.

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Walker tears apart GOP's road/tax hike

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker appears to have torn apart the plan by Assembly Republicans to raise revenues for new roads while slashing state income taxes.

But Assembly Republican leaders insist it would cut taxes when considered as a whole — while Walker says the proposed gas tax hike would total $433 million in the next two years. The Republican Walker tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he will not drop his promise to reject a gas tax increase — and he calls the applying of the general tax sales to gasoline "problematic."

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says motorists would pay a net increase of $0.72 more per gallon with the GOP plan, which would reduce the current gas tax by almost five cents while putting gas on the state's general 5 percent sales tax for the first time. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke says other tax cuts in the plan would still give Wisconsinites a reduction in total taxes, while Senate Finance Chair Alberta Darling promises "a lot different" looking plan in the end.

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Pub patrons step up — after bar-tab shaming

MILWAUKEE — As the late radio commentator Paul Harvey would often say, "You can run but you can't hide."

Five people skipped out on a $106 bar tab Friday night, and they were later shamed on Facebook — and surveillance video of the young scofflaws was shown on Milwaukee TV news. By midday Sunday, four of the five — all in their 20s — went back to the Brass Tap in Greenfield and paid up, and a fifth one promised to do pay up after leaving work.

A police officer was at the bar when the four came in, and the owner decided not to press charges. And the four admitted what the officer called a "stupid" decision in which got they their "social media shaming."

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Dane County bans travel to states with 'discriminatory legislation' in place

MADISON — The Dane County Board is prohibiting county employees from taking trips to states where discriminatory legislation is in place on matters involving sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

A similar travel ban was ordered last year on potential trips to North Carolina or Mississippi. The sheriff's department and travel for juvenile residential treatment placements aren't covered by the ban. Last Thursday's vote was 30-1. The county defines those states as those with laws which void or repeal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people — or those which authorize discrimination against LGBT people.

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Warplanes filling Wis. skies until Friday

MADISON — As many as 30 U.S. Air Force war planes will be involved in air combat exercises for the rest of this week.

The Air Force started the training last Monday over a large area about 90 miles northwest of Madison. The exercises will test high-tech capabilities of the newest generation of jet fighter. The 12-day mission wraps up Friday. Wisconsin leaders are hoping the experiences during the Air National Guard's Northern Lightning training exercises will lead to a squadron being stationed at Truax Field. Wisconsin is one of five states being considered.

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Milwaukee-area mom accused of letting 8-year-old drive

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office says a woman was letting her 8-year-old son drive her SUV while she was under the influence of drugs last week.

The boy was reportedly sitting in Carrie Bernard's lap while she used the pedals. By the time the deputy made a traffic stop, the child was buckled into the passenger's seat, but he gave the subterfuge away when he cried that he didn't want to go to jail. Bernard failed a field sobriety test Thursday and she is in the Milwaukee County Jail. Her son is with Child Protective Services.

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State: April traffic deaths steady from last year

MADISON — April traffic deaths in Wisconsin are the same as one year ago.

The state DOT says 41 people were killed in crashes around the state last month — same as the previous April but three more than the average for the past five years. For 2017 as a whole, 143 people have died in Wisconsin highway crashes, 18 fewer than the first four months of last year but one above the five year average.

This is the time of year when you'll hear more reminders to buckle your seat belt — and have a better chance of being ticketed if you don't. The annual Memorial Day Click It or Ticket campaign runs from May 22 through June 4. Officials say almost half the motorists killed last year were not wearing seat belts.

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Sun Prairie cop loses job for writing bogus tickets

SUN PRAIRIE — A Sun Prairie police officer has resigned after questions were raised about phony tickets he had issued.

More than two dozen people have been told they won't have to pay fines for tickets handed out by Officer Matthew McElroy. He had been with the department for five years when he stepped down. In one instance, his dash cam showed a driver's brake lights were working when he ticketed her because he said they weren't. Sun Prairie police say he wrote 25 tickets in a six-day period last month and gave them to people who were wearing their seat belts, even though he alleged they weren't.

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Coalition seeks homes for homeless encampment

LA CROSSE — A coalition of agencies in La Crosse hopes to move about 15 people from a homeless encampment into secure houses by May 31.

The La Crosse Tribune says the Collaborative to End Homelessness was generally successful in getting veterans off the streets before last Christmas, saying they found homes for the same number of people targeted this time — 16 to be exact. Collaborative Chairperson Kim Cable says the group of public, private, and religious agencies has started finding open beds and reaching to the homeless living in tents in the woods on the north side of La Crosse, close to the Mississippi River. Next month, the collaborative will plan a community forum to address more housing issues, with an eventual goal to end homelessness in the city.

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Green Bay student preps for national Braille competition

BELLEVUE — A junior at Green Bay West High School is getting ready for a national competition that tests his use of Braille.

Baylee Alger of Bellevue lost his sight when he was 2 years old, after a tumor developed on his optic nerves — and he's in his eighth National Braille Challenge, along with 49 other contestants from the United States and Canada. This one is set for June 17 at USC in Los Angeles — and he'll have his speed and accuracy tested on the Braille reader, and he'll focus of reading graphs and charts.

Alger tells WBAY-TV that not all blind students his age use Braille — but he wishes they would, saying it's much better than using laptops and audio books, and having things read to them. Alger says he loves his laptop, but it's not a substitute for Braille.

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Beaver Dam schools reopen after threat

BEAVER DAM — Beaver Dam public schools will reopen Monday with an added police presence.

Schools were closed on Friday after an associate high school principal found emails that threatened the safety of both students and staffers at the school. Police said they were able to talk with two boys on Friday morning about the threats, and a third boy who was reportedly involved was reached in Las Vegas. By late Friday, officials were saying that all three boys were cooperating with law enforcement and any resulting threats have been eliminated.

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