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Wisconsin roundup: Milwaukee's Gronik enters governor race as Walker war chest grows; 8 more state news stories

Wisconsin's state Capitol building in Madison. File photo

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik has announced his plans to run against Gov. Scott Walker next year.

On Twitter Tuesday, the 60-year-old Gronik called himself a business leader with the "progressive values necessary" to beat the Republican Walker. Gronik is the founder and president of the business advising firm "Gro Biz," and he heads the nonprofit group "Stage 'W'" that seeks to reduce political divisiveness.

On his campaign website, Gronik said he would fight for affordable health care, noting that he and his family are on Obamacare and he has the pre-existing condition Crohn's disease. Gronik joins Bob Harlow as the only declared Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls — but a number of Democrats are considering the race, the latest being state public school superintendent Tony Evers.


Walker camp raises $3.5M in first half of 2017

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker's campaign says it raised $3.5 million in the first half of this year.

And the Republican Walker now has $2.4 million in his warchest — more than what he had at the same time four years ago when he was getting ready to run for a second term. The numbers come in advance of a state campaign finance report that's due next Monday.

Walker has said he expects to announce his intentions for a re-election bid soon after the new state budget is finalized — but he has virtually made it no secret that he would run again. In a two page memo, Walker campaign manager Joe Fadness says the governor is "winning on the issues," and he cites a recent Marquette poll showing 53 percent of Wisconsinites believe the state is now on the right track.


Autopsy ordered for girl, 4, killed in fireworks mishap

CLINTONVILLE — An autopsy was scheduled Tuesday for a 4-year-old girl who died in a fireworks explosion in Clintonville.

It happened about 10:30 p.m. Monday. Police say the girl's father assembled a group of fireworks in a tube — and they blew up soon after he lit them, striking the girl's upper body and neck. The girl, whose name was not immediately released, died at the scene of the incident. Police continue to investigate.


Abortions in state remain on decline

MADISON — For the seventh year in a row, the number of abortions in Wisconsin has dropped from the previous year.

A new report from the Health Services Department shows that 5,612 abortions were performed in the state last year, a nearly 1 percent decrease from 2015. About three of every 10 abortions were performed on women 20-24 years old. Close to six of every ten took place during the first eight weeks of gestation. Almost 200 of last year's Wisconsin abortions were for those younger than 18.


Wis. holds up on giving voter data to Trump panel

MADISON — Wisconsin will not give personal voter data to a Donald Trump panel investigating election fraud, at least for now.

The federal Election Integrity commission has told states to hold up on sending their data, until a judge in Washington State decides on a temporary restraining order as part of a lawsuit from a privacy group. Wisconsin has said it would only give the Trump panel what's publicly available in the Badger State — voter names, addresses, and when those people voted.

The state Elections Commission said the Trump panel would have to pay $12,500 dollars for that, just like political parties and candidates who buy the voter listings to help with their campaigns — and among other things, the federal commission also wanted voters' party affiliations, reportedly to check out Trump's previous claim that he would have won the popular vote last November if it wasn't for illegal voters. Wisconsin does not require its voters to declare their parties.


Reports: OWI convict was free on bond when killing man on I-94

WAUKESHA — An Oconomowoc man was reportedly free on bond in four pending alcohol and drug cases, when his car allegedly hit a parked minivan and killed a Good Samaritan.

A judge in Waukesha County sent 37-year-old Frank Schiller to jail with a $1 million bond Monday, and he's due back in court Thursday when new charges are expected to be filed. Investigators say Schiller was driving on Interstate 94 near Delafield Saturday night when he tried passing other vehicles on a shoulder and struck 48-year-old Peter Enns of Alberta, Canada, who was helping change a flat tire on a minivan.

According to court records, Schiller was facing a fifth drunk driving charge in Milwaukee County, as well as allegedly possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia in Waukesha and Washington counties. Schiller and two others were injured in the crash.


Marshfield biotech firm gets Pentagon grant

MARSHFIELD — A Marshfield biotechnology firm will try to come up with a better way for Army medics to handle and preserve biological specimens.

Microscopy Innovations has been given a $150,000 grant from the Defense Department's small business technology transfer program. The company has developed the patented "M" Prep system for preparing microscope specimens for many kinds of uses, and CEO Mark Nelson says the new Army project is the latest example.

The Army's Medical Research and Material Command is looking for a new system to handle its biological specimens in the field, and then preserve them for lab processing and analysis. Nelson and Madison doctor Steven Goodman founded Microscopy Innovations in 2007 — and it holds 12 United States and international patents for capsule based products aimed at improving the preparation, handling, and storage of biological specimens.


Judge: Reduce pepper spraying, solitary confinement at Lincoln Hills

MADISON — Wisconsin prison officials have until one week from Friday to make big reductions in the use of pepper spray and solitary confinement for juvenile inmates.

Federal Judge James Peterson of Madison spelled out the changes Monday, saying they would "drastically reduce" extra punishments and restraints against teen offenders at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake institutions at Irma in Lincoln County. The state and the ACLU followed Peterson's previous order to submit an action plan by last Friday, after nine current and former inmates filed suit. The judge's order calls for a maximum of seven days of solitary confinement, eliminating isolation periods of longer than two months — and pepper spray can only be used if inmates pose a threat to others. Peterson says he'll allow more time to adopt new training and standards and programs for the inmates.


Trump announces Wis. appointee as Czech ambassador

WASHINGTON — The White House confirms that Janesville businessman Steve King will be nominated as the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

It was first reported in May that President Donald Trump was considering the 75-year-old King for the post. Trump said Monday he would ask the U.S. Senate to confirm King, as well as Lewis Eisenberg as the new ambassador to Italy. King has served on the Republican National Committee.

The White House says he has also worked for the FBI early in his career, and with the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Two other Wisconsinites also await Senate confirmation as Trump appointees — former Green Bay Congressman Mark Green as the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Whitehall native Callista Gingrich as the ambassador to the Vatican.


Wet summer causes varied crop conditions

MADISON — If you ask Wisconsin farmers how their crops are doing, the answers will depend on where they're located.

The USDA says crops on higher ground with lighter soils have improved due to last week's heat and humidity — while signs of stress are seen in low spots in heavy soils. In places where it rained heavily, officials say farmers have had to replant crops, wait to do their normal spraying, and deal with crop diseases — and many have had hail damage.

As a result, 69 percent of the state's corn is rated good to excellent, down two points from last week. Seventy-four percent of the soybeans are good to excellent, blooming seven days behind last year but one day ahead of the average for the past five years.