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Wisconsin roundup: State says Foxconn ready to build; 9 more state news stories

The head of the state's job creation agency, told an Assembly committee Thursday that Foxconn is ready to build its $10 billion LCD screen plant in southeast Wisconsin, and an announcement is expected soon on a site. File photo

MADISON — Foxconn is ready to build its $10 billion LCD screen plant in southeast Wisconsin, and an announcement is expected soon on a site.

That's what Mark Hogan, head of the state's job creation agency, told an Assembly committee Thursday as it considered a $3 billion subsidy package that would relax environmental rules for the plant and complete a freeway nearby. Hogan says most of the eventual 13,000 jobs would pay at least $20 an hour, and Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel says it's an opportunity the state cannot pass up with a total payroll of up to $800 million a year once the plant is fully running.

Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou submitted a statement but Assembly Democrat Amanda Stuck of Appleton said that if the company wanted so much from taxpayers, somebody should have been there to answer questions. Invited speakers spent hours talking up the project — Democrats questioned whether there was any guarantee of job creation — and the general public was still waiting at mid-evening to have its say.

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U.S. Senate passes Johnson’s ‘right to try’ bill

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is one step closer to giving terminally ill patients the ability to try experimental treatments.

The Wisconsin Republican has been pushing a "right to try" bill that passed the Senate Thursday by unanimous consent — and it now goes to the House as Johnson urged GOP Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville to take it up quickly. Johnson proposed the bill at the request of the Wendler family of Pewaukee, after Trickett Wendler died from Lou Gehrig's disease in 2015.

The libertarian Goldwater Institute has convinced 37 states to adopt the "right to try" concept and the Wisconsin Assembly passed it in March while it's still pending in the Senate. Johnson's bill requires medicines to pass at least one phase of clinical trials before terminally ill patients could use them without FDA approval.

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July state traffic deaths slightly higher

MADISON — Sixty-six people have died in Wisconsin traffic crashes in July, three more than the same month the year before.

The DOT says the preliminary July death toll was the highest so far this year, with 11 more than the July average for the past five years. It prompted the DOT to issue a "call for action," urging all motorists to be safer and more responsible on the roads.

The agency reported 338 people were killed on Wisconsin highways during the first seven months of this year, three more than the previous year. Forty five motorcyclists were among those killed, along with 38 pedestrians.

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New nominee for longtime appeals court vacancy

WASHINGTON — Milwaukee lawyer Michael Brennan becomes the second nominee for a federal appeals judgeship that's been vacant longer than any other post in the nation's appellate system.

President Donald Trump named Brennan Thursday night to fill the seat vacated in 2010 by Terence Evans on the Seventh Circuit Appellate Court in Chicago. Sens. Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin later got into a dispute about the process they use to recommend Evans' replacement to the president. Barack Obama nominated Madison lawyer Donald Schott 19 months ago, but the Senate never held a confirmation vote on him — and Brennan, a former Milwaukee County circuit judge, was among ten people chosen as part of Trump's sixth group of federal judicial nominees. Trump also named five new federal prosecutors including Waushara County District Attorney Scott Blader to replace John Vaudreuil as the U.S. attorney for the western half of Wisconsin.

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Wis. native, ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ star charged in drug, groping case

WALTHAM, Mass. — Actor and Wisconsin native Tom Wopat has pleaded not guilty to touching women indecently and possessing cocaine.

The 65-year-old Wopat — who's from rural Lodi — was arraigned Thursday in a district court in Waltham, Mass., for incidents that reportedly occurred last month during rehearsals for his production of "42nd Street." TMZ quotes police as saying Wopat allegedly groped a woman's posterior — another woman said he wrapped an arm around her from behind — and he peeled sunburned skin from a third woman.

Wopat has been a Broadway actor and a singer in recent years after starring as Luke Duke in the 1980s show "The Dukes of Hazzard." He was scheduled to appear in his play's Opening Night Thursday near Boston but the theater later said another actor would replace him.

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Two fatal Chippewa County crash victims ID’d

CADOTT — Two suburban Chicago residents killed in a western Wisconsin traffic crash have been identified as 85-year-old Paul Freund and 80-year-old Delores Freund, both of McHenry, Illinois.

The State Patrol is still trying to figure out what caused the crash which happened Wednesday afternoon north of Cadott on Highway 27 in Chippewa County. Officials say Delores Freund was driving an SUV when it crossed the roadway into the left ditch where it hit a culvert and a concrete wall. The driver died at the scene, and Paul Freund was flown to an Eau Claire hospital where he later died.

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Growth in state cheese production again lags behind nation

MADISON — Wisconsin cheese production grew by 1.3 percent in June, compared to one year ago.

But for the third month in a row, the state's increase is much smaller than the national growth of 3.2 percent. The USDA says Wisconsin factories made almost 271 million pounds of cheese in June, still the nation's largest while second place California had a 0.2 percent drop in its production to 20 million pounds.

Wisconsin made a little more than 26-percent of the national total, about the same percentage as the preceding month. The Badger State had a solid 4.1 percent increase in its Italian cheese output in June, but that was more than offset by a four-point-four-percent drop in Cheddar.

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FAA received no distress call before fatal Wis. plane crash

WASHINGTON — The FAA never got a distress call from a plane that crashed in northern Wisconsin July 1, killing all six people on board.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board said weather was not a factor as the twin engine Cessna broke in midair, made an uncontrollable descent, and crashed in a field near Catawba in Price County. The plane was going from Chicago to Warroad, Minn., where a guide company was planning to pick up the group for a fishing trip to Manitoba, Canada.

Kyle and Thomas DeMauro, Charles and George Tomlit, Kevin King, and James Francis were all killed in the crash. Five of the victims were from suburban Chicago. Francis was from Norco, Calif. Television station WLS says the 70-year-old King was the pilot of the aircraft. A final NTSB report is due out in a few months.

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Great Lakes mayors drop challenge to Lake Michigan water use

CHICAGO — Mayors of Great Lakes cities say they will drop their challenge to letting Waukesha tap into Lake Michigan for its drinking water.

Instead, they'll try to negotiate with officials from all eight Great Lakes states for tighter procedures to evaluate other water diversions in the future. Last summer, all the Great Lakes states unanimously approved Waukesha's request to use Lake Michigan.

The move would make Waukesha the first American city outside the lakes' natural basin to be allowed to tap in to the lake. The move was allowed as part of the Great Lakes' water protection agreement from the last decade. Waukesha has been trying for years to use Lake Michigan because its own wells occasionally exceeded radium standards as they began to run low.

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Public hearing held on optional school gun curriculum

MADISON — Wisconsin lawmakers heard testimony Thursday about letting public schools teach kids about using firearms.

The Assembly Education Committee had a midday public hearing on a bill from Republican Ken Skowronski of Franklin and Senate Republican Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls. The bill would require the state Department of Public Instruction to come up with a comprehensive curriculum on firearm training that local schools would have the option of using.

The Madison School District opposes the bill, even though it would not have to offer gun training if it didn't want. Twenty-three lawmakers are sponsoring the measure, including Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee.

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