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Wisconsin roundup: Senate votes to restore ban on parents hosting teen drinking; more state news stories

The Wisconsin Senate has voted to make it illegal again for parents to host drinking parties for their teens' friends. Image courtesy of Forum News Service

MADISON — The Wisconsin Senate has voted to make it illegal again for parents to host drinking parties for their teens' friends.

Senators approved a bill Tuesday from Racine Republican Van Wanggaard, that nullifies a State Supreme Court ruling from 2008 in which "premises" for underage drinking were legally defined only as being licensed places like liquor stores and taverns. That ruling took away liability for parents who let minors drink in their homes who are not their own children. The Senate bill restored that legal liability, and Wanggaard told WKOW-TV that parents need to take the matter more seriously. The measure now goes to the Assembly.

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Panels OK end to mining moratorium, limits on police footage releases

MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly is expected to vote Thursday on a bill to end the state's 19-year-old moratorium on new sulfide mines.

The Assembly's Labor Committee voted 6-3 Tuesday on a measure that would also end requirements that mining companies prove their mines elsewhere have not polluted ground and surface waters long after they closed. All Democrats on the panel voted against the Republican bill, as Milwaukee Democrat Christine Sinicki said it would "decimate" the environment while Marshfield Republican John Spiros said it wouldn't "decimate anything."

Also, the Assembly's Criminal Justice panel voted 8-4 to limit the public release of police body camera videos with a full Assembly vote possible Nov. 9. Police say it creates uniform policies throughout the state, while open records advocates say many videos of important cases may never come out.

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Study: Wis. hospitals greatly improve patient safety

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin hospital patients are a lot safer now than five years ago.

That's according to the Washington group Leapfrog, which rates the Badger State the sixth best for hospital patient safety. That's way up from 44th in the group's initial grades in 2012, and Wisconsin was among five states showing the most improvement. Fifty-six state hospitals were part of the study — and 33 got grades of "A" based on their medical errors, rates of patient injuries and infections, and general opinions by patients. No Wisconsin hospitals got an "F" — and you can see how your hospital rates by going online to HospitalSafetyGrade.org.

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Fitzgerald calls for WEDC board to read entire Foxconn deal

MADISON — State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the board of the state's job creation agency should read the entire $3 billion Foxconn contract before voting on it.

Economic Development Board member Tim Carpenter says the group delayed a vote on the Foxconn deal last month because taxpayers could have been left on the hook, even if Foxconn did not meet its job creation requirements. The vote could now come as early as next Wednesday.

Board members normally read summaries of final contracts before they vote on them — and WEDC officials say the same will apply for the massive Foxconn deal. The board learns about the job creation requirements companies must follow to get state tax breaks, other conditions for getting tax dollars, and reporting mandates. Meanwhile, Assembly Democrat Dana Wachs of Eau Claire has been chosen by his party's leadership to replace former Minority Leader Peter Barca on the WEDC Board.

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Fifteen sex offenders arrested in Halloween compliance checks

Fifteen registered sex offenders have been arrested after officers checked their homes in Milwaukee and Racine counties.

The purpose was to make sure the molesters stayed away from kids on Halloween. Officials said one had contact with a 14-year-old boy, another went out trick or treating, and 12 had children's items in their homes. Officers said they also caught other violations against the sex offenders — like having weapons or computers in their homes, and one illegally drank alcohol in front of a probation agent. More than 300 homes were checked — and 12 sex offenders in Milwaukee County were arrested along with three in Racine County.

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Senate OKs fentanyl crackdown, woodchuck hunt, lead pipe grants

MADISON — The Wisconsin Senate is making it easier to convict those who add fentanyl derivatives to heroin.

On a voice vote Tuesday, senators decided to name fentanyl analogs as a controlled substance, which makes it easier for prosecutors to charge those making the drugs in which the more potent heroin is causing more overdoses throughout the state. The Senate added more analogs to a bill passed by the Assembly in June, and that means the lower house will have to ratify the changes.

Also Tuesday, senators decided on voice votes to have a year-round hunting season for woodchucks; to let minors work in companies owned by their parents or guardians without state work permits; and to let communities provide grants and loans to help residents replace lead-contaminated water pipes.

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GOP bill would let Tesla sell directly to car buyers

MADISON — Two Republican state lawmakers plan to announce a bill to let Tesla sell its electric cars directly to consumers.

Sen. Chris Kapenga of Delafield and Rep. Rob Brooks of Saukville are expected to hold a news conference Wednesday. Current state law prohibits motor vehicle makers from running their own dealerships in Wisconsin.

Television station WISC reports that Tesla sells directly to buyers in Minnesota, Illinois, and 24 other states. The Wisconsin bill would only let makers of electric cars sell directly to consumers.

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Appleton-based Book World to close all 45 stores

APPLETON — The Appleton-based retailer Book World says it is closing all 45 of its stores in the United States.

Company officials say an inventory liquidation sale starts on Thursday. The stores will remain open until the inventory is sold. The company says it has lost customers to the "national shift in the retail marketplace towards e-commerce." That means it could no longer keep up with Amazon and other online retailers. Book World has stores in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, and Missouri. The company says it is currently the fourth largest book store chain in the nation. Book World has hired Yellen Partners to help with liquidation.

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Chippewa Falls taxpayers in favor of referendum

CHIPPEWA FALLS — A new survey says taxpayers in Chippewa Falls are in favor of a school referendum.

Some of the results of September's survey were released Monday showing that the majority of community members want to see changes at Stillson Elementary before work is done on the high school. Two separate ballot questions regarding building a new high school and rebuilding Stillson Elementary school were voted down last November.

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