Wisconsin roundup: Report: Speaker Vos reportedly confronts Kasich on GOP redistricting; more state news briefs

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NEW YORK — State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos reportedly told John Kasich he was "betraying his party" by signing a legal brief against the Wisconsin GOP district maps targeted in the U.S. Supreme Court's gerrymandering case.

The New Yorker magazine was on hand when Ohio Gov. Kasich attended an event in that state for all legislative speakers across the country. The magazine said Vos "amicably" approached Kasich and then "swore at him" for signing the legal brief which opposed the Wisconsin districts that Democrats say gave them no chance to win majorities in the Assembly and Senate through the current decade.

Vos has not commented on the New Yorker story, featuring a long profile of Kasich as he reportedly seeks the 2020 Republican presidential bid after coming close in 2016. The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling next year on whether the Wisconsin maps are unconstitutional, and if they would have to be redrawn in time for next year's elections.

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Green Bay child finds needle in Halloween candy

GREEN BAY — Police say a child found a needle in a piece of Halloween candy collected during trick-or-treating in Green Bay.

Television station WBAY reports that an 8-year-old girl was about to the eat a peanut butter cup when the child discovered a needle in it. The child gave the candy to her grandmother. The grandmother threw away the child's Halloween candy and turned over the tainted piece to police Thursday. Officers are urging all parents to check their child's candy. This is the second report of a Northeast Wisconsin child finding a sharp object in candy. On Halloween, a child found three nails in candy bars collected during trick-or-treating in Neenah.

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GOP limits on home tax deductions have little impact on state

Real estate experts say the proposed federal limits on property tax and mortgage interest deductions would have very little effect in Wisconsin.

Marquette professor David Clark says home prices in the Badger State are generally less than the East and West coasts. As a result, Clark and others say only a relative few Wisconsin homeowners would be affected by what the House GOP proposed Thursday in its tax overhaul package — a $10,000 cap on the property tax deduction, and limiting home mortgage deductions to loans of $500,000 or less. Wisconsin Realtors say their average home purchase price statewide was $175,000 in September. A national group says only 0.8 percent of Wisconsin mortgages are above $500,000, while a quarter of the loans in Hawaii and Washington D.C. are above that.

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Assembly votes to end Wis. mining moratorium

MADISON — Wisconsin's moratorium on new sulfide mines is one step closer to being repealed.

The state Assembly voted 55-38 on Thursday to let mining companies dig for copper, gold, silver, and zinc without having to prove that they've done it elsewhere without causing long term damage to the environment. The bill's supporters say mining is safer and cleaner now than it was in 1998 when the mining moratorium was adopted — but opponents say ending the moratorium would cause more water pollution.

Republicans Travis Tranel, Jeff Mursau, Pat Snyder, and Todd Novak joined all Democrats in voting no — and the Assembly made some changes to try and appease senators who are said to be skeptical about the bill. Among other things, no mining could take place where permits are being challenged — and it would be harder for companies to find loopholes to avoid taxes.

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Assembly toughens state employee insurance ban for abortions

MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly has toughened a ban on state employee insurance coverage for elective abortions.

On a 61-35 vote Thursday, the lower house approved a Republican bill to allow the coverage for state workers only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of a mother. Current law only allows insurance payments for state employee abortions that are "medically necessary" — but it does not define that term.

During an emotional debate, Mount Horeb Democrat Sondy Pope accused GOP lawmakers of interfering in private medical decisions, saying that elected legislators are not "God" — but bill sponsor Andre Jacque of De Pere says the measure prevents tax dollars from being used on abortions, and he notes that federal programs don't cover them. The state bill now goes to the Senate.

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More die in state crashes following mild, rainy October

MADISON — Twelve more people died in Wisconsin traffic crashes in October than in the same month last year.

According to preliminary DOT figures, 58 people were killed in state crashes last month, up from 46 in October of last year. The higher death toll came during a month when it was warmer and rainier than normal — and the state's deer herd was on the move, causing two fatal crashes in Monroe and Dodge counties. For the year as a whole, 506 people died on Wisconsin roads from January through October. That's 21 more than last year, and 39 more than the average for the past five years.

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State cheese production again lags behind national growth

MADISON — Wisconsin continues to make more cheese, but the state's latest increase is again behind the national growth rate.

The USDA says the Badger State made almost 272 million pounds of cheese in September — 2.2 percent more than the same month last year, but 0.5 percent behind the national jump of 2.7. Wisconsin pumped out about 6 percent more cheddar in September, but the increase for Italian cheese was a meager 1 percent. The state remains the national leader, as it continues to produce about one quarter of the nation's cheese. California remains a distant second.

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Man killed in pedestrian crash ID’d

SUPERIOR — A 59-year-old pedestrian who died after being hit by a truck in Superior has been identified as Kenneth Meinke of Superior.

Police say he was crossing a wet Highway 35 in the downtown area Thursday morning when he was struck by a pickup with a snowplow in front of it. Officials say Meinke appeared to be in a crosswalk, and the 38-year-old pickup driver from nearby Duluth has been cooperating with officers. The State Patrol is helping Superior Police investigate.

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Employees, veterans rally outside Tomah VA medical center

TOMAH — A group in Tomah is trying to bring awareness to issues at the VA medical center.

Several employees and veterans rallied outside the center Wednesday to shed light on understaffing at VA medical centers across the nation. They say the problems has caused increased risks to patients and a hazardous work environment for employees. Protesters say the Tomah VA has a lower staff vacancy rate that is half the national average.