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Wisconsin roundup: Milwaukee mayor says GOP plays favorites in approving sales taxes; more state news stories

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said this week that Republicans are playing favorites in letting some cities have local sales taxes, but not his. Photo courtesy of city of Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says state Republicans are playing favorites in letting some cities have local sales taxes, but not his.

Barrett has asked state lawmakers to let the city hold a referendum on a 0.5 percent sales tax to help maintain police and fire protection, but Gov. Scott Walker's office has said it's not likely to approve it. In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Barrett now says the GOP is letting tourist communities which are mostly Republican have "premier resort taxes" in which tourists help pay for things like road maintenance.

But because Barrett — who has twice lost gubernatorial bids to Walker — is a Democrat, he says the state won't consider the same for Milwaukee even though it's Wisconsin's No. 1 tourist attraction by far. Barrett cites budget pressures in seeking a special sales tax — and without it, he says six fire stations would have to close.

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Up to 11 inches of snow slated for northern Wis.

After a mild fall, northern Wisconsin will get its first taste of winter this weekend.

Up to 11 inches of snow are predicted for the Gogebic Range of Iron County. The National Weather Service has a winter storm warning in place for Friday night through early Saturday afternoon in Ashland and Iron counties, with 4-11 inches blown by winds up to 30 mph. Winter weather advisories will be in effect Friday through Saturday morning in Vilas and Bayfield counties with 2-5 inches predicted and winds of 20-30 mph.

One to 3 inches are forecast for the rest of north central Wisconsin, with rain predicted for southern areas into Saturday and widespread frost in the southwest by Sunday morning.

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Walker White House camp distances itself from Trump dossier

WASHINGTON — Gov. Scott Walker's 2015 White House campaign insists it had nothing to do with a dossier that slams President Donald Trump.

Media reports say Hillary Clinton, national Democrats, and some of the 16 GOP hopefuls who ran against Trump paid for intelligence research into Trump's reported ties with Russia. Fusion GPS conducted the intelligence during last year's campaign, and it has findings that are not proven.

Officials from Walker's brief presidential campaign denied paying for the intelligence. The same denials came from Walker's "Unintimidated" political action committee and the "Our American Revival" group that helped Walker prepare for his presidential bid.

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Waukesha sheriff defends seeking immigration enforcement power

WAUKESHA — The Waukesha County sheriff defended an effort to have his deputies help enforce federal immigration laws.

Eric Severson was called on the carpet by the American Civil Liberties Union, which publicized his application from May to become a partner with the federal Office of Immigration and Custom Enforcement. Severson says the feds have not acted on his application yet, and he insists it would only involve what he called "jail custody of illegal aliens." The A-C-L-U says it would erode trust between Waukesha County immigrants and their law enforcement, discouraging them to report crimes and cooperate as witnesses. The sheriff says his department would not become a "local immigration force" and it would conduct sweeps that look for non criminal illegal immigrants.

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Trump signs whistleblower law that honors Tomah doctor

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has signed a bill that protects federal employees who expose wrongdoing, while honoring a VA doctor at Tomah who did just that.

Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin authored the new Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act — and Johnson tried for two straight years to pass it after Democrats shot down his initial effort to give unanimous consent in 2016. The new law has tougher penalties for those who retaliate against federal employees who blow the whistle on wrongdoing.

Kirkpatrick was a psychologist at the Tomah VA Medical Center who killed himself after he was fired for exposing his bosses for giving too many opioid painkillers to patients. His concerns broke wide open after a national media report that the overprescribing directly led to a patient's death at Tomah.

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Corrections official named interim leader at Lincoln Hills

MADISON — The state's juvenile corrections administrator will serve as the interim superintendent at the embattled Lincoln Hills facility.

John Paquin was named by Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher to replace Wendy Peterson, who voluntarily took a demotion and a lower paying job at the boys' and girls' juvenile institutions in Lincoln County. Also, a teacher at Lincoln Hills who was attacked by an inmate Oct. 11 has requested a meeting with Gov. Scott Walker to talk about safety concerns at the site.

But Walker spokesman Tom Evenson tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that a lawyer urged him not to call Pandora Lobacz because she hired an attorney and the matter "appears to be moving toward litigation." Also, Lincoln County deputies are probing an August incident in which four inmates jumped onto the roof of a prison dorm, threw rocks and shingles at guards, and swung large metal pipes.

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Teen dies in head-on crash with milk truck

SHAWANO — A 19-year-old northeast Wisconsin man has died after his vehicle hit a milk truck head on.

It happened about 2:30 a.m. Friday in Shawano County, on Highway 22 between Shawano and Cecil. The teen was from Oconto Falls, and officials say he drove across a center line and slammed into the milk truck. The truck's driver, a 63-year-old from Marion, was not hurt. The fatal victim's name was not immediately released.

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Donor pledges $1.25M to save Sturgeon Bay granary

STURGEON BAY — A family has pledged more than $1 million to repair the granary building in Sturgeon Bay.

Television station WBAY reports that the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society says that the donor has committed $1.25 million to repair and restore the building. The money would also go toward the maintenance of the facility. The city is the current owner of the century-old Teweles and Brandeis grain elevator. Earlier this month, Fire Chief Tim Dietman issued a raze order for the building due to safety concerns. The city was given 30 days to bring the building down to a rust and erosion free condition.

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