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Wis. congressman rejects speaker bid; gender-neutral homecoming in Madison; state costs vary under Obamacare; six more state news stories

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Janesville Republican Paul Ryan has again said no to the House speaker's post.

The Ways and Means chairman gave his first rejection just hours after GOP Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation.

The Washington Post says Boehner asked Ryan Thursday to change his mind, after apparent front-runner Kevin McCarthy of California withdrew.

Ryan has long said his ultimate goal is to help dictate tax policies as head of the Ways and Means committee. He was appointed to that post almost a year ago.

Ryan says he's disappointed McCarthy didn't take the speakership, calling him the "best person to lead the House."

La Crosse Congressman Ron Kind is among the Democrats who wonder if the Republican majority can govern effectively. Kind says McCarthy's withdrawal opens the door to a Tea Party speaker who would be less likely to work out differences in favor of a "my way or the highway" approach. Kind says such a leader would be "bad for the institution."

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Madison school joins gender-neutral homecoming movement

MADISON -- Another Wisconsin school has become gender-neutral in picking its homecoming royalty.

Students at Madison West High School are electing 20 seniors to their homecoming court, regardless of gender. They used to choose 10 boys and 10 girls.

The top two vote-getters will not be named the "king" and "queen" unless they want those titles. But under the new selection process, both could be of the same gender.

Principal Beth Thompson says Madison West students submitted a petition for the change last spring. They say it will create a "safer and more inclusive environment" for the youngsters. The court will be named next Friday.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will also have gender-neutral royalty for its homecoming this weekend.

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Wide array for deductibles in state Obamacare plans

MADISON -- Obamacare clients in Oshkosh pay an average of six times as much as those in Madison in their deductibles for prescription drugs.

That's according to the Wisconsin Citizen Action group. It compared average drug deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and prices for an expensive cancer drug in 20 Wisconsin cities.

Average yearly prescription deductibles ranged from $400 in Madison to $2,500 in Oshkosh for the nearly 190,000 state residents who buy coverage from the federal health purchasing exchange. Similar gaps were found in the study's other categories.

Citizen Action Director Robert Kraig says it appears insurers charge larger percentages to consumers in places where overall medical services are the most expensive. He says Wisconsin drug prices need to be more transparent, and the state should follow the lead of other states like Massachusetts, which is considering a state limit on drug prices deemed to be too expensive.

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Wisconsin names first solicitor general

MADISON -- Wisconsin's first solicitor general will begin his new job Nov. 30.

Misha Tseytlin will represent the state government in major cases that advance to higher courts. The position was included in the new state budget, and Attorney General Brad Schimel filled it Thursday.

Tseytlin is currently a general counsel in West Virginia's justice department. He has also been a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and two lower federal court judges. He had the highest grade-point average in his graduating class at Georgetown Law School in 2006.

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Democratic, Republican presidential candidates to debate in Wisconsin

MADISON -- Democrats will join Republicans in holding a presidential debate in Wisconsin.

The Democratic National Committee said PBS will host a debate on Feb. 11 but the time and place have not been announced. Hillary Clinton has been the Democratic front-runner for months, but Bernie Sanders in gaining on her -- and he's ahead in some places.

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning says it will be "refreshing" for Wisconsin to host White House candidates with a vision on strengthening the middle class.

The Republican National Committee also plans to hold one of its presidential debates in Wisconsin. It's set for next month, but other details have not been released.

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Walker poised to appoint Supreme Court justice

STOUGHTON – Gov. Scott Walker expects to appoint a new State Supreme Court justice today or during the weekend.

At an appearance in Stoughton, Walker referred to the court's next session on Monday. He says Wisconsinites want a full seven-member Supreme Court to hear the oral arguments that are coming, and they don't want a vacancy that could last for months.

Three candidates have applied to replace Patrick Crooks, who died in office last month. Walker has appointed one of the candidates, Rebecca Bradley, to two lower court judgeships in the past.

Dane County Circuit Judge Jim Troupis and Madison lawyer Claude Covelli have also applied for the appointment.

Liberals have asked Walker to leave the post vacant, fearing the conservative Bradley would have an incumbent's edge when the seat is up for election next spring. Bradley and judges Joe Donald and JoAnne Kloppenburg are running in that contest, with a Feb. 16 primary.

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SPORTS

Matthews makes surprise appearance on injury report

GREEN BAY -- Clay Matthews has been added to this week's injury report for the Green Bay Packers.

The Pro Bowl linebacker was limited at practice Thursday with a quadriceps issue. Matthews took part in all of Wednesday's practice, and he never mentioned anything to reporters this week about an injury.

He's expected to play on Sunday, when the undefeated Packers play host to St. Louis.

Also, safety Sean Richardson has been added to the injury report with a neck problem. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga made it through the week's toughest practice in full pads, but coaches have not said whether he'll start against the Rams.

Receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb were still limited. Morgan Burnett, Davante Adams, and Jake Ryan did not practice on Thursday.

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Badgers’ top receiver returns to practice

MADISON -- It appears Wisconsin will get its top receiver back for Saturday's game at Nebraska.

Senior Alex Erickson returned to practice Thursday after suffering a concussion in last weekend's Badger loss to Iowa.

Erickson leads Wisconsin with 26 catches and 350 receiving yards.

His return comes at a great time, as the Badger running game struggles from the loss of Corey Clement to sports hernia surgery.

Nebraska safety Byerson Cockrell says he still expects Wisconsin to run the ball -- and they won't get 400 yards on the ground like they did in a Badgers rout over the Cornhuskers a year ago.

Wisconsin has been passing a lot more this year. Senior quarterback Joel Stave looks to recover from the Iowa loss, in which he threw a pair of interceptions and fumbled the ball away at the Iowa one-yard-line.

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Brewers GM addresses question marks

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager David Stearns says he'll explore all possible options to make the team competitive again in the National League Central.

The Brewers held their season-ending news conference Thursday, capping a year in which St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and the Chicago Cubs finished within three games of each other at the top of the division -- while the Brewers were 32 games back in fourth.

Stearns says he might trade more of Milwaukee's Major League roster -- but he says Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun, and Matt Garza are in the team's 2016 plans.

Stearns says he can't tell yet if prospect Orlando Arcia is ready to come up at short, where Jean Segura had a better season than last. Stearns also questions whether Domingo Santana can keep playing center field, since he's primarily a "corner" player in left and right.