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Wisconsin roundup: Walker sees 'good chunk' of budget passing; Menomonie murder suspect claims self-defense; 8 more state news stories

Gov. Scott Walker says a "good chunk" of his proposed state budget will pass, but Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald cites some big differences.

At a luncheon in Madison Thursday, Fitzgerald said public school aid will probably go up, but not by the $649 million the Republican Walker seeks -- and the Senate leader says lawmakers could also split with Walker on a self insurance program for health coverage, school choice, $600 million in tax cuts, and more. In Milwaukee, Walker said he would reject tax or fee hikes of any type for new roads -- and not just transportation fees as he mentioned before.

In Appleton Thursday, Walker defended his budget plan to let the DNR raise admission and camping fees at state parks, after the state took away tax support for the parks two years ago. Walker continues his tour of Wisconsin Friday to promote his budget package with stops in New Richmond, Platteville and Eau Claire.


Self-defense claimed in murder of Saudi UW-Stout student

MENOMONIE — A lawyer for the man accused of killing a UW-Stout student from Saudi Arabia now says his client was acting in self defense.

That's what Chris Zipko told a Dunn County judge Thursday, when 27-year-old Cullen Osburn of Minneapolis had a bond hearing for the Oct. 30 death of Hussain Alnahdi. Osburn waived extradition from Minnesota last week, where he was arrested on a warrant charging him with felony murder and aggravated battery.

Judge Rod Smeltzer ordered a $75,000 bond, even though prosecutors wanted a $1 million bond in claiming that Osburn would leave the area again if he's released, like he did right after the incident. He'll have his formal initial appearance March 27 on allegations that he beat the 24-year-old Alnahdi twice -- and police say the victim might have hit his head on a building as he went down


Attorney general outlines strategy to fight meth

MADISON — Wisconsin's attorney general says the state needs to fight methamphetamine abuse the same way it battles opioid abuse.

At a legislative hearing Thursday, Brad Schimel said the state should go after supply lines for meth, and further educate the public on the drug's dangers. Last month, the State Justice Department and the FBI said meth usage in Wisconsin appeared to grow by 250-300 percent in the five years ending in 2015 -- the heaviest use is in northwest Wisconsin close to major suppliers in the Twin Cities -- and most of the state's meth is now made in Mexico as opposed to previous homegrown operations.


Walker: People will convince lawmakers to OK tuition cut

MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker says he's hearing lots of public support for his plan to cut UW tuition.

He asked students and their families Thursday to convince lawmakers who hesitate to approve it. Walker told reporters in Milwaukee that the people will help sell his proposal to give a tuition break to families of instate undergrads. It's one of the key items of the two-year state budget Walker gave to lawmakers Wednesday.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he has not heard much support for the tuition cut among his party members. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he'd rather see more financial aid so the tuition help can go to lower income students. Walker made his comments after speaking to the Governor's Conference on Economic Development.


Fire destroys iconic Milwaukee music club

MILWAUKEE — Fire has destroyed a 102-year-old building in Milwaukee where some of rock music's biggest stars played their earliest shows.

A two alarm fire broke out just before 5 p.m. Thursday at the former Palms nightclub and Electric Ballroom about two miles west of the city's downtown. Officials say it took about one hour to get the control the flames -- the cause is being investigated -- and there were no reports of injuries.

U2 played there on its first tour of the United States, the Police played their first Milwaukee show there, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also performed at the Palms. The building was the site of the State Theater from 1915 through '55, and Milwaukee's Redevelopment Authority owns it now.


Sturgeon season about to begin

OSHKOSH — Wisconsin's annual spearing season for sturgeon begins Saturday on Lake Winnebago and adjacent lakes up the Fox River.

The season will run for 16 days unless quotas are reached in one of several categories. State DNR biologist Ryan Koenigs says a short season will mean that conditions are good -- unlike one year ago, when spearing ran for the entire 16 days and the total harvest was only one third of the 2,100 fish taken in 2015. Koenigs blamed a reduced water clarity at the time, which made it harder for spearers to see their targets. Only 703 of the large fish were taken last year -- and about 13,000 people have licenses to try and increase that harvest and set a new record that beats the 84 inch, 212 pound sturgeon was taken seven years ago on Lake Winnebago.


Baldwin votes against 5 of 9 Trump nominees so far

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has voted against five of President Donald Trump's nine cabinet nominees so far.

The latest came early Friday morning, when House Republican Tom Price of Georgia was confirmed 52-47 as the new secretary of Health and Human Services. Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson voted yes in the Senate's party line split, while Baldwin and other Democrats said Price faced ethical issues in his investments -- and they feared that he would scale back health programs.

The New York Times says Baldwin has voted against more Trump nominees than 15 of her fellow Democrats -- and she voted against fewer nominees than 11 of her party colleagues. Observers say the president's cabinet choices are more polarizing than others -- and Baldwin is also facing pressure from Republicans who look to defeat her in her 2018 reelection bid, as she insists she won't be a "rubber stamp" for the GOP.


UW's Sandeen turned down for Minnesota higher-ed post

ST. PAUL — UW Colleges and ExtensionChancellor Cathy Sandeen will stay where she is.

She was one of three finalists as the new chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities -- and the board rejected all three candidates on Thursday. The trustees said they had "not yet identified the right individual to serve as chancellor on a permanent basis" -- so they named former Metropolitan State interim president Devinder Malhotra as the temporary colleges' leader until they find a replacement for Steven Rosenstone, who's retiring this summer.

Sandeen, Keith Miller, and Michael Martin were named as finalists earlier this week for the Minnesota State post. Sandeen has been with the UW for a little more than two years, while Miller used to be a vice chancellor at UW-Oshkosh.


Two men killed in Shawano County crash ID'd

BONDUEL — Two drivers killed in a head on crash in Shawano County have been identified as 84-year-old John Lindert of Brookfield and 57-year-old John Fischer of Shawano.

The State Patrol says Lindert's car was going north on Highway 47 near Bonduel when he passed a semitruck in a no passing zone, and struck Fischer's oncoming auto and then the semi. Both drivers died at the scene of Wednesday afternoon's crash, and an 81-year-old woman riding with Lindert was taken to a hospital with life threatening injuries. The semi driver, a 61-year-old Prentice man, escaped injury. Troopers say all four motorists were wearing their seat belts.


Woman, 84, charged in wreck that killed husband, friends

OCONTO — An 84-year-old woman accused of causing a car accident that killed her husband and two friends in Oconto County has been charged with homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that Thelma R. Yashinsky is also charged with two counts related to the injury of the other driver and his 9-year-old daughter who were hurt in the crash on Oct. 24, 2015. Officers say Yashinsky was driving northbound near Oconto Falls when she drove past a stop sign and collided with a westbound SUV. Yashinsky's husband, 91-year-old Edward Yashinsky, and two women, 96-year-old Leora Raisler and 89-year-old Grace Hyland, were killed in the accident.