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Wisconsin roundup: Democrat calls concealed weapons without permits 'irresponsible'; chief justice rebuffs Walker's ethics panel proposal; 9 more state news stories

MADISON — A leading Democrat says it would be "completely irresponsible" to let Wisconsinites carry concealed guns without safety training or background checks.

State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling slammed a new GOP proposal to let people carry hidden firearms without the permits and training required when Wisconsin became the second to last state to approve concealed weapons in 2011 after years of rejections. Senate Republican Dave Craig of Big Bend and Assembly Republican Mary Felzkowski of Irma say people can already carry guns in the open without state controls — and the same should apply to hidden weapons.

More than three dozen Republicans have signed onto their bill, which would also let parents carry weapons in their cars when dropping off and picking up school kids. The governor's office says Scott Walker supports Second Amendment gun rights, but it did not say whether he favors the new bill.


Chief justice asks lawmakers to keep ethics panel independent

MADISON — Wisconsin's chief justice is asking lawmakers to reject the idea of putting the Supreme Court in charge of investigating ethics violations of its own members and lower court judges.

Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget would make the independent Judicial Commission part of the Supreme Court's operations. Chief Justice Pat Roggensack asked the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee Tuesday to drop the proposal, saying it would not save money — and it might create potential conflicts of interest.

It's the second time the Republican Walker proposed the change, saying it would make investigations against judges more efficient. Walker's budget would also eliminate the Judicial Council, which advises the Supreme Court and other state officials on court related issues.


State environmentalists slam Trump energy order

MADISON — The Clean Wisconsin group says Donald Trump's effort to roll back carbon emission limits could put public health at risk.

The Republican president issued an executive order Tuesday that will review a proposal from Barack Obama's EPA to cut power plant emissions to reduce effects of climate change. Gov. Scott Walker says Wisconsin would have been among the hardest hit by the policy, with a 41 percent cut in emissions due to the state's reliance on coal generated power.

On Tuesday, Walker — as head of the Republican Governors Association — said Trump's order will ward off potential job losses and higher energy bills. But Keith Reopelle of Clean Wisconsin says Trump put business financial interests "ahead of our children's future," saying the higher emissions could lead to more lung disorders, and premature deaths.


Report: Baseball VP gears up for run against Milwaukee's Clarke

MILWAUKEE — A vice president of Major League Baseball is planning to run against Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke in 2018.

His campaign adviser tells the Journal Sentinel that Earnell Lucas is getting organized — but neither he nor Clarke have commented on the possible bid. Lucas is a former Milwaukee police captain who headed Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's security detail 15 years ago. Lucas stayed on after the former Brewers owner retired, now serving as a vice president for security and facility management.

Clarke runs as a Democrat, even though he's been tied nationally to Republicans from President Donald Trump on down. It's not certain whether Clarke plans to run for re-election next year, and some groups are trying to get him to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Tammy Baldwin.


Assembly plans cheese vote next week

MADISON — A bill to name cheese as Wisconsin's official dairy product is tentatively scheduled for a vote in the state Assembly next Tuesday.

Livia Doyle's fourth grade class at Mineral Point Elementary School proposed the new state symbol — and committees in both the Assembly and Senate have endorsed their own bills. The dairy cow was named Wisconsin's official domestic animal in 1971, and milk became the state's official beverage in '87. But cheese has never been honored with its own symbol, even though the Badger State has long been the national leader in cheese production.


State panel hears pros, cons of U.S. Constitutional Convention

MADISON — A key supporter of a U.S. constitutional convention says it would be a "release valve" because Congress refuses to control the federal budget.

Two Wisconsin committees held a public hearing Tuesday on bills to make the Badger State the 30th to call for the nation's first constitutional convention. At least 34 states would have to call the convention, and Delafield Sen. Chris Kapenga says it's needed to pass an amendment demanding a balanced federal budget.

But Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout of Alma says it would also open the process to changing "other rights we hold so dear" — like free speech. The Wisconsin bills demand that the convention be limited to the balanced budget amendment, and Oshkosh Assembly Republican Mike Schraa says the movement could result in Congress finally taking action without the need for a convention.


Survey: Consumers to economize as gas prices rise

MADISON — The Wisconsin auto-travel group AAA says gas prices have held steady during the past month, with a statewide average of almost $2.25 per gallon.

But the national AAA expects the price to jump by as much as 45 cents this summer — and a survey by the auto club says 70 percent of consumers would make lifestyle changes if gas prices get that high. Those changes could include eating out and shopping less, combining trips for errands, and more carpooling.

The group says gas prices will start rising in April as refineries shut down for maintenance and switch to summer grades of fuel. The projected prices are nowhere near the state record of $4.11 per gallon set in May of 2011 — but still, 25-percent of those surveyed by AAA said the current gas prices are too high.


Self insurance plan criticized at state budget hearing

MADISON — State lawmakers from both parties questioned Gov. Scott Walker's plan to have the government run its own health insurance plan for public workers.

Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel told the Joint Finance Committee Tuesday that the plan makes "perfect and simple sense." He said it would save $60 million in the next two years, which would be given to public schools. Neitzel says the continuation of Obamacare could mean an extra $22 million from federal taxes.

But Assembly GOP finance chair John Nygren says the change may end up costing taxpayers in the long run. Stevens Point Assembly Democrat Katrina Shankland wondered how many state and local public workers would have to change doctors, but Neitzel says not many would have to change doctors at all. The issue came up during the first day of the finance panel's briefings on Walker's two-year, $76 billion state budget package.


UW-System foundations could be audited

MADISON — An audit could be in the near future for the University of Wisconsin System foundations.

The Legislature's Joint Legislative Audit Committee will vote Thursday on whether to order an audit of the relationship between the schools and the private, nonprofit foundations. Lawmakers are expected to hear from UW System President Ray Cross during Thursday's hearing before the vote. A UW System spokesperson says they are doing their own in-depth review of the financial relationships, and expect to wrap it up in a few weeks.


Shortage of candidates for U.S. attorney vacancy

MADISON — The panel that nominates federal prosecutors is still waiting for an adequate number of candidates for the vacant U.S. attorney's post in Madison.

The Federal Nominating Commission says it does not have four to six applicants it can recommend to the state's two U.S. senators, Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson -- therefore, the application deadline has been extended until one week from Friday. Dozens of federal attorneys are normally told to resign when a new president takes office -- and Republican Donald Trump ordered 46 of the nation's 93 chief federal prosecutors to step down. That includes Madison's U.S. attorney John Vaudreuil, who served the western half of Wisconsin after he was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

Green Bay panel approves legal payment on mayor's removal effort

GREEN BAY — Green Bay's finance committee has agreed to pay $30,000 to a firm that gave legal help to the City Council during a failed effort to remove Mayor Jim Schmitt.

One resident tried but failed recently to force Schmitt out of office, after the mayor was convicted of campaign finance violations. The finance panel recommended Tuesday night to use the city's contingency fund to pay the Milwaukee legal firm that provided assistance — and the committee said it would ask the firm for a more detailed summary of its expenses. Meanwhile, Alderman Guy Zima says paperwork could be filed within two weeks to seek at least 8,400 petition signatures demanding a recall election against Schmitt.