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Wisconsin roundup: Walker, Fitzgerald mum on Assembly tax overhaul; 11 more state news stories

Gov. Scott Walker, shown here in a February visit to St. Croix County, weighed in this week on a proposed early school start, but didn't opine on a massive tax overhaul being crafted by a state lawmaker. File photo

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker and Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald are not saying much about a major tax overhaul that's being worked on by Brookfield Assembly Republican Dale Kooyenga.

Media reports say he would apply the state's 5 percent sales tax to gasoline, cut the current gas tax by up to a nickel, reduce borrowing for new highways, move toward a flat 4 percent income tax, end the state's minimum markup law for gasoline, lay off 180 DOT engineers, and repeal prevailing minimum wage requirements for road and bridge work.

Fitzgerald says his GOP caucus is looking at a narrower option to use general tax revenues for highway work. Walker says Kooyenga's plan is still being worked on, and he wants to see the entire package before commenting. Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca calls it a "complete non starter."


Walker: No way schools will start before Sept. 1

TOMAH — Gov. Scott Walker says there's no way Wisconsin public schools will start their fall classes before Sept. 1.

Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon is making his fourth effort in 11 years to let schools open in August, if they choose. But during a visit to Tomah on Tuesday, Walker said the Legislature would never pass such a change, saying it would cost Wisconsin Dells 10-15 days of tourist business around Labor Day.

RELATED: New bill would repeal Sept. 1 start date mandate for Wisc. schools

Farmers have long pushed for a mid August school start, saying they need summer help in May instead of mid June when most schools now end their terms. That's how it used to be before 2000, when former Gov. Tommy Thompson said the Dells and tourist areas needed student workers through Labor Day.


Senate passes package of bills to fight opioid, heroin abuse

MADISON — Nine more bills to fight opioid and heroin abuse in Wisconsin are on their way to Gov. Scott Walker, who says he'll sign them after the Senate approved them Tuesday.

The only one that didn't get a unanimous vote was the creation of a new charter school for up to 15 high school students who struggle with addictions. Whitewater Republican Steve Nass cast the only no vote. Some of the other measures would give counties more funding to treat drug and alcohol offenders, create up to three regional treatment programs, hire more state drug agents, require prescriptions for codeine, and train and hire more doctors to treat addictions. Walker called a special session to highlight 11 new opiate fighting measures, and the final two were approved by the Assembly Tuesday and sent to the Senate.


Senate OKs more scrutiny for expensive agency rules

MADISON — The full state Legislature would have to quickly approve expensive administrative rules in a bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

On a 19-14 vote, senators approved a GOP requirement that all rules costing businesses and others at least $10 million in a two year period be passed by both houses within 70 days — or else officials would have to cut the costs below $10 million. Also, the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules could object to proposed rules indefinitely instead of just temporarily.

But according to, the Legislative Council says the objections might violate a constitutional order that lawmakers cannot revoke administrative rules. Also Tuesday, the Senate gave final legislative approval to making cheese the official state dairy product — and they sent to the Assembly a bill to let small delivery robots use sidewalks and crosswalks.


State Assembly votes to fight homelessness

MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly has approved a package of bills to fight homelessness.

The lower house unanimously passed bills on Tuesday to have Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch chair a council that coordinates state and local efforts — and to give more flexibility to use grant funds to help the homeless find housing. On a 73-25 vote, the Assembly voted to let the state's Housing and Economic Development Authority seek housing for the chronically homeless — but Democrats feared it would lead to evictions of others.

Also, the vote was 88-10 to give one community $75,000 for a pilot program to help the homeless get jobs — but Democrats feared it would lead to jobs that don't pay enough. All four measures now go to the Senate.


Homeless man gets prison for restaurant arson with kids inside

GREEN BAY — A homeless man will go to prison for five years after he burned part of a closed restaurant where he lured children inside.

Eighteen-year-old Jesus Castilloveitia Quinton will also spend 19 years in extended supervision when he leaves prison. A Brown County judge approved a plea deal that convicts him of arson, while dropping two other felony counts of child abuse. Officials said the man lured a group of youngsters into what he called a "secret hideout" at the former "Ten O One Club" in Green Bay last August. Prosecutors say he kicked a couple of youngsters to try and keep them in the building while others escaped flames from several fires that were started.


Assembly OKs high-capacity wells, ends work permits

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker says he'll sign the bill that relaxes rules on high capacity water wells after the Assembly gave final legislative approval to the measure.

The lower House voted 64-35 in favor of what the Republican Walker calls a necessary step to help agriculture. Joel Kitchens of Sturgeon Bay cast the only Republican no vote, joining Democrats who say the bill weakens oversight of public waters in addition to the larger wells used by potato and cranberry growers, among others.

Also, the Assembly voted 64-35 to end the required work permits for 16- and 17-year-olds, no longer requiring permission from their parents to get jobs. Supporters say teens with absent parents would have an easier time going to work, while Democrats say it would be harder for parents to know what their teens are doing. The permits cost $10 each and require a parent's written consent. GOP supporters say it'd make it easier for children without parents to find jobs. Democrats counter that it would cut parents out of the loop and decrease state and local revenues by $730,000.


Former UW-M track standout Nick Viall sent home from 'Dancing'

LOS ANGELES — Former UW-Milwaukee track standout and "Bachelor" contestant Nick Viall has been sent home from "Dancing With the Stars."

He and Nancy Kerrigan were the sixth and seventh contestants voted out during the first double elimination of the ABC show's 24th season. Viall's fate was actually set last week, when he and partner Peta Murgatroyd only got 28 of 40 points, which turned off both judges and the viewers who voted. Monday night, Viall bounced back with a solid Argentine tango during the live show's "Movie Night," but it was too late to save him.


Brewers' new Class A team hold surprise military homecoming

ZEBULON, N.C. — The Milwaukee Brewers' newest minor league team has given two children the surprises of their lives.

Air Force Technical Sgt. Lance Daigle caught the ceremonial first pitch at Sunday's game, thrown by his youngest children, 11-year-old Cameron and 13-year-old Karley. But the kids didn't know they were throwing to their father until he walked up to give them the baseballs — and then a big hug broke out.

Daigle is stationed at the Seymour Johnson Air Base at Goldsboro, North Carolina. The Mudcats of Zebulon, North Carolina, became Milwaukee's lower Class A affiliate this spring.


Brewers lose pitchers' duel

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The Milwaukee Brewers lost a 2-1 pitchers' duel at St. Louis on Tuesday night.

The game was scoreless in the bottom of the sixth when Brewers starter Wily Peralta put two of his first three batters on base -- and then reliever Jacob Barnes allowed them to score on a sacrifice fly from Yadier Molina and a run scoring single from Kolten Wong. The Brewers cut the deficit in half in the seventh on an RBI single from Jett Bandy off Redbirds' starter Carlos Martinez, who struck out four in seven and one-third innings and improved to 1-3 with Trevor Rosenthal getting his third save.

The Cardinals outhit the Crew 6-5, as the Brewers had nothing more than singles. Peralta struck out seven in five and one third innings but fell to 4-2, as the Crew evened their four game series at Busch Stadium at one apiece with Game 3 Wednesday.


Packers sign undrafted running back Phillips

GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers have added a fourth rookie running back to their roster, when they signed undrafted free agent Kalif Phillips on Tuesday.

Phillips ran for 4,020 yards with 43 total touchdowns in four years at North Carolina in Charlotte, which brought back football in 2013 after not playing the sport for 65 years. Phillips will join rookie running backs Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays -- all of whom were drafted in Rounds Four through Seven last weekend. Ty Montgomery is Green Bay's only returning running back after the Packers cut Christine Michael and Don Jackson on Monday.


Brewers reliever Barnes keeps confidence amid slump

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Every relief pitcher runs into turbulence sometimes, and that's what happening to Milwaukee's Jacob Barnes this week.

The 27-year-old righthander was "lights out" during the first month of the season, giving up just one unearned run in 12 appearances while striking out 15 and holding opponents to a .148 batting average. But on Monday night, Barnes lost a two-run lead for the Crew when he gave up a homer to Jeff Gyorko and an RBI single by Kolten Wong.

On Tuesday, Barnes inherited two runners in the sixth, and he let both on a sacrifice fly and a single in Milwaukee 2-1 loss to the Redbirds. Barnes says he has not lost his confidence -- and manager Craig Counsell did not hesitate using him Tuesday, saying he had a good strikeout record against the right handed hitters he faced, but it didn't work out.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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