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Wisconsin roundup: Bill makes it felony to have sex with animals in Badger State; more state news

MADISON — A state Assembly Republican wants to make it a felony for a person to have sexual contact with animals.

De Pere Rep. Andre Jacque is responding to the case of Sterling Rachwal of Green Bay, who's charged with five misdemeanor counts in Manitowoc and Brown counties of mistreating animals, disorderly conduct, and obstructing investigators. He's been charged multiple times with molesting horses since the 1980s, and he has spent 18 years in a mental institution for an animal assault.

Jacque says Rochwal is not the only such offender — and he's been told that people have slept in barns with shotguns when they know that somebody is like that is "on the loose." Twenty-three other states make sexual contact with animals a felony.


Ten drug-related charges filed against lawmaker’s daughter

GREEN BAY — Ten criminal charges have been filed against Cassie Nygren, daughter of state Assembly finance chairman John Nygren.

She and her fiance are accused of providing heroin laced with fentanyl that killed 31-year-old Jennifer Skeen and her unborn baby in June near Green Bay. Prosecutors quoted Nygren as saying she provided the heroin because she wanted to help Sheen and prevent her from getting a dangerous unknown type of drug from somebody else — and Nygren does not believe she delivered the fatal blow.

A court date for the 28-year-old Nygren has not been set, and 33-year-old Shawn Gray is due to be charged Friday. Nygren's charges include reckless homicide by delivering drugs, reckless homicide of an unborn child, two counts of delivering heroin, possession of narcotics and drug paraphernalia, and child neglect.


Handful attend ‘vigil’ for Rodgers’ broken collarbone

EAU CLAIRE — A vigil to mourn the apparent lost season of Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers attracts four freshmen at UW-Eau Claire.

WQOW-TV says fewer than a dozen people responded to invitations on the organizers' Facebook page — and the Wednesday night event was pushed back one week to try and gain more support. Rodgers broke his right collarbone last Sunday when the Packers lost at Minnesota — and he's expected to have surgery which would most likely put him out for the season.


No Wis. surprises as U.S. Senate OKs budget, tax cuts

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin's two U.S. senators voted with their parties as the GOP majority passed a$4 trillion budget package with President Donald Trump's tax cuts.

Republican Ron Johnson voted yes while Democrat Tammy Baldwin voted no on a package that was sent to the House Thursday night 51-49. Baldwin said she could not support giving most of the tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans while cutting $1.5 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid benefits for the next decade — and adding to federal deficits that would never drop below $400 billion.

Johnson did not issue a statement after his vote, but he did say earlier Thursday he's working with House Republicans on a new health care reform package. Kentucky's Ron Paul was the only Republican to vote against the Senate's budget, saying it abandons the party's effort to repeal Obamacare — and he tried but failed to include a replacement health package in the budget.


Theology professor’s body found after drowning

SUMMIT — A man who drowned in a sailboat accident was a longtime theology professor at a seminary close to where he died in Waukesha County.

Rescuers recovered the body of 68-year-old Rev. Daniel Westberg on Thursday in Upper Nashotah Lake in the village of Summit. Police and witnesses say he went sailing Wednesday when strong winds made him duck to avoid the mast that was blowing around — and rescuers were called after he yelled for help. Westberg's boat was found Wednesday afternoon, and a rescue camera later spotted his body 55 feet below the surface. He spent the last 17 years as a faculty member at the Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Delafield.


Packers to help grow regional high-tech economy

GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers are teaming up with Microsoft to grow the high tech economy in northeast Wisconsin.

They announced plans Thursday to build an incubator in the Packers' new Titletown District across from Lambeau Field. An accelerator program would help entrepreneurs get started — while an innovation lab would work with existing firms to bring new products to the market.

Microsoft and the Packers will each put up $5 million for a venture capital fund to help startups at what will be called "Titletown Tech." — and Microsoft mentors will provide assistance. Packers' vice president Ed Policy says both the accelerator and innovation labs have been successful elsewhere, but they've never been tried together.


Court battles continue in Wis. 2013 forest fire

WAUSAU — Court battles continue four-and-a-half years since a fire charred 8,100 acres and destroyed 100 buildings in Bayfield and Douglas counties.

The state appeals court in Wausau recently ruled that a $2 million insurance policy would kick in if Ray Duerr Logging of Rib Lake is found liable — but the insurer, Secura Mutual, did not have to cover damages to standing timber as part of Duerr's umbrella policy. The case now goes back to Douglas County Circuit Judge Kelly Thimm, who will also decide whether the umbrella policy covers a charred area that was not timberland. The wildfire lasted for three days in 2013, the state's largest forest fire in 33 years with 22 primary homes destroyed. The state DNR ruled out faulty equipment as a cause, and it found no negligence or justification for criminal charges.


Appeals court orders release of UW primate research notes

MADISON — A state appeals court has ordered the release of notes about primate research at UW-Madison.

The Fourth District Appellate Court on Thursday reversed a decision from a Dane County judge who said the notes could be withheld because they were for a writer's personal use. The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed suit in 2013 as part of its opposition to a UW primate research project in claiming that the monkeys would have "psychological trauma" — and the work was later scrapped as officials denied it was due to the opposition.

A university panel released some records but not others, saying the notes did not meet the legal definition of public documents. The appellate court said the notes were to be used in drafting the panel's meeting minutes — and the court said that if notes are shared with others for communication, or kept for remembering a panel's activity, they are considered public.


Walker to announce re-election bid Nov. 5

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker will make his reelection bid official on Nov. 5 at Weldall Manufacturing in Waukesha.

That's the welding business where the Republican Walker appeared with Vice President Mike Pence last month. It's been no secret the Republican Walker would seek a third term one year from now — but he promised to wait until after the state budget was signed to make an official announcement, after which certain campaign finance rules kick in. Several Democrats will square off in a primary next August to take on Walker in November of next year.


DNR, dairy group settle lawsuit alleging agency overreach

MADISON — The state DNR is settling a lawsuit from a dairy group that accused the agency of bureaucratic overreach.

The Dairy Business Association of Green Bay filed suit in late July, claiming the DNR should have gone through the public rulemaking process before it started overseeing calf hutches — and banning the flow of runoff through vegetation so it could be cleaner before it goes into waterways. The DNR now agrees to stop enforcing those two things. The dairy group agreed to stop claiming that the agency is acting illegally in making large dairy farms get pollution discharge permits even if they don't pollute the waters.