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Wisconsin roundup: Storm makes for slow western Wisconsin commute; Madison faculty take aim at DNR's climate change stance; 8 more state news stories

Snow packed the roadways Tuesday morning for commuters entering and leaving River Falls. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Mike Longaecker)

RIVER FALLS — Slow driving was the name of the game Tuesday morning in western Wisconsin.

After a storm dropped about an inch of snow over the area on Monday, a new system moved in Tuesday morning that started with rain that turned over to snow — and made for a slow commute along the Interstate 94 corridor. Parts of western Wisconsin and the Twin Cities were under a winter weather advisory until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for snow to continue through Tuesday afternoon in St. Croix and Pierce counties, with 1 to 3 inches of accumulation possible. More snow is expected Wednesday morning as temperatures begin to plummet; Thursday's overnight low is minus-16.

The NWS forecasts temperatures to rebound into the 20s by the weekend.

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UW-Madison faculty challenge DNR climate change revisions

MADISON — A group of University of Wisconsin-Madison professors are challenging the state Department of Natural Resources for scrubbing language from its website that declared human activity is causing climate change. 

The Republican-controlled agency quietly changed the language last month to say the cause of climate change is debatable. Seven UW-Madison climate, zoology and ecology professors released a column Monday saying the new language incorrectly implies climate change is mysterious when it's clearly caused by greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels. The scientists say failing to properly inform the public is a violation of trust. They say the DNR is turning its back on its own tradition of applying the best science available in the public interest.

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Walker's State of the State to focus on work

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his seventh annual State of the State address Tuesday afternoon, and he's expected to focus on putting more people to work. 

The Republican Walker recently said he would make workforce development a top priority in the new legislative session, to make sure everyone possible can find a job -- including the disabled, veterans, departing prisoners, and those escaping drug addictions. Walker will also discuss other general initiatives as he works with the largest legislative majorities of his own GOP in decades -- plus a federal government that's now totally run by Republicans. 

As always, the governor will highlight the state's accomplishments during the past year. It's normally a primetime speech, but Walker moved it to 3 p.m. Tuesday so it does not conflict with President Barack Obama's farewell address to the nation at 8 p.m.

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State lawmaker admits school funding revamp won't be easy

MADISON — A Wisconsin Assembly Republican says he hopes to come up with a long proposed plan to revamp the formula for giving state aid to public schools.

But Sturgeon Bay Rep. Joel Kitchens says it won't be easy -- because there will be "winners and losers" unless a lot more money is put into public education. GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has told Kitchens, the vice chair of the Assembly's Education Committee, to lead the effort to revise the school funding formula.

Kitchens says he'll put together a group of task force members from both parties who will meet with educators around the state, with a goal of having a new funding plan for the state budget that begins in July 2019. School districts large and small have been affected in different ways by the imposing of state revenue limits in 1993 -- and reductions in state aid from the Act 10 union bargaining limits in 2011.

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Obamacare recipients won't lose coverage this year

APPLETON — A federal health official says Wisconsinites who sign up now for Obamacare will have coverage all year, no matter what the new Republican Congress does.

Health and Human Services Regional Director Kathleen Falk joined local officials in Appleton Monday to remind people about the Jan. 31 open enrollment deadline for coverage that begins in March. Falk says people have signed up in record numbers to get covered by the Affordable Care Act before Republicans in Washington get a chance to cut it off -- and Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna says those who need insurance should do what they can control, and get covered.

Falk told the forum that 234,000 people in Wisconsin have signed up in the last two months. On Dec. 19, federal officials said 174,000 people signed up for new plans that took effect Jan. 1 -- a 14 percent increase from the previous year.

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Report: Beckham allegedly put hole in Lambeau wall

GREEN BAY — ESPN says Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was apparently the one who punched a hole in a wall outside the grounds crew's locker room at Lambeau Field after Sunday's Packer victory.

The cable network says the hole is expected to be repaired -- and as of early afternoon, the Packers were not saying if the Giants should pay for it. Beckham was limited to four catches for 28 yards while covered by LaDarius Gunter in the loss that eliminated New York from the postseason.

ESPN says the Packers paid to fix damage in 2008 when a Chicago Bears player punched a hole in a wall. However, some fans say the Beckham hole should be kept. Former Packers vice president Andrew Brandt says it should be part of the Lambeau Field Stadium Tour. Another fan says Gunter should autograph the hole and keep it there, just like the NBA's Golden State Warriors did in 2007 when Dirk Nowitzki punched a hole after Dallas was upset in the playoffs.

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Business group poll: State residents split on gas-tax hike

MADISON — A poll commissioned by Wisconsin's largest business group shows that people are split on the need for a gasoline tax increase.

The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce says 49 percent of the 506 voters surveyed last month favored raising the gas tax for new and improved roads -- and 48 percent opposed it, well within the poll's margin of error of 4.5 percent either way. WMC president Kurt Bauer said on Sunday's statewide TV show "Upfront with Mike Gousha" that the business group sees the need for a 5-cent per gallon gas tax hike in order to keep servicing what he calls the state's three economic sectors -- manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture. The poll also showed that 35 percent believe the economy will improve in the New Year, up from just 13 percent one year ago.

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Sun Prairie teacher a rare state finalist for national honor

SUN PRAIRIE — A music instructor from the Madison area is Wisconsin's first finalist in 50 years for the National Teacher of the Year award.

Sun Prairie teacher Chris Gleason was among four educators named Monday for an annual award sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Voya Foundation. The 43-year-old Gleason teaches music at Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie, and he learned to play the tuba while growing up in La Crosse while his father was his school's band director.

Gleason was the 2016 Wisconsin Middle School Teacher of the Year, and he received a Kohl teaching fellowship last year. The other finalists are from California, Maryland, and Massachusetts -- and the winner will be announced this spring.

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Teacher seeks write-in support for state superintendent

RACINE — A Racine high school teacher who failed to get enough nominating signatures for state public school superintendent is building up a write in campaign.

Rick Melcher says he'll take part in a candidate forum Sunday in Madison and one other forum to see how much financial support he might get afterward. The 57-year-old Melcher is a math teacher at Racine Park High School -- and he tried getting on the ballot, but he says he did not get enough help from family and friends to round up the required 2,000 nominating signatures.

State Superintendent Tony Evers has two challengers on the ballot for the Feb. 21 primary -- consultant and former Dodgeville administrator John Humphries and former Beloit superintendent Lowell Holtz. Humphries and Holtz have joined conservatives in supporting tax funded vouchers for private school kids, while Melcher says GOP officials have gotten too heavily involved in schools.

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Two Madison women arrested after highway gunfire

MADISON — The Dane County Sheriff's Office says two Madison women are under arrest after another woman reported her vehicle was shot at on a highway.

Deputies say a woman called 911 late Saturday to report her vehicle was being followed. Investigators say one of the women in the pursuing car was accused of vandalizing the caller's car and burglarizing her home that day. The Wisconsin State Journal reports the caller got off on Highway 151, where she says she was shot at.

The caller then exited onto Main Street in Sun Prairie, where she reported being shot at again. The suspects' vehicle was found in a grocery store parking lot. The store was put on lockdown and evacuated. Two women, ages 21 and 22, were arrested. No one was hurt. The names of the suspects were not released.

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