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Wisconsin roundup: No post-recession relief in many small towns, report says; ballots could see 7 White House candidates; eight more state news stories

MADISON – A new report says many of Wisconsin's small towns still feel the effects of the Great Recession.

With an older population and more people moving to bigger cities, the state Taxpayers Alliance says half the places with fewer than 1,000 residents have yet to see any major job growth or new construction since the recession. The report says local governments have had a nearly 13 percent cut in state funds in the four years ending in 2014, while total revenues grew by just two-percent not accounting for inflation.

The tax alliance says cities have maintained their police and fire response times despite the funding cuts -- and while local debt has grown and things like snow plowing are slower, residents are still generally satisfied with their local services. The report was prepared for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, whose director Jerry Deschane also sounded an alarm for civic engagement as fewer people run for local offices.


Seven presidential candidates could appear on Wisconsin ballot

MADISON -- It appears that seven candidates will be on the Wisconsin ballot for president in November.

The state Elections Commission says the seven have met the qualifications necessary to make the ballot -- and the panel will take a vote on including them next Tuesday. Besides Democrat Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the ballot is expected to include Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party hopeful Jill Stein, Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, Rocky Roque De La Fuente of the American Delta Party, and Monica Moorehead of the Workers World Party.


Wisconsin native 1 of 2 nuns killed in Mississippi

DURANT, Miss. -- One of two nuns found stabbed to death in Mississippi was a native of southeast Wisconsin.

The bodies of Sister Margaret Held, who grew up in Slinger, and Sister Paula Merrill were found Thursday at their home in Durant, Mississippi. Both were nurse practitioners at the Lexington Medical Clinic -- and police say they were the apparent targets of a robbery that escalated to murder. No arrests have been reported.

The 68-year-old Held represented the School Sisters of Saint Francis in Milwaukee -- and she taught at Kenosha Saint Joseph High School in the 1970s before earning her nursing degree at Creighton University in Omaha, where she served as a community health nurse before moving to Mississippi as a social worker.


State could tell unregistered residents how to sign up to vote

MADISON -- The state Elections Commission is scheduled to act Tuesday on a plan to tell up to 1.5 million unregistered voters how to sign up in time for the November presidential contest.

Commission staffers plan to send postcards by late September to Wisconsin adults who are not registered to vote -- and give them information on how to do it. It's part of a state law passed earlier this year in which Wisconsin joined a multi state effort to identify people who are eligible to vote but have not registered. The Electronic Registration Information Center requires states to conduct the outreach every two years before the start of October.


Milwaukee to get more state funds in response to violence

MILWAUKEE – Gov. Scott Walker will give Milwaukee at least $4.5 million in state funds to focus on urban problems after the Sherman Park violence almost two weeks ago.

The Republican Walker, his cabinet, and Milwaukee's mayor and county executive will announce the funding Friday at an inner city job center. The Journal Sentinel says the money will provide more job training, hiring efforts, and renovations and removals of foreclosed houses -- and state agencies will send mobile job centers to the Sherman Park area and will try to help businesses damaged by the burning and looting.

The violence was spurred by the police shooting of armed suspect Sylville Smith, and the state's help is being announced just hours before Smith's church service and burial. The aid did not have to be approved by the state Legislature, and Senate Democrat Lena Taylor of Milwaukee says minority communities badly need the help -- but she says there's still a need to improve police relations with African Americans.


Man dies driving in to water

STURGEON BAY -- A 65-year-old man has died after his car plunged into a shipping channel in downtown Sturgeon Bay.

A female friend and a dog escaped unharmed before the vehicle submerged into a waterway that links Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay. According to police, the 55-year-old woman saw that the man was slumped at the wheel early Thursday afternoon -- and his foot was not on the gas pedal as the car went off a dock, close to where one of them had a yacht.

Rescuers searched for the man, and he was pulled out about one hour after the incident and died later at a hospital. The fatal victim was from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and his name was not immediately released.


Former Packers player Sharper gets 20 year sentence

NEW ORLEANS -- Darren Sharper, who helped the Green Bay Packers make it to their second straight Super Bowl in 1997, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for drugging women and having sex with them while they were unconscious.

The 41-year-old Sharper was sentenced Thursday in Louisiana state court in cases involving three of his 16 total victims in four states. His prison term will be served at the same time as an 18 year federal sentence handed down last week, and it's also simultaneous to a nine-year term levied in Arizona while similar sentencings are still pending in Nevada and California.

Two of his victims gave statements to the judge in New Orleans Thursday, and one called Sharper a "sick individual" whom she must forgive so she can move on. Sharper was a six time NFL All Pro safety and played eight years with Green Bay, four with Minnesota, and two in New Orleans where he led the Saints to a Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.


Convict in fire deaths can't withdraw guilty pleas

MADISON -- A state appeals court will not give a southwest Wisconsin man a chance to withdraw his guilty pleas for helping set a fire that killed four youngsters.

Twenty-two-year-old Jeremy Wand was sentenced to life in prison with a chance for a supervised release after 35 years, for helping his older brother Armin Wand burn down a house in Argyle in 2012 where Armin's three boys and an unborn daughter died. But Jeremy Wand later said his lawyers coerced him into admitting all but one of his seven Lafayette County criminal charges.

He wanted a hearing to see if he could reverse his pleas, but Judge Thomas Vale would not call that hearing. Wand appealed the decision, and the Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison ruled Thursday that the defendant did provide enough evidence to warrant a new plea hearing.


Expansion could net Direct Supply $22.5M in state tax breaks

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee company that provides equipment and services to senior living facilities will get up to $22.5 million in state tax breaks for a large expansion project.

Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday that Direct Supply would get income tax credits based on the numbers of jobs they create and preserve. The company plans to add 800 employees at its corporate headquarters during the next seven years, adding to a total workforce of more than 1,200.

The firm initially announced in March it would build a five story office structure with 280,000 square feet -- but it has not decided when construction would begin. It will replace an older, one story building that will be torn down.


Penalties levied against ITT Technical Institute

A national profit making college cannot enroll new students at its two Wisconsin campuses until it can prove it's financially stable.

The state Educational Approval Board took the action Thursday against ITT Technical Institute, on the same day the U.S. Education Department said it would keep a closer eye on the school's accounting and recruiting. T

he state's order also affects online enrollment at ITT, which has about 550 Wisconsin students online and at campuses in Greenfield and Madison. The federal government told ITT not to enroll students who need financial aid, and it has to pay $152 million within 30 days to cover its obligations if the school shuts down. State board director David Dies says it was already considering a enrollment cutoff, but the school appealed -- and a September hearing was called off once the federal action took place.