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Wisconsin roundup: License fee increases for anglers, hunters eyed; state GOP lawmakers say they won't rush things; 7 more state news stories

Fees increases for fishing and hunting are among revenue options being eyed in Wisconsin as DNR officials consider budget-balancing solutions. (Photo courtesy of Northland Outdoors)

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing raising hunting and fishing fees or linking the fees to inflation as options for generating more revenue for wildlife management.

The current state budget mandated the DNR report on dwindling revenue in the agency's Fish and Wildlife Account. The account funds wildlife management efforts and DNR wardens. It's built mostly with hunter and angler fees.

In the DNR report released Tuesday, the agency said it found an annual $4 million gap between the account's authorized expenditures and revenue. The report includes a number of ideas for closing the gap, including a one-time increase in license fees, linking license fee increases to inflation, creating a registration fee for non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks and never increasing fees for people who buy licenses every year.


State GOP lawmakers say they won't rush things

MADISON -- Wisconsin Assembly Republicans say they will not try to ram through controversial bills as fast as they can -- not now, anyway.

As the new Legislature was sworn in Tuesday, G-P Speaker Robin Vos said leaders in the lower house would not "rush in to any package of bills" in the early going. Majority Leader Jim Steineke says bill No. 1 has not necessarily been written yet, as Republicans gear up for things like raising state support for public schools, and an internal party debate on paying for new highways.

Vos also said there might be room for discussion on hot button issues like allowing concealed weapons on UW campuses, and legalizing medical marijuana -- but he said those who propose such bills would need to round up enough support before asking lawmakers to approve them. With the GOP now controlling both the state and federal governments, state Republicans are also looking at national ideas like repealing Obamacare and letting states be more flexible with the federal funds they receive.


Cold snap begins on schedule

As predicted, Wisconsin is back in the deep freeze.

Much of the northern half of the state was below zero as of 6 a.m., while the south was on the plus side. Readings were as cold as seven below in Superior, Ashland, Hayward and Phillips -- and as warm as 10 above in Kenosha and Racine.

The New Richmond Municipal airport registered six below zero at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday with temperatures in western Wisconsin forecast to reach one above for a high. Overnight temperatures were set to plunge to nine below and no respite was in sight; Thursday's daytime high in the River Falls area was forecast to reach zero.

Lake effect snow advisory is in effect in northern Iron County along Lake Superior until 6 p.m. Wednesday, with 3-6 inches in the forecast -- but otherwise, it will stay dry throughout the Badger State at least through Sunday.


Ryan easily re-elected House speaker

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville says the hot tempers and democracy concerns from Donald Trump's election will dissolve into what Ryan calls "the silence and peaceful transfer of power."

Ryan was easily re-elected Tuesday to his first full term as the leader of the GOP controlled House. In his remarks to the chamber, he said we are all "united by a deep, abiding love of our country." Only one fellow Republican voted against Ryan, as Kentucky's Tom Massie chose Daniel Webster for speaker. Meanwhile, Green Bay Republican Mike Gallagher is among 52 House freshmen, after he was sworn in for the first time Tuesday -- and that's after the former Marine defeated Tom Nelson in November to replace the retiring Reid Ribble.


State schools leader has two challengers in spring election

MADISON -- Wisconsin public school superintendent Tony Evers will have two challengers in the spring elections, setting the stage for a Feb. 21 primary.

Retired Beloit superintendent Lowell Holtz and Dodgeville district administrator John Humphries filed nomination papers before Tuesday's deadline -- and three others interested in the post did not file. The state superintendent is officially nonpartisan, but this year's campaign could again follow party lines as Humphries and Holtz have said they'll join conservatives in supporting tax funded private school vouchers.

Evers says he won't make school choice the top issue -- and instead, he'll focus on getting students in Wisconsin public schools to do better. Meanwhile, Annette Ziegler will be the first State Supreme Court justice in eleven years to be unopposed, as nobody else filed for the post.


Last year's state traffic deaths highest since 2012

MADISON -- Wisconsin traffic deaths in 2016 are the highest in four years.

Preliminary DOT figures show that 588 people died in state crashes last year – 6 percent more than in 2015, and the most deaths since 2012 when 601 people died in Wisconsin traffic crashes. State transportation safety director David Pabst says more people were on the road last year due to an improved economy and lower gas prices.

He says 90 percent of accidents are caused by driver errors and bad habits which more often included distracted driving by cell phone use. Among other things, the DOT says it has increased enforcement for drug impaired driving -- and it received a federal grant to try and prevent semi truck crashes.


Eau Claire's National Presto sells absorbant products division

EAU CLAIRE -- National Presto Industries of Eau Claire is selling its absorbant products division to a company in Belgium that makes diapers and other personal hygiene items.

The family owned Drylock Technologies is paying $71 million for the business, which will stay at its current plant in Eau Claire. National Presto says Drylock has a multi year lease, and it plans to offer jobs to everyone who now works there.

National Presto president Maryjo Cohen says a "major player" was needed to move the growing absorbant products business to the "next level." When the deal is finalized, National Presto can focus more on its two other business operations involving defense work and small appliances that include housewares.


House GOP drops ethics plan, puts Ryan out of awkward position

WASHINGTON -- Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville was taken out of an uncomfortable position Tuesday when his fellow Republicans dropped a plan to weaken an ethics watchdog for U.S. House members.

The GOP majority rapidly reversed its course, after President-Elect Donald Trump criticized the plan to make the Republican controlled Ethics Committee oversee the Office of Congressional Ethics, ban probes of anonymous allegations, and take away the communications director to help put a clamp on leaks to the media. Ryan spoke against the plan in a closed caucus Monday night, but he defended the changes Tuesday morning just moments after Trump questioned the timing, saying there was more important things to do like cutting taxes.


Man sentenced for BB shooting of boy at his lemonade stand

APPLETON -- An 18-year-old man will get jail and probation time for wounding a 9-year-old boy with a BB gun as the child was manning a lemonade stand.

Evgeniy Tetzlaff was sentenced Tuesday to six months in the Outagamie County Jail with work release privileges, plus three years of probation. He was also told to pay $578 of restitution, and perform 100 hours of community service.

Prosecutors said Tetzlaff shot 9-year-old Jayden Grant of Kimberly in the face last July while driving past the boy's lemonade stand. A plea deal convicted Tetzlaff of causing injury by negligent use of a weapon -- and online court records showed that he also settled subsequent charges of receiving stolen property, retail theft, and bail jumping.