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State briefs for Feb. 9, 2018

Man allegedly tried to kill unborn child

WAUSAU—A central Wisconsin man is accused of trying to kill his unborn child by spiking the water bottle of the woman carrying the fetus with abortion pills.

Jeffrey Smith, 32, is charged with attempted first-degree homicide of an unborn baby and delivering a prescription drug. A Marathon County judge set bond for Smith at $500,000 cash Wednesday afternoon.

A criminal complaint said Smith wanted the woman to get an abortion after learning in October that she was pregnant with his child and became angry when she said she intended to keep the baby.

Prosecutors said Smith spiked the woman’s water with medication to induce an abortion during a visit to her home in Wausau in January. An assistant state public defender handling Smith’s case did not immediately return a call for comment.

Foxconn property owners to get offers

RACINE—The southeastern Wisconsin village that will be the location of Foxconn Technology Group’s massive manufacturing complex is offering local homeowners 140 percent of fair market value for their property and landowners $50,000 per acre.

The village of Mount Pleasant, located about 30 miles south of Milwaukee and 60 miles north of Chicago, announced its plans Wednesday to make way for the Taiwanese company’s project, The Journal Times reported.

Village President Dave DeGroot said the area’s properties are in a “desirable location” and that “the amount the village is willing to give reflects that.”

“We know the property acquisition and relocation processes are challenging,” DeGroot said. “As a result, we are making generous, consistent offers to property owners throughout the project area.”

The village is planning to meet with property owners individually to present offers.

Property owners also will be able to get an appraisal on their own that the village will eventually pay for.

Alan Marcuvitz, the attorney working on the acquisitions with the village, said the law only requires Mount Pleasant to pay fair market value, but that the village is adding a 40 percent “bonus.”

“The fair market value times 140 percent is unprecedented as far as my experience is concerned,” Marcuvitz said. “I think it is extremely fair and reasonable.”

Assembly, Walker propose child rebate, tax holiday


Wisconsin families with school-aged children would receive a one-time $100 tax rebate this summer and state sales tax would be waived on certain purchases the first weekend in August under a deal Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Republicans announced Thursday.

The agreement is a variation of an election-year tax cut the Republican incumbent governor first put forward last month that Democrats assailed as a gimmick to help Walker’s re-election bid. While Walker and Assembly Republicans are on board, the Republican-controlled Senate has opposed sales tax holidays before and is not yet on board with the latest proposal.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos denied the timing of the tax breaks, which would come just days or weeks before the Aug. 14 primary, were politically motivated.

“I’ve never thought it was a gimmick,” he said. “Frankly, I am OK with anything to reduce the taxes paid in Wisconsin because we are overtaxed, period. I think this is a creative way to stimulate the economy.”

Democrats accused Walker of trying to buy his re-election.

“This is an election year bribe,” said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz. “The governor might as well save money on postage and just hand these checks out at polling places in November.”

The Assembly will approve the plan later this month, Vos said. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Republican senators would discuss the idea in a private caucus meeting Tuesday.

Under the deal, families with children ages 5 to 17 as of last year who are living at home would receive $100 for each qualifying kid. The money, estimated to be about $122 million taken from a budget surplus, would be delivered to all families regardless of income sometime in July. That is unchanged from what Walker originally proposed.

UW-Madison: Free tuition for families making less than $56K


New in-state UW-Madison students from low-to-moderate income families will get free tuition and fees for four years under a new program, university officials announced Thursday.

The initiative, dubbed “Bucky’s Tuition Promise,” guarantees free tuition and no fees for eight semesters for incoming freshmen and four semesters for transfer students who come from homes making no more than $56,000 annually. The program is set to begin this fall.

Such programs are gaining traction at universities across the country as schools try to recruit students in the face of rising tuition costs. Six other Big Ten schools, including Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue, offer a similar pledge.

In-state tuition and fees at UW-Madison now are $10,533 a year. Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a news release that some high school students aren’t applying to UW-Madison because they feel it’s too expensive, and UW officials want to shatter that perception.

“Many low- and middle-income families in Wisconsin simply don’t know whether they can afford to come to UW-Madison,” Blank said as she announced the pledge during a UW System regents meeting Thursday. “Indeed, if they just read the popular press about student debt and sky-rocketing tuition, their assumption will be that they can’t. We want to make it very clear to low- and moderate-income families in Wisconsin that we’re going to do everything we can to make this an affordable school.”

Senate panel OKs revamped wetland bill


Wisconsin Republicans moved a revamped bill that would allow builders to fill marshes and swamps without a permit out of committee Thursday, clearing the way for a full Senate floor vote.

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy voted 3-2 to approve the bill. All three Republicans on the panel voted for the measure. The panel’s two Democrats, Mark Miller and Dave Hansen, voted against it, warning the loss of wetlands would worsen flooding and ruin wildlife habitat.

“I believe ... this bill, even as amended, fails to fulfill our constitutional obligation to protect the waters of Wisconsin,” Miller said.

Sen. Robert Cowles, the committee’s chairman and the revisions’ chief author, said the measure strikes a balance between allowing business expansion and protecting the environment.

Republicans and their allies in business and construction circles have long complained that the state Department of Natural Resources’ permit process for filling wetlands slows development.