- Associated Press - Friday, July 18, 2014
7 counties added to emerald ash borer quarantine

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin agricultural officials have added seven more counties to the state’s emerald ash borer quarantine.

The Department of Agriculture has found the destructive insect in three of those seven counties - Columbia, Grant and Monroe. The rest are in close proximity, which include Richland, Iowa, Lafayette and Green.

That brings the total number of counties under quarantine to 29.

For businesses handling wood products, it means they must work with ag officials to assure the products are pest free before shipping to non-quarantine counties. For citizens, it restricts the movement of firewood.

Since the emerald ash borer was first discovered in North America, it has killed tens of millions of ash trees in 18 states.

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States send firefighting help to Washington

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota is among states sending fire crews to the state of Washington to help with wildfires that have caused evacuations and are threatening hundreds of homes.

The Minnesota Incident Command System will send 40 firefighters to the Chiwaukum Creek fire near Levenworth, Washington. They will be there for up to two weeks.

About 1,000 firefighters were fighting blazes around the state that included the Mills Canyon Fire - the state’s largest at 35 square miles.

The Minnesota firefighters will join two crews from Wisconsin and one from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at the Duluth Mobilization Center. The National Interagency Fire Center is sending a jet to transport the crews from Duluth to Washington Friday.

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Wisconsin officials to discuss changing poll laws

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin officials are considering lifting the ban on camera usage by election observers.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1zRKtnWhttps://bit.ly/1zRKtnW ) the state elections board will meet Monday to vote on proposed changes to election observer rules. The Republican-controlled Legislature proposed the ban reversal.

Election observers have been prohibited from shooting photos and video at the polls for the past eight years.

Officials will also discuss other potential changes to polling place regulations. Other proposed amendments include designating inspectors to handle questions and providing information about observers.

Staff members of the state Government Accountability Board say the administrative changes aren’t meant to burden local election officials.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsjhttps://www.madison.com/wsj

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Freedom from Religion group, IRS settle lawsuit

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Internal Revenue Service has instituted a protocol for investigating tax-exempt churches and religious organizations involved in political activity, according to a Wisconsin-based group representing atheists and agnostics that filed a federal lawsuit over the issue.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the IRS submitted a motion in federal court on Thursday asking the judge to dismiss the case filed in 2012. The FFRF announced the settlement on Friday.

“This is a victory, and we’re pleased with this development in which the IRS has proved to our satisfaction that it now has in place a protocol to enforce its own anti-electioneering provisions,” said the group’s co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor.

An IRS spokesman for Wisconsin said he was not familiar with the case and had no immediate comment.

The original lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Madison in 2012 alleged that the IRS was violating the U.S. Constitution by not enforcing the federal tax code, which prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from electioneering.

The FFRF argued that churches and other religious organizations have become increasingly more involved in political campaigns, “blatantly and deliberately flaunting the electioneering restrictions.”

The lawsuit asked the court to order the IRS to initiate enforcement of the electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations.

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