- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015
Red flag fire warning in Bayfield, Douglas counties

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says the danger of wildfires is extremely high in Bayfield and Douglas counties.

The DNR issued a red flag warning for the two counties Thursday. Permit burning isn’t allowed in barrels, debris piles and grass and wooded areas because of the conditions. Also campfires, fireworks and outdoor smoking aren’t recommended.

The agency says the danger of wildfires is high or very high in 62 of Wisconsin’s 70 other counties.

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DNR’s current fire restrictions: (https://1.usa.gov/1IFNRFzhttps://1.usa.gov/1IFNRFz )

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Fitzgerald’s arena financing plan would use lands board loan

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A plan is gaining traction to tap the state public lands board for a loan to help finance a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

The proposal from Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald would tap $150 million in funding from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands and its $1 billion in assets. It’s similar to a loan that funded improvements to the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field.

Republican legislative leaders met this week with the Bucks and officials from Milwaukee County and the city.

“We’re certainly making steps in the right direction,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.

The public lands board lends money to local units of government around Wisconsin at low interest rates and directs the earnings to public school libraries. That has included a past loan of some $67 million to the Lambeau Field stadium district.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a Democrat, said he has seen a preliminary proposal. He tells the Journal Sentinel ((https://bit.ly/1P20q2dhttps://bit.ly/1P20q2d ) he has some concerns about it, including the fact the board would need to sell some of its assets to make it work.

Fitzgerald’s plan is a rewrite of Gov. Scott Walker’s idea to sell $220 million in state bonds to help pay for the arena. In an interview aired Thursday on WTMJ-AM, Walker acknowledged his own financing plan was dead and urged the City of Milwaukee to be more active in the push for a new arena.

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Uber officials: Bill to regulate services would allow growth

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Uber officials tried to convince Wisconsin lawmakers Thursday that a Republican bill creating statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies would allow their business to grow and provide another transportation option for the state.

Robert Kellman, Uber’s Midwest public policy manager, told the state Assembly’s government operations committee during a public hearing that the bill could create a statewide market for the company’s services, particularly in underserved rural areas.

“This bill simply offers a different option for the state of Wisconsin,” Kellman said. “We are very eager to expand.”

Ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft connect pedestrians with private drivers through a smartphone app, competing directly with traditional taxi and limo companies.

So far in Wisconsin local governments have been regulating ride-hailing companies via ordinance. The bill would prohibit such local ordinances. Ride-hailing companies would have to get a $5,000 state license, conduct background checks on drivers and maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance. The proposal also would require companies to adopt policies barring drivers from discriminating against passengers because of race, religion, sex or disability.

The bill has sparked a bitter dust-up between ride-hailing proponents and Wisconsin taxi companies.

Supporters told the committee the measure would eliminate a patchwork of local ordinances and create rides for people in areas that lack taxi services.

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Democrats say 13,500 support preserving SeniorCare

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Democrats say they’ve gathered 13,500 petition signatures from people who support maintaining the existing SeniorCare program.

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, a Milton Democrat, said the lawmakers planned to present boxes of petitions to Republican Senate and Assembly leaders Thursday.

Gov. Scott Walker proposed requiring seniors in the state to enroll in Medicare Part D before applying for the state’s low-cost prescription drug program in his budget. But Rep. John Nygren, the Republican co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, told the Associated Press last week that Walker’s proposal was effectively dead.

Nygren did say the program could face changes, however. SeniorCare members pay $30 a year, as well as copays of $5 for generic drugs and $15 for brand name drugs.

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