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Wisconsin roundup: No charges yet in Saudi student's death; top Senate Dem tells GOP to solve own road problems; 8 more state news stories

Funding for Wisconsin's roads was raised this week by Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, who called on Republicans to forge their own plan before Democrats will tackle the issue. (File photo)

MENOMONIE -- It's been more than five weeks since a UW-Stout student from Saudi Arabia was killed in downtown Menomonie.

Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf says there is not a final autopsy report yet, and the Eau Claire Leader Telegram says she has asked Menomonie Police to do more investigating. Police have recommended charges of felony murder and substantial battery against the unnamed suspect in the beating death of 24-year-old Stout junior Hussain Alnahdi early on Oct. 30.

Police have not said whether alcohol was a factor, even though the incident happened around the time the nearby bars were closing. Menomonie Police Chief Eric Atkinson says his officers do not believe it was a hate crime.


Senate Dem leader to GOP: Solve your own road problems

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Senate's minority leader says her party will let majority Republicans fight it out among themselves to come up with a way to pay for new and improved highways.

In media interviews this week, Jennifer Shilling says the GOP "needs to govern" -- and her party will have an "adult conversation" with Republicans after they decide on a plan. Gov. Scott Walker and majority senators oppose a tax or fee hike that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says might be necessary to avoid more crumbling roads and long construction delays.

Shilling says she agrees that a long term funding mechanism is needed -- and her party worked with the Assembly GOP in the last session to finalize all of the borrowing authority for roads that's in the current state budget. Shilling leads the Senate's smallest Democratic caucus since 1971, with only 13 party members among the Senate's 33 seats.


Regents to consider new campus reviews of tenured faculty

MADISON -- The UW Board of Regents will consider making campus chancellors review the performance of tenured faculty every five years, a move that some instructors fear would make it easier to terminate them.

University officials say traditional peer reviews by faculty members would still be valued input -- but the proposed change calls for independent reviews which assure that faculty get "unbiased" treatment. It was two years ago when GOP state lawmakers called for changes in faculty tenure, so chancellors become more like CEOs -- but faculty leaders have said the university is not a top-down business and should not be treated like one.

The Regents approved a tenure policy earlier this year, making it easier to lay off tenured professors in certain circumstances. The chancellor reviews will be considered Thursday when the UW Regents meet in Madison.


Recount more than 70 percent complete; little change in results

MADISON -- By the time Donald Trump supporters get a court hearing Friday to stop the Wisconsin recount, it could be close to finished with almost no change in Trump's winning margin.

The state Elections Commission says 70 percent of the 2.8 million presidential ballots were recounted by late Tuesday -- and Democrat Hillary Clinton gained 492 votes and Republican Trump 410, meaning that Clinton has cut into Trump's original victory total by 82 votes; Trump led by 22,000 going into the week-old recount.

The Elections Commission says the tally is on track to finish on time by Monday night. The city of Milwaukee says it's done, and the state says 34 of the 72 counties were finished by late Tuesday as the process continues in other large counties. Trump supporters tried last Friday to stop the recount, but Federal Judge James Peterson ordered that it continue while he considers the request more fully.


Trump passes over Milwaukee's Clarke as Homeland Security leader

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke insists he did not campaign across the country for Donald Trump in order to win a job in his new administration.

Trump's transition team met with Clarke last week, reportedly to check him out as the new Homeland Security secretary. But reports say the job will go instead to retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, and Clarke tells the Journal Sentinel he likes the appointment.

Clarke also insisted that Trump's victory was "all that was important" to him. However, Trump's chief of staff nominee Reince Priebus says Clarke "will have opportunities" as the new administration takes shape.


Husband charged in death of West Salem woman

LA CROSSE -- The death of a woman initially thought to be the result of a freak accident on a La Crosse County road is now being blamed on her husband.

Forty-six-year-old Barbara Kendhammer of West Salem was found critically injured after authorities responded to a car crash Sept. 16. Her husband, Todd Kendhammer, told authorities a pipe fell from a truck as he was driving, broke through the windshield and hit his wife, who died the following day. Investigators looking deeper into the case say the woman's injuries were inconsistent with her husband's explanation. Todd Kendhammer is due in court Dec. 15 on a first-degree intentional homicide charge.


Dassey asks appeals court not to reinstate his murder conviction

CHICAGO -- Brendan Dassey's lawyers have urged a federal appeals court not to reinstate his conviction for the 2005 killing of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County.

The state is appealing a magistrate judge's ruling from August that threw out his guilty verdict, which said the then- 16-year-old Dassey did not have the proper state of mind to deal with police techniques for drawing out confessions that both he and his uncle Steven Avery raped, burned, and shot the 25-year-old Halbach. Dassey's appellate lawyers say the state's version of the case is "spun of pure function," and the state's response is due Dec. 21 to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Meanwhile, new evidence in Avery's case has just been sent to the State Crime Lab in his effort to have his conviction thrown out. The case was the subject of the Netflix series "Making a Murderer."


Report: Fewer mass layoffs expected in state for 2016

MADISON -- The numbers of Wisconsinites losing their jobs to mass layoffs are expected to be down this year from 2015.

The state Department of Workforce Development says almost 10,000 people were the victims of mass layoffs last year, the highest since 2009 when the Great Recession was at its peak. This year, says only 7,000 such layoffs have been reported -- and unless there are several large job cuts in December, this year's figure will not come close to last year's.

Analysts say mass layoff figures can be deceiving, because often reflect just one industry instead of the entire Wisconsin economy -- and it does not account for lesser layoffs or job creation. The state defines mass layoffs as those involving at least 25 percent of workers in companies with 50 or more employees -- or at least 500 employees for larger firms.


UW offers free ID theft protection to hacked law-school applicants

MADISON -- UW-Madison is offering free identity theft protection to more than 1,200 previous law school applicants who had personal data compromised when a database was hacked.

Names and Social Security numbers were in the database for applicants to the UW Law School from 2005 and 2006. The applicants were notified Tuesday, after the university found that the database was hacked around Nov. 3.

UW police say they've identified a potential hacker, but it's too early to tell if the person actually gained access to the database and no arrests have been made. Officials say the Law School has since added a firewall to improve protection of its data, and it's reviewing its procedures for handling the information.


Ryan: Procedure to impeach IRS chief would have delayed GOP agenda

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Paul Ryan's office says a move to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen would have had a "crippling" effect on Congress' efforts to repeal Obamacare early next year.

The House voted 342-72 on Tuesday to send an impeachment resolution to the Judiciary Committee, instead of ordering a full House vote, thus killing the resolution for this session. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said Koskinen needed to be removed for his alleged misconduct in congressional probes into the way IRS handled requests by conservative groups for tax exempt status.

Outgoing Republican Reid Ribble of Sherwood was the only Wisconsin House member to support an immediate impeachment vote. A spokeswoman for Ryan, the Janesville speaker, says the procedure would have filled "weeks of floor time," preventing the House from moving ahead on Trump nominees and the Obamacare repeal.