News from around Wisconsin at 5:58 p.m. CST

Wis. candidate questions drunken driving changeMADISON, Wis. (AP) — Attorney general hopeful Brad Schimel says he’s skeptical of making first-offense drunken driving a crime.

Wisconsin is the only state where a first-offense is considered a civil violation. Schimel, Waukesha County’s Republican district attorney, said Tuesday he’s not sure if the other 49 states have seen any improvements in public safety.

He says he’s worried criminalizing first offense would overwhelm the courts. He also says forfeitures that currently go to municipalities would go to the state, leaving municipalities in the hole and potentially leading to police layoffs. That could lead to more drunken driving.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, also is running for attorney general. He said first-offense should be a crime. State Rep. Jon Richards, another Democrat in the race, didn’t immediately return a message.

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Apple, Wal-Mart back Wis. sales tax holiday billMADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two of the nation’s largest and best-known corporations, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Apple Inc., are lobbying in support of a Wisconsin bill that would waive sales taxes on purchases of some computers and back-to-school supplies one weekend a year.

No one from either of the companies appeared at a Tuesday hearing in support of the bill, but online records show they combined for 20 hours of lobbying on the measure after it was introduced last year.

The hearing on the sales tax holiday idea comes as Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers await an update later this month on the state’s budget picture. The better the news, the more likely that the sales tax holiday idea will be seriously considered.

The Republican-backed proposal had been languishing until Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said last month that if the state’s budget can handle it, he would like to make Wisconsin the 18th state to have a sales tax holiday. Iowa is Wisconsin’s only neighbor that does it, and the sales tax exemption applies only to clothing sales up to $100.

While Vos is supportive, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said last month that some of his members viewed it as a gimmick. That could pose a problem for the proposal, which must pass both the Senate and Assembly and be signed by Walker before taking effect.

Democrats and even one Republican, Rep. Michael Schraa, of Oshkosh, raised concerns about the sales tax holiday idea during Tuesday’s hearing. Schraa said it would put a burden on small business owners who would have to reprogram their cash registers to not charge sales tax. He said a better approach would be an across-the-board sales tax cut.

Democrats said they didn’t believe consumers lured to the stores on the sales tax holidays would actually spend more on other products, as the bill’s supporters argued. The state Department of Revenue estimates the bill would cost the state $14.5 million in lost revenue.

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Wis. rep to run for mayor in NeenahAPPLETON, Wis. (AP) — State Rep. Dean Kaufert says he’s going to run for mayor in Neenah.

Post-Crescent Media reports (http://post.cr/1fbsCAQ) that Kaufert will take on incumbent Mayor George Scherck in the April 1 election. Scherck is seeking his fourth term as mayor.

Kaufert, a 56-year-old Republican, has served in the state Assembly since 1991, including a stint as co-chairman of the powerful Joint Finance Committee. He crossed party lines in 2011 and voted against Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip most public workers of nearly all their union rights.

Kaufert said he won’t seek re-election to the Assembly in November if he wins the mayor’s office.

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Information from: Post-Crescent Media, http://www.postcrescent.comhttp://www.postcrescent.com

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Milwaukee sees rise in flu hospitalizationsMILWAUKEE (AP) — The City of Milwaukee Health Department reports a rise in flu-related hospitalizations.

So far, more than 100 people have been hospitalized in Milwaukee this flu season.

Mayor Tom Barrett is urging everyone over 6 months of age to get a flu shot if they haven’t already.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan K. Baker says the city is seeing an increase in young and middle-aged adults who are being hospitalized with complications from seasonal flu.

Baker says the best way for people to protect themselves and their families is to get the flu vaccine.

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