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This Hour: Latest Wisconsin news, sports, business and entertainment

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WISCONSIN UNEMPLOYMENT

Local unemployment rates drop throughout Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Unemployment rates have dropped in most Wisconsin counties and cities.

The state Department of Workforce Development reports Wednesday that preliminary rates for March are down in all but three of the state's largest 32 cities. Unemployment was unchanged in Mount Pleasant and it increased in Menomonee Falls and Racine.

Similarly, rates are down in all but six of Wisconsin's 72 counties.

Local unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted, are subject to revision and can vary widely from month to month.

Statewide, unemployment last month was 5.9 percent, its lowest level since 2008.

Racine continues to have the highest unemployment rate for any city, increasing from 11.5 percent to 11.8 percent. Beloit is second at 10.3 percent, which was down from 10.6 percent in February.

MARQUETTE-BALDWIN

Baldwin: Democrats need to tout health care reform

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Senator Tammy Baldwin says Democrats need to be more vocal about how well health care reform is working.

The Wisconsin Democrat talked politics during an hour-long discussion at Marquette University. Topics included immigration, minimum wage and the nation's growing wealth divide.

Baldwin acknowledged that the health care law's rollout was flawed, but she says Democrats on the campaign trail shouldn't be reluctant to embrace it. She says Democrats need to make sure people understand how the law has made things better, for example by not allowing insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Baldwin also predicts that Democrats will retain Senate control after the November election. Republicans need to pick up six seats to win the majority, but Baldwin says she expects her party will maintain a slim majority.

CONGRESSIONAL RACE-WISCONSIN

Wisconsin congressional candidate leaves race

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A Republican running to unseat Democratic U.S. Representative Ron Kind says he is backing out of the race so voters can line up behind a single challenger.

Chris Anderson, a former aide to U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, announced Wednesday he would no longer run for western Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District. Anderson says he will endorse Republican Tony Kurtz in the race because Kurtz supports conservative ideas.

Kurtz says he has hired Anderson to work as finance director for his campaign.

Three Republicans remain in the race for the seat Kind has occupied since 1997. Kind's office didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

OFFICER-INVOLVED DEATHS

Governor signs police investigation bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill requiring Wisconsin police departments to use outside investigators to probe officer-involved deaths.

The bill comes in the wake of several high-profile officer involved deaths across the state in recent years. Supporters say it will alleviate concerns about investigators from the same department covering up their friends' misconduct.

Currently smaller departments routinely rely on outside agencies to investigate officer-involved deaths. But the state's biggest departments, Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee, investigate their own officers.

The measure passed both the Assembly and Senate on voice votes earlier this year. Walker's office announced Wednesday he signed the measure during a private ceremony in the state Capitol.

CELLPHONE TRACKING

Walker signs bill prohibiting cellphone tracking

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin police could not track cellphone locations without a warrant under a bill Governor Scott Walker has signed into law.

The measure Walker signed Wednesday passed the Legislature in February with no opposition.

Under the new law, police would have to present details about their investigation when seeking a warrant to track a cellphone. That includes the phone's owners or whoever is possessing it, the subject of the investigation, a statement of the crime and a statement of probable cause about how tracking the cellphone is related to criminal activity.

The bill was among 55 bills Walker signed privately.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Governor signs human trafficking bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill that tightens Wisconsin's human trafficking laws and gives victims a way to void any crimes they may have committed.

Current Wisconsin law defines trafficking as recruiting, enticing, harboring or transporting someone against their consent. The bipartisan bill removes the consent element and adds using schemes to control an individual to the definition.

The measure allows trafficking victims to ask a judge to vacate or expunge prostitution convictions. The judge could grant the request if he or she gives the prosecutor a chance to respond and determines society won't be harmed.

Walker signed the bill privately on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

WEDDING OFFICIAL-AGE

Walker OKs bill setting age for wedding officials

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republican Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill that bars anyone under 18 from officiating at a Wisconsin wedding.

The bill's opponents say the minimum age requirement could prevent young family members from officiating at weddings in some cases, but both the Assembly and Senate passed the measure on voice votes earlier this year. Walker signed the bill privately Tuesday.

The bipartisan bill also makes it easier for people from outside Wisconsin to officiate, removing a requirement that out-of-state officials obtain a letter from the church before the wedding.

The governor signed the bill privately at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

DISABLED PARKING-WISCONSIN

Wisconsin increases disability parking fines

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - It will soon be three times more costly for drivers to park illegally in a disability parking spot in Wisconsin.

Governor Scott Walker signed a bill Wednesday increasing those fines starting Friday.

The new law will increase minimum fines from $50 to $150. The current maximum penalty of $300 won't change.

The law also creates a fine for building owners to not provide enough disability parking spaces on site. Building owners or occupants with at least 26 parking spaces must reserve disabled parking spaces or pay between $150 and $300.

SEX OFFENDERS

Governor signs sex offender notification bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill that requires the state Department of Corrections to notify local police when sex offenders move into their jurisdictions.

The bipartisan measure requires DOC to notify the local police chief and the sheriff if the move-in offender has been convicted or found not guilty by reason of mental disease of a sex offense two or more times. DOC can choose to notify the local police if the move-in offender has been convicted or found not guilty by reason of mental disease only once. The provisions mirror current notification laws for in-state offenders.

Walker signed the bill privately at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

DOCTORS DUTIES

Walker OKs expanding doctor notification law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A Wisconsin state law covering information doctors are required to tell patients will be expanded under a bill Gov. Scott Walker has signed into law.

The Legislature last year changed the law to no longer require doctors to give patients as much information about available alternative treatments.

The bill Walker signed Wednesday would expand the "informed consent" law to apply to chiropractors, dentists, podiatrists and optometrists.

The change was made in reaction to a 2012 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that said a doctor's "informed consent" duty includes telling a patient about medical tests and treatments that may be appropriate for a patient's symptoms, even if the doctor doesn't believe the patient has the underlying condition or disease.

Walker signed the bill privately, along with more than 50 others.

PHOSPHORUS REGULATIONS

Walker signs bill delaying phosphorus rules

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill that would give wastewater plants, paper mills and food processors up to 20 years to comply with the state's phosphorus limits.

Walker signed the bill on Wednesday.

The Department of Natural Resources imposed sweeping restrictions on phosphorus discharge in 2010. Municipalities and manufacturers contend they'll have to spend millions of dollars on upgrades to meet the limits, driving up rates.

The Republican bill calls for asking federal officials to approve a statewide exemption from the rules. That would allow dischargers to ask the state for up to four five-year exemptions. Each exemption would carry a progressively tougher discharge limit.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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