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Mine Bill to Go Before Assembly Next WeekSubmitted: 03/01/2013
Story By Associated Press

MADISON - The state Assembly plans to take up Republicans' contentious mining bill on March 7th.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters Thursday republican leaders expect to begin debate that morning.

Debate may last all day.

Republicans control the chamber, making passage all but certain.

Approval would send the bill on to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.

The Senate narrowly passed the bill after a nearly nine-hour debate Wednesday evening.

The bill is designed to clear the regulatory path for a huge open-pit iron mine in Ashland and Iron counties.

Republicans say the mine would create hundreds of jobs for the economically depressed region.

Democrats and conservationists maintain the bill will relax environmental protections and could lead to devastating pollution.

(Copyright 2013 Associated Press - All Rights Reserved)


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FITCHBURG - Investigators will try to figure out why a house exploded in southern Wisconsin.

The blast critically injured a man and caused damage to at least two dozen other homes in the neighborhood.

The 57-year-old man has significant injuries as a result of the explosion just before 7:00 p.m. Thursday night in Fitchburg.

Fire fighters say three nearby houses have major structural damage and 23 others have moderate to minor damage.

Debris from the explosion landed about a-half mile from the scene.

While the cause has not yet been determined, witnesses say there was a strong smell of gas.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and state investigators are assisting Fitchburg police.

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ONEIDA COUNTY - Within a few hours, a jury found a Fox Valley man guilty of stealing things from the house where Ashlee Martinson killed Thomas and Jennifer Ayers Thursday.

The two-day trial for Mark Spietz, 39, of Kaukauna, finished up Thursday afternoon, following a morning of the defense arguing it was all part of Spietz's job.

Spietz was a contract worker for a company called TruAssets, which secures abandoned or foreclosed homes throughout the country. The company is based in Arizona.

On Thursday, Spietz testified that in September and October, he took ATVs, bows, a John Deere tractor, a trailer and Jennifer Ayers' purse from the house to try and secure it for his employer.

"My experience with the work order is that it is our job to make sure the property is secured," Spietz said. "Obviously if I can open the doors and get into it, anybody can open the doors and get into it. So I ended up removing the ATVs with the trailer and them bringing them back to Kaukauna to lock up in my storage facility where they would be under lock and key for the future for whatever the bank decided they wanted to do with their property."

In the criminal complaint, however, Spietz told investigators he took the purse because he thought his wife would like it.

But the state argued Thursday he technically didn't have permission from the company to be at the house after the first visit. Oneida County District Attorney Mike Schiek presented Spietz with the original work order form TruAssets assigned him. The document specifically stated not to remove any personal property from the house, and that contract workers should submit a bid for the property if they do take it from the house.

Schiek then argued Spietz specifically targeted the empty house because he knew its owners were dead.

"Looking back, what did you think you saw?" Schiek asked Spietz during his cross examination.

"Couple spots on the floor, large, dark spots," Spietz responded.

"Knowing what you know now, do you know what that was?" Schiek asked.

"To the best of my knowledge that's where they were killed," Spietz replied.

Spietz's attorney Brian Bennett said since Spietz is not from the area, he wouldn't have known the homicides happened at the house. He argued there was no sign saying no trespassing, nor had he had any knowledge the house was in probate.

"He used his best judgment based on his experience," Bennett said during his closing argument. "Which makes him quite possibly, if he's a burglar, the worst burglar in the world."

Bennett added Spietz gets little supervision from TruAssets, as Spietz testified he has never met a person from the company.

"It seems like a burden to have to come up here, pick up the stuff, store it, mess around with it, hold onto the titles, make sure it doesn't get stolen," Bennett said during his closing argument. "That's not a jackpot, that's a burden." 

Spietz will be sentenced in October. 

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Trump's state director Pete Meachum issued a statement Thursday injecting himself into Feingold's Senate race against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

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Private Equity firm J.F. Lehman and Company will buy Oldenburg Group's defense and mining divisions.

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