New Bill to Help Sexual Assault VictimsSubmitted: 05/05/2013
Story By Associated Press

MADISON - A new bill being circulated in the Wisconsin state Legislature would allow victims of sexual assault to be accompanied by a trained advocate at any step during the criminal justice process.

The legislation's author, Rep. Jim Steineke, a Republican from Kaukauna, says sex offenders are more likely to be brought to justice when an advocate is available to assist the victims

An advocate is a trained individual providing emotional comfort for victims and guiding them through the legal process. Current law bars an advocate from certain activities such as joining victims in meeting with police officers or medical personnel.

At least 11 states have passed similar laws. Gov. Scott Walker has proposed $4 million in his next biennial budget to pay for grants to assist victims.

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MADISON - Groups challenging Wisconsin's voter identification law in court don't believe the state's plan for additional education will do enough.

Earlier this month, federal Judge James Peterson approved a Department of Transportation plan to clarify the process for people who lack photo ID to get voting credentials.

That happened after media reports showed Division of Motor Vehicle employees were giving people inaccurate information.

The court-approved plan includes handouts and website clarifications.

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WISCONSIN - This year marks the third highest bear harvest in state history.

The totals cement Wisconsin's title as the best state in the U.S. for bear harvests with 4,643 registered.

But it wasn't all good news for bear hunters. 

This year also marked the highest number of hunting dog deaths.

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MERRILL - The Merrill Fire Department sees the need for more, younger EMTs to get into the business. Like other area departments, it wants to ensure its staff will stay strong for years into the future.

People like Dylan Schielke can help make that happen.

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WAUSAU - This fall Wausau's Woodson Art Museum will bring together artists from all over the world. 

The Birds in Art exhibit gives artists an opportunity to share a piece of themselves with their audience.

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MINOCQUA - The Minocqua Town Board always knew it would need to replace Supervisor Bryan Jennings eventually. But the Board didn't think it happen so soon.

Jennings died September 8, two days after he was struck by lightning while walking his dog.

Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim says the Town is now accepting letters of interest from anyone wanting to fill Jennings's seat.

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RHINELANDER - We likely won't find out who Rhinelander's next police chief will be until early next year.  But the city is already working to replace Chief Mike Steffes.

Newswatch 12 learned earlier this month Chief Steffes is leaving Rhinelander to take a job with the Department of Justice.

Steffes beat out 34 other candidates to win the chief job in 2007.  Police and Fire Commission President Todd McEldowney expects to see dozens of new applicants this time.

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RHINELANDER - A Marathon County man who drove to Rhinelander to meet up with a 15-year-old girl for sex told police he nearly turned around.

Instead, Dustin Zernicke pulled into the Shopko parking lot Friday night and found officers waiting for him.

The 35-year-old Zernicke made his initial appearance in Oneida County Court Monday afternoon.  Undercover officers posted an ad on Craigslist pretending to be a 15-year-old girl.  The post said "Mom sent me [to] Rhinelander for the weekend and I have nothing to do."

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