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News from around Wisconsin (9:52 p.m. 1/28/10)

Sheridan says he won’t resign or be replaced

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan on Thursday accused opponents of increasing payday loan regulation of starting rumors that he was going to be removed from power.

Sheridan said he does not intend to resign as speaker and no vote was taken in a closed-door meeting of Democratic Assembly members earlier Thursday to remove him.

Democratic Assembly members talked about the rumors, Sheridan said in an interview in his office shortly after the meeting ended. But he said those rumors started with lobbyists. He did not say who, specifically.

Lobbyists know there is going to be a strong bill regulating the payday loan industry and “they’re stirred up about it,” Sheridan said.

The payday loan bill sponsor, Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, also said he believed lobbyists opposed to the bill were trying to disrupt its passage.

More than two dozen lobbyists employed by payday lenders and related groups are fighting the bill, according to the Government Accountability Board, and their employees have showered key lawmakers of both parties with campaign donations.

The bill would prohibit lenders from charging more than 36 percent annual interest rates on consumer loans, which supporters say would protect consumers from the abusive practices of payday lending.

Wis. lawmakers declare Milwaukee school plan dead

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State lawmakers say a plan to give Milwaukee’s mayor control of the city’s schools is dead.

Gov. Jim Doyle called the Legislature into special session in December to take up a bill that would transfer control from the district’s superintendent to the mayor. Doyle says the dramatic move is needed to improve the district and help bolster the state’s application for federal education stimulus money.

Milwaukee Democrats couldn’t agree on what to do and the plan failed to gain traction. On Thursday the Democratic-controlled Assembly adjourned the special session without taking up the bill.

Doyle and other backers say they will keep working to make mayoral control happen but it doesn’t appear the votes are there.

Legislature OKs contraceptive teaching requirement

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin schools would have to teach how to properly use birth control as part of sex education classes under a bill that passed the Legislature on Thursday.

Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, said he supports the bill. The new requirement would take effect for the 2010 school year.

The measure passed the Senate on a partisan 18-15 vote, with all Democrats backing it and Republicans against it. The Assembly passed it on a partisan vote in November and on Thursday agreed with a change made by the Senate, thereby sending it to the governor for his approval.

Supporters said the bill was needed to help reduce teen pregnancies. Opponents argued it was sending a message that sex was OK as long as birth control is used.

Requiring the teaching of birth control was opposed by anti-abortion groups and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. Wisconsin Right to Life said schools should focus on teaching abstinence as a way to prevent pregnancy and disease.

There was broad support for the measure from groups representing nurses and health departments, the state teachers’ union and Planned Parenthood.

Wisconsin law does not require schools to offer sex education. Wisconsin is one of 22 states that require abstinence to be stressed in sex education classes, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health. It would be the 16th state to require sex education to include contraception instruction, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

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