Wheeler, dean of statehouse press corps, dies at 67

By Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel

Madison - The smell of pipe smoke will fade from the West Washington Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard entrances of the Capitol.

Dick Wheeler, a lover of tobacco and the smallest details of lawmaking and the undisputed dean of the statehouse press corps, died in his Madison apartment Friday at 67 years old. Wheeler had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure six years ago but daughter Gwyn Guenther said the cause of death was still unknown.

"Dick Wheeler was the quintessential Capitol press room reporter. He often knew more about what was going on than his sources. His coverage of state government, including the judicial branch, will be missed, as will his smile and quick wit," Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said in a statement.

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Legislation to fund biotech firms introduced

Bill would invest bioscience payroll taxes in growth

By Kathleen Gallagher and Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

With a venture capital plan still being debated, two Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would use payroll taxes from biosciences firms to fund Wisconsin companies in industries ranging from drug development to soybean processing.

The Next Generation Jobs Reserve bill would divert payroll tax revenue from jobs added by bioscience companies into a fund that would provide grants, loans and direct investments to selected companies in the industry.

"If this bill does what we think it will do, you'll have legislators champing at the bit to do it for information technology, 3-D printing - whatever the next industry cluster is in Wisconsin," said Scott Kelly, chief of staff for Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), one of the bill's sponsors.

The Assembly sponsor is Rep. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green). Reps. Louis Molepske Jr. (D-Stevens Point) and Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) also signed onto the bill.

If the measure had been passed a year ago, the fund would be receiving its first injection of cash, about $15 million, based on the state's bioscience job growth of about 3%, said Bryan Renk, executive director of BioForward, the trade organization for Wisconsin's bioscience industry. BioForward worked with legislators to develop the bill and will support it, Renk said. Money for the bioscience fund would be capped at $50 million a year, or $500 million in total.

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Patent reform OK'd; critics say it impedes start-ups

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel

As the nation's economy struggles to reduce persistent unemployment and avert a double-dip recession, the Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping overhaul of the American patent system that supporters touted as essential to job-creation but that critics decried as a strike against innovation and a sellout to big business.

"My prediction is that fewer new companies will be started and many universities will find it too expensive to patent technologies arising from their research," said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the patent licensing arm of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

The view in Washington was diametrically different: The Senate overwhelmingly approved the America Invents Act by a vote of 89-9, making it a rare piece of major economic legislation to achieve bipartisan support.

The bill, already passed by the House, was to be sent immediately to President Barack Obama, who has been a strong supporter.

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Congress deals setback to patent office

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel

Congress has dealt a renewed blow to America's inventors and innovators by stripping another $100 million from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, an agency incapacitated by two decades of raids on the fees it collects.

Legislators siphoned the funds as part of the emergency spending bill drafted hastily to avert a shutdown of the government this month. The stopgap measure, which President Barack Obama signed into law Friday, cuts federal spending by $38 billion and quietly offset a fraction of that amount by draining more than $100 million in fee income from the patent office.

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State could lose millions in stem cell research funding

Congress could decide fate

By Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel

Sept. 7, 2010

Wisconsin researchers and biotechnology companies stand to lose millions of dollars a year in federal funding for promising stem cell research because of a federal judge's ruling, Gov. Jim Doyle and university officials said Tuesday.

The State of Wisconsin will seek to file a friend of the court brief for an appeal to overturn that ruling, which temporarily blocked guidelines set down by President Barack Obama's administration expanding human embryonic stem cell research, Doyle said.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington ruled that the Obama administration can't continue to fund embryonic stem cell research while appealing a ban on government support for any activity using cells taken from human embryos.

Lamberth rejected the government's motion to reconsider his ruling last month enforcing the ban pending an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. The Justice Department argued that Lamberth's injunction itself is causing irreparable harm to researchers, taxpayers and scientific progress.

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Hybrid Embryo Research Endorsed

By Mary Jordan

Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 20, 2008; A07

LONDON, May 19 -- British lawmakers voted Monday to allow the use of animal-human embryos for research after a national debate that pitted religious leaders who called it unethical against the prime minister and scientists who said it would help cure disease.

Last month, scientists at Newcastle created part-human, part-animal embryos for the first time in Britain. An attempt Monday night to ban the process, during consideration in the House of Commons of the first major revisions to embryo research laws in a generation, failed overwhelmingly on a vote of 336 to 176.

The overall bill, argued Prime Minister Gordon Brown, would enable lifesaving research that could help people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases. He said in an article published in the Observer newspaper Sunday, "I believe that we owe it to ourselves and future generations to introduce these measures."

The bill would allow scientists to continue injecting human DNA into cows' eggs that have had virtually all their genetic material removed, as well as other hybrid embryo processes for stem cell research. Scientists say the embryos would not be allowed to develop for more than 14 days.

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Congressional Budget Office: Patent bill cost exceeds expected revenue

Legislation making sweeping changes in patent law that is slated for Senate debate in the coming weeks would increase federal spending by $26.9 billion and boost revenue by $25.5 billion over a nine-year period beginning in 2009, according to a CBO analysis released late last week.

The legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would alter the rule that prioritizes the award of a patent from the "first to invent" to the first inventor to file; increase the Patent and Trademark Office's authority to collect and spend fees; and institute a number of litigation-related changes. A sizable shift on the federal balance sheet would result from language to make permanent the PTO's authority over money collected from patent and trademark applications, CBO said. Compliance costs could be $200 million annually starting in 2009, with most of the financial burden falling on the private sector, officials said.

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Doyle aims to help tech firms

By Judy Newman
January 8, 2008

More tax breaks and more state funding — those are some of the tools Gov. Jim Doyle will recommend as a way to encourage investment in young technology companies.

Doyle told a meeting Monday of the steering committee of Thrive, the economic development arm for the eight-county Madison region, that he is proposing a plan called Accelerate Wisconsin.

"My vision is for Wisconsin companies to have access to the capital they need to flourish," Doyle said.

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Forward Wisconsin faces uncertain future

The future of Forward Wisconsin, a 20-year-old public-private economic development initiative, is uncertain as it faces uncertain funding and the loss of its executive director.
Pepi Randolph, an attorney who has been head of Forward Wisconsin for two-and-one-half years, will become national vice president of sales and marketing for the Potawatomi Business Development Corp., starting April 1.

The corporation handles investments for the Forest County Potawatomi tribe, which runs Milwaukee’s the Potawatomi Bingo and Casino in Milwaukee.

Tony Hozeny, a spokesman for Wisconsin Commerce Secretary Mary Burke, said the Forward board of directors will meet Feb. 16. “Beyond that, we have no comment,” he said.

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