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Editorial: Drop archaic law

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There is an old law on the books in Wisconsin preventing people who do business with liquor license holders from holding elective office.

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It--125.51(1)(b)--says: "No member of the municipal governing body may sell or offer to sell to any person holding or applying for a (liquor) license any bond, material, product or thing which may be used by the licensee in carrying on the business subject to licensure."

It's a law no one really knew about until two aldermen resigned posts in Wisconsin. Racine alderman Pete Karas resigned from the city council. He is an insurance sales person and sells to commercial customers who hold Racine liquor licenses.

Norm Barber resigned from the Stevens Point council. His violation? He sells vacuum cleaners to taverns in and around the Stevens Point area.

The good news is the state is working hard to get this 1933 law off the books. The law was passed near the end of prohibition and has no strong relevance today.

The repealing of this law can't come quick enough. In reality, if this law were enforced to the letter, it could almost eliminate the possibility of a business man or woman being eligible to serve on a local government council or board. Virtually any business in a community could probably find an instance in which it sold merchandise or products to a local liquor establishment.

There is a move in the assembly to get rid of this old legislation. The bill, ab500, is cosponsored by Sens. Julie Lassa (a Democrat) and Glenn Grothman (a Republican). It seems to have bipartisan support, and Gov. James Doyle has already said he will sign the bill.

There are those who say "the law is the law," and any affected office holders should resign immediately. We're not sure that would be the correct response. Because the state is in the process of changing the rules, present office holders should be given a grace period.

If the bill fails, then we can investigate further. If the bill passes, the problem is solved.

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