Government and Political Roundup: Bill for tougher penalties for driving drunk on snowombiles, boats stalledWisconsin News
-- Tougher penalties have stalled in a state Assembly committee for driving drunk on snowmobiles, boats, and A-T-V’s.
Tougher penalties have stalled in a state Assembly committee for driving drunk on snowmobiles, boats, and A-T-V’s. The chief sponsor of the bill, Stevens Point Democrat Lou Molepske, fears that it won’t get a vote before the Legislature adjourns for the year on March 15th. The bill had a public hearing a few weeks ago in the Assembly Transportation Committee, but it has not been scheduled for a vote. Under the bill, offenders would not be able to drive cars-and-trucks for 6-to-12 months if they’re convicted for a second time of driving drunk on snowmobiles, A-T-V’s, and boats. Previous efforts to tie car license penalties with drunk driving on recreational vehicles have failed – even though it’s been the law for years in neighboring Minnesota and Michigan. But Assembly Transportation Committee clerk Tim Fiocchi says some panel members fear that A-T-V riders will get arrested for driving drunk on their own property. And Fiocchi says concerns like that need to be addressed before the bill could move forward. Molepske says it’s hypocritical to support tougher O-W-I penalties only for car-and-truck drivers. He said those who’ve lost family members on snowmobile trails have waited too long for tougher alcohol laws.
Wisconsin's two-year legislative session only has about two-and-a-half weeks left. And State Treasurer Kurt Schuller is making a final pitch to get lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment to abolish both his office and the Secretary-of-State. The Republican Schuller defeated incumbent Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass in 2010, in part by promising he would make his office disappear if he's elected. Now, Schuller says he's making one last effort to keep his promise. An Assembly committee endorsed the amendment last fall, but it's gone nowhere since. And it will die unless both houses pass it by March 15th, when the current session is due to end. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said the measure's not dead yet, but it is getting late. Governor Scott Walker dramatically cut the budgets of both the treasurer's and Secretary of State's offices last summer. And Walker moved things like the Ed-Vest college savings program to other agencies. Secretary-of-State Doug La Follette, who's considering a Democratic bid for governor, opposes the demise of the office he's held for over three decades.
Republicans have brought back a measure to allow bail bonding companies in Wisconsin. The G-O-P tried to put it into the new state budget a year ago. But Governor Scott Walker vetoed it, saying the matter should be debated on its own in a separate bill. Assembly Republican Scott Krug of Wisconsin Rapids introduced the bill earlier this month. A public hearing scheduled last week was delayed. Under the system, criminal defendants are allowed to go free by paying bondsmen 10-percent of their bail. And if the defendants don't show up for future court appearances, the bondsmen are on the book for the entire bail. And they'll then have the right to capture those fugitives. Wisconsin abolished bail bondsmen in 1979, and it's one of just four states which don't have them. Republicans say it reduces law enforcement costs and creates private jobs. But Assembly Democrat Fred Kessler, a former Milwaukee judge, said he's seen judges get bribed by bail bondsmen. Among other things, he said poor defendants in minor cases pay bonds instead of being freed on their own recognizance.
It’s been nine months since the governor and state lawmakers dropped a requirement that communities disinfect their drinking water. And the Wisconsin State Journal says at least 60 water supplies in the Badger State do not remove contaminants that cause viruses, despite risks that continue to be documented. Mark Borchardt, a former Marshfield Clinic scientist who went to the U-S Agriculture Department, has discovered numerous viruses in drinking water. And a new study of 14 Wisconsin communities is about to be published. The State Journal said it linked their groundwater to respiratory and gastro-intestinal illnesses in kids-and-adults that Borchardt tracked during a two-year period. The D-N-R cited his findings a couple years ago, when it required that communities treat their water to remove viruses. But after Republicans took control of the Legislature in 2011, freshman Representative Erik Severson of Star Prairie cited the high cost of complying – and he convinced his colleagues to abolish the treatment mandate. Spring Green public works director Greg Wipperfurth says he can count the number of bad water samples on one hand over the last 16 years. He says people don’t want their water treated because of the taste-and-odor of chlorine. But Mineral Point said it saw the light when E-coli showed up in its water last fall. After that, the village spent 15-thousand dollars on a chlorination system.