Government and Political News: Legislators want to crackdown even more on OWI lawsWisconsin News
-- Two state lawmakers say they’ll try again next year to pass a further crackdown on drunk driving in Wisconsin.
Two state lawmakers say they’ll try again next year to pass a further crackdown on drunk driving in Wisconsin. Senate Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills and Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon say they’ll keep pushing to make three-time O-W-I a felony. It was only a couple years ago when lawmakers passed a number of drunk driving reforms. Among other things, it made four-time O-W-I a felony if it happens with five years of a third offense. And it made first-time drunk driving a criminal offense – but only if a child is in the vehicle at the time. Darling says the recent law is still too weak – and it has not changed Wisconsin’s long-time culture of drinking-and-driving. She wants more treatment for multiple O-W-I offenders – as well as a tougher crackdown in enforcement. Darling says Wisconsin judges should also be more uniform in the way they handle drunk driving cases. There’s a renewed focus on the issue after traffic deaths in Wisconsin jumped 14-percent in the first five months of this year, compared to the same time in 2011. Just over 210 people have lost their lives on Wisconsin roads so far this year.
Wisconsin’s agriculture secretary is leading a trade mission to China this week. Ben Brancel and ag department economic consultant Jennifer Lu are on the trip – along with U-W Madison interim chancellor David Ward and representatives from several farm groups and businesses. They hope to expand Wisconsin’s growing exports of agricultural products to China. Those exports totaled 118-million-dollars last year, a big increase of 43-percent from the year before. Brancel is scheduled to meet with government and agri-business leaders in Shanghai and Henan Province. He’ll also meet with potential Chinese investors who are interested in Wisconsin businesses. And the secretary is meeting with ginseng industry leaders, to learn more about the sale of Wisconsin ginseng in China’s marketplace. A U-W delegation plans to meet with the Shanghai Dairy Group, and sign letters of intent about their growing relationship. The Wisconsinites will also provide training and exhibits at China’s World Dairy Expo-and-Summit.
With the recall elections over, Wisconsin’s U-S Senate race is about to take center stage on the campaign trail. The Republican primary is just nine weeks from tomorrow. And at least some analysts believe that Governor Scott Walker’s victory might have helped G-O-P candidates Jeff Fitzgerald and Mark Neumann the most. Former Governor and Bush Health Secretary Tommy Thompson has led the polls. But U-W Oshkosh professor Jim Simmons says Walker’s win made tea party groups believe they could elect true conservatives – and Assembly Speaker Fitzgerald and former House Republican Neumann could best fit the bill. U-W Green Bay professor Michael Kraft agrees. He says the G-O-P has moved sharply to the right, thus making Fitzgerald and Neumann more electable. But Marquette’s John McAdams says any bump from Walker could be marginal – and the recalls will probably be ancient history by the time the Senate primary rolls around on August 14th. Fitzgerald has tied his campaign to the Walker budget reforms, and the speaker said he needed Walker to do well to have a chance. Neumann says the governor’s victory solidified the conservative agenda – and he said it’s what people want. But Thompson spokesman Brian Nemoir said his boss’s long record sets him apart. Hovde, a hedge fund manager, has spent a lot of money to get himself known. But a recent Marquette poll showed that 72-percent still didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion. The primary winner will face Democrat Tammy Baldwin in November for the chance to replace retiring Senator Herb Kohl.
After they break bread together, Wisconsin Democrats hope Governor Scott Walker will call a special legislative session to pass job bills that both parties can agree on. The Republican Walker has invited all 132 state lawmakers to a brat-and-burger picnic tomorrow to try and patch-up some of the wounds from the recent recall battles. Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says that if both parties really want to show voters they’re serious about getting along, they should identify issues both sides can agree on and solve them. Walker has said he wants to boost the state’s economy, create more private sector jobs, provide worker training, make schools more accountable, and help kids read better. The Assembly and Senate Democratic leaders hope the governor will call lawmakers back into session before January to try-and-address the so-called “skills gap” – in which manufacturing jobs are left unfilled because prospective workers don’t have the proper skills. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca says employers shouldn’t have to wait until January to fill empty jobs – and jobless people shouldn’t have to wait until January to get the help they need.