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Government and Political Roundup: Penalties being ramped up for individuals who injure lawmakers

Penalties are being ramped up for individuals who hit, shove or kick a Wisconsin lawmaker or his or her family members. State Representative Garey Bies is the sponsor. The Republican from Sister Bay says harassment of lawmakers has long been an issue, but it has become worse since the law ending collective bargaining for most state workers was signed into effect two years ago. Bies says he supports freedom of speech, but he says there's a line people shouldn't cross. Republican state Representative Samantha Kerkman and Democratic state Senator Lena Taylor are co-sponsors. More than two dozen states have similar laws on the books.


While Wisconsin lawmakers consider a half-dozen bills which have been introduced to crack down on drunken driving in the state, agencies which would have to deal with implementing the changes are talking about the cost. They say the state would have to spend about 250 million dollars as it sends thousands of more people to jail. Wisconsin would also have to come up with another 236 million dollars to build almost 20 new jails to hold the people serving time for the offenses. Surveys have showed Wisconsin has the highest incidence of drunken driving among the 50 states. Public hearings could be held this summer on the legislation.


Racine physical education teacher Betsy Kippers will take over as president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council next August, succeeding Mary Bell. The state's largest teachers union announced her election last weekend. Bell has served as WEAC president for six years. Kippers says raising the bar on student achievement and on educator performance are important to union members. The new vice president will be Ron Martin, a middle school teacher from Eau Claire.


Wisconsin businesses offer mixed responses to an effort in the U.S. Senate to require Internet sellers to collect sales taxes. The businesses would have to send those tax funds to the city where the buyer lives. A Milwaukee man who sells cheese-heads to Packer fans thinks a tax like that would reduce his sales. Other brick-and-mortar business owners say not charging sales taxes for Internet purchases is an unfair advantage for businesses like Amazon-dot-com. They say forcing online sellers to collect the sales taxes would level the playing field.


Wausau is getting ready for a visit by hundreds of Republicans this weekend. The 2013 Republican Party of Wisconsin State Convention starts Friday and runs through Sunday at The Patriot Center in Rothschild. Several high-profile speakers are on the agenda, including Governor Scott Walker, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Congressmen Sean Duffy and Paul Ryan. The party is expecting a crowd of about 800 people to attend. Organizers say there will be some talk about policy, but the annual gathering is more about energizing the base and creating the potential to reach more voters.